Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Love of the Father and the Deception of the Serpent

Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:8-9).

And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:4-7).

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22).

God told Adam not to eat the fruit of one particular tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Even though God made all the trees “pleasing to the eye and good for food,” including the forbidden tree (2:9), it was clear that God forbade Adam to eat it. God gave the reason why he did not allow Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, “for when you eat of it you will surely die” (2:17). No doubt that Adam passed that information to Eve, for when the serpent talked to Eve she cited God’s words to Adam (3:2-3). However, Adam and Eve decided to eat the forbidden fruit. The big question is obviously: “Why?” “Why would the perfect humans make an unwise decision that caused the entire world to fall?” “Why did the perfect humans decide to disobey the God who loved them very much?”

The serpent, which obviously is not an ordinary animal, made a contrary statement to God’s. The serpent, who we all know is the Lucifer, confused Eve by claiming that eating the fruit would not result in death, but in knowing good and evil, just like God. Now, Lucifer was an archangel, but he fell, and now he is known as the devil, Satan. Satan is very smart. In the short conversation between Eve and the serpent, Eve did not argue with him even though God’s words to her was clear. Right after the serpent told Eve that death couldn’t be the result of eating the forbidden tree, Eve took the fruit and ate it. There was no struggle at all on the part of Eve. This somehow shows how cunning Satan was in his rhetoric. Adam was with Eve at the time, but he did not help Eve with the confirmation of God’s clear message. Adam was obviously not a dull person. He was extremely smart, given his task to name all the living beings on earth. Giving a proper name to a thing is not an easy work to do. But Adam did the naming duty perfectly. When researchers write a journal article, a thesis, or a dissertation, one of the biggest tasks is to give a proper name of the process, event, or result of the things they research. I imagine Adam named all the beings effortlessly since there was no mention that Adam was in trouble with his job. Therefore, it’s very surprising that the smartest humans ever lived on earth could not handle a simple rhetorical trick Satan played on them.

If we ponder more clearly on Satan’s trick, we will find out that it was not very simple indeed. God said that when they eat the fruit they would die, but Satan said that they would not. After Adam and Eve ate the fruit, clearly they did not die instantly, but instead “the eyes of both of them were opened” (3:7), exactly like what Satan said. Moreover, the devil said that not only they would not die after eating, but also they would be like God, knowing good and evil. If we compare this to what God said in 3:22, even God himself confirmed that they have become like God, knowing good and evil. So far it seems that all that the serpent said came true. If Satan was right, then does it mean that God was wrong? Undoubtedly God said himself that Adam would die after eating the fruit (2:17). What seemed to be a simple rhetoric obviously was not.

We all know that God did not lie, so what he said must be true. If God did not lie, then Satan must be the one lying. But how are we to explain this bizarre phenomenon? I’ll try to explain this difficult problem. What Satan said was half-truth. It was true that Adam and Eve eventually knew good and evil after eating the forbidden fruit. But there was something that Satan hid and covered it with something that appeared very tempting. The temptation looked very sweet and irresistible, for it caused Eve to finally use her eyes to make a judgment instead of listening to God’s words. Eve made a decision to take the fruit and ate it based on her sight. For sure the fruit was pleasing to the eye and looked good for food, for God made it purposefully that way. But that’s not a good foundation for deciding to eat the fruit that God has forbidden to eat. In fact it was not a good foundation at all to dismiss God’s words. What made it worse was that Eve did not just use her eyes to judge, but she also added a false truth that the fruit was good for gaining wisdom based on Satan’s argument about being like God in knowing good and evil.

The center of Satan’s deception was on his statement that Adam and Eve would not die after eating the fruit. Adam and Eve died eventually regardless of how long they lived on earth. For God who is eternal, they die hundreds of years after eating is the same like die the same day of eating. God is beyond time, yesterday, today, and tomorrow is always present for God. So, when God was in the Garden of Eden in the time of the incident, God was also in the time when Adam and Eve died. So, what God said was true that when they eat the forbidden fruit they die. But Adam and Eve did not know this, for they were bound to the constraint of space and time. For them it felt like they did not die. In the eyes of God, they already died. Their problem was that they did not believe in God’s words, they believed in their own experiential judgment.

Secondly, Satan hid a very important truth about the knowledge of good and evil. This is the kind of knowledge that one cannot know just by theory. To know good one must experience good. The same goes with evil. To know evil one must experience evil. So when they ate the fruit, they opened up a way to experience evil, and in that way they knew evil. But they did not know this. Satan deceived them by implying that when they eat the forbidden fruit their eyes will be opened and instantly they will know good and evil. The fact of the matter is they did not immediately know evil until God punished them and death slowly claimed their very life. The ultimate evil is death, and in order to know evil, they must suffer death. This is exactly what God said that when they eat it they will surely die. Therefore, in order for Adam and Eve to know evil, it is necessary for them to go through the suffering and ultimately die. Only then they can know what evil is. This was a sad event, but clearly they made their own decision based on their own judgment. Since then evil never parts its way from humans.

But God did not leave Adam and Eve alone to their fate. God made an executive decision to bring good to the human race. In 3:15 God immediately blessed humans by creating an enmity between the devil and humans. This is a good thing. This means that God pulled humans toward his side instead of leaving them to stay on the devil’s side. God separated the two beings. And since then there is always the war between humans and the devil. Living with God is obviously better than living with the devil. So this is God’s act of mercy toward humans even though they have rebelled against their creator. Humans don’t deserve anything good from God, but God decided to give them the ultimate good. So God initiatively protected humans from the devil’s harm by considering getting them into God’s side. The good news of the gospel was started by God when he proclaimed that the heir of the woman will crush the head of the serpent and the serpent will strike his heel (3:15). We all know that God spoke of Jesus Christ who redeemed his people from the bondage of sin. We also know that Jesus Christ is not an ordinary man, he is God himself coming into the world in the form of man. The greatest being gave himself up to die for sinful humans, such is the greatest love. There is no news better than this.

The next good thing that God did was to throw Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. God prevented them from eating from the tree of life. This is truly an act of love. Children usually don’t understand when their parents forbid them to get something. As the result, they tend to react angrily or with sadness. Many times they don’t know that their parents forbid them for their own good. For example, it seems to be a lot of fun to play right next to the street, but the parents know the danger so they forbid them to play near the street. In the case of God throwing Adam and Eve away from the Garden of Eden, God was doing them a favor. For it would be terrible for Adam and Eve to live forever in their condition under evil. If they took and ate the fruit from the tree of life with their sinful state, then they will live forever with evil. God knows that such condition is undesirable. Adam and Eve might not understand this, but God knew, so out of his love he kicked them out of the garden in order to preserve their life. God wants them to live forever, but not living forever suffering evil. God gives them eternal life through Jesus Christ. For only through Christ humans may live forever properly. Knowing this truth, we ought to be thankful when God did not allow the first humans to take the fruit from the tree of life. Moreover, we ought to thank God for his beautiful plan in granting us the true eternal life even though we don’t deserve it at all.

Contemplating on what God bears by taking humans to his side and dying for them, it is truly unbelievable to find anyone would purposefully defy God and befriend Satan. If there is such person, then their condemnation is right. The greatness of God’s love and wisdom are displayed in his blessing and promise in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” God gave the honor to the human race, the honor of destroying the devil completely. The offspring of the woman will crush Satan and destroy him forever. A mere human cannot complete this promise, and so God sent his one and only son to be born on earth as a man. Furthermore, the manner of Jesus’ battle is far from any imagination. We tend to imagine the glorious battle where the Messiah would raise his sword while riding his mighty horse, striking Satan in the form of a dragon, and cut off his head to claim the victory. But the imagination is shattered once we know that the battle is won by suffering and death on the cross. Dying on a cross is the most humiliating death and it signifies defeat instead of victory. But God uses the most humble means to destroy a very powerful enemy, any human won’t dream of defeating at all, in order to show his true might and glory. At the same time, by giving the honor to the human race through his son, God shows his ultimate love and wisdom. Proverbs 21:30 said: “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.”

In such humble manner to defeat Satan, God defies all human logic and calculation of probability. “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so no one would boast before him” (I Corinthians 1:27-29). Therefore, in one strike God accomplishes his grand purpose to get his chosen people to live eternally with him, to demolish Satan forever, to humiliate the strong and the wise, and to grant honor to the lowly being—humans (cf. Hebrews 1 and 2). All this God does because of his great love for us (John 3:16). Satan would never imagine his defeat came through the death of the Son of God on the cross, for it seemed so impossible for the victory of salvation to come through the suffering and death of the Messiah. What more can we say? Only Soli Deo Gloria.

* The Business of Christian Education XXII

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