Adam and Eve and the snake. It’s a favourite CHILDREN’S story. (slide 2) Sunday School, comics, even THE SIMPSONS feature it.
(slide 3) It’s there at the start of Desperate Housewives – not quite sure why!
(slide 4) We think it’s cute, with pictures of Adam and Eve with the strategically placed leaves or long flowing hair in front of them. And the snake is wrapped around an apple tree, tempting Eve with a gorgeous juicy apple.
Most Australians would know the story. At least the START of it. Perhaps it’s because it’s got something to do with NESS AND FOOD. Two things they seem particularly interested in!
But the reality is/ in modern society it’s been ROBBED OF ITS MEANING. It’s meant to be a story about SIN and . Why a GOOD GOD allows EVIL and SUFFERING in his world. But it’s become a pleasant morality tale about temptation and EATING.
We push the story off into the backwaters of irrelevancy and children’s fable. Instead of recognizing it for what it is – one of the most significant events in human history.
The Second Most Significant Event in History
(slide 5.1) (pause) What do you reckon are the Most Significant events in human history? The incidents that have influenced more people in history than any other.
Perhaps you’d include the invention of THE PRINTING PRESS, which made books and education widely available to all. Including easy access to the Bible for people worldwide.
Or perhaps THE DISCOVERY OF PENICILLIN, which has saved countless millions of lives in only 100 years.
Or the invention of THE SILICON CHIP, which in 60 years has revolutionized technology in every area of life.
Or the discovery of the structure of DNA. Genetic research has only taken off since then. And there is the very real chance that many inherited diseases will become things of the past within a few decades.
Or the dropping of the atomic on Japan in 1945. They ended WW2, both saved and destroyed thousands of lives. And who knows what the political landscape would have looked like if it hadn’t happened.
That’s five off the top of my head.
But let me suggest that the story of Adam and Eve and the snake. The story of the first sin TOPS THEM ALL. It’s NUMBER TWO on MY Top 10. The SECOND MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENT in human history.
The lives of every person since have been dramatically affected. For the worse. Their environment, their relationships, their choices, their futures.
These verses in Gen 3 might be a simple story. But they’re much more significant than a Simpson’s Episode, or a nice fable that makes us smirk.
Let me prove it to you.
The first thing to notice is that it’s the second part of A CONTINUING STORY. It’s Ch 2 continued. Ch 2 finishes with the picture of Adam and Eve both , and they felt no shame. It’s a picture of innocence and purity. Of complete openness and honesty. Without guilt or shame. Mankind in harmony with God, with creation, and with each other.
But it’s not going to last. It’s the BEFORE picture. Because Ch 3 opens with the introduction of A NEW PLAYER in the drama. The serpent. Made by God, but crafty. In Revelation, we’re told it’s SATAN HIMSELF.
(slide 5.2) And he begins his temptation simply by asking a question. Nothing too obvious. A subtle undermining of God’s word. V1.
“Did God REALLY say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
It’s the first step. Throwing a seed of doubt into Eve’s mind. Causing her to doubt God’s word (slide 5.2.a).
And it’s really no different from the way he works TODAY. Just a simple mocking question. It might come from your workmate or neighbour or husband, but it’s Satan who’s blinded their eyes.
“You don’t believe the Bible, do you?”
“You really think praying DOES something?”
“Are you saying that all the other religions are wrong?”
“Why bother giving up Sundays to be in church?”
They’re only harmless questions, aren’t they? That’s what Satan WANTS us to believe.
How do we DEAL with temptations to doubt like THAT?
We keep reminding each other of the truth. WE keep reading God’s promises. We keep sharing answered prayer. We keep meeting together. We keep LIVING God’s truth.
Because if we DON’T, we might end up responding to the doubts the way the WOMAN DOES. For some reason, her answer doesn’t get it quite right. She adds ANOTHER condition to the command. Making it STRICTER than it actually was. V3.
God DID say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, AND YOU MUST NOT TOUCH IT, or you will die.'”
God HADN’T actually said anything about TOUCHING the fruit – just EATING it. Perhaps she just wasn’t listening closely enough when God said it.
But whatever the reason, the snake comes straight back with the NEXT part of his strategy. This time not a question, but A STATEMENT. Firstly. A DIRECT CONTRADICTION of God’s command. V4
4 “You will NOT surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.
(slide 5.2.b) And then he follows that up with a statement that casts doubt on GOD’S MOTIVES. V5
5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
In other words, God’s the Cosmic Killjoy. He just wants to stop you having fun. From living life the way YOU want. Fulfilling your potential.
It’s the sort of things we say to ourselves when we’re tempted. God doesn’t know best. I’m sure I’ll be happier… if I lose my temper, or get even, or cheat on my tax return, or my spouse, or chase after success. Or move churches. Or keep my money for myself.
God’s rules are to stop me being happy. He’s just MEAN.
We’re doing nothing more than doubting God’s WORD, and doubting his MOTIVES.
And as the woman churns these same arguments over in her head. And as she looks at the fruit. At how ENTICING it is. She gives in. And eats it. And then she gives some to Adam, who eats it too.
And so they doubt God’s ORDER. They turn his world upside-down. (slide 5.2.c)
His design was for animals to be ruled by mankind, who in turn would be ruled by God. But in listening to the animal, she’s turning things on their head.
Now, animals set the agenda, mankind follows along, and attempts to remove God from his throne.
The humans are revolting
(slide 5.3)The humans are revolting. Rebelling against God’s good rule.
Which is the essence of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It’s refusing to allow God to set the agenda of what’s right and wrong. It’s insisting on making your OWN choices about right and wrong. It’s the essence of SIN. The root cause.
And it’s the same choice every human since has made. The choice to be their own boss. To make their own morality. Their own good and evil.
(slide 6) It’s summarized well in the second box of the Two Ways to Live outline. Perhaps you know it..
2. We all reject the ruler – God – by trying to run our life our own way without him. But we fail to rule ourselves or society or the world.
“There is no-one righteous, not even one; there is no-one who understands, no-one who seeks God. All have turned away”. Romans chapter 3, verses 10-12
We try to be independent. But we only mess things up more. And our world suffers the effects. Whether it be environmental disasters, species extinction, third world poverty, the greenhouse effect, depletion of fossil fuels, world wars. Things on a World-wide scale. Or just the everyday divorces, fights, broken families, robberies, s, and race riots.
Our world bears the scars of our rebellious independence against God.
(slide 7) And for Eve and Adam, the results are felt too. IMMEDIATELY. It’s there in v7. The AFTER photo, to go with the BEFORE photo at the end of Ch 2. V7.
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were ; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
The fruit DOES open their eyes – just like the snake said. And they see the shameful enormity of what they’ve done.
It’s the FIRST part of paradise that’s ruined. Their relationship with each other. Shame and guilt and fear and secrets/ replace openness and purity and innocence.
And immediately the SECOND part’s ruined too. Because God comes walking through the Garden, enjoying his creation and his creatures.
But the same shame and guilt they felt with each other, Eve and Adam now feel towards God. And they hide from him because they’re scared.
At which point it becomes obvious what they’ve done. And God begins to question them.
Passing the Buck
(slide 7.4) And so the FIRST sin is quickly followed by the SECOND. Passing the buck. Refusing to accept responsibility for their actions.
Like a hot potato, they shift the blame from one to another. Look at V12. God addresses the man – the one he’s put in charge. But he answers
The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
First up, he tries to blame God. You PUT her here! It’s YOUR FAULT. Then he tries to blame the woman. She GAVE it to me.
At which point the WOMAN tries to pass the blame on. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
And aren’t we STILL good at doing that? Refusing to accept responsibility for our behaviour?
“It’s okay to lose my temper, he made me do it!”
“It’s okay to cheat on my marriage, my needs weren’t being met!”
“It’s ok to speed, I won’t hurt anyone”
“Watching this stuff is ok, nobody’s getting hurt”
But a “smoke and mirrors” job won’t work on God. He can see straight through the excuses. Theirs AND ours. And he issues his decree. (slide 7.5) Judgment for all. Curses for the creation. And punishment for his people.
The snake is cursed. Forever at war with the woman and her offspring. And at the end of v15, the declaration that the offspring of the woman will crush the serpent’s head.
For Eve, there’ll be FRUSTRATION. The incredible joy of children will now be tempered and soured by terrible pain in childbirth.
And the intimacy and love of marriage will now be spoiled by the frustration of conflict. Strong feelings of desire for her husband. But at the same time, he’ll often fail to LIVE UP to those feelings. He’ll abuse his position. And take advantage of it.
There’s a second idea behind that phrase “Your desire will be for your husband” It’s to do with desiring his POSITION. As HEAD of the relationship.
The woman will fail to be content with where God’s placed her in submission. And will kick against the constraints, and try to exert HER AUTHORITY.
A picture of many marriages today.
That’s woman. Man’s judgment is FRUSTRATION OF HIS OWN. Work, which has such potential to be rewarding and fruitful and satisfying. Will now be back-breaking, and painful. Nothing will come easily.
A picture of the relationship many men have with work today. It promises to give them identity and purpose. To give them the tools to really enjoy life.
And yet, so often, it CONSUMES men. Instead of working to LIVE. They LIVE to WORK. They don’t start out that way. At the start, it’s simply a means to an end. A means to earn the dollars to be comfortable.
But it’s a trap. Because it ends up ruling men. Controlling them. Higher and higher salary means more and more responsibility and expectation. Greater and greater demands. And they never have the time, or the desire, to spend the money they’ve earned.
And for many, they end up with no one to share it with either.
Greg Norman is Australia’s best-known golfer. On many levels a success story. An astute businessman. A multi millionaire. A brilliant golfer. A successful golf course designer. He’s popular, handsome, intelligent, well-spoken, generous.
But in the last year, he’s divorced his wife of over 25 years. And taken up with someone new. And the property settlement’s turned ugly.
Is he REALLY that much of a success. I wonder if that’s what he was aiming for at the beginning of his career. To have accumulated that much, but lost his family in the process. Will he look back on his life, and regret any of his decisions?
It’s a story that’s been retold thousands of times around the world. And down through the ages. The frustration of work – that promises so much, then delivers nothing much at all.
(pause) And the final part of God’s judgment. The final nail in man’s coffin is there from v23. Adam and Eve banished from the Garden. From the perfect relationship WITH CREATION.
And banned from eating from the tree of life. And so condemned to the slow decay of . The slow but relentless winding down, and wearing out. Culminating in the ultimate full-stop. The end to relationships. The start of loneliness for those left behind.
It’s the end of the story most Aussies don’t want to know about. They prefer their cute cartoon pictures of fruit and ness and naughtiness.
When the reality is this event is the second most significant event in human history. It’s destroyed our relationship with each other, with creation, and with God himself.
The No. 1 Event Rom 5:12-21
(slide 7.6) I don’t know whether you’ve wondered, as I’ve said SECOND most significant event, what the MOST significant event is.
Romans 5 compares the top 2. Follow along with me. V12 starts with the claims of the number two.
sin entered the world through one man, and through sin, and in this way came to all men, because all sinned-
When Adam and Eve sinned, came into the world. Not just PHYSICAL , but SPIRITUAL – separation from God, a broken relationship. A refusal to allow God to rule over you.
And Adam and Eve passed down that basic orientation to EVERY ONE OF THEIR OFFSPRING. It’s the DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN. If Adam and Eve were spiritually , then they could only produce CHILDREN who were spiritually .
We are all born with an in-built inclination to do our own thing. Born with the mark of Adam’s sin, like a large black birthmark, staining our soul.
And so we ALL sin. Every human born of a human mother and a human father is born SPIRITUALLY . Without exception.
And so, when something happens that makes us groan. That makes us realise that people are fallen and sinful. And that the world is fallen and corrupt. Someone rips you off. Or abuses you. Or abandons you. When sickness strikes, or unemployment,
When you marriage strikes trouble. And you realise it’s not the way you’d imagined it.
Perhaps even when you respond to a situation in a way that shames and embarrasses you.
By all means, despair and weep and pray. But DON’T BE SURPRISED. It’s the way the world is at the moment. It’s what it means to be living in a fallen world
People WILL let you down. You WILL let OTHERS down. There will be times when life just KICKS YOU in the GUTS.
That’s the world we live in. Every human being born spiritually . Alienated from God.
(pause) Well – that’s not ENTIRELY true. Because there is ONE human, born of a human mother. But with GOD HIMSELF as his father. And HE was born spiritually alive. And he never sinned. Jesus Christ.
The only human being who ever fully measured up to being made in God’s IMAGE. Perfectly reflecting God’s character and behaviour. Col 1:15 says he is the “IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD, the firstborn over all creation”
And the NUMBER ONE MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENT IN HUMAN HISTORY is his life and and resurrection. Because it’s the way we can move from to LIFE. From GUILT to INNOCENCE. From CONDEMNATION to FORGIVENESS. From ENEMIES to FRIENDS.
NOTHING COULD BE MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN THAT. Look at how Romans 5 proves the point. V15.
For if the many DIED by the trespass of the ONE man (that’s ADAM), how much more did God’s GRACE and the gift that came by the grace of the ONE MAN, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
Adam brought to everyone. But Jesus brought GRACE and a GIFT. What’s the gift? V16.
The judgment followed one sin and brought CONDEMNATION, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought JUSTIFICATION.
Justification. That’s about being put right with God. Having our guilt wiped away. The GUILT that comes from being HUMAN/ can be cancelled out by the work of Jesus.
(pause) But that’s not all. Look at V17.
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness REIGN IN LIFE THROUGH THE ONE MAN, JESUS CHRIST.
Not just a restored relationship. But Victorious life into eternity – that’s what comes to those who are right with God.
And it all comes about because of the Number One most significant event in human history. The birth, life, and resurrection of Jesus. God’s only son. The only PERFECT human. Who pays our debt, who restores our life. Who overturns the decay and destruction that first sin began.
And who, one day, will RESTORE our world. And bring in his new heavens and new earth. Of which the Garden of Eden will be nothing but a dull shadow. A pale and weak imitation.
Last time I read from Rev 22. This week I want to read from Rev 21. It’s a picture of our eternal home. And the point I want to emphasise is how all the effects of the fall – the breakdown in relationships – are REVERSED. Man and God, man and man. Perfectly united.
21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
We ARE living in a fallen world. But Jesus is working on a NEW world. And that’s a truth worth building your life on!