Well here we are in the 6th and final week of our series. And for 6 weeks now, we’ve been tracing a variety of Biblical threads, or ideas, that are woven throughout the scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation.
But these threads are not single strands, floating independently through scripture.
No, they are part of a greater ‘whole.’ These biblical threads are interwoven. Each of these ideas builds upon and interacts with each other across the entire biblical narrative.
And all of these threads we’ve talked about - the tree of life, the sea, sheep, shepherds, blood and vineyards - all of these threads, and so many others come together and create for us one unified masterpiece - a tapestry that depicts the grand story that leads to Jesus. A tapestry.
I did some research on tapestry weaving as I was putting this message together - and by research, I mean - I went deep down a rabbit hole. That happens to me a lot when I’m studying. And this rabbit hole went all the way down to Cusco, Peru where a local textile artist by the name of Maximo Laura
creates vibrant and textured, award winning masterpieces out of wool and dye.
If you look closely at his work, you will see little flecks of color -
almost like pixels - that are woven tightly together to create a picture, and tell a story.
If I stand too closely, all I will see are the individual stitches.
I’ll admire the details - the texture and quality of the thread.
The vibrancy of the dye, and the flecks of color. And it’ll be cool from that standpoint. But I won’t be able to interpret what the piece is actually depicting, until I take a big step back and see it as a whole, unified piece.
When I step back and see the threads come together as intended, as a unified element -
Then and only then can I see the big picture. Now I can see why the threads were so carefully and intentionally woven together and strategically placed within the greater whole. When I step back, I can see that they were arranged on purpose to tell a story.
So take this idea, and picture each of the threads we’ve discussed so far in this series as each possessing a color:
• Green for the Tree of Life.
• Dark Blue for the Sea,
• Crimson Red for the biblical thread of blood.
• Hues of violet, ruby and pale green for vineyards,
• Various shades of black, white and brown - for sheep - and so on…
Now picture those threads being interwoven - and arranged in such a way that they build upon each other - to form for us an elaborate picture. One unified story.
Today, we take a big step back, and hopefully we’ll get a clearer picture, a better understanding, of what all these threads are coming together to show us.
But before we do that, let’s pray!
Well we have one more thread to look at in this series, and today we’re looking at the biblical thread of blessings and curses. And as it has been with every other thread we’ve discussed in this series - we’re going to trace it all the way back to the very beginning - to the book of Genesis - where we see the first mention of the word ‘bless’ or ‘blessed.’
So turn with me to Genesis chapter 1 starting at verse 20. If you’re using a house Bible, that’s on page 3. And while you're turning there, or pulling up the Grace Church App to follow along, I want to welcome those of you who are joining us online. Hello to all of you out there, I know some of you are on vacation - I hope you’re having a wonderful time, wherever you are.
We’ll see you when you get home!
And of course, welcome to those of you who are here in the room today. And I know I say it every time, but it really is a privilege to be able to gather, in person, with all of you.
You know, sometimes life is a drag. And lately, for me, life has been especially challenging. I’ve had some health issues and some unexpected hurdles come my way, but one thing has remained constant and consistent - I get here on a Sunday morning, and I am surrounded by people I love. So, thank you for showing up. Thank you for showing up in my life. Thank you for showing up in each other’s lives. Thank you.
Alright, it’s go time. Is everybody ready with Genesis chapter 1? Today we begin with the story of creation. We read in Genesis 1:20:
Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
There it is! The first time we see the word ‘blessed’ it is being used in the context of a commissioning. God BLESSED the fish and the birds, and charged them to: Go ABOUND. Be fruitful and multiply.
The word “abound” just means to exist in large numbers or amounts.
“Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
He’s saying, ‘I’ve created this vastness, this space - and I want you to fill it. I bless you to go and spread life! Abound!
And then a few verses down, in Genesis 1:26 we read:
26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
Be fruitful and multiply. Increase in number! ABOUND! Fill the earth with Life! And govern the earth. Oversee God’s good creation, like divine managers. It was God’s good intention for us to partner with Him to cultivate order within His created world.
That was the blessing! That there would be order, and life abundantly. -- and enough resources to support this explosion of new life! Enough food to sustain every living thing!
The BLESSING in Genesis 1 is a picture of global flourishing. Life that spreads to everyone and everything.
Now, as I said before, these biblical threads we’ve been talking about each week - they build upon each other. All these threads are interwoven, and we have to step back if we want to see the picture in full. So right now, we’re all going to take a giant step back to the first week of this series, when Barry taught us about the biblical thread of the Tree of Life from Genesis 2.
Genesis 2:9 says
9 The LORD God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Skip down to verse 15:
15 The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— 17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”
The blessing has an antonym. You know an antonym, an opposite word, like
• up and down.
• In and out.
• Good and evil.
• Blessing and curse.
Right there in the middle of the garden, mankind was faced with a choice. To trust God’s good intentions. To trust what He says is best, and eat from the tree of Life.
Or to decide for themselves what was best. To define on their own what was good and what was bad. To disobey God and eat from the forbidden tree.
And we all know what happened.
One chapter over, in chapter 3, we read the story of the grand temptation.
The temptation to make ourselves the gods of our own universe and defy God’s order.
The woman knows what God has warned. She even tells the serpent - we can eat of any tree in the garden - except for that one. God says if we eat from that one, we will die. And the deceiver responds in
.4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
To me, this is one of the saddest moments in the entire arc of scripture. When shame first entered our universe. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to experience the devastating feeling of shame for the first time. It’s such a sad picture. Only moments ago Adam and Eve knew no shame. Only goodness. Only blessing.
But now, something between them had died. Their innocence had died, and they were now grasping for the first thing that would shield them from one another. There is a separation, a rift between man and woman.
And it made me wonder - do you think they cried? In addition to now knowing the devastation of shame, do you think this is the moment when sorrow and regret first entered our world? Did they weep as they frantically tried to cover themselves? Do you think they knew in that moment that things would never be the same between them? And what about God? That’s when fear set in:
8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God, among the trees.
We see the immediate deterioration of our relationship to one another, and our relationship to God. We’re hiding from each other, and we’re hiding from God.
The man tells God that he hid because he was afraid. Suddenly, we have all these new words in our vocabulary - shame, fear, hiding, sorrow, regret, -- and Deceit!
The woman says the serpent deceived her…
It’s as though the world had been turned upside down and order became disorder.
And the blessing was eclipsed by the onset of the curse that had just entered the world, through sin.
Curse is decreation. Creation devolving to a state of disorder, handing people over to the consequences of their choices, which leads to death. - Tim Mackie, The Bible Project
Curse is decreation. It’s the antonym of creation. Curse is the opposite of blessing.
God uses the Hebrew word for ‘cursed’ two times in chapter 3. First, the serpent is cursed in verse 14. And then the ground is cursed in verse 17. But notice, God does not curse the man or the woman.
What He does is describe how that curse - on the serpent and on the land is now going to affect them.
This is the sad new reality that they just brought upon the earth by disobeying God. God is essentially saying, “this is how it is now. This is what I meant when I told you if you eat from that tree, you will die.”
The curse is the inverse of the blessing! If the blessing was all about spreading LIFE, the curse meant that death had arrived, and it would now spread.
The curse in Genesis 3 is not a retaliatory punishment from God - it’s a description of our dark new reality. When mankind chooses to reject God’s “blessing”, his generous invitation to life and abundance, they automatically choose the opposite - they choose death.
Curse is decreation. The inverse of blessing.
WHEREAS THE BLESSING WAS AN INVITATION TO PARTNER WITH GOD AND WORK TOGETHER WITH HIM to spread LIFE THROUGHOUT THE EARTH.
THE CURSE resulted in A BROKEN PARTNERSHIP WITH GOD, and exile from His abiding presence in the Garden.
But God never gives up on this idea of partnering with humans to spread His blessing. We can follow the thread to Genesis 12 - when God calls Abraham to PARTNER with him, to fill the earth with blessing and life.
GENESIS 12: 2 & 3 God says to Abraham:
“I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
God’s plan has always been to partner with human beings, in order to FILL THE EARTH with His abundant life and blessing.
Yes, sin may have unlocked the curse, and ushered mankind into a new dark reality.
But God’s desire to use people to spread His blessing throughout the earth has not changed!
He partnered with Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy, Go ahead and turn there now, to Deuteronomy chapter 30, that’s page 173 in the house Bible.
Here, just like in the garden of Eden, God’s people are given a choice between life and death, between blessing and a curse.
Just as it was in the garden, the children of Israel are told that if they obey they will enjoy a life of blessing. And if they disobey, they will suffer the natural consequences of the curse.
You can read it in Deuteronomy 27 - there’s a long list of various acts of disobedience that will result in the curse spreading. Everything from worshiping false idols, to deception, to acts of injustice, to stealing, sexual sin, and murder! It’s just like what God had warned Adam and Eve in the garden - don’t eat from that tree! Voluntarily disobeying God’s law will turn the world upside down and give way to death and disorder!
But there is a very simple way to make sure that the curse doesn’t spread. It’s just one word:
In Deutoronomy chapter 30, Moses is nearing the end of his life. He’s essentially making his dying declaration, and you can hear the passion in his voice when he says in verse 11:
11 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach…
14 No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.
15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. 16 For I command you this day to love the LORD your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.
He says ‘God’s commands are not too difficult for you! This isn’t beyond your reach! You can obey!! You can choose life and be blessed!!!
Again, we see that thread from Genesis. Remember the blessing God gave Man and woman in the Garden - be fruitful and multiply? Here in Deuteronomy we’re told that if we obey we will live and multiply!
And remember the curse from Genesis - how God had cursed the land?
Well here, the land gets included in the promised blessing - The Lord your God will bless you AND THE LAND you are about to enter.
God is once again inviting his people to live a life of blessing and abundance, and all they have to do is obey!
19 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 20 You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the LORD, you will live long in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
But just as it was in the garden of Eden, when faced with the choice of blessing, or the curse - the people of Israel were constantly being led astray, again and again, and instead of spreading life and abundance throughout the earth, we see them perpetuating even more death and disorder.
The temptation to reach for that ‘forbidden fruit’ however it presented itself - that temptation was just too great.
James 1:14 says:
14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
Temptation draws our hearts away from God’s good desires for our lives. When we act on our own sinful desires, we move away from blessing, and we bring upon ourselves the consequence of sin - the curse - we bring about death in our own lives, and death that spreads to others!
This thread of blessings and curses is inextricably interwoven with the other threads we’ve discussed earlier in this series. For instance, in week 4 Tim spoke to us about the biblical thread of ‘blood.’ Our take home passage from that week was Hebrews 9. Now follow this thread. It says in Hebrews 9:15
“For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.”
What was the penalty of the sins committed under that first covenant?
The CURSE! Christ died to set us free from the Curse - the penalty of sin! Freedom from the penalty of sin means no more separation from God! No more broken partnership! No more spreading death and disorder! We are invited back to a life of blessing, through Jesus Christ!
Galatians 3:13 says
13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing.
Tim said it so eloquently a few weeks ago, that Jesus died,
“...shedding his blood so that we can know the freedom and grace and power of an unfettered relationship with his heavenly father.” - Pastor Tim Ayers
An unfettered relationship with God. No more shame. No more hiding. No more fear. No more separation. We can walk, with God, just as it was in the Garden. It’s like the curse has been so thoroughly annihilated, that we can go back to that moment in the garden, in the cool of the evening, and we can hear our Father God approaching, and we don’t have to hide! There is. No. shame any longer. And we are invited back to an unfettered relationship with our God.
Romans 8 makes it clear:
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Jumping down to verse 6
“… Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. ... 11 And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
We’re zooming way out here! We’re taking a giant step back and we’re seeing all the biblical threads come together! Christ’s blood has set us free from the curse, and now we are invited back to a life of abundance and blessing.
Barry said in week one, that the CROSS, the tree of death, became a TREE OF LIFE for all mankind. Jesus himself told us that - HE CAME THAT WE MAY HAVE LIFE! And not just a bare bones, survival kind of life - he said
“I have come that they may have life. And that they may HAVE IT MORE ABUNDANTLY! John 10:10 NKJV
He has invited each one of us back to a life of abundance!
Ephesians 2:18 says: “Now all of us have access to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.”
With Christ’s spirit now living within us, we have access! We can enter the garden of God’s presence once again!
• Where He is the good shepherd, and He lovingly cares for us, His sheep!
• Where He is the Lord, and he reigns over chaos and disorder -
• Where he is Lord, and he has authority over the wind and the waves - authority over the tumultuous sea.
• Where He is once and for all, Lord over our lives inviting us to a life of blessing once again - be fruitful! Abound!
Because in the Garden of His presence, He is the vine and we are the branches! His very life blood flows through our veins and produces good fruit, with which we are to bless the nations. We can once again be fruitful and multiply and cultivate the fruits of His Spirit: Love! Joy! Peace! Patience! Gentleness! Kindness! Faith! And Self-Control!
When we take a huge step back, and we see all the threads woven together - what we are beholding is a picture of His faithfulness!
He has never given up on his creation, and he never will! I encourage you to read about that in this week’s take home passage. Go home and read
Ezekiel 34:25-28 - take home passage
Look for the blessing! Where do you see this idea of abundance?
And where is the curse in this passage? How is it mentioned? It’s all right there! Go home and read it for yourself, Ezekiel 34:25-28!
I will leave you with this. Early on as a young adult, I used to wonder - am I under some kind of curse?
I’m serious. I was in my early 20’s. And I was hearing all sorts of things about ‘generational curses’ and stuff like that. How many of you know that sin patterns, or certain patterns of behavior, can often thread themselves through families, down through the generations? I know some of ya’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
And my family - on all sides - has some sin patterns running through it. It’s like my ancestors kept repeating the same mistakes over and over again down through the generations. You know that old saying “History repeats itself?”
Anyway, in my late teens and early 20’s I felt like something was chasing me down. Some kind of generational curse. My grandmother lived fast and wild, and while she was out there doing what was right in her own eyes, she found herself alone and pregnant in the 1940’s. In the same way, my mother lived fast and wild, and in the midst of her rebellion, she also found herself alone - and pregnant with me - in the 1980’s.
Was the cycle doomed to continue with me?
My family history is also riddled with substance abuse, and the waves of devastation that come from eating that poison fruit. Was that curse going to fall on me?
I can honestly say, this is something that haunted me, it gave me anxiety… until the day the thread of blessing and curses was illuminated, and woven right through my heart. The Psalmist said
“I have hidden your word In. My. Heart! that I might not sin against you.”
One quiet day, I’d say it was in the cool of the evening, the Spirit of God came looking for me. Out of nowhere, the phrase ‘cursed is He who hangs on a tree’ came to my mind - I knew it sounded like scripture, so I had to go look it up. I was following a thread, curious to see where it would lead.
It led to Galatians 3:13. And the translation I was reading at the time, the New King James, worded it this way:
13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”). NKJV
In this revelatory moment, I understood 2 things - The curse I had been running from was real. The curse is real. But… I had already been set free!
I was already home before I started! Because my Jesus, BECAME the curse FOR ME, when he hung on the cross! He became that curse! And He did it to rescue me!
And because of his finished work on the cross, I no longer have to live in fear. That thing, that thing that I felt was chasing me down - It was just an empty hologram. There was nothing to it!
Because Christ became the curse for me, and put that curse to death on the cross! For I am crucified with Christ! It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me!!! Are you hearing me?!
I am no longer under the curse. Hallelujah! His death has brought me life, and freedom, and in Him I have joy in ABUNDANCE! And as long as I remain in Him - as long as I continue to
• CHOOSE LIFE, AND NOT DEATH -
• As long as I continue to love Him, and obey His word above all else,
His blessing will continue to flow through me, and out from me, and will multiply and spread life throughout my family, my community, and even my world.
How do I know this? Because I’ve seen how the threads come together. I’ve taken a giant step back and now I can see, clearly, the bigger picture! The beautiful masterpiece!
When we take a huge step back, and we see all the biblical threads woven together - what we are beholding is a picture of His faithfulness!
I see it now! I am a witness! I’ve witnessed His faithfulness! Over and over again!
• To my grandma and my mother, despite their disobedience, God brought mercy, and restored peace and order to their disordered lives.
• He healed them both, and I was able to witness them live out the rest of their days in abundance -
• Multiplying the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, and subsequently it spread life to everyone around them - including me. I’ve witnessed it.
And to me, a fatherless child with a dismal future,
• he brought hope, and life and abundance.
• He became Father to me. He IS Father, to me.
• And my fiercely loving and protective Father became the curse for me.
• He did EVERYTHING IN HIS POWER to rescue me. He LIBERATED ME and called me HIS OWN.
Oh, I’ve witnessed it. Come on, somebody! Oh that you would choose life!!!
• Have you witnessed it?
• Have you witnessed his goodness?
• Has he called you His own?
• Has he made a way for you?
• The curse is broken and His blessing abounds! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
• Bear witness! Bear witness! Go and tell somebody! Tell of His faithfulness! The Lord is good, and His mercy endures forever! From generation to generation! The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases! His mercies never come to an end! They are new every morning! Great is His faithfulness! Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!!