Today’s reading: Genesis 1:26-3:24
When God first created the first two people, Adam and Eve, they knew where true north lay.
We don’t know much about those early days of humanity. But it’s certain that they knew who their Creator was and that they were responsible to him. God in fact gave them the responsibility of ruling over the earth and caring for it, starting with the garden God had placed them in (Genesis 1:26-30; 2:15).
Those were joyous times for Adam and Eve. I can imagine that at the end of each day, they would tell God about their day, and ask him questions about the things he had created and the things they had experienced.
We also see that Adam and Eve had an ideal marriage. It says in Genesis 2:25 that they were naked but not ashamed. This is not merely talking about sex, although that is certainly part of it. It’s talking about a oneness between the man and woman in every way. A oneness in which they had no need to hide anything from each other. Imagine that. Complete openness, physically and emotionally, with one another. In short, because they knew where true north lie, Adam and Eve not only had a good relationship with God, they had a good relationship with one other.
So what happened? How did Adam and Eve lose sight of true north?
One thing God did at the very beginning was to put a tree called, “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” in the center of the garden. And he told Adam (Eve hadn’t been created yet), “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (3:16-17)
Why did God put this tree in the garden and give Adam this command? I think it was to help Adam remember where true north lay. True north lay in Adam’s recognizing his dependence on God, and the fact that he was responsible to God. Just as importantly, true north lay in Adam trusting God. Trusting that God loved him and that God was looking out for his best. If Adam failed to recognize these things, he would quickly lose sight of true north in his life.
The tree was the thing that brought all these things into sharp focus. And God said, “On the day that you eat from that tree, you will die.”
Why? Because if we walk away from the Author of life, trying to assert our independence from him and seeking life apart from him, what is left for us but death? There is no life apart from the Author of life.
For a while, Adam and his wife Eve kept the command.
But one day, while Eve was near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a serpent came and started speaking to her.
How could this be? Serpents can’t talk.
Normally they can’t. But there is little doubt here that it was the devil, Satan, speaking through this serpent. We don’t know much about Satan’s origins, but it appears from the Bible that he had once been an angel before rebelling against God. And for his rebellion, he and his followers were cast out of heaven (Revelation 12:7-9). Now he was trying to instigate another such rebellion among humanity. So he said to Eve,
Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’? (3:1)
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. (3:2-3)
You may notice here that Eve didn’t quite get the command right. God hadn’t said anything about not touching the fruit. But as I said before, she wasn’t there when Adam received the command, so it’s possible that Adam added that bit about not touching the fruit in order to protect her.
Anyway, Satan responded,
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. (4-5)
What was Satan trying to do here? He was basically saying, “God’s lying to you. He’s holding something good back from you. If you eat this fruit, you will be like God knowing good and evil.”
Now Satan doesn’t say this explicitly, but I think one thing that he was hinting at was that if Eve could just have this knowledge, she could be independent of God. That with this knowledge she could be free to pursue her own path. The other thing that he was doing more explicitly was trying to destroy the trust that was between her and God. You don’t just tell a person that someone is lying to them without undermining that relationship.
Now whether Eve caught all these implications of Satan’s lie is uncertain. It’s possible that all she heard was, “You’re missing out on something good. If you take this fruit, your life will be so much better.” And so she took it and ate.
She then handed the fruit over to Adam, and he ate. But while we can say that Eve was deceived and perhaps didn’t understand all the implications of what she was doing, we cannot say the same of Adam. Why not? Because according to the apostle Paul, while Eve was taken in by Satan’s lies, Adam was not deceived. (I Timothy 2:14). Put another way, when Adam took the fruit, he knew exactly what he was doing and what the implications were. And he ate anyway. Eating that fruit was Adam’s “Declaration of Independence.”
But in doing so, he lost sight of true north.
What was the result?
1. A broken relationship with God. When God came into the garden in the cool of the day, Adam and Eve ran and tried to hide from him.
2. A broken relationship between Adam and Eve. The beautiful openness between them disappeared, and they suddenly felt the need to hide their bodies from each other. Not only that, when God confronted Adam with eating from the tree, instead of taking responsibility, Adam blamed Eve. And in God’s curse, you see the struggle that would occur not only between Adam and Eve, but every married couple after that.
3. Death. By God’s grace, physical death would come much later. But that very day, they died spiritually. Their relationship of perfect trust and dependence on God was broken. Oh, they most certainly did regain some of that, but it was never as perfect as it had been when they were first created. From that time on, there was always some doubt. “Is God really looking out for my best? Can I really trust him?”
In time, many of their descendants completely stopped depending on God. They forgot the God who had created them and even started creating their own “gods” to worship, gods created by their own hands. And because they had lost a sense of responsibility to the one true God, their sense of morals swiftly became warped. Certainly they maintained some semblance of right and wrong. God had ingrained that too deeply in them for them to abandon that sense completely. But nevertheless, their morals got corrupted, leaving a stream of hurting people behind them. We see this throughout society today.
Leaders accountable only to themselves abuse their power, and as a result, people are oppressed and wars are started.
Fathers accountable only to themselves no longer care for their wives and families as they should, so their marriages and families start to fall apart.
People accountable only to themselves place themselves and their wants and needs above all else, with little regard for others. As a result of this, other social problems appear. Crime. Poverty. Divorce. Domestic violence. Teenage pregnancies and abortion.
Have you ever wondered why this world is such a mess? It’s because we have lost sight of true north. And as God told Adam at the very beginning, death is the result. The death of a relationship with God. The death of marriage relationships. The death of parent-child relationships. The death of friendships. The death of a healthy society.
All because we have lost sight of the fact that God is our creator and we are responsible to him. Instead, we are living independent of him and are accountable only to ourselves. Ultimately, we will die physically for that attitude. And if we die holding that attitude, we will be judged for it, and experience spiritual death: a separation from God forever, one in which Jesus says there will be a perpetual wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:42)
What then? Is there no hope? No, there is hope. But that comes in the next chapter.
Questions to think about:
- Many people today say, “Well, if there’s a God, that’s fine. But I don’t think I really need him. So if he’ll just leave me alone, I’ll leave him alone. He can go his way and I’ll go mine.” What is the problem with that attitude in which people refuse to be accountable to God?
- I said in earlier blogs that though we will address things like “your identity” and “how to have a happy life,” these things are the “south,” “east,” and “west” of life. Do you understand more clearly why this is so? How would you explain it to others?
- Think about your broken relationships. What does this chapter tell you about why they are broken? What is the core issue of how to get things right? What does that mean for you, personally?
- Think about societal problems: corrupt governments, poverty, abortion, crime, etc. How does the gospel speak to these issues?
- Many people in the church call for Christians to solve the above societal problems, but fail to address the gospel in their efforts to do so. Why is this a mistake? What kind of balance do we need as we think about our mission as a church?
- Many pastors preach on “How to have a better marriage,” or “How to succeed in life,” and other such topics. Granted that the Bible talks about these topics, why can it be dangerous to only hear messages about such things?