Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Tempting Tree - Genesis 3

It all seems so unfair! God set innocents—Adam and Eve—in a garden of earthly delights. But right in the middle He set a tempting tree. Adam and Eve knew nothing of good and evil, but here was the ultimate evil, right there, like putting a chainsaw in a playpen. How could God put a tree like that in the middle of a perfect garden? True, He warned them not to touch it, but there was no fence around it--nothing to prevent Adam and Eve from doing what they inevitably did.
God wasn’t being neglectful. He was being wise. The safe way is not always the wise way.  Without risk, there can be no learning.
The tree was called “knowledge of good and evil.” As long as it remained untouched, it became the knowledge of Good. By resisting they learned strength and wisdom through avoiding temptation. When we don’t get what we want, we actually become better people. We learn to wait, and to make the best of what we have. Imagine this conversation:
Child:  Daddy, I need a new bike.
Parent: Why? Does your old one not work?
Child:  No, I just want it. 
Parent: So, you really don’t need a new bike.
Child:  Yes I do, because I want it real bad.
The child isn’t lying--he just doesn’t understand the difference between his needing and wanting. That desire becomes the source of our knowledge of something good. It’s the origin of blessing, learning to wait on God. 
But once we yield to desire, it becomes the source of the knowledge of evil. Our impatience teaches us disobedience, greed, and jealousy.
What’s the “tree” of temptation in your life? For some, it’s anger, lashing out at those who don’t deserve it. For others, it’s lust. It can be money and the things money can buy. Sometimes, it’s pride. Our temptations change through life, but they are always there, giving us always a chance for either greater good or greater evil.
God wants us to resist. Satan wants us to give in, because yielding, removes us from God’s protection and care, which leads us to ruin and destruction, just like it did with Adam. 
Genesis 3 is a case study in temptation. In the first temptations we discover the reason for failure, the results of that failure, and the remedy for failure. 
Verses 1-6 describes the reason for failure. It started with a snake.
“The serpent was more wily than all the beasts of the field.” 
Why did Satan use a snake? Because the animals were the one thing that Adam and Eve really thought they had under his control. Normally, the animals answered to him. Satan always comes at us from our unguarded side. Christians are guarded about the New Age movement, radical Islam, militant atheism, government abuse and authority, corrupt media, and so forth. But we should guard ourselves against things in our own home. The Devil can use, drugs, sex, and persecution to ruin us, but he more often uses things like gluttony, jealousy, greed, and pride. It’s our little “pet” sins that get us in the most trouble. 
Satan by questioning God. 

“Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

But there’s nothing wrong with asking questions to God, but this was a conversation between two of His creatures behind His back. They should have included God in the conversation. His presence is always with us. In every struggle, every moral question make prayer a part of it. Dr. Dennis Kinlaw once said, “True religion ends when we stop talking to God, and keep talking about Him.”  Leaving God out of the conversation was Eve’s first mistake.
Next, Satan questioned God’s motives.

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.”

Satan says, “God is holding back on you. There’s this special kind of knowledge—good and evil—that God selfishly doesn’t want you to have, because if you have it, you’ll be like Him.”
God wasn’t holding out the knowledge of Good and evil. In fact, He was at that very moment teaching her good. Evil is the absence of good. The knowledge of evil isn’t good—it’s stupidity. To know evil is to be stupid. Eve was deceived that doing something stupid made her wise.
Next, he invited her to embrace evil, with the heart, head, and hands.

“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,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Her mind was deluded into thinking it would make her wise. With her heart, she delighted in it.  But with her hands, she decided when she took it and ate. Then, so she wouldn’t be alone, she recruited Adam, and had him eat as well.  Sometimes we desire first. Sometimes we start by being deluded. Sometimes we make a thoughtless decision and keep doing wrong, because we will not admit our mistakes. Whatever order it falls, it always involves the hand, head, and heart.
Then we see the results of failure. First, they tried to pretend it never happened. They sewed together fig leaves to camouflage their bodies. A futile gesture! You can’t hide from God.
God searched for them, walking in the garden in the cool of the day. This was mercy, not anger. He wanted to give them a chance to come forward. 
Adam started making excuses. 

“The woman you gave me, she tempted me, and I ate.”

Adam not only manages to blame his wife, but God Himself!
God patiently calls for Eve. She blames the snake.
“The serpent tempted me, and I ate.”
Now comes the time when God must hand out punishments. First, He punishes the serpent.

“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.”

Then He turns to the woman. 

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

This is not a curse on her body, but on her attitude. Childbearing and childrearing would always have been painful but with the curse it becomes much, much worse, because the joy is gone. 
Then he turns to Adam.

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you,‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Adam’s curse is much longer. You will do your work, but you won’t enjoy it. As a protection against you, thorns and thistles to grow.  More than that, Adam will die, with eternal death after that.
But there will be a remedy for that failure. It will be presented later, but the first hint is already present in an unusual verse—Genesis 3:15:
 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This is a prophecy. In the Hebrew concept of reproduction, offspring come from the man, not the woman. The only time there could be a “seed” of woman would be if there were no man involved.  Paul points out that the word “seed” is singular, not plural. One man—one seed--will come from a woman without a human father. He will destroy Satan. He will be wounded in the heel, but He will break Satan’s head. He will crush the works of the Devil.
Who can this be but Jesus—born of a virgin, nailed through the heel on the cross, who came to destroy Satan and all His works? Only He has the power to interpose Himself between the temptation of Satan and our lives. Without Jesus, we’re helpless to resist. With Him, we can build a new life.
Adam and Eve were banished from Eden. But the tree of temptation went with them. It bore fruit in their lives in a thousand forms. That tempting tree is still with us today. It’s in your life and mine. 
The only way to resist it, and the only way to reverse it, is to turn to Jesus, the seed of the Woman, and let Him beat it for us. 
Don’t let your temptations rule your lives. Give them to Jesus, and He will defeat Satan for you.  

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