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Doubt & Mercy

Date: Jan. 21, 2018

Author: Bob Henkins

Genesis 3:1-24

Key Verse: Genesis 3:21

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

Over the years there have been so many people that have fallen from grace that it doesn’t seem to shock us any longer. At one point in time, Tiger Woods had it all. He used to be the best golfer in the world, some thought maybe he would be the best ever. He had a beautiful wife and kids. He had companies lining up to pay him to endorse their products. But all that changed in 2009 after a highly publicized car accident, it came out that he had affairs with dozens of women. Michael Vick was once a star NFL quarterback, but he lost it all after he was arrested in 2007 on felony charges related to an illegal dog fighting ring he was running, along with failure to cooperate with police. John Edwards, a North Carolina senator who was also a presidential candidate, fell from grace thanks to a major scandal in which he accused of using campaign money to hide an extra-marital affair. Lance Armstrong was stripped of his medals and the titles he had won for cycling after he admitted to doping in 2013. Martha Stewart used to be known for her cooking show and product lines. That changed when she was convicted of insider trading and sent to prison in 2004. O.J. Simpson was a great NFL running back but now he is probably best known for being accused to murder, with one of the most highly publicized trials in history. He was acquitted of those charges, but was arrested later on robbery and kidnapping charges. Mike Tyson used to be the heavy weight boxing champion of the world, but then he was convicted of rape and went to prison. After getting out he tried to get his life back together he went back into the ring where he famously bit off a section of Evander Holyfield's ear. Bill Cosby played the perfect sitcom dad, and was known for those Jell-O commercials. Now he's known for being a serial rapist. The list goes on and on, Bill Clinton, Tonya Harding, Paula Deen, Aaron Hernandez, Ted Haggard and most recently Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Matt Lauer.

You ask yourself, why would people do these things when they seemingly had it all? Actually, this is nothing new it has been happening since man’s creation. We can go to Genesis 3 and see the origin of the fall of man. In the first two chapters of Genesis, we read of the beautiful perfect world that God created, but then in chapter four suddenly we find jealousy and murder and it only goes from bad to worse after that, until the world is wiped out in chapter 6. And you wonder, “What the heck happened?” Well, Genesis chapter three gives us the answer. And that’s why this chapter is so vital because it explains the world and society as we see it today. It reveals to us the strategies Satan uses in tempting people. (It explains the reason for the New Testament passages that restrict women from assuming leadership roles in the church.)

It shows the entrance of sin into the human race and the severity of the consequences of man’s disobedience. But beyond man’s sinfulness and the penalties it demands, there is the revelation of the mercy and grace of God. He seeks out the sinner and provides him with a covering for sin and a promise of a Savior through whom this whole tragic event will be turned into triumph and salvation.

Take a look at verses 1-2. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but 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.’” As we read the account of the creation of the world, everything is going well, but then the serpent appears suddenly and without introduction. The serpent is said to be one of God’s creatures, therefore, we must take this creature literally. While it was an actual snake, later revelation informs us that the beast was being used by Satan, who is described as a dragon and serpent (2 Cor 11:3; Rev 12:9; 20:2).

While we may want to know the origin of evil, the point God wishes to make is that we are sinful. Notice the approach Satan takes here. Initially he doesn’t challenge Eve’s faith in God, but rather he questions her knowledge of God. It’s as if he is probing her to see how much she knows about God and where does she stand. The Message translates it this way, “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?” The serpent’s words are dripping with innuendo, “Surely God couldn’t have said this, could He?” Also notice the subtle hint of the serpent’s disrespect toward God, he uses the name “God” rather than the covenant name “LORD God”. This omission is indicative of Satan’s rebellious attitude toward almighty God.

Satan’s initial approach is to deceive, not deny; to cause doubts, not disobedience. Satan came to Eve as an inquirer. He deliberately distorted God’s command, but in such a way as to imply, “I may be wrong here, so correct me if I am mistaken.” Eve shouldn’t have engaged in this conversation. Had Satan begun to challenge God’s rule or Eve’s faith in Him, her choice would have been an easy one. But Satan stated the question so as to appear that he was misinformed and needed to be corrected. Few of us can avoid the temptation of telling another that they are wrong. Did you notice that Satan never mentions either the tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Satan used this question cleverly, without Eve realizing it he brought the forbidden tree to the center of Eve’s thinking, without even mentioning it. He made her bring it up. It’s kind of like the movie Inception. By his question, Satan not only has engaged Eve in dialogue, but he also begins to take her eyes off of God’s generous blessing and causes her to think only about what God told her not to do. Satan doesn’t want to think about the abundant grace of God, but to grudgingly meditate upon His denials.

There is something else we notice in Eve’s response, for some reason she leaves out the words “any”, “freely” and “certainly” but adds the words “you must not touch it”. There may be some speculation as to why this happened, maybe Adam taught her God’s word incorrectly or maybe she didn’t accept God’s word absolutely. Whatever the case, Satan notices the problem and he takes full advantage of it. Here I would like to stress the importance of personal Bible study. This is why it is so important for you to study God’s word personally. This way, you know the truth for yourself and you don’t have to rely on someone else’s interpretation. 

Satan uses Eve’s words against her and with her incorrections, he begins to plant doubt of God loves her, as well as, doubt of God’s almighty power in her heart. As the situation unfolds, Satan lays a powerful trap. Eve finds herself with a distorted view of God for there is a minimizing of God’s judgment (omitting certainly) and an exaggeration of God’s restriction (by adding touch). What this did was make God seem harsh and underestimate that his judgment would be executed surely and soon.

Satan has an effective one-two-three punch. His first attack on the woman was that of a religious seeker, in an effort to create doubts about the goodness of God and to fix her attention on what was forbidden as opposed to all that was freely given. His second attack is bold and daring. Now in place of deception and doubt there is denial, followed by the slander of God’s character take a look at verse 4. “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.” Satan twists God’s words of warning of the promise of certain punishment, and makes them like mere threats of a self-centered deity. Satan comes on so strong with conviction and power in his statement it leaves you wondering, “How could they be wrong who seem so certain?” Sadly, many people have been convinced more by a person’s tone than by the doctrinal truthfulness of their teaching. (The flip side of this is also true, when you share you faith in God, if you don’t have conviction and power, then you are not convincing. The power of our testimony lies in our conviction, like the blind man healed by Jesus. He had a simple but powerful testimony, I was blind but now I see! No one could deny it. But that is for a different time.)

Satan’s fatal blow is recorded in verse 5, ““For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” Many people have tried to determine what exactly Satan is offering but one thing is clear he plants this idea that God is withholding something from them and they are living in a state of incompletion, or inadequacy, but if they just eat the fruit all that would be taken care of and they would enter into a new and higher level of existence: they would become like God. Satan is deliberately being elusive and vague which piques Eve’s curiosity, for how could she possibly grasp the specifics of the offer when she didn’t even know what ‘evil’ was? Still the allure of a new, better, experience was very enticing and intriguing. (Maybe this is why Satan attacked Eve instead of Adam, because often times women ponder the higher things while men are focused on the physical things)

At this point, Satan leaves Eve with her thoughts. His destructive seeds have been planted. And while she has not yet eaten the fruit, I believe that she has already begun to slip because she has entered into a dialogue with Satan and now she is entertaining blasphemous thoughts about God’s character and contemplating disobedience. As we know, sin is not instantaneous, but sequential and Eve is on her way. James 1:13-15 tells us “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Notice that the tree of life is never mentioned or even considered. Here before Eve were the two trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and seemingly there was never even a choice between the one or the other. She only saw the forbidden fruit. It, alone, appeared to be ‘good for food and a delight to the eyes’ even though we were told in 2:9 that all the trees had these features in common. Still, Eve only had eyes for what was forbidden. How unfortunate it is that when we tell children not to do, or touch, something, that’s all they think about. Apparently, adults are this way also.

All this time we see Eve in this conversation with Satan, you might be tempted to shake your head at her, but the real wonder is why was Adam so willing to give in to Eve’s invitation to share in her disobedience? Take a look at verse 6. “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.” Moses records this back and forth discussion between Eve and Satan but Adam falls in half a verse, why? The four simple words “who was with her” gives the answer. It’s possible that Eve was never alone with the serpent and Adam was there during the whole event, but never opened his mouth. If he were there, listening to every word and essentially agreeing through his silence and inaction, then no wonder he simply took the fruit and ate it when it Eve offered it. (I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m in the room with my wife and kids, I physically present but only half there mentally, So I could see how this event could happen)

Verses 7 and 8 are particularly informative, because they instruct us that sin has its consequences as well as its punishment. Take a look, “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.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” God hasn’t even given out any punishment for the sins of Adam and Eve, and yet the consequences are inseparably coupled with the crime. The consequences of sin mentioned here are shame and separation.

The nakedness which Adam and Eve previously shared without guilt, was now a source of shame. Sweet innocence was lost forever. Remember, there was no man in the garden but the two of them. But they were ashamed to face each other without clothing. Not only could they not face each other as they had before, but they dreaded facing God. When He came to have sweet fellowship with them, they hid themselves in fear. For the first time they experience fear.

God said that they would die the day they ate the forbidden fruit. While they didn’t die physically on that day, the process had begun. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 tells us “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” which indicates that spiritual death is separation from God. In the end God was right that Adam and Eve died that day, but it wasn’t what they thought, it was their spiritual death not physical because they were separated from God. And this separation was not one imposed by God; it was initiated by men. The separation which Adam and Eve brought about is that which God seeks to bridge. God sought out man in the garden. While Satan’s question was designed to bring about the fall of man, God’s questions seek to reconcile and restore.

Notice in verse 9 how God calls out to man but he doesn’t have any questions for the serpent. There is no intention of restoration for Satan, his doom is sealed. Also take note of the order or sequence here. The fall occurred in this order: serpent, Eve, Adam. This is the opposite of God’s chain of command. While God questioned in the order of authority (Adam, Eve, snake), He sentenced in the order of the fall (snake, Eve, Adam). The fall was, in part, the result of the reversal of God’s order.

Adam is first sought by God with the question, “where are you?” (verse 9). God was the one to seek out man. Adam reluctantly admitted his shame and fear, maybe not really knowing himself or hoping that God wouldn’t press him on this issue. But God probed more deeply, seeking an admission of wrongdoing: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (verse 11). In response, Adam starts the blame game, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (verse 12). Adam implies, both Eve and God must share in the responsibility for the fall while he mentions his part last and with as little detail as possible. And so it will always be with those who are guilty, we always find mitigating circumstances. I can totally relate to Adam, this is my MO.

Next God questions Eve, “What is this you have done?” (v13). Her response was little different than her husband’s “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (v13). It was true, of course. The serpent did deceive her (I Timothy 2:14), and she did eat. The guilt of both, while a feeble effort to excuse or at least diminish human responsibility was made, had been clearly established. Before punishment can be meted out, the wrong-doing must be proven and acknowledged. Otherwise punishment will not have its corrective effect on the guilty. The penalties are now prescribed by God, given in the order of the events of the fall.

Take a look at verses 14-15. “So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 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.””

The serpent is first addressed and his punishment established. The creature, as the instrument of Satan, is cursed and subject to an existence of humiliation, crawling in the dust. Verse 15 addresses the dragon behind the serpent, Satan: “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; … ” (Rev 12:9). There is to be, a personal animosity between Eve and the serpent: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman” (v15).  It is only fitting that since Satan attacked mankind through the woman that God would bring about man’s salvation and Satan’s destruction through her. This has already been revealed to Satan in verse 15. Every child born to woman must have troubled Satan.

While salvation would come through the birth of a child, it would not be a painless process. Take a look at verse 16, “To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Woman’s sentence comes at the center of her existence. It deals with the bearing of her children. But in the midst of her labor pains she could know that God’s purpose for her was being realized, and that, perhaps, the Messiah would be born through her. In addition to labor pains, the woman’s relationship with her husband would be complicated. Adam should have led and Eve should have followed. But such was not the case in the fall. Therefore, from this time on women were to be ruled by men: “Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you”.

Just as Eve’s punishment related to the center of her life, so is the case with Adam. He had been placed in the garden, now he will have to earn a living from the ground. Take a look at verses 17-19. “To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”” You’ll notice that while the serpent is cursed, it is only the ground which is cursed here, and not Adam or Eve. God cursed Satan because He does not intend to rehabilitate or redeem him. Not only will Adam have to battle the ground to earn a living, he will eventually return to dust. Spiritual death has already occurred (cf. verses 7-8). Physical death has begun. Apart from the life which God gives, man will simply (though slowly) return to his original state—dust (cf. 2:7).

Adam’s response to God’s penalties and promise is revealed in verse 20, “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” I believe this act evidenced a simple faith on the part of Adam. He accepted his guilt and punishment, but focused upon the promise of God that through the offspring of woman the Savior would come. Eve’s salvation, and all people’s as well, would come through her submission to her husband and through the bearing of children. Adam’s naming the woman, Eve, which means ‘living’ or ‘life’ showed that life would come through Eve.

God is not just a God of penalties, but of gracious provision. Take a look at verse 21, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Thus, He made for Adam and his wife garments from the skins of animals to cover their nakedness. A veiled prophecy of redemption through the shedding of blood is not, in my opinion, an abuse of this verse.

This chapter is vital to Christians today because it alone explains things as they are. Our world is a blend of both beauty and beastliness, of loveliness and that which is ugly. The beauty which remains is evidence of the goodness and greatness of the God Who created all things (Rom 1:18). The ugliness is the evidence of man’s sinfulness (Rom 8:18-25).

The only solution is for God to do something to bring about redemption and restoration. This has been accomplished in Jesus Christ. The penalty for man’s sins have been borne by Him. The consequences for Adam’s sins need not destroy us. The choice which confronts us is this: Do we wish to be united with the first Adam or the last? In the first Adam we are constituted sinners and are subject to physical and spiritual death. In the last we become new creatures, with eternal life (physical and spiritual). God has not placed two trees before us, but two men: Adam and Christ. We must decide with whom we will identify. In one of these two our eternal future rests.

Verses 22-24 say, “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.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Satan’s words had, in a backhanded way, come true. Adam and Eve had, in a sense, become like God in the knowing of good and evil (v22) but there was a great difference. Maybe the difference can best be illustrated in this way. A doctor can know of cancer through their education and experience working with patients. A patient, also, can know of cancer, but as its victim. While both know of cancer, their views are quite different, the patient would wish he had never heard of it. Such is the knowledge which Adam and Eve came to possess.

Even though God promised salvation to come in time through the birth of Messiah, who would destroy Satan. Adam and Eve might be tempted to gain eternal life through the eating of the fruit of the tree of life. They had chosen knowledge over life, so they might attempt to gain life through the tree of life in the garden.

It would seem that had Adam and Eve eaten of the tree of life they would have lived forever (v22) which is the reason God sent them out of the garden. Stationed at the entrance of the garden are the cherubim and the flaming sword. When God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden we might be tempted to think how cruel is God to do this. But what would have happened if God didn’t drive them from the garden and banned their return? It can be answered in one word—hell. Hell is spending eternity in sin, separated from God. So, in reality God was merciful and gracious in putting Adam and Eve out of the garden. He kept them from eternal punishment. Their salvation would not come in a moment, but in time, not easily, but through pain—but it would come. They must trust Him to accomplish it.

I cannot help but think of Paul’s words when I read this chapter, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22). There is sin, and there is judgment. But the chapter is interlaced with grace and mercy. God sought out the sinners. He sentenced them as well, but with a promise of salvation to come. And keeping them from hell on earth, He provides them with a covering for the time and full redemption in time. What a merciful Creator.

This chapter points to the future where one day there will be the confrontation between the Eve child, the Messiah, and Satan: Verse 15 says, “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.”” In this confrontation, Satan will be mortally wounded while the Messiah will receive a painful, but not fatal wound. How beautifully this prophecy portrays the coming Savior, Who will reverse the events of the fall. Even though this was true, death will continue to reign from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam’s offense. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:14-17).

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