and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: The Curse on Man Part 1 and Part 2
Deffinbaugh: Just as Eve’s punishment related to the center of her life, so is the case with Adam. He had been placed in the garden, now he will have to earn a living from the ground “by the sweat of his brow” (verses 17-19).
You will notice that while the serpent is cursed, it is only the ground which is cursed here, and not Adam or Eve. God cursed Satan because He does not intend to rehabilitate or redeem him. But already the purpose of God to save men has been revealed (verse 15).
Not only will Adam have to battle the ground to earn a living, he will eventually return to dust. Spiritual death has already occurred (cf. verses 7-8). Physical death has begun. Apart from the life which God gives, man will simply (though slowly) return to his original state—dust (cf. 2:7).
In Eden, Adam had responsibilities in the garden - but they were joyous responsibilities, unmarred by sin and decay. From now on, those responsibilities would be work in its most negative sense. Gardening would no longer be easy, as thorns and thistles would now have to be dealt with. And the soil would not necessarily bring forth plants easily. The ground has been cursed, including the weather on which it is so dependant.
With the advent of our technological age, we don't see this curse quite as clearly as all the centuries before us where simply working to literally put food on the table consumed nearly all human energy, male in particular. But all human labour is in view here, not simply/only agricultural.
MacArthur: It is not possible for a fallen sinful man to live in a perfect world. He has to live in an equally fallen world which yields its riches with reluctance. And this would remind him of his sin, remind him of the burden that is on his back for disobedience to God and make salvation attractive to him as he struggles in the misery of his toil....."All is vanity, vanity, vanity," which is a word for emptiness, nothingness. You go to work and you work and then you wake up the next morning and you go back to work and you work and you work your whole life and then you die and everything you earned gets left to somebody else. This is vanity of vanities. Life takes on this cyclical sameness, this blandness, this lack of fulfillment, this meaninglessness.
But in Christ we have redemption from this curse!
MacArthur points out that for those of us who have put our faith in Christ, we have a different perspective.....
we see work taking on a completely different perspective from that sort of curse perspective. And we say again when you have God pronouncing curses, the curses are mitigated in Christ. When you work in Christ you work with submission, you work with excellence, you work with respect, you work with honesty, you work with loyalty and you do it for the sake of witness and you do it for the sake of worship and you do it for the sake of eternal reward. In that way you find in your work not that sad cycle of meaninglessness but the joy of doing something so eternally purposeful.
Thanks be to God for His grace so undeserving!
Monday's scripture focus: Genesis 3:20-24
Sunday's passage: 1 Kings 9-10
Monday's passage: 1 Kings 11-12, Psalm 109, Acts 20