(The Fall into Sin) Genesis 3, Lent 1, March 5, 2017
Occasionally, a YouTube video makes its way to social media that features people’s misfortunes. One I watched recently was called “Bad Day at Work” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VveNHLZaECw Some of these “bad days” are not entirely random, but caused by lack of care and attention, or poor safety protocol. Some however are just plain bad luck. When was your last bad day at work? What made it especially bad?
Our Old Testament reading from Genesis tells of the quintessential “bad day at work” story. Not only is this a bad day for Adam and Eve, it is the worst possible day in the history for all humankind. It was the day that our first parents went from being perfect creatures in a perfect world knowing the full and complete fellowship of God, to falling to the very depths of depravity as they chose to reject God, and follow their own desires, and that of the ancient serpent the devil. How did they fall from such heights? Let’s recap their story and see what we find out.
16And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die….25And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. For reasons only God knows, man and woman were created as free moral agents. They had within themselves the power to choose between obeying or disobeying God. God could have easily made it otherwise, creating and programming these humans with computer-like precision to be only and always obedient, doing the Father’s will fully and completely…but God didn’t. They were given clear and precise instructions regarding the choices that were before them, and the consequences of making the wrong choice (you shall die). It’s hard for us to imagine how those who would have no concept or experience of death might imagine it, but one must assume they had enough insight to understand the seriousness of disobedience. In this blissful estate, there was no shame either in nakedness, or anything else for that matter.
3Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’ Few verses in scripture have given more cause for speculation than this one. How did the serpent get to be so crafty? How did the serpent and woman communicate? Could all creatures communicate with the humans? Each other? Many have diminished or discounted this account because of the talking snake. It may be that this is presented as simply story or myth, but may such a position come simply from a material worldview bias, where since we have never seen or heard snakes talk…there never could be such a thing. If we continue with this line of reasoning, might it not eliminate all paranormal events recorded in the Bible…including the resurrection? If we’re going to believe that God created all that exists out of nothing, and that a man rose again from the dead, is it such a stretch to believe there may have been a time when humans and snakes could communicate?
Whatever we do with the talking snake, the content of his words to the woman are most telling, “did God (really) say…” The essence of the Satan’s temptation here is to have the woman doubt both her understanding of what God had said, and the nature of the God who spoke. How well the woman heard and remembered God’s command, and how well she knew the nature of the God who commands would be crucial in facing this temptation. Let’s see how she fares.
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” For the most part she got the content right (however I’m not sure where she got the idea of not even touching the tree from). She and we don’t stand much chance of overcoming temptation if we don’t know what God has actually decreed. For Adam and Eve this was based on listening to the voice of God “up close and personal”. For us it is based in both hearing and reading from the Word of God (the Bible).
“You will not die; 5for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Although the Bible refers to the devil as “liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44b), and although some debate that he is technically lying here, he is certainly making full use of deception and “half-truths” (or alternate truths?). It is partially true in that they would not die right then and there, but it is not true that they would not die. It is partially true that their eyes would be opened and they will in fact know both good and evil after they fell to temptation, but not in any positive sense. Along with the deception and half-truths, Satan is trying to get Eve to doubt the goodness of God. “God is holding out on you.” He doesn’t want you to be all that you can be”. “Follow you heart…follow your desires.”
“6So 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 to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.” Against what she knew to be true, she went with her “eyes” and her “ego” and took the fruit and ate it. She gave it to her husband, and he ate as well. Why Adam didn’t so much as flinch, or make a peep in resisting evil we’ll never know. The command regarding not eating the fruit from this tree was given to him initially (see vs 16). One must assume that it was he who communicated this to Eve. It would seem Eve chose the pursuit of wisdom (and even perhaps divinity) over the truth of God. It seems Adam may have chosen his wife, and obedience to her over God. Either way, neither chose God.
“7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. 8They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” The effect of their disobedience was immediate. Their eyes in fact were opened as the devil said they would be, and now knew both good and evil experientially. Their original state of purity was now gone, as they were aware of their nakedness. Beginning now, theirs would be lives of “cover-ups” and hiding. Their “walking-in-the-cool-of -the-evening days with God were now over. One of the tell-tale signs of sin is hiding from both others and God.
9But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you? It is my opinion that the ultimate effects of sin may not be fully realized in Adam and Eve at this point. Might it be that God calls to them in hopes of a confession and repentance? Certainly an omniscient (all-knowing) God knows exactly where the wayward, fruit-eating humans are hiding, but nevertheless God calls to them. Perhaps if they confess and repent at this point, all is not lost? Just a thought.
“I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” Adam’s first comments show some hope, but things go from bad to worse. God does not press the comment of Adam hiding, but asks a very direct question that needs a direct answer, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? Only one word is called for here, and that word is “yes”. “Yes, we ate from the tree…yes we have sinned against your direct command. Will you forgive us?”
Rather than respond with confession and repentance, Adam responds with excuse and blame. Adam blames not only “the woman”, but also the one who gave the woman to him in the first place, the LORD God. The fault apparently does not lie with Adam, but with “the woman” and her Creator. O how the mighty have fallen. Eve doesn’t do much better in turning excuse and blame to the serpent. There is plenty of blame to go around to be sure, but none of it falls at the feet of Adam or Eve.
“Because you have done this, cursed are you…” Judgement follows their sin as is befitting a Holy God. Curses come upon the serpent, the woman, and the man. Although there is no mention of the serpent’s mode of propulsion prior to the curse, from here on he will be “licking the dust”. For women, the curse will be manifest in childbirth (and I expect most of you mothers can say Amen to that). Also comes what appears to be a changing dynamic in their relationship toward each other and God. For the man, he is now cursed with toil, sweat, and thistles (I still mutter Adam’s name under my breath every time I encounter those pesky things). Both will be removed from the Garden of Eden, so as not to eat the tree of life, and live in this perpetual state of sin.
All seems lost save for verse 15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” Hidden in this rather cryptic verse is the first promise of a savior, one who would be stricken by the devil, but who would ultimately strike and crush the serpent’s head, our Lord Jesus himself.
Chapter 3 in Genesis reveals the worst day humankind has ever known. Contrary to many other religions and ideologies, this was, and continues to be the essential problem of humankind…the sin of Adam and Eve. Their sin has become our sin as well. In Jesus however, we have a victor, one who defeats this ancient foe, and his victory, becomes our victory as well. This bad day will be followed by another bad day that we call “Good Friday”. These two days however will give way to another grand and glorious day that followed, and one that is yet to come when the curse of Satan will be completely broken, and death will be no more.
So no matter what your worst day looks like, it pales in comparison to that of Adam and Eve’s. Thankfully their and our story doesn’t end there. Thankfully there is a better day coming. Amen