Sin is a “knotty” problem. The word “not” appears three times in our lesson text (Genesis 3:1, 3, and 4). The devil used the word twice, and Eve, quoting God, used it once. The devil told Adam and Eve that they would not die if they ate the forbidden fruit. But that was a lie. The result was that our original parents embraced a culture of death, and it continues to this day (Romans 5:12).
Two lessons this month will explain what sin is. These will be followed by three lessons that will explain what God wanted to do about it (namely justification, redemption, and sanctification). We typically call this passage “the fall of humankind.” It could just as well be called the rebellion or the failure to trust the goodness of God. If we understand this nemesis around our necks we will appreciate so much more the glorious salvation we enjoy in Christ.
The big lie took place in the garden of delight (Eden). Adam and Eve enjoyed total freedom by trusting the goodness of God. But that came crashing down when the serpent (snake or fleeing snake) showed up. We know nothing about the serpent’s origin in this text (and some scholars are not so sure about Isaiah 14:12 either). We may not know exactly the devil’s origin, but we know his work. His primary work is that of deception and lies. Jesus taught that the serpent was the father of lies (John 8:44). The enemy attempted to get Adam and Eve to question God’s word. When Eve responded as she did, then the serpent said, “You will not certainly die.”
The place of the big lie was the tree in the middle of the garden. This testing tree was not on the fringe of the garden. The tree of the big lie became the origin of idolatry. To be like God evidently was different than being made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26). To have open eyes meant that the innocence of Eden was over. The big lie was about to win.
Genesis 3:6, 7
Seth Wilson used to say, “You are not what you think you are, but what you think, you are.” We become what we think about. To believe the lie, Eve had to contemplate on the fruit of the tree. She defined goodness outside of God, she saw that the fruit was pleasing to the eye, and she wanted wisdom that was from below (James 3:15, 16). She took some and ate it. In this she was quite deceived, since Satan attacked her directly (1 Timothy 2:14). Her husband was with her (at the time or later?), and he ate it as well. Heaven wept as the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened. (The serpent had promised as much.) The realization of nakedness marked how fallen they were. Earlier they were naked and not ashamed (Genesis 2:25). The fall meant that innocence had been defeated. Fig leaves could not cover the shame of the fall.
The jig was up when Adam and Eve heard God walking in the garden. Had he been that incarnate and intimate with them previously? Their shame made them hide—notice again, among the trees of the garden. Dr. Matthew Sleeth has said that every significant individual in the Bible is associated with a tree. This one belongs to the first Adam. The second Adam delivered us from the fall on his tree (1 Peter 2:24).
While this questioning must have been highly guilt producing, notice that God still came looking for Adam. “Where are you?” is the first of four questions from God, and it is not a request for information. It is the cry of an injured lover. Adam stuck his foot in his mouth by indicating his fear and nakedness. This remark played into God’s second question, “Who told you that you were naked?” This was followed by questions three and four. When Adam tried to blame Eve (or maybe blame God for giving Eve to him) God did not even go there. When God interrogates there is no human defense. One can hear the huge disappointment, “What is this you have done?”
Genesis 3:14, 15
God cursed the serpent first and most. He was the worst of all the wild animals (see Mark 1:13). Crawling, dust, and enmity (i.e. hatred) would be the devil’s lot. If the serpent would trip the woman’s offspring’s heel (see John 13:18; Psalm 41:9), know that the offspring from the woman would crush the serpent’s head (see Romans 16:20). In the midst of the judgment there was great hope. Grace invades the “not” in the serpent’s tale.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
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