I would like to jump right into today’s scripture passage, Genesis 3 (page 4) so grab a Bible or pull up the passage on our app. And I just want to say, if you missed either of the first 2 weeks in this series, I would encourage you to listen to those messages on line; we covered a good deal of background information in those sermons that is relevant not only to this series but to the entire book of Genesis. Last week we finished on an up-note at the end of Chapter 2: Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden living a shameless, wondrous, naked-in-every-sense-of-the-word life together. Chapter 2 paints an amazing picture of what God built us to experience: a safe space, filled with beautiful plants and creatures, shared with a helper who is completely open and trustworthy and all of this in the literal presence of God. But the entire story shifts in the first verse of Chapter 3. The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” Okay, the first thing we need to address is ‘What’s with the talking snake?’ We must keep in mind that the first readers of this story, the people Moses, the great Jewish patriarch, specifically wrote the book of Genesis for, were the one million or so Jewish people he had just led out of 400 years of slavery in Egypt. And Egyptians worshipped snakes. Egyptians thought that snakes were the wisest of all the creatures; their rulers even put snakes on the crowns in an effort to channel snake wisdom. Well, the Jews weren’t so sure about this; they thought snakes were duplicitous… snakes might look wise, but they might just as easily strike you suddenly and kill you. It wouldn’t have been a long stretch for them to think of snakes as being so sneaky that they hid their ability to talk… or that all of their hissing was secretive, whispering, spell-casting. In fact, the words for snake, casting a spell and whispering are all very similar in Hebrew. Nachash: snake; Nahash: spell casting; Lachash: whispering. A snake talking to Eve may have raised a few eyebrows, but it wouldn’t have made the story implausible to ancient people living 4000 years ago. In fact, ancient people thought about what was possible in exactly the opposite terms from the way that we think about it. We say, ‘If I haven’t seen anything like it, then it must not exist.’ We want proof. They would have said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that! Tell me more about that thing I’ve not yet seen.’ They were open to the unknown. That said, we have it on good authority from other parts of the Bible that this snake was actually being used by Satan to speak to Eve. The voice was Satan’s. Satan didn’t create this snake; he can’t create life. Nor did he take the form of a snake. He just used something that God had created, something the Jews already were suspicious of, to speak to Eve. And this ‘serpent’ asks a leading question, a question that makes it sound like there had been a conversation going on somewhere about God. “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” This question could seem harmlessly uniformed, but it wasn’t; it was carefully worded to raise doubts in Eve’s mind. The serpent was saying something like this: ‘I’ve heard that God made a command that keeps you from eating ALL of this garden’s fruit. Is what I’ve heard true? If so, I can’t believe God would do this?’ Eve answers incredulously. 2“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3“It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” Eve is now in a conversation like none she has never known; she is talking to someone with ulterior motives… someone who isn’t being open and honest. Her answer was clearly an attempt to defend God: ‘Of course we may eat from the trees in the garden! God said there is only one tree whose fruit we may not eat…’ But did you notice she added, ‘or even touch’? Most scholars have concluded that the reason that Eve added this extra bit to the command from God was that God’s original command was given to Adam and Adam alone. Adam must have told Eve about this command and Adam must have added the ‘don’t touch part’ to make certain that they never came close to eating the fruit. He must have figured, ‘If we don’t touch it, we can’t eat it.’ Now, I could say a lot about that, but the serpent immediately challenges God for even making one rule. 4“You won’t die!” Now, we don’t know what the tone of this statement was: Calm; Patronizing; Harsh. But no matter the tone, this statement says that God is a liar. Remember, Eve had never heard anyone lie. She’d never heard anyone call someone else a liar and it would have never crossed her mind that God might not be telling the truth. Then the serpent tells Eve why God would lie to her! 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.” In other word’s God simply didn’t want any equals; he wanted to stay in power… over her! God’s rule had a hidden agenda! I can hear Eve thinking, ‘Wait a minute… How dare God!’ You can feel the serpent’s deception working… you can just see her mind beginning to swirl with doubts about who God really is and what he is really up to. And it isn’t too long before she is looking at that fruit… and desiring exactly what she now believes God is keeping from her… and not simply the fruit but the opportunity to be like God. 6The 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. The result of Eve being confused about God’s character, her doubts about God’s honesty and her desire for something he had forbidden, now all work together to cause her to, and the right word is, to sin. Nothing to this point, her being deceived or confused, or having doubts, not even her having a desire for something forbidden, were sinful. There is nothing wrong with being confused about God or having doubts about God or even having desires for things that we know are outside of what God has said is best for us. But, when we read, ‘So she took some of the fruit and ate it…’ this is sin… it is high-handed, blatant disobedience. And Eve wasn’t finished. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. Now, there are many thoughts on why Eve brought the fruit to Adam and why Adam joined her in eating this forbidden fruit. This is just me, I feel that Eve must have assumed that now that she and God were equal and Adam was still only a human being, he would probably need to have a new helper… one of his lower status. And Eve couldn’t stand the thought of him being with another woman… in other words, she was jealous. So, she decided to take him up to God’s level with her. And as far as Adam is concerned and again, this is just Tim Ayers thinking here, I think that once he realized that Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, he knew that once God found out it, something drastic was going to happen to Eve… something having to do with death. And Adam had a choice to make: if he decided not to eat, it might mean he’d be alone in again, like he’d been before. If he ate it, at least he would be with Eve no matter what happened. Adam chose an uncertain future with Eve rather than possibly having to go back to being alone with God again. We can’t be sure of what exactly was going on in their minds, but what we can be sure of is this: once Adam had eaten, the first thing that stormed into both of their lives was Shame! 7At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. Can I just say, ‘fig leaves?’ A bad choice in the midst of bad choices! Scholars go around and around about all of the different types of fig trees with larger leaves. But let’s just admit it: fig leaves of any size will always be a terrible choice for covering nakedness. Now the scene shifts. 8When 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. The Hebrew implies that God walking in the Garden was a common occurrence. But rather than being glad to hear that God was coming, Adam and Eve were afraid of him… fear, something else they’d never known, had also stormed into their lives. 9Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” Now, let’s be honest, God knew where they were, but notice the gentle way God is approaching them. At least Adam answers God, rather than staying hidden, 10“I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” 11“Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” God was fully aware of what had happened, but he was going to be calm and give them the opportunity to come clean. But what Adam and Eve both start doing is what I call ‘scrambling;’ they both start covering for themselves and putting the blame on others. They’d covered their bodies; now they’re covering their guilt. 12The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Adam blames Eve and, in great part, God for giving Eve to him in the first place. That’s a bad choice! 13Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.” She blames the serpent, which is also a slam on God for making the serpent at all. Another bad choice. And before I go any further I want to point out that these verses give us a pattern of how sin works. First comes deception… deception that causes us to question what is good for us and what isn’t good for us. Deception is a confusion over what is good and what is bad. The source of this confusion can come from other people, from circumstances… all kinds of places. What is certain, though, is that deception leads to all sorts of doubt, primarily doubts about God: doubts about his presence; doubts about his love for us; doubts about his honesty; doubts about his power, doubts about his right to tell us anything. Once we’re deceived and doubting it becomes very easy for us to desire things we know aren’t good for us. And once we allow desire to overwhelm us, it leads to actual sin, and sin leads to shame and then scrambling to try and remove our responsibility for what we’ve done. I see this pattern all the time. I’m not going into any details now, but take my word for it, once people get to the sinful action stage it’s almost like you know exactly what they will be saying when they try to scramble their way out of responsibility for the chaos they are causing. I’m pointing this out because I don’t believe it is a coincidence that we have this story right at the beginning of the Bible. It’s a warning! This is a true story about two specific, special people… this happened to them. But it is also a picture of what can and does happen to all of us. And if two people living in a Chapter 1 and 2 world can get into this kind of a mess, then we certainly need to be on our guard for deception; we need to be continually thinking about what is good and what isn’t good. We also need to work on our doubts. Doubt isn’t wrong, it’s normal. Doubt is not a sign of weakness, or worse, sin. But it needs to be addressed openly and honestly. And we need to be honest about our desires. Truth is, some desires are good for us, while others are going to lead us down a pathway of nothing but trouble. And as an aside, we are not animals; our desires need not control us. But more than anything this story is a warning that there are consequences when we sin. The entire rest of this story is about consequences. We don’t have the time to go into all the details related to the consequences of sin entering Adam and Eve’s world but there are some big ones: for instance Eve is told first, that pregnancy and birth, her part in filling the world, will now be much more painful, and secondly and possibly worst of all, Eve is told that while she will long for the kind of relationship she had with Adam in the Garden, one of equality and shamelessness, Adam will not respond to her that way any longer. And Adam is told, 17“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. 18It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. 19By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” Everything is now very different. In fact, the next 8 chapters of Genesis only talk about one thing: all of the terrible consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin: broken relationships; broken families; a broken world.
As I’ve looked at this story in detail, I’ve come to realize some things that I think are significant… I think it’s best to call it: ‘What happened when what happened, happened.’ And what happened, as I talked about earlier, was that as soon as sin entered Adam and Eve’s world they began to experience things like shame and fear; the world ceased being a place of openness and honesty and trustworthiness… and, as I mentioned last week, we were not created with the emotional tools to deal with shame or fear… or having someone lie to us… or having someone use us or abuse us or turn on us. Again, we weren’t made for a world with these things and this is why fear and shame so easily devastate us. But, beyond that, I’ve also come to realize that once sin entered the world and separated us from God, something else happened… something that might surprise you: Chapter 2 clearly says that we were created to see God face-to-face. That we were created with the internal tools for a relationship with a literally, very-present God. What this means is that we were not created for a world where we would need faith or hope. Think this through with me. If we could see God and be with him in the way we were created, we wouldn’t need faith at all… he would be as close and as real in every moment as we are to one another right now. Faith is the hope of things not seen and we weren’t built to live in a God-not-seen world. And if walking in the cool of the evening with God was a normal part of our lives… and walking with God was what we were created to do, we wouldn’t have any need for hope… how could we hope for something better or hope that things would change or hope that we’d be closer to God. Again, I don’t believe that God built us with the inward capacity to create much faith or hope. I believe this is why Jesus said we only need a mustard seed’s worth of faith; he knew it was all we’d ever be able to generate. This makes great sense to me. I could go on and on. It also explains why we struggle so much with shame and deception and abandonment and why trusting God in difficult times and living in the hope of God’s promises is so difficult. We weren’t created with any of the heart-tools, the emotional capacity, the spiritual rigging, if you will, to deal with any of these things. Knowing this gives me comfort… it takes away one of the aspects of shame that I personally deal with quite often, that being not being able to pull myself up out of the dust and just blow it off when people knock me down, or abandon me or turn on me or deceive me. And it also has helped me in times when things get dark and I sense my faith slipping, when I’m wondering if this Christian stuff is all real and it seems that God has abandoned or forgotten about me. It helps to know that I wasn’t created to have to deal with any of these things. We were all, every one of us, were only created to deal with the very good, the Eden we see in Chapters one and two of Genesis.
We talk a lot about healing the 6 broken places here at Grace. The world is broken in 6 big ways because of sin like Adam and Eve’s. It’s that simple. But sadly, there is a tendency among some Christians to assume that the brokenness in the world, all that we see happening since what happened, happened, is all a part of some highly organized plan on God’s part. Some will say that the world that comes into being after Chapter 3 in Genesis is the world God desires. I don’t want to go into all that this means theologically right now, but I do want to say that we do not believe that much in today’s world reflects God’s intensions. God did not, does not and never will desire our post-chapter 3 world. Bottom line: Our Bible begins in Chapters 1 and 2 and these chapters state clearly God’s desire for his world, his plan for his world and his will for his world. And can I say, Chapters one and two are still God’s plan for his world and he will win someday: all of creation will someday again be a Genesis Chapters 1 & 2 world. The promise of the Bible is: God will win. And what we do as we bring healing to the broken places of this world now is this: we give the world a taste of the coming future in the present. Let me say that again: As we work alongside of the Holy Spirit, finding, exposing and healing the broken places in our world, we give our very needy world a taste of, a vision of, a deep hope for God’s eternal Chapters one-and-two-future, in the present. Chapter 3 ends with Adam and Eve being banished from his garden. It is a sad picture and yet what we see right away in the next chapter is that God is no less present, no less aware of life’s details and no less loving than he was in Chapters one and two. Our task, our calling as followers of Jesus, is to take the beauty of chapters one and two into a chapter 3 world and spread the good news. And this is that good news: we can still take a deep drink of what God truly created us to know: that we are loved, that God is present, that shame and fear have been defeated through Jesus and that we can find hope in the one that created all things so that we could walk beside him in the cool of the evening forever.