The First Lie, Temptation & Sin
As we’ve gone through Genesis over the past month or so, I’ve been trying to intentionally appreciate and enjoy Gods creation around me. Even little things like food and snacks.
For example, I love me a good Kit-Kat bar. But what does a good person do before eating a good Kit-Kat bar? Well, first of all you pray of course; then you separate them into pieces (before ripping the cover open); then you partake one by one. You do NOT just open it up and bite into it like it’s a sandwich!
I know people who do the same thing with oranges... and what does a good, well mannered person do before eating an orange? Peel it, them separate them into pieces. Then you partake one by one. You do NOT bite into an orange as if it were an apple! God designed apples to be eaten like apples, and God designed oranges to be eaten NOT like apples!
If you’ve been tracking closely this past month as we’ve gone through Genesis 1-2, we see that “in the beginning, God” (Genesis 1:1). He is the main character, the Creator who created all things according to His design as He spoke them into existence; that gives Him authority over his good design! As he formed His creation the first three days, and filled it with His glory the next three days, we see that everything is good. In fact, the sixth day was very good after He created mankind in His image.
Then in Genesis 2, we zoom in on the man and the woman. We see that the first man was given a mission by God to work and keep the garden. Then we see for the first time something that is not good, for the man to be alone. So God made the first woman to be the helper fit for the man. Both are made equal in image and value, yet different and complementary in role/function and design. This was to help the man fulfill said mission in filling the earth with God’s glory and having dominion over every living thing that moved. And this was very good.
And because of what God did with Adam and Eve, here is the first marriage in Genesis 2:24. Here is a temporary picture of the eternal reality regarding Christ’s relationship with His church (Ephesians 5:31-32).
Then here comes verse 25.
Nude and Shrewd
"And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" (2:25).
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always glossed over this verse. Because as I looked closer at it, I asked the question: why is this here? How does this verse even fit with the passage? Well, let’s observe the first reason why it fits. If you ignore the big 3 for a second and just read the following verse immediately, you’ll start to see a connection.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made (3:1a).
So we see two specific details about the man and his wife. 1) They were naked (we need to be careful here with NOT injecting our perception of nakedness into the text because that was very good; that was the normal in Gods good design). Which is why 2) they were not ashamed.
Then we see also two specific details about the serpent. 1) the serpent is described as just another one of the beasts of the field; nothing supernatural, another animal that God created to be good. Yet 2) the serpent stands out as the wisest among all the animals because it was more crafty/wise/shrewd.
Now if we forget for a second what we know about the passages ahead, the author at this point has not given us a clue that this serpent, this new character, is the antagonist/villain. In fact, the word crafty here is not used as a negative connotation. The man and woman would’ve been walking around naked because there was nothing to be ashamed of, and the serpent was just an icon of wisdom among all the other animals. So they would’ve had no inclination to run away from the serpent. In fact, they may have likely even been drawn towards this shrewd serpent.
Second reason as to why verse 25 fits is actually the most obvious one (thought it might not be too obvious for us English readers). In the original language, the words naked and crafty sound very similar. Scholars have noted that this play on words is not at all accidental. Essentially, you could read these verses like this: “the man and his wife were both nude, and the serpent was very shrewd.”
So the first takeaway from this is 1) this is very punny! Here is your biblical basis for puns (and it is before sin enters the world)! The Bible has humour all over it if you read closely... But beyond humour, I think the author had a bigger goal in mind here. This intentional play on words connects these two verses, and together they act as a hinge that connects the passages before and after!
So verse 25 looks back at the account of the man and his wife, they had no clue they were nude and had no reason to be ashamed, and that was good. Yet it also anticipates what is to come next, which is where this new character in 3:1, this shrewd serpent, comes into play. Again, keep in mind that at this point in the story, the author gives no indication of the serpent being the villain.
That is, until it speaks.
The Plot Twist
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” (3:1b).
There are two observations we want to notice here. First, the serpent approaches the woman (there’s much discussion to be made about this that we don’t have time for today), but this is no accidental occurrence. Second, the serpent’s question for the woman is presented in the negative light to challenge God’s prohibition. Let’s look at the actual account of this in 2:16 to compare: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden...”
So God speaks to the man, but the serpent speaks to the woman. God gives a command and phrases it in the positive light, but the serpent misquotes it and phrases it in the negative light. Here we see the first clue that this serpent is indeed the villain/antagonist of the story, since he is clearly twisting and manipulating God’s words. His question calls God into question.
Now, here is the woman’s chance to correct and uphold God’s true and actual words:
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’ ” (3:2-3).
Is that what God actually said? Let’s look at 2:16-17 again to compare: “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.”
Let’s play a game of spot the difference again. First difference: God specifically names the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; Eve simply names the tree in the midst of the garden. Second difference: God says that in the day you eat of this tree you will surely die. Now Eve did quote this correctly, but notice how she adds neither shall you touch it...
What’s so important about these details? Though it may have been accidental on Eve’s part, we see that one manipulative question from the serpent was enough to twist and distort God’s words and intentions in the mind of someone who was made in His image!
And if that wasn’t enough, the serpent goes on to make a direct and blatant contradiction to God’s words: the first lie.
The First Lie
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die” (3:4).
This is when we see the author revealing the serpent’s true identity as the villain of the story. This is when we find out what his actual agenda is. As we read about in the opposite end of the Bible, the serpent here in Genesis 3 is “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9).
With this first lie in 3:4, we see that the serpent is indwelt by the devil/Satan who is in total opposition to God. A straight response to this outright lie would be to look back and reinforce what God said in 2:17, which is “you WILL surely die!”
But Eve was not thinking straight! So this shrewd serpent continues his schemes against God by deceiving the woman and telling her, look.
"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5).
Here the serpent goes from putting words into Gods mouth, to assuming that He has hidden motives. He makes God look like some obsessively self-driven character who is overprotective of his knowledge. The snake [is implying] “that God was keeping this knowledge from the man and the woman, while the sense of [Genesis 1-2] has been that God was keeping this knowledge for the man and the woman” (Cited from John Sailhammer’s “Genesis” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p.3).
In Genesis 1-2, we see that God created mankind for his glory, yet also for us to share in that glory! To glorify him AND enjoy him forever. In fact, it’s ironic that the serpent promises the woman that she will be “like God” when they actually were already like God. Genesis 1:26-27, God created mankind in his own image; male and female he created them in his likeness!
Instead of remembering God’s words and trusting God’s wisdom, the woman is captivated by the words of this shrewd serpent, the icon of wisdom among all the animals. Eve should’ve stopped the serpent right there and then, and shut down his lies with God’s truth. But instead, she lets the serpent’s words exercise authority over her, instead of exercising the authority that God’s given her over animals like that little snake!
So the question here is: what was Eve thinking? The answer? She wasn’t. This is what happens when you’re confronted with Satan’s lies. And if you’re not thinking about God’s truth when Satan comes at you with his lies, or if you’re not thinking at all, it will lead to temptation.
And that’s exactly what we see happen next: the first temptation.
The First Temptation
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... (3:6a)
Up to this point, God has been the one who continually saw that [everything] was good. Now, notice that it’s the woman who saw that the tree was good for food. Here we see the woman pursuing her own version of “good” instead of everything around her that God created to be “good.” Look at what 2:9 says: “And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
What’s interesting about this is that earlier, the woman referred to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as the tree “in the midst of the garden” (3:3). But what else was in the midst of the garden? The tree of life! She was surrounded with every tree that was good for food, every tree that was delightful to the eyes, and every tree that was to be desired. Because the woman has listened to Satan’s lie, she has now given in to his temptation. The temptation to find her own version of good, delightful, and what was to be desired.
Listen to how James defines temptation: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). Temptation is the lure and enticement to be independent of God. The temptation to “be your own person. To find your own truth” (which we hear a lot these days). And once that temptation hatches or conceives, it gives birth to sin.
And this is exactly what we see happen next: the first sin.
The First Sin
"...she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (3:6b).
Now I read that a little faster than usual, and I did that on purpose to point out how fast the progression of sin can be. From Satan whispering his lies and temptation to be independent of God, sin can occur in a matter of seconds. Eve took a bite, then she gave some to her husband and he took a bite. Now we don’t know exactly how fast this happened, but we do know that her husband, Adam, was with her.
The serpent approached the woman first, when God gave the command to the man first (and later on we’ll find in 3:9 that God holds the man responsible for their sin). He should’ve grabbed the serpent by its throat and exercised his God-given authority over it, but instead it was the other way around. Everything I said earlier about what Eve should’ve done, I would echo all the more that Adam should’ve done. As the man who was appointed by God to be head over all creation, as the man who was commanded by God to take dominion over creation, the same man allowed creation to take dominion over him.
As Victor Hamilton summarizes it, “the woman does not try to tempt the man. She simply gives, and he takes. He neither challenges nor raises questions ... the man neither approves nor rebukes. Hers is a sin of initiative. His is a sin of [the lack thereof]” (cited from Hamilton’s “The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17;” p.6). As James defines it, “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).
And what’s the end result of the first sin? The opposite of where the story started today.
Shrewd and Nude
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths (3:7).
From the innocent reality of the man and his wife being nude and the serpent being shrewd, to the fallen and sinful couple being shrewd in their own eyes, and being nude in their own eyes. From the man and woman being naked and not ashamed, to being ashamed of being naked. In the original language, the word ‘naked’ here is different from the word ‘naked’ in 2:25. Earlier, it was used in the positive light to portray goodness and innocence, but now it is used in the negative light to portray sin and guilt.
Listen to how it’s used in Deuteronomy 28: “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything” (Deut. 28:47-48). The effect of the first sin “was not simply that the man and the woman come to know that they were ‘naked;’ the effect is rather that they come to know that they were ‘naked’ in the sense of being under God’s judgment as [the word is used] in Deuteronomy 28:48” (Cited from John Sailhammer’s “Genesis” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p.2).
Their eyes were opened not for the better, but for worse. Instead of seeing God’s creation as ‘good,’ they now see it as bad. So they hide from each other by covering themselves (which is a bigger discussion that we will dive deeper into next week and onwards). God created the naked human body to be beautiful and good, but now we either look at it with disgust or with illicit sexual lust. Everything has fallen from the perfection of God’s goodness to the heinousness of man’s sin.
A Story About Us...
Why do we need to know this? Why does this matter to us today? This is more than just a story about biting a fruit and disobeying God. This is ultimately a story about all of us: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). This is the problem of mankind: we as descendants of Adam inherit the sin of our first parents, and we keep repeating the very same sin! This is why we are in desperate need of a Saviour!
One of the strongest pieces of evidence of humanity’s fallen, sinful nature is found in kids. Like you do not have to teach your kids how to lie, or how to be a little brat. I was such a bad
kid that apparently I once punched a girl in my class because I thought she was ugly. Growing up, my mom always told me, “you’re an expert at talking back and arguing so you should be a lawyer. Might as well get paid for it.”
On the other hand, we cannot look back at WWII and say “oh I could never do what Hitler did. He is the definition of sinner.” But no! According to Jesus, the second you feel anger against someone and let it out, is the second you take a knife to that persons heart! Because you’re a human being who descended from Adam, you are the definition of sinner.
Any of us who are listening to this right now, myself included, are more than capable of biting this fruit and declaring independence from God; this is the root of sin, whether big or small. Thus, all of us have fallen short of God’s glory and perfection.
...But The Story Doesn’t End There
But does the story end there? No! God, by his undeserved grace, had a plan of redemption in place, which culminates in Jesus Christ! The one who lived a perfect and sinless life to satisfy God’s wrath and die in our place because we couldn’t! Like the song we sang earlier says: “Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free; For God the just is satisfied, to look on Him and pardon me."
Jesus did what Adam failed to do. In Matthew 4, we see a “re-enactment” of Genesis 3 with Satan twisting the words of God with his lies, in order to tempt Jesus to fall into sin. Yet in his weakness after those 40 days in the desert, Jesus exercised his authority over Satan, and overcame temptation by standing firm on God’s Word. Jesus IS the true and better Adam who never yielded and never sinned, as we also sang earlier. In him, we have life. In him, we have hope.
Submit to God, Resist the Devil
How do we take this text from our seats today and apply it out there? If you are hearing this or watching this today, and you haven’t received Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, I beg you. I plead with you: come to Jesus. Repent (turn from your sin, confess that you are a sinner in need of a Saviour), and believe (that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead as an acceptable sacrifice to God, and now in him you are forgiven and have eternal life).
But whether you are hearing this for the first time or if you’ve heard this for 50 years, none of us are exempt. We all need Jesus. Every hour we need Jesus.
Even this week, every hour of preparing this sermon (I kid you not), Satan kept whispering lies in my ear to tempt me to sin. There were times that I wanted to give in to the serpent’s promises SO bad, and the only way out was to run to Gods word and stand on His truth and promises. And I praise Jesus that every time I did that, Satan ran away like God promises in James 4:7: “When you submit to Him, you can resist the devil, and the devil WILL flee from you!”
So when Satan slithers his way into your ear to feed you his lies and tempt you to fall into sin, counter with the truth of God’s Word just like Jesus did. Even when you are lied to and tempted by Satan in your weakest state, even when you’re most prone to fall into sin, know that Jesus prevailed in his weakness and rose victorious so that you might do the same through him:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).