Sin, Satisfaction, and the Serpent: Reflections on Genesis 3

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All of the perfection and harmony that existed in Genesis 1-2 is now gone. The world becomes broken, lost, and cursed. All disease, sickness, sorrow, suffering, pain, misery, hurt, destruction, and corruption exist because of the fall of man in Genesis 3. While all of these realities are important implications of the fall, the most horrid and dramatic reality is the entrance of sin into the world which in turn leads to all of these atrocities and the most ultimate of them all, death and separation from God. I believe the most horrendous verse in Genesis 3 and probably the entire Bible is “therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground which was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:23-24). God separates himself and banishes man from his holy presence. The God in whose presence there is fullness of joy separates himself from sinful man! How devastating. Perfectly joyful and perfectly glorious God leaves the presence of man. And the result of not being in the presence of God is the entrance and existence of sin, suffering, death, and destruction.

What caused this horrific separation? Sin. Man sinned against God. And what led to this sin was temptation from the wicked serpent that still haunts us today. In order to understand why temptation is so serious and why sin is so appalling in our day, it is vital that we understand and see the seriousness of temptation and great crime that sin was in the Garden. Every sin and temptation is a direct attack against God. The serpent attacks the character of God. And the sin of man was similarly an attack on God’s character. I believe that the root of sin is the result of giving into the temptation to seek and settle for satisfaction in yourself or something less than God. It is an act that lacks trust in God for satisfaction, and is a disillusioned premise that we can find the satisfaction we need elsewhere. This dissatisfaction with God and his statutes is what leads to active rebellion and the breaking of God’s law. If God’s motive in creating the world and in redeeming the world is for the praise of his glory, then Satan is the perfect antithesis to the global praise of God’s glory. And Satan is deliberately opposed to the ultimate satisfaction of your soul. He does this by attacking God’s word and God’s character.

Attack on God’s Word

Satan, the serpent, plays on the inherent desire for pleasure as he asks the God-demeaning and belittling question, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1). Satan twists God’s words as he tempts. He puts God’s word into question. Satan will always begin his temptation with an attack on God’s word. “Did God actually say this?” When we study God’s word, we are tempted with such thoughts. Did God actually say that marriage is between a man and a woman? Did God actually say we are to love our enemies? Did God actually say that sex is reserved for the marriage bed? Did God actually say that it is only by faith in Jesus Christ that you can be saved? All of these questions are attacks on what God has said in his word. Satan questions the woman in an attempt to defame God by defaming his word. When the word of God is put to the test, God is put to the test. So, when you feel tempted, know that this crafty serpent is working with the motive to defame God and rob him of glory.

It is important for us to study and understand God’s word to face the onslaught of Satan through temptation. The woman replied to the serpent, saying that God told them that if they ate or even touched the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would die. However, God had told the man who if they ate of the tree, they would die. He said nothing about touching the fruit. Now, granted, there could have been an extra stipulation added by God that is not recorded in Scripture, though this seems unlikely. Another more likely possibility for the addition could be that Adam inaccurately taught his wife the law of God. Remember, Eve was not yet created when God commanded Adam to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Adam was given the instruction (law) from God, he could have relayed the message to the woman with this extra stipulation. The heart of a Pharisee has existed since the Garden.

There was clearly a little confusion with what God had actually commanded, which no doubt resulted from lack of meditation on the words of God. Could this have been a result of Adam not communing with God? I don’t know. We can speculate all day long. The point is that it is vital for us to commune with God in his word to be firm on what he has said and what he has not said. We fall into sin when we do not commune with God through Bible study and prayer. Lack of communion with God is like an open door for the serpent to creep inside. However, when we meditate on God’s word, we will know God more and more effectively be able to fight temptation and attacks from Satan. This confusion on the part of the woman led to her falling into this temptation.

Attack on God’s Character

Temptation is also an attack on God’s character. While the serpent was very subtle in his initial question, he gets more direct and reveals his motives. “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘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'” (Gen. 3:4-5). The serpent says, “Oh, God said you will die? Are you kidding me? You will not die! God is a liar! He is just afraid of what you will be capable of if you eat that fruit! He doesn’t want what is best for you. He is clearly opposed to your satisfaction. What an old prune! Do not trust him! You will be much happier if you just do what you want. Trust me and in fact, trust yourself!”

Have you ever felt this way when you are tempted? I know I have. Satan attacks God by belittling him and exalting man. Man is exalted here as the serpent attempts to make God seem inferior, which is the reason why he had to lie to the man and woman. What a fraud! While we can read this and easily say that we would have obeyed God and not given in to the serpent. And then we think about how we have already given into the serpent today and we feel, well, snake-bitten! And the poison that he injected into Eve that day so long ago has lasting effects into 21st century America. We still doubt God’s character. We still exalt ourselves. We still sin. We still die. Once Eve fell into the temptation of questioning God’s Word and character, she was ready to sin. And sin she did. She was delighted with the gifts over the Giver. Anytime we delight in the gifts of God rather than delighting in God, we are sinning against God.

The Serpent-Crushing Savior

While Genesis 3 is one of the saddest stories ever told, there is a glimmer of hope shining through the darkness of the Fall. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). Jesus comes into the world as the serpent-crushing Savior to bring eternal satisfaction to Adam’s fallen race. Christian, as you go about your day you will be in constant spiritual battles. The serpent that slyly tempted Adam and Eve to attack their creator is still deceptively seeking to draw your heart’s affections from God today. Unlike Adam, Jesus perfectly trusted God’s word to satisfy him (Matt. 4). Unlike Adam, Jesus perfectly trusted God’s character to sustain him (Matt. 26:39). Jesus is the new Adam who did not succumb to the serpent, but instead conquered him for the glory of God and future incomprehensible joy.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

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