Did God Actually Say...? A Devotion for the Pipestone Circuit Elders Retreat
|"Adam and Eve" by Lucas Cranach the Elder|
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So 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. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths (Genesis 3:1–7).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
“Did God actually say…?” The question sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? “Eve, are you sure you got that straight?” Is it possible that a loving God would deny His highest creatures the pleasure of eating any kind of fruit in the garden? Satan’s question is, however, not an innocent one. His purpose is to raise doubt in Eve’s mind—doubt as to exactly what God has said as well as doubt about the fairness of God’s prohibition.
The first thing we note about Satan is that he operates in disguise. He pretends to be interested in Eve’s well-being. He doesn’t say to her (and he doesn’t say to us), “Come, I’ll teach you how to sin.” What he does say is this: “Let me help you to a happier, more exciting life. Surely God wants you to be happy. Why would He put this beautiful fruit on the tree if you weren’t supposed to eat it?”
Before looking at Eve’s answer to Satan, we might ask a couple of questions: What good reason could God have for permitting His highest creature to be tempted? If He hadn’t permitted the devil to tempt Eve in the first place, couldn’t the tragedy of the fall into sin have been avoided? But by permitting His highest creatures to be tempted to sin, God was providing yet another opportunity for them to glorify Him—in this case, by consciously choosing good where the possibility of choosing evil existed.
Answering the devil, Eve restates the broad permission God has granted (“we may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden”). And then she restates God’s prohibition to not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, adding the words, “neither shall you touch it.”
If up to this point Eve has imagined this is a harmless conversation, the next words of Satan should surely show her otherwise. “You will not surely die,” he says, denying the reality of the punishment God has threatened, calling God’s truthfulness into question. And then Satan calls God’s love into question. He puts God’s prohibition in an ugly light. He pictures God, the giver of all good gifts, as selfish and envious rather than unbelievably gracious and generous. “God has forbidden you to eat the fruit only because He knows eating it will endow you with a secret knowledge, the knowledge that you can live without God. Eve, God doesn’t want you to discover the tremendous potential that lies within you. Instead He wants to keep you ignorant.”
Satan offers Eve two alternatives, both of which should be unacceptable to her: either God has not forbidden her to eat the fruit or He is not the loving God He pretends to be. Satan sows two poisonous seeds in Eve’s heart. First, he persuades her not to take God’s Word seriously. Second, he makes her doubt God’s goodness. At that point Satan breaks off the temptation. He waits to give his poison time to take effect.
It is an oversimplification, then, to say that Eve’s sin is disobedience. Her sin is unbelief. She refuses to believe what God has said about Himself. She doubts His love, choosing rather to believe Satan’s lie.
And Adam, the one God has placed as spiritual head, the one to whom God has given the instructions about the fruit of the trees? What does this brave and chivalrous protector do? He watches his bride listen to Satan, eat the fruit, and then he eats of it himself! And so, sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin. A cycle of lies and temptations, sin and unbelief, that repeats itself every day, in one form another, in every human being (except One) throughout history. God’s Word and God’s goodness are called into question every time.
We’ll be talking about some of those lies, doubts, and temptations today.
“Did God actually say marriage is for one man and one woman for life?”
“A good God certainly wouldn’t keep two people who love one another from being able to live happily ever after in wedded bliss just because they happen to have the same plumbing, would He?”
“A loving God certainly wouldn’t make you that way, if He didn’t want you to live that way, would He?”
“Those things God said applied to long ago in a less enlightened age. Our eyes have been opened. We know better now what is good and what is evil.”
These are all lies of the devil himself. Sure, they are spoken by human beings, but they come from the devil’s own playbook. In the Garden, he used a serpent as his mouthpiece. Today, he uses special interest groups to spout his propaganda. He uses lost souls that have fallen for his lies themselves. Souls, who like us, have been redeemed with the holy precious blood and the innocent suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the promised Seed of the woman who crushed the serpent’s head.
And so, out of faith in God and love for our fellow man, we must not remain silent like Adam as they eat the poisonous fruit. Our loved ones are also in danger. We could end up eating it ourselves. We cannot ignore those competing voices. We cannot compromise. We cannot cloister ourselves. We must engage the culture. We must warn of the dangers of denying God’s Word and doubting His goodness. We must teach and proclaim the truth of God’s Word, so that all might hear the terrifying Law that shows us our sins, and most especially, the gracious Gospel that brings forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. We must speak boldly and clearly, not just for the sake of the Church, but for all those who are lost in sin and error, for all those whom God would call to be His own.
Where we have failed to be faithful, where we have failed to bring glory to God’s name, where we have doubted God’s Word and His goodness, we must repent. We must confess our sins, believing that God’s grace in Christ covers us, too. God is faithful even when we are faithless, for He cannot deny Himself. Amen
Let us pray.
O almighty and eternal God, we implore You to direct, sanctify, and govern our hearts and bodies in the ways of Your laws and the works of Your commandments that through Your mighty protection, both now and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.