[Adapted from a study I originally wrote for my first blog, September 2014.]
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat of it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Let me guess: You’ve read this before. Heard it preached. Maybe it was one of the flannel graph stories they drilled into your poor six-year-old brain back in your Sunday school days. And your reaction to hearing it again might go something like “Yes, I realize that way back when, humanity fell and now we’re all sinners. I realize that’s why Jesus came to die. But just merging onto the freeway to go to work is a pretty good reminder of that—I don’t need the story pounded into me again.”
Oh, but you do. It’s far more relevant to your life than you might realize. It gives you the foolproof blueprint for how to ruin a perfectly good relationship with God.
Step one: be ignorant (or even just forgetful) of God’s Word.
V1a Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.
Zero in on that word “crafty.” I always thought it meant something like “sly” or “up to no good.” In reality, the word translates more like shrewd or wise. The serpent is smart. He’s strategic. He knows his prey and exactly how to catch it.
V1b And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
Here the Enemy’s excellent tactical skills come into play. He doesn’t jump right in and say, “You know, God is totally wrong about that tree.” Maybe he doesn’t want to put himself out there so quickly—but nor does he need to. He knows that all Eve needs is a question… a nagging reason to believe that she’s been informed wrongly.
V2, 3 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat of it or touch it, or you will die.’”
Up until this point, we can reasonably say that Eve hasn’t actively done anything wrong. The serpent’s craftiness isn’t her fault. His question isn’t her doing. But it will be her undoing, for it bares to him her weakness: she does not know what God really said about the tree.
Back in Genesis 2, God’s instructions are recorded in full:
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
Notice what God didn’t say. He didn’t say “You shall not eat of it or touch it.” He only said “You shall not eat of it.” By adding to His Words—by not being familiar with exactly what God said—Eve has opened herself up to be deceived. After all, if she isn’t really confident in her knowledge of God’s words, won’t she be pretty quick to accept outside “interpretations”?
We do this as Christians all the time. Most of us have heard the words “Do not judge” a thousand times and have never read the paragraphs that follow them. This has left us completely vulnerable to secular attacks that call it “hateful” to condemn certain actions as wrong. Because so many of us are ignorant of the Word, we’ve started to agree with them even though that is not what the Bible says.
Christians, there is a reason that when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He answered the Devil’s taunts with Scripture (Matthew 4). It’s this: Satan is the father of lies—and the only thing that can silence him is the TRUTH.
Step two: begin to blur the distinction between who God is and who you are.
V4, 5 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
I had a conversation the other day that shocked me. I was making the point that if we place our own desires above the law of God, we have essentially dethroned Him and crowned ourselves “god” in His place. The friend I was speaking to (once a regular churchgoer who now claims a strange postmodern spin off Catholicism) gave a reply that I could hardly believe I was hearing: “See, I don’t feel like God should be above me. I feel like He and I are on the same level, so my actions can be based on my own judgment.”
I have always known that in the deepest and most evil roots of our natures, we want to be the gods of our own lives. Just look at Lucifer, who fell from glory because he wanted not only to rule his own life, but everyone else’s as well. Yet I never thought I’d hear anyone admit that desire to me in so many words! But there it is: my friend’s philosophy lines up in perfect sync with the formula for the very first fall of man. It grays out the distinct black and white that differentiate between God, the Highest King, and myself, His lowest servant. If God and I really aren’t so different, why should I make it a priority to obey Him? Why should He have rights to the throne of my life? As long as we do not see God for who He really is, and ourselves for who we really are, we will be in peril—and it will march us directly into Step Three.
Step three: decide that your personal feelings and judgments trump the laws of God.
V6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
Nothing about Eve’s response here is godly. In fact, John calls it the polar opposite of what God would want:
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
1 John 2:16
The lust of the flesh: “…the woman saw that the tree was good for food…”
The lust of the eyes: “…and that it was a delight to the eyes…”
The boastful pride of life: “…and that the tree was desirable to make one wise…”
Weighing out these three factors, Eve decides that her own judgments and feelings about the issue outweigh the fact that God expressly forbade her to eat of the fruit. This is a classic example of what happens in the hearts and minds of people every day in our world. For example, they may have grown up understanding that homosexuality is sinful, but Satan infiltrates the gaps in their knowledge of the Word and encourages them to interpret God’s Word through the lens of their own experience and logic. They use Biblical-sounding phrases like “Love can’t be a sin” to legitimize a behavior that God called worthy of hellfire.
But homosexuality is just one big example. Every day we are ambushed with thousands of smaller choices, like whether or not “Do all to the glory of God” matters as much as the fact that I’m completely exhausted and just want to put in half an effort today.
Step four: hide from God.
V7-10 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
The problem (which isn’t really a problem) with living in a close relationship with God is that your sense of conviction becomes extremely sharp. You know when you have done wrong and you know what needs to be done to fix it—which usually involves falling humbly on your knees and asking forgiveness from the One you have wounded.
The deliberately sinful soul doesn’t want to be in that relationship. Adam and Eve don’t want to walk closely beside God anymore because instead of submitting to His conviction, they have fled into guilt, which is deep in the territory of the Enemy. So dull have their compromising senses become to the reality of God’s character that they would rather wallow in their sinfulness than face the healthy pain of coming clean before Him.
This is perhaps one of the scariest places to be in your walk with God. Here, you can feel nothing but terror, because you know you are guilty but you refuse to seek the Solution. Maybe you’re too proud, maybe you no longer believe that God is really good and forgiving—I don’t know. But I can tell you that bowing your stiff neck and taking the risk of falling at the throne of grace will be far worth any temporary pain it may cause to your ego or your heart.
Step five: decide that it’s all God’s fault in the end.
V11-12 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
It always fascinated me that Adam didn’t just say “The woman gave it to me.” He adds a suspicious little detail: “The woman whom You gave me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
You see, after you’ve deliberately disobeyed God, enthroned yourself in His place, and run away from His grace, you have reached the point where you no longer even believe you are responsible for what you’ve done. Your circumstances can be blamed on someone else—maybe it’s your dad’s fault you have anger issues, or your ex-girlfriend’s fault that you have no self-esteem, or in this case, God’s fault that you’re getting kicked out of Paradise.
The woman You gave me, God. The father You gave me, God. The circumstances You gave me, God. My screwed up life is Your fault. I thought You said You were kind and loving and gracious and merciful? I’m done with You!
Ah… but it goes back to Step Four… you will not know God’s kindness, love, grace, or mercy if you will not receive them.
Finally, in verse 13, the story is brought full circle.
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
The serpent deceived me—because I forgot Your Word. I ate—because I figured my own judgment was more important.
And it’s all Your fault, God. So go away and let me reign in the little kingdom of mine.
Heavy stuff. This is how mankind fell from perfect intimacy with God into total separation from Him. If two perfect human beings walking in Paradise can turn their backs on God in five easy steps, you know it’s even more possible for you to do so. So here are five easy steps to not ruin your walk with God:
- Know the Word inside and out. It’s the only ammunition that can kill roaring lions (that is, Satan).
- Study the truth of God’s character again and again. (By the way, if you follow Step One and get into serious study of the Word, this will be an automatic result.)
- Act as though God is the Highest Authority—because He is. Again, if you really spend time getting to know Him, this will begin to come naturally.
- Keep short accounts with God. Know that you can and must take your mistakes, hurts, and difficulties to Him on a daily basis. Relationships thrive on honesty and communication!
- Never forget that you deserved to pay the price for your actions, but there is a Solution—and He is there to fill every humbled heart with the richness of salvation and forgiveness!