Miscellaneous

Beginnings: The Tempter (Genesis 3:1-13)

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Introduction

As we are continuing in this series of lessons from Genesis of “beginnings” we are taking time to study major events and ideas that are crucial to understanding many things about our existence. The New Testament points back to Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden as one of the most monumental events in Old Testament history. Being that this is the first sin recorded in the Bible we can learn a great deal about the deception and results of sin through a very careful look at the narrative provided for us in Genesis 3. Let’s start with the first six verses.

Did God Actually Say?

From the beginning the text tells us that the serpent is the craftiest animal that God had made. These initial words are like a warning for what is about to come – there is a rift coming in the perfect garden scene we read of in chapter 2. As we read on – I think we typically expect the serpent to pull a huge, obviously deceiving trick on Eve; however, at first glance the serpent doesn’t seem that crafty. Every time I heard this story as a child I became angry with Adam and Eve for ruining the perfection of Eden for the rest of us – the serpent didn’t really make the forbidden fruit that tempting, I thought; why was it so difficult for them to resist? If we study this passage carefully, I think we will find that it is really the lack of obvious ploys that makes the serpent so successfully crafty. We often picture the serpent as approaching Eve in an overtly rebellious way – but from Eve’s point of view, this serpent comes trying to help her out.

Notice how he starts out this conversation with Eve in verse 1, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?'” It is interesting how the serpent completely twists God’s original statement to Adam and Eve into this question that on the surface looks like a simple misunderstanding. But, remember God’s original statement in chapter 2:16-17? “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…” This is statement glows with the generosity of God – he has given them an entire garden to enjoy and he tells them to eat of any and every tree – and only tells them to not eat of one tree so that they will not die. However, instead of the referring Eve to the generosity of God, the serpent’s question presumes that God is stingy and unreasonable. At this point if Eve is unprepared and does not immediately provide a very solid answer that casts off all doubt – she is automatically on the defensive, trying to make up for this initial misconception. Guys, imagine that you’ve got a night out with the guys planned every month, but this month your wife tells you that she just really needs you to stay home and watch the kids. Imagine if I walked up to you and said, “Does your wife really never let you have any fun on your own?” I don’t care what you do, there is little chance you can turn this into a positive conversation about your wife – you’ve been manipulated into the defensive. It doesn’t matter how much you point out that it’s just this once – you’re going to lose and even if you thought your wife was reasonable beforehand, you are going to walk away doubting that. This is exactly what the serpent does to Eve. He ignores God’s generosity and God’s gift, puts her on the defensive and causes her to start thinking about the one thing God has not made available to them. Before, Adam and Eve probably thought it was quite reasonable only have to avoid one tree out of an entire garden; but, now that the serpent brings it up, that really is pretty ridiculous that they can’t eat that one tree. Though Eve is able to respond to the serpent’s question – her response is weak and shows no awareness of the serpent’s manipulation. Imagine if she would have responded with a bolder declaration of God’s goodness to them and acceptance of God’s command for them to not eat of the tree because of the consequences – instead she mildly corrects the serpent and keeps the conversation open.

We must be aware that Satan and the world put the very same attacks on us today. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:11 in reference to Satan, “For we are not ignorant of schemes.” It will not always be as obvious as someone literally asking a loaded question like this – though, it may be. Attacks like this are often going to take place in our minds. God has placed us in a garden full of blessings and simply given us parameters for how to enjoy the blessings in a wise and godly way – yet the worldly nature in us is not going to praise God for the blessings, but question God for the parameters as if God is trying to hold us back. This is why it is so important to not look at the Bible as some kind of rulebook of “do’s and don’ts” – not only does it misrepresent the Bible, but it causes us to look at God’s wise parameters for us in a negative light. When we do this we won’t think about the spiritual blessings that come with a relationship with God, but the apparent physical deficiencies that we have to “deal with.” God may provide me with a car, a home, and a job – but in our materialism we wonder why we can’t have all that others may have. God may have given me 168 hours in a week, but I can’t believe he wants me to give up many of those to grow my relationship with him. God may have given me a husband or wife to enjoy, but what about all those other women? Why can’t I be with them? There are many other way this could play out: as opposed to looking at our parameters as wise and godly boundaries, Satan uses them as a reminder of how much God limits us.

Your Eyes Will Be Opened

Now that the serpent has started Eve on the path to thinking God’s limitation on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is unreasonable, the serpent needs to deal with the apparent consequences of eating this forbidden fruit. Notice what the serpent says in verses 4, “You will not surely die…” Until this statement, Eve still had a solid reason why she shouldn’t eat the fruit – God told her she would “surely die.” But now the serpent takes away this bad consequence and outright tells her the opposite of what God says – you will not surely die! Satan does this to us today – don’t miss it! “God talks about sin like it is the end of the world, like it is going to ruin your life and destroy your soul. But other sinners seem just fine to me – it’s not like it’s going to literally kill you!” The serpent here uses the double meaning of death to his advantage and distracts Eve from the spiritual consequences so that she will feel at ease that her physical life is not at all in danger by eating this fruit. No one in their right mind would eat delicious fruit if they knew it would physically kill them – Eve is no longer concerned about that.

But Eve still needs a reason to eat the fruit. She has an entire garden of fruit at her disposal and the rest of the fruit tastes good too – just because it’s unreasonable for God to prohibit her from eating the forbidden fruit and just because it’s not going to kill her isn’t enough reason to risk eating the fruit. It gives her nothing that other fruit doesn’t give her. What the serpent says next is the perfect example of a very crafty half-truth. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Though we were all created after the likeness of God, to a dissatisfied mind the biggest crime God commits against mankind is not making him God. We want to be gods and be given access to all the riches and physical luxuries this world has to offer; we desire god like respect and god like power; or, like Eve, we crave God-like knowledge. For a simple girl in a garden, to have the perspective, knowledge and wisdom of God instantly gets her attention. But, hopefully by now you should notice that something is missing from the serpent’s promise: it lacks specificity. What does it really mean for your eyes to be opened? What does it mean to be like God? What does it really mean to know good and evil? Herein lies the real trickery. For Eve, this general and nonspecific description awakens her desires. As one commentator wrote, “The fascination of this statement is in its lack of restriction, its intangibleness; it is intentionally mysterious…whispering secret fantasies…an extension of human existence beyond the limits set for it by God at creation…pure intellectual enrichment…” How often do the physical pleasures of this life offer similar intangible promises? Fame and fortune; ecstasy and pleasure; emotional and physical stability; purpose and meaning; we may be walking towards the same unspecific, intangible promises the serpent gave Eve. Christians, what you and I must see and must help others see is that Satan makes these promises so unspecific and general because if he were honest about specific consequences of idolatrous pleasure or fame – nobody would want it. What we will soon see is how the serpent painted the bad consequences of their sin in a good light that sounds irresistible to human ears. Worst of all – the serpent has painted all this in a light that causes God to look like the bad guy who knew how great the fruit was and knew that it was going to bring them this great enlightenment – but he selfishly held it back from them, purposefully creating a rule that would keep them from the great powers of the fruit. God lied – the forbidden fruit does not bring death – it brings life and makes a person like god.

Then The Eyes of Both Were Opened

What does the fruit really bring? Let’s read verses 7-13. What had the serpent promised? He told them they wouldn’t die, their eyes would be opened, and they would be like God knowing good and evil. Yet, what happens? They are shamed, they are naked, they cover up with fig leaves – they hear God coming – the fig leaves aren’t enough, they are scared, and they hide. Though they thought they would become like gods – they are hiding from the Lord God. One moment they confidently rebel – the next they are scared to even tell him they ate of the fruit. In fact – neither Adam nor Eve takes responsibility for this act: Adam blames it partially on God and partially on Eve – “the woman you gave to be with me!” Eve blames it on the serpent. Why all the shame? Why do they refuse to take responsibility? The woman tells us in verse 13 – she was deceived. Apparently – this isn’t what she expected to happen at all when she ate the fruit. The serpent never told her that any of this was going to happen! Did he? Let’s back up to verse 7 and compare what happened to what the serpent promised. The serpent told them they wouldn’t die – we’ve already read the narrative and we clearly see they aren’t dead. They serpent told them their eyes would be opened – verse 7 tells us that their eyes were opened. The serpent told them they would “know” – and verse 7 tells us that after they ate the fruit they knew something! If we just look at serpent’s words alone – everything that he promised happened. Rather, in Eve’s lack of perception she deceived herself into thinking that what he promised was going to be awesome, it was going to provide her with lasting fulfillment and joy. Having their eyes opened and being like God knowing good and evil was not as great as it sounded; rather it opened their eyes to the shame of their own nakedness. Before, it sounded great to have their eyes opened. Not any more.

Eve wanted the fruit most of all because it was going to make her like God. If we carefully consider the context in Genesis we will hopefully see a great problem with Adam and Eve desiring to become like God. Remember Genesis 1:26? “Let us make man after our likeness.” God already made man like him and put a pure and eternal spirit inside of him, God already made man like him so that man could reflect God’s glory. God commanded Adam and Eve to not eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree so that their souls would not die, so that they could continue to reflect his glory. But the serpent promised more – it was not enough to reflect God’s glory, she wanted to become more than human and become God herself. And then their eyes were opened and they were given the ability to see and know good and evil like God – but that only awakened them to the reality of how unlike God they were and made them able to see that they had no glory of themselves, but only nakedness. Before they ate of the fruit and corrupted their souls they were able to reflect God’s glory. But that glory was stripped from their souls when they distrusted God’s word and tried to become gods themselves – and when they knew like God knew they saw how utterly helpless and pitiful they were on their own as a weak naked body.

Our disobedience of God begins with the same temptation and ends with the same disappointment. When you and I desire fame and fortune, ecstasy and pleasure, unsurpassed knowledge, unsurpassed wisdom – we desire our own glorification over God’s glorification. Sin every time is mankind saying that he wants to be his own god: he can provide for himself, make his own decisions and make his life a certain way. God tells us time and again that there is no lasting fulfillment in any of those things and that when we seek those things we will die. We need to recognize how right God is every time – sin, idolatry, and addictions won’t give us what we want! As Taylor Swift said in one of her most recent songs about how depressing it is to be famous – people always say, “Wow, Taylor, you are so lucky!” But she responds in her song, “I don’t feel lucky, I just feel used.” Fame sounds great until we realize it is all about making fickle mankind happy. Carnal success never pays off like we think it will – pleasure, acknowledgement, wealth, and knowledge all fade. We all know personally how right God is every time when he warns us of the death of our souls. Every time it seems like sin is going to pay off and give us what we want but every time we feel shame and embarrassment. We should be extremely scared if we never ever feel that shame or embarrassment – for that is not a sign that we are never sinning, it is a sign that we have learned to ignore the guilt and ignore our nakedness and sinning before God.

Conclusion

Satan is going to try to tell us that God is holding us back from something – he will always use the world to paint God’s commandment in such a negative, self-limiting light. Satan will always promise to make us like gods – but God is telling us that it never pays off. When we make ourselves gods we are telling the true God that we do not want nor need him nor love his glory – and he will accept our request and allow us to experience life without him just like he allowed Adam and Eve to leave the garden. Then our eyes will be opened – and though we may have attained riches and experienced pleasure, we will be without our true Lord and without true life. We study these things because this is the essence of our fight against temptation: Satan every time is deceiving us to believe that what is promised will give us joy and satisfaction and every time he hides the awful consequences of death. Brothers, let us not be ignorant of Satan’s schemes – be aware.

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