Paradise Lost (Part 1)
Last post we talked about the the importance of the creation week.
We studied Genesis 1-2:3, learning about God as our creator, and how this knowledge is fundamental to everything else that comes after it in the Bible. Reading the first two chapters of Genesis we found a powerful, intentional, and loving God carefully creating a perfect world.
However, when we look around ourselves, we see an imperfect world.
We will take a look at that today.
However, before we can talk about Genesis 3 and the fall we need to take a quick look at Genesis 2:4-25.
On Genesis 2:4 we have a subtle shift from
“the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created”
“the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.”
We have a shift from “heavens and earth” to “earth and heavens” as well as a shift from "God" to "the LORD God."
These subtle shifts indicate a couple of things.
One is that the following verses will be focusing on life here on earth.
We also have the introduction of “LORD,” an additional name for God that focuses upon a unique covenant relationship with humanity and eventually to Abraham’s seed (Exodus 3:14-15).
Here we have a shift from God creating the earth, to God having a close relationship with His creation.
On Genesis 2:7 we have God forming man the way a potter works with clay (Isaiah 29:16; Jeremiah 18:4-6) then God breathes. I love how close and personal the process is. God could have spoken humans into existence. But God chose to come down, kneel down, and get His hands dirty and fashion man out of the clay. Then God breathes the breath of life and transforms that clay figure into a living being or a living soul. The Hebrew here is nephesh, if you ever do a word study on this word you will find all kinds of interesting things.
Once again, the account of creation is more interested in describing God’s relation to us, and His love and attention, then the biological details of creation.
God also planted a garden and put the man in the garden to tend and keep it. (Genesis 2:15)
This demonstrates that work is not a curse that came after the fall, we were not created to be idle, we had responsibilities from the beginning, to tend and keep the garden. This was a blessing and not a curse.
Looking at Genes 2, I want to highlight especially verse 16, this is the first command we have from God in the Bible. God commanded man to freely eat of every tree of the garden. But he was not to eat of the tree of knowledge or good and evil because the day he ate of it God said, literally “dying you shall die” often translated as “surely you will die.” The day that humans ate of the fruit, the death process would begin.
Also on chapter 2, we learn the only thing that was not good in creation was for man to be alone, so God creates Eve out of his rib. Personally I believe it was for Adam to keep her close to his heart. It is interesting that Eve was not created from a bone from Adam’s foot or from a bone from Adam’s head. Seeing how intentional God has been about each aspect of creation I believe it is worth to note this detail. Eve was there as Adam’s equal, created from his side, bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, the two were to be joined and become one flesh and they were both naked and were not ashamed.
By the way, the word used here for one ('echad)is the same one used in Deuteronomy 6:4 (NKJV)
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!
I highlight this because I believe that God intended married couples to experience the same union that the Godhead experiences. Father, Holy Spirit, Son, one God. Male and Female should become one flesh. It is a mystery, but I believe a godly marriage gives us a glimpse of God.
The use of 'echad (one) shows that it can be used to represent a complex unity, so the deity of Christ and the personality of the Holy Spirit do not mean polytheism. He is still one God, still monotheism, but a complex unity.
At the end of Genesis 2 there is no shame, no fear, no guilt, only harmony.
Genesis 2:4-25 highlight relationships, humans with God, Humans with Humans, and Humans with the rest of creation (plants and animals).
I know there is a lot of information I am leaving untouched. We can come back at another time for a more in-depth study of these verses. I just wanted to highlight some key points before moving on to Genesis 3, which is where I wish to focus on.
Genesis 3 begins with the word “now” or in the original “and.” This may lead a first time reader to expect another description of a perfect world existing in harmony.
With a brief introduction regarding the craftiness of the serpent the reader is dropped in the beginning of an odd dialogue.
We have the serpent speaking to the woman.
The serpent is introduced as being “more cunning.” This word is used in both positive and negative ways in the Bible. Here the craftiness of the serpent is demonstrated not only by its ability to speak, but also by the careful wording of his speech.
Notice how the serpent begins with a question, as someone seeking clarification, meanwhile twisting God’s words. The serpent pretty much quotes God’s words from Genesis 2:16, with just one twist.
The serpent takes a command that was mostly positive,
“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat,” (Genesis 2:16)
and makes it negative
“you shall not eat of every tree of the garden” (Genesis 3:1).
One word changes your perception of God as someone who gives free access to all trees to someone who restricts your access to things.
How do we describe ourselves as Christians?
Yes there are restrictions, but God gives us so much more than He restricts. There is so much we can do! Why focus on the few behaviors He does not want us to engage in?
Identify yourself as a Christian by what you do, what you love, what you enjoy, and then, when necessary also share what you refrain from doing.
Hearing the snake misquote God, Eve seizes this opportunity to correct the theology of the serpent.
"No, no, no, we can eat of every tree of the garden, it is just the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden that God told us not to eat or touch or we would die."
You shall not surely die
“You shall not surely die.”
Now the serpent goes blatantly against God’s words. The serpent is calling God a liar.
But how did we arrive here? It began with a question. (Genesis 3:1)
Did God really say...?
Did God really say you can’t?
How many people spend time and resources doing away with God’s guidelines.
Did God really say you should not steal? Surely He did not mean it in this circumstance.
Did God really say you should not take His name in vain? Look at all the people who do it, nothing bad has happened to them, so He must be okay with it now.
Did God really tell you to honor your father and mother? Maybe back then, but your parents are so stubborn and narrow minded, you can dishonor and disrespect them, they have to earn your honor.
Did God really say for you not to bear false witness? Who can be honest in our day and age, everybody cheats a little bit, everyone tells a little lie, that law was in the Old Testament, those were different times. God wants you to prosper, and this little lie won't hurt anyone.
Did God really say not to have any other Gods? Well, these things in your life are important, God understands, God can wait. Later on in life you can make Him your top priority, right now you need more money, God understands that.
Did God really say do not commit adultery? But its unreasonable to expect people to stay married and faithful to just one person their whole lives. Maybe back then, but we live in a different society now.
Did God really say we should not commit murder? Look, the world is a bad place, we kill ‘em and we let God sort them out.
Did God really say we should remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy? Surely God does not need a whole day, you can't afford to stop and dedicate a whole day to God.
Little by little, we find all kinds of reasons and arguments to do away with every restriction, with each commandment, ultimately believing that we will not surely die.
You will not surely die.
Speaking of not dying, most world religions believe in some form of this.
Most people believe that there is something immortal about us that continues to live away from the body and that after the body dies, it will either go to a good place, or a bad place, or reincarnate.
1 Timothy 6:16 presents God alone as immortal. The serpent is the one who claimed that we, creatures, could disobey God and continue to live apart form God.
I do not have time at the moment to dive into this topic. But feel free to contact me if you would like to go deeper. I just want to give you a word of caution, that in your practical life, you don’t end up living a life that aligns itself more with what the serpent is saying that with what God said.
Here in Genesis 3, we have the roots, the foundations, of many things that will be fleshed out throughout the Bible.
In the future we will have entire messages just tracing these principles throughout the Bible. It is worth taking a moment to study God’s law as opposed to just doing away with it.
It is important to know what the Bible has to say regarding life, death, and judgment.
I cannot tackle all these topics now, but I hope you see they are rooted in the very beginning of human history.
These are big issues, ultimately, the largest issue is who is God?
Is the creator God really God? Does He deserve our worship? Should we trust Him?
These questions are at the core of the Genesis account.
You will be like God
Ultimately, doubting God, questioning His clear commands all have one root, a desire to be gods.
The serpent portrays God as someOne who is keeping good things from His creatures. God as someone who says "No" not because He loves you or because He knows what's best, but rather because He wants to keep good things from you, or He is afraid of your potential, that you might become a god.
The lie of the serpent is about the character of God. An attack on God's laws is an attack on God's government, His sovereignty, His character. These lies were not about trees and fruit, only, they were about who God is and whether or not we should obey, and worship Him. The serpent wanted Eve to consider whether she would be better off without God, rebelling against Him, replacing Him with herself.
We live in a world that worships the self and vilifies God. We often hear different versions of
"God is bad,"
"religion is bad,"
"religious books are bad,"
ultimately replacing it with "you just do what you want, "
"become your own god."
"You can be whatever you feel like being."
What does the Bible say next?
Eve saw that the tree was good for food. In Genesis 1 God creates and He sees that things are good. When we closely examine the biblical narrative we learn that God originally saw and evaluated things, only God is described as seeing things and evaluating them up to this point in the narrative. Now Eve takes the task upon herself to see and decide whether something God prohibited is really bad or not.
God said "no", but Eve didn't see any problems. Eve set herself up as judge of God's word. Instead of accepting and obeying God's will for her life, she decided to decided for herself whether God's laws should be obeyed.
God created a perfect world. God provided for all her needs. God placed her in paradise, filled with everything she would ever need. Now Eve questions God's laws, God's intentions, God's true character. She probably wonders why God would tell her not to eat a fruit that looked good. She sure didn't see any problems.
The forbidden fruit looked good as food, its was pleasing to the eyes and had the benefit of granting her wisdom.
How dare God set up rules to keep us from certain experiences. Have you ever noticed that every time you break one of God's laws it only makes things worse in the long run?
Poor Eve, God was keeping her ignorant about evil, she only knew good. Eve knew nothing about lies, death, suffering, betrayal, shame, guilt, fear. Poor Eve, so sheltered. God was really keeping certain knowledge/wisdom from her. God's "restrictive" law was keeping Eve from knowing evil.
It is amazing how the serpent was able to make something so negative seem so appealing.
Notice also that Eve was not content in sinning by herself but offered it to Adam as well. Even though Eve was deceived by the serpent, Adam made a conscious choice to eat. Adam thought that the loving thing to do was not to confront a loved one who had made a poor choice, but rather to join in.
Next time we will study the results of their choice, their rebellion, and how God handled it.
For now, I think we ought to ponder in our own lives, how we handle the similar doubts that come our way. When we are tempted to disregard or disobey God’s laws, His commands, how do we handle it?
Do we trust God to know what is best?
Do we believe that He loves us and wants what is best for us?
Do we doubt God’s goodness and believe He is actually keeping good things from us?
These are questions for us to ponder this week. The battle Adam and Eve faced in the garden has many similarities with the battle Jesus faced in the wilderness after His baptism and 40 days of fasting, and very similar to the battles we face today.
In Jesus we can have the victory, and forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. However, the big question remains the same.
Do we trust God?
Do we believe He is worthy of our obedience and worship?
Do we love Him?
How is our love for God reflected in our lives when we are being tempted?
Something for us to ponder.
(Part 2 can be found here)