Genesis 2:15–17, 3:1–7
Some people think it’s a bit weird that there is a talking snake in the Garden of Eden.
The story goes like this. God has just finished his work of creating. It is all good, especially the man and woman made in his image, and he is taking a rest. God has blessed them and told them to “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.”
The talking snake is one of the creatures that God made, so it also must be good. As we follow the story, we see a problem developing. The talking snake is telling lies.
We know from Revelation 20:2 that the snake, also called a serpent, is in fact Satan, the devil. And so we know that he is actually an angel, not a talking snake. Genesis says he was in fact the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. So he’s pretty smart, and much cleverer than Eve. He is wise, but not in a good way.
As soon as he starts talking to Eve, things start to go wrong.
He starts by questioning God and then he asserts that he knows better than God. In doing this he seeks not just to exalt himself above God but to place himself over human beings. Remember, man was created to be higher than the angels. Before she knows what has happened the woman has been tricked into thinking that God is wrong and Satan is right.
He tells her that if she wants something then it is right for her to reach out and take it. That is a lie we are living with until now. There are lots of things we should not reach out for. Just because you want it doesn’t mean you should have it.
She thought the benefits outweighed the costs. She was wrong. She had been lied to. How many times have we been lied to as well. Are you still being lied to? Do you still think getting rich and having lots of toys is what God wants for you, and there are no bad consequences from such a lifestyle?
Straight away God blocked the access to the second tree, the Tree of Life.
Mankind doesn’t get back to that tree until the very end of the story.
Eve’s first mistake was desiring what was forbidden, her second mistake was believing Satan when he said God was wrong, and her third mistake was acting on her feelings and doing what Satan wanted instead of what God wanted. Ever since we have found it really easy to do what Satan wants, and really hard to do what God wants.
After making her error, instead of trying to correct things she tries to involve the man in her mistake. Bad move. We are always doing this too, aren’t we. Isn’t one of the most widely used excuses that everyone does it. Why did you drive through that red light? Why not, everyone does it? Fail!
God was in the habit of walking with the man and woman he had made in his image and talking with them. We call it prayer and we struggle with it, but they just talked to each other in the garden. It was natural and open and easy. Except that this particular day they hid from God.
That was their next mistake. We know that when we have made a mistake, God loves us so much he just wants to fix it. They knew him well enough that they should have known that, but the might of their misbehaviour overwhelmed them. Don’t you be like them. When you make a mistake own up and ask forgiveness.
Yet again they have failed to trust God. They sort of believe him about there being consequences as a result of eating from the tree, but they don’t trust God. That’s why they hid, isn’t it?
How does God respond? Don’t forget this. God responds gently and tenderly with love. Yes, he does cut them off from the Tree of Life. But in Genesis 3:21 we read that he also personally tailors the first suit of made-to-measure clothes for Adam and his wife. He is still talking to them. He is still loving them. We need to realise that God is also loving us even when we are doing wrong, and he is also looking out for us even as we continue to do wrong. He is loving us when we reject him and betray him and hurt him.
Before it all went wrong, in Genesis 1:28 it says: Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
It would not be strange to expect that blessing to be lost and gone forever given their wicked behaviour, but no. That isn’t what happens. Look at what God says to Noah in Genesis 9:1 – Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth.”
God is still blessing his creatures. And he repeats this blessing for Noah in Genesis 9:5-7, and for Abraham in Genesis 22:17 and Genesis 26:24. And in Deuteronomy 7:13 it says – ‘He will love you and bless you, and he will give you many children. He will give fertility to your land and your animals. When you arrive in the land he swore to give your ancestors, you will have large harvests of grain, new wine, and olive oil, and great herds of cattle, sheep, and goats.’
Although our God is loving and gentle and forgiving, he does not wave a magic wand and pretend that Adam and Eve didn’t leave him for another Lord and master. God does not protect us from bad decisions. We have to live with the consequences.
One of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s actions is that all of God’s children have sin, and they have no way to get rid of it. God made a way to get rid of it for us, by placing it on his own son.
Very simply, without looking at the story of the love triangle in the Garden of Eden we cannot understand the rest of the story.
When Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is near, he is saying that the Tree of Life is near. He is saying that the way back to how it was all meant to be is at hand. This is the gospel message. This is the Good News.
Don’t you think that these are things we should consider any time we find ourselves looking at something we desire, knowing in some part of ourselves that we shouldn’t really because it would be bad for us but we so want it. Don’t we find ourselves wondering how to get it without the consequences, or even convincing ourselves that there won’t be any consequences just for this one time.
Whatever that thing is for you, money or love or gadgets or fashion or films or games, you have probably convinced yourself that it really isn’t that bad, and it is such fun.
That is exactly what Eve thought too, and look what happened to her.
The first point is to get real. The consequences will be real and lasting, and perhaps much worse than you could imagine. And the second point is to remember that even though God loves you and wants to bless you, you will still have to live with the consequences of your actions.
If, for example, you get a driving ban for speeding and lose your job, God won’t undo that. With love and kindness he will make you a new set of clothes and help you to live with the consequences.
But what he really wants is for you to see the reality, and live a holy life in which you turn down all the temptation. Then the consequences will be life giving. Don’t hide from God when he comes looking for you, run out to him and ask for his forgiveness. His kingdom is near and he wants to have you in it.
After all, you are his child and he made you to live with him forever, and eat from the Tree of Life that he planted there for you. How? Turn away from sin and turn to God.