What do you think explains what’s gone wrong with the world? The wrong leaders? Lack of good education? Social inequality? Or, has something much deeper gone wrong that’s affected everything? That’s the Christian position - that all that’s gone with our world stems from us and our rejection of God.
Two weeks ago, we encountered the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – which represented the right to define good and evil. God said to Adam (Genesis 2.16-17):
…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.
That was amazing freedom (the man and woman can eat from any tree, bar one). But they weren’t free to define good and evil for themselves. And there’s a penalty of death if they do. But soon, there’s utter disaster because they claim that right to define good and evil for themselves. And that’s what this evening’s passage is all about. All of this is historical. It really happened. But it’s also current affairs because it describes exactly how we live today – and what’s gone wrong with our world. We’ll need God’s help. Let’s pray:
Father, open our eyes this evening to what’s gone wrong with us and our world. And point our gaze back to you. Amen.
1. The origins of sin (Genesis 3.1-6)
The first thing we see in this passage is the origins of sin from Genesis 3.1-6. Enter the serpent, Genesis 3.1:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
The serpent represents Satan, or the devil, who is an active force for evil in our world. We’re not told more about Satan in this passage, but we know from the rest of the Bible that he’s a spiritual being who had already rebelled against God. And here’s the first tactic he uses: he casts doubt on God’s word. So, the rest of Genesis 3.1:
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
Skim read that and it almost sounds innocent. But it’s slyly, subtly, questioning God’s motives. “Did God really say that? Are you sure?!…How could he deprive you like that?” “Aren’t you better off working things out for yourself? And, by the way, who is God to tell you what to do anyway?” It’s planting the seed that God isn’t to be trusted. And the devil uses the same tactics today. And once God’s motives are questioned it casts doubt on the goodness of his word. And once that happens, we then want to re-interpret it for ourselves. So, a professing Christian might say, “yes, the Bible is the word of God, but we mustn’t be wooden about it means – times have changed, and much of it just doesn’t mean the same in 2021 as it did all those years ago”. But God doesn’t change, and neither does his word.
And, we are all tempted by the devil as he whispers, “did God really say that? Was he really right to?” Doubt is cast on God’s word. We listen. We question it. We doubt it. So, when are tempted to think “is God’s word for me really good?” We should come back to the character of God in the Bible – who he is and what he’s done for us. How he’s proven time and time again that he is trustworthy. And that he’s concerned for our good. That reminds us of God’s true motives. And it helps us when we’re tempted to doubt them. The woman responds to the serpent in Genesis 3.2-3:
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.”
Which is exaggerating what God said. Because – remember Genesis 2:16-17 there is freedom to eat from any tree. And there is only one command, not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And God doesn’t say anything about not touching it! The seed of sin is sown. So, the serpent moves on to his next tactic. To deny the consequences. Genesis 3.4:
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die”.
That’s basically saying: “God is wrong. You won’t die. You’ll be fine!”
A while ago, before covid, we went to some friends one evening for tea. And their toddler, sat on their highchair, threw some food on the floor. So, Dad said, “stop throwing food on the floor, please!” But, it happened again. So, Dad said, “if you don’t stop throwing food on the floor we won’t talk to you for a few minutes”. Some sensible eating resumed. And then a little fist full of food edged away from the highchair, to attract attention, and then moved back again. And then, it very deliberately moved out, and again threw food on the floor. The result? Silent treatment for a while. And some tears. We’re really no better. We listen to the lie that says “nobody will see”, “nobody will know”, “I’ll get away with it, there’ll be no consequences!” But God sees even what we think and feel. He is good. But he will judge. Which is great news, because it means that how I treat you, how you treat me, and how we all treat God matters. But the serpent isn’t finished yet. Next, he distorts God’s character. Genesis 3.5:
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 is denying you. He’s holding you back. Like God, you can define good and evil for yourself, and make your own calls.” That’s what the world says, isn’t it? If you’re a Christian then you can’t be free to express yourself. You’re not free to do what you want. God the cosmic spoilsport. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Because the Christian worldview is that God has the right to tell us what’s right and wrong. And without him we don’t – and actually can’t - know what’s right and best for us. And when we get into relationship with him, he gets inside us through his Spirit to help us live in the way that is right and best, whilst remaining the unique people that he’s created us to be. But, the woman just can’t resist, Genesis 3.6:
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, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
This raises the question, where was Adam all along? Genesis 3.6– he’s with the woman. Which implies that he was there (perhaps all along), but failed to do anything. He failed in his role as a leader. And ended up going along with it. Seem familiar? We’re in our uni flats, or with our colleagues, or even on a Zoom call with them and somebody says this, or does that, or puts this on TV – whatever it may be – and before we know it, we’ve just gone along with it. Both the man and the woman knew what they were doing. Both were to blame and the madness of the situation is, they had no reason, or explanation, or excuse or benefit - Sin, after all, is empty.
The creation order that God made is reversed. The woman followed the serpent and the man followed the woman. And from this point on our world has been wrecked by sin. And because of this first sin, every human since has been born a sinner. So, my friends didn’t have to teach their child to disobey them. It came naturally! And if you don’t believe that, why don’t you try not doing, or thinking, anything you regret for a day, and see how long you last. Because we all come with the in-built desire of self-rule.
And, so, the man and woman’s sin wasn’t just law-breaking – that was the symptom. It was law-making – that’s the disease.
2. The consequences of sin (Genesis 3.7-13)
And we see instantly the consequences of sin in Genesis 3.7-13. Genesis 3.7:
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Which shows that one immediate effect of sin is broken relationships with each other. The man and woman feel nakedness and shame for the first time. So, flick back to Genesis 2.25 and we read that the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. This verse means more than just a sexual relationship between the man and woman as husband and wife. It’s deep intimacy at every level. Complete openness. Now they hide from each other. Instead of trust, there’s distrust. Instead of openness, there’s vulnerability. And there’s distance – a barrier – between them. Because sinning against God always affects our relationships with other people, even if we don’t realise it. And so, hostility between the sexes can be traced back to this moment. In fact, all our relationship problems can be traced back to this moment.
But we need to understand this, otherwise we’ll idolise things like politics or education (as good and important as they may be), but which can only go so far in fixing what’s gone wrong between us. Because it’s trusting in Jesus that restores, and provides the context, for truly loving relationships. So, in his strength, we need to constantly work at our relationships with one another. And have realistic expectations because if, by default, we’ve all rejected a loving God, then we shouldn’t be surprised that we’ll hurt and let each other down too. We should be quick to see our own faults. And we need to work, however costly, towards restored relationships – where we can. But the main issue here is broken relationship with God. So, reading Genesis 3.8-10:
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
In many ways it’s a beautiful scene – the Lord God walking in the garden, such was the access the man and woman had to him. And he calls the man and says, “where are you?” But the man and woman have hidden themselves – because deep down they know it’s God they’ve rejected and they don’t know how they’re going to be able to look him in the eye. Presumably they’re behind some trees, or bushes? It’s completely ridiculous. And it flips on its head the perception that God hides himself from us – and we need to search for him. Here he is, searching for people who’ve told him to shove off. However we’ve lived we can’t hide from God. Genesis 3.11-13:
God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
God holds the man primarily responsible – again because that is the way he has ordered creation. But, as the old joke goes, the man blames the woman, the woman blames the serpent and the serpent doesn’t have a leg to stand on. But, more seriously, it shows that we don’t want to admit that we’re wrong, and that we’ve stuffed it up, to God – or to others. And we do that so naturally, don’t we? How often have you been pulled up on something and your first thought, or response, is an excuse? “I’m busy… I’m tired… It’s not my fault!” Notice the man is also blaming God, the woman you gave to be with me. But God isn’t to blame, the man and woman made their choice. The same is true for us. We’ve chosen self-rule. So, there isn’t any mileage in claiming its God’s fault. We can’t blame him for us, or our world. We need to take responsibility for it before God because our broken relationship with him leads to death – that was the penalty in Genesis 2.
Despite how wonderful our lives often are, life without God is a half-life, a shadow life, at best. It isn’t life as it should be. It’s death. Next week we’ll see more of what this means. But in these verses, we see God go after the man and woman. He took the initiative, and he did again all those years later in sending the Lord Jesus to take our sin on the cross. So, let’s not hide from God. Let’s come to him, and find forgiveness. You can do that tonight, perhaps for the first time? Let’s confess our sin to him and enjoy being in his presence. It’s so much better than hiding away on our own, because no matter how long we think we can hide, God will eventually find us and we will have to answer to him But, if we trust in Jesus, we’re freed from sin and death to new life in him. And so, if we are Christians, we should look at Genesis 3 and think, “This is our world. This is me. I’ve rejected the God who really knows what’s right and wrong. Only Jesus can undo sin and death. So, I come to God, through him, trusting him for my forgiveness – past, present and future. And I sit under his rule over what’s right and wrong for me”.
But if you’re not a Christian, Genesis 3 is still where you are. You’ve chosen life without God. You’ve chosen to rule over your own right and wrong. And you need to hear: that is a life that is described as death. And if death is what you’ve chosen, then that’s all that you have to look forward to. But you can have life. Will you choose Jesus? Let’s pray:
Lord, we pray that you would give us the right perspective when it comes to ourselves, fallen, and experiencing broken relationships with others, and above all with you. And we ask that we would come, and cling, to the once and for all rescue given to us in Jesus. And in his strength, fight against the lies of the devil and the sin within us. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.