Well as you may know, we are a few weeks into a sermon series called “You Are Here: Finding Our Place in the Biggest Story Ever Told.” The big idea of this series is that the Bible is one story, and the main character of that story is Jesus Christ, and we are a part of that story today.
We began by considering all that God was and was doing before the story itself began. Then last week we explored creation. We saw that God created the heavens and the earth for His glory. And then He created Adam and Eve in His own image, so that they would rule this world as God’s representatives. We explored how Adam was the first person to bear the roles of prophet, priest, and king, and began to see some of the implications of all of that for our lives today.
Today we come to the part of the story that we all know is coming: the Fall. When Adam and Eve are the forbidden fruit and plunges themselves, and all of their offspring, into the depths of sin.
There’s a real danger here for us this morning, because so many elements of this story are familiar to us—even to the point of humour. How many jokes have been made off of the scene in the garden with the serpent and the forbidden fruit? But in the process of becoming so familiar with the story, I fear we loose touch with the way this story should impact us, the way it should kick us in the gut, the way it should cause us to evaluate ourselves and the world around us.
So as we continue on our journey this morning through the biggest story ever told, we’re going to need to set aside some of our assumptions, and pay close attention to the way that the Scripture itself tells the story. And we will find a story that is masterfully told, and more powerful than any cliché. And, a story that is familiar in perhaps uncomfortable ways.
Because Adam and Eve’s story is really our own story. This is the story of our own innocence lost. And yet, as we’re going to see, a story whose heaviness is shot through with powerful hope.
The Serpent Enters
So let’s turn to that story now. It picks up not long after where we left off last week, in a place of absolute perfection. Adam has just met Eve, and the first marriage has taken place, and the chapter closed by telling us that “the man and his wife were both taken and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). Adam and Eve were living in a state of child-like innocence. If there was ever happily-ever-after, this was it.
But then, without missing a beat, the very next verse—3:1—tells us that “the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”
If we were able to read Hebrew, we’d understand that there’s an intentional play on words going on here. Because the word for “crafty” sounds almost identical to the word for “naked.” It’s almost like it’s saying, “The man and his wife were totally nude, but the serpent was very shrewd.” It’s not supposed to be a joke. We’re supposed to see a contrast here between a man and his wife who are so innocent they are clueless that they are naked, and on the other hand a serpent who is the opposite of clueless.
What’s interesting is that the word for “crafty” or “shrewd” doesn’t necessarily have a negative meaning in the Hebrew language. It just means wise, clever, even prudent. So in other words, even though we’re supposed to see a contrast between the serpent and the people in terms of craftiness, we’re not told right away that this serpent is evil.
We’re not told that this serpent is the embodiment of Satan himself, here on an evil mission, as we find out clearly later on in the Bible (Rev. 12:9). We’re not told anything more than Eve herself would have known. Nothing obvious told her the serpent was evil. There was no scary music that played as he made his way towards her.
Some people wonder why Eve didn’t freak out by a serpent talking to her, but keep in mind that likely took place not long after she was created. So in terms of life experience, she’s still a child. She doesn’t know that that fact that this serpent is talking means it’s indwelt by an evil spirit and she should run in the opposite direction.
And so this subtle and unassuming serpent finds Eve. But right there is the first red flag. He doesn’t say, “Is your husband around?” Notice that he is attacking God’s leadership structure from the very beginning.
And then he asks an unassuming question: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1).
This sounds innocent enough. Just a simple question. But did you see what he did there? His question intentionally twists God’s words. God didn’t say not to eat of any tree in the garden. God told them not to eat from one specific tree in the garden- the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And He said you are free to eat of the rest.
And the serpent knows this. And so he’s intentionally asking a misleading question: “Did God really tell you something that unreasonable?” And by simply asking this question, he’s suggesting that maybe it’s possible for God to be unreasonable. That maybe God’s commands aren’t in our best interests. But most of all, by questioning God, he’s assuming that God is someone we are in a position to question.
So how is Eve going to respond? Will she say “get out of here? Who are you to question my Creator?” No, she says this: “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’” (Genesis 3:2–3).
Notice two things here. First, Eve calls this tree by a different name than God did. She doesn’t call it “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” If she had called it by it’s real name, that name would have reminded her of why she wasn’t supposed to eat it, and this whole thing might have been finished.
And then she adds to God’s command to them. “Neither shall you touch it.” God never said that. Do you see how Eve is being very liberal in her use of God’s word here? She is not displaying a respect for His word. And this suggests that she is already buying the serpent’s twisted thinking, and is vulnerable to what comes next.
Because what comes next is the Big Lie. “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’” (Genesis 3:4–5).
There it is. He’s moved past twisting God’s word to out-right denying it. “You will not surely die. What God said would happen, will not happen. God only told you that because he’s jealously guarding His status, a status that could be yours.”
Just a Bite
Now at this point, if Eve had been thinking clearly, what should she have said? She should have said so much. We literally could spend the rest of the morning looking at all of the layers of the truth she should have remembered in this moment, the things the should not have ignored.
Did Eve have any reason to believe that her Creator was less than completely trustworthy and less than worthy of her full obedience? What was Eve thinking?
The answer is that she wasn’t. It was not careful thought that led Eve to take her next steps. Listen to what verse 6 says it was: “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” (Genesis 3:6).
Eve was not thinking. She was desiring. She was craving. She was wanting. She was overtaken by what 1 John calls the desires of the eyes, the desires of the flesh, and the pride of life. This is lust. And this, according to Scripture, is what’s was at the heart of her sin and all of our sin ever since. We want other things instead of God, and so we shove the truth about God out of the way in order to get at them.
We all know what that’s like, don’t we? Where all we can think about is what we want, and we take it, and it’s only then that we actually start to think, “What did I just do?”
Eve’s desire for the fruit made the serpent’s ridiculous lie seem believable. So she reached out, perhaps with hands quivering in anticipation, and she took the fruit, and she held it up to her mouth, and she took a bite. And she chewed it. And she swallowed it. And, as verse 6 goes on to say, she gave some to her husband, who was there with her. And he ate.
When did Adam show up? Had he been there the whole time? Did he stumble in at the end, shocked to see the juice stains on Eve’s lips? We don’t know.
But whatever happened, Eve convinced Adam. He listened to her instead of God. He took the fruit from her, and he ate too.
Eyes Wide Open
And in that moment, everything changed. We don’t have to wonder how Adam and Eve felt in those moments. Because each one of us has felt what they felt in those moments. The sinking sensation in your gut and the burning fire in your conscience as you realize you’ve done something that you can’t take back, and you know that nothing will ever be the same again.
V. 7 says that after eating the fruit, “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”
We don’t have time this morning to explore the full significance of what’s going on here, but what’s plain to see is that Adam and Eve’s innocence is lost. The innocent, perfect Adam and Eve died in those moments. Things would never be the same again.
And then, God came. And once again, don’t we know this experience? It’s the feeling we had as a child when we’d done something wrong, and after hours of agonizing silence, mom or dad pulls into the driveway and opens the front door, and discovers the mess, and tries to find us. And each of their footsteps sounds like thunder. And we try to run and hide.
Verse 8: "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.' He 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'" (Genesis 3:8–13).
We’ve been there, haven’t we? Guilty and knowing it, and unable to hide anymore, so we try to blame someone else. Adam blames his wife. Eve blames the serpent.
But God sees through it all. He knows that both Adam and Eve sinned, full stop. They had nobody to blame but themselves.
And this sin of theirs is going to have powerful and heartbreaking consequences. It begins with Eve, in verse 16. “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.’”
God had commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. And the consequence for Eve’s sin is that her pain in this process is going to multiply too. Ladies in this room, you know that the process of bringing forth children—and in fact the whole system in your body designed to do that—is a process filled with pain. And that pain is a God’s chosen consequence for Eve’s sin.
And along with that, her relationship with her husband is going to be filled with tension and struggle.
And next, God speaks to Adam. God has more and more significant things to say to Adam. And that’s because Adam’s sin was worse than Eve’s. Adam was more responsible. He was the one who had heard directly from God. He was the one given responsibility to lead his wife. He was the one given the job of keeping the garden, of making sure it stayed a safe place. We see later on in Scripture (1 Tim 2:14) that unlike Eve, Adam sinned with eyes wide open.
And so it’s to Adam that God speaks these crushing words of curse, beginning in verse 17:
“And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return’” (Genesis 3:17–19).
Do you notice what God curses on account of Adam’s sin? Not Adam. But the ground. The earth itself. From this point on, the earth itself is going to fight against Adam, and one day the earth will win. Adam will die just like God promised, and in a final stroke of painful irony, he will return to that ground he had struggled and worked so hard against his whole life.
It’s not hard to see that behind these words is a bigger truth. In cursing the ground, God has changed something fundamental in the way nature itself operates. God has cursed the entire creation in response to Adam’s sin.
In Romans chapter 8, the Apostle Paul describes things this way: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it…” (Rom 8:20). And in the next verse he talks about the fact that creation is “in bondage to corruption” (Rom 8:21).
In response to Adam’s sin, God cursed the creation itself by subjecting it to futility and bondage to corruption.
Those are big words, but we know what they mean, because we see this futility and corruption and curse all around us every day. We see this world is falling apart. We see how our bodies are falling apart. We see how everything we build or make or plant always falls apart. Farmers, you are struggling with this right now. Those crops that you worked hard to plant still sitting out in wet fields? That’s the curse.
And all of this curse and futility and corruption did not just happen. It wasn’t like Adam and Eve sinned and—Bam!—the universe started to fall apart. God steps in to make this happen. He personally cursed the ground and the creation with pain and futility and struggle and corruption.
How many times have I been in a conversation where someone has just experienced some tragedy, or there’s been another natural disaster like the tsunami in Indonesia, and someone says, “we just don't know why these things happen.” Yes, we do! We know exactly why these things happen. They happen because our first father sinned, and God has cursed the whole creation in response.
Was This Fair?
So let’s ask an important question: was this all this unfair of God? Was God over-reacting? Doesn’t this seem a little harsh?
To answer that, let's consider what would have happened if He had given Adam and Eve what they deserved. What did He tell them would be the consequence of disobeying Him? “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” (Gen. 2:17). That's what they deserved: instant death.
And yes, they experienced inner, spiritual death that day. But God did not give them what they deserved in their bodies. He let them keep breathing. He let them see the sunrise the next morning. He let them live to hear the sound of their baby's cry and grow old together. And all the while, the universe around them—still beautiful, still showing God's glory—was constantly reminding them of their sin.
Because that is what’s going on here. God cursed the earth because of Adam's sin. Every morning that he woke up to go plow the fields, his work said: “your sin.” Every drop of sweat that came down his forehead and stung his eyes said, “sin.” Every time he bent down to pull a weed, and pricked his finger on a thorn, and felt the pain and saw the drop of blood- that all said, “your sin.” And as he struggled in his relationship with Eve and felt death slowly take over his body, it all said, “this is your sin.”
In cursing the ground, the Lord was using the physical universe to show Adam and Eve the horror and the significance of their own sin. They were seeing the ugly realities within their own hearts displayed all around them in living, breathing, painful reality.
And so, this is grace. The curse was an act of grace. If God had done nothing, and let them get away with thinking their sin was no big deal, that would have been cruel. Because they would need to face His justice eventually. But if, on the other hand, God has killed them right away like they deserved, there would be no hope.
So instead God gave them grace. He kept them alive and let them taste the awful truth about how serious their sin really is.
And let’s be clear here: God was not overreacting. The problem is that we under-react. Adam and Eve and you and me all try to think that disobeying God and doing our own thing is no big deal. We don’t want to realize that sin, the smallest sin, the littlest bite of forbidden fruit, is cosmic infamy against an infinitely, eternally glorious God. The smallest sin deserves all the fury of God’s wrath and all the pain of an eternal hell.
And so when God brings His perfect creation crashing down around Adam and Eve in a smoking wreck, He is not overreacting. He is mercifully extending to them the opportunity to recognize just how how serious their sin really is. He is giving them, and us, opportunity to repent.
So isn’t it so sadly ironic that when tragedies happen, people tend to question God, and question why He let that happen, as if we deserve better? The truth is that we deserve so much worse. And the whole point of tsunamis and car accidents and cancer is to tell us this and warn us and give us a chance to turn and repent and trust in the Saviour before it’s finally too late.
Now this has been a lot today. This has been heavy. But we have one more stop to make. Because we can’t miss the fact that this is not all there is in the story. You may have noticed that I skipped over some verses earlier on. We didn’t hear God’s words to the serpent in verses 14 & 15. Here’s what those verses say:
“The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 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.’”
Do you notice the irony that the most crafty one is now the most cursed one? And while there’s so much here we can see, lets lean into verse 15 and see how the climax of this curse on the serpent is actually a promise. God promises that there will be an offspring of the woman who will come and bruise or crush the head of this serpent. The picture here is of the serpent being stepped on, and even though the women’s offspring will be hurt in the process, the serpent will be fatally injured. Finished forever.
Don’t miss this. Because this is the very first time in the Bible where we find out that a saviour is coming. There is an offspring, a seed, a descendent, who is coming, and who will finish off this deceiving, death-bringing serpent once and for all.
And so here, at this extremely early stage, we are already being told to look forward. To look for a saviour to be born. And these words had already been spoken when God pronounces His curse on the creation to Adam and Eve. The curse is painted on the backdrop of hope.
God cursed the earth in hope, as Romans 8:20 says. He had already planned the day when the offspring of the woman would walk the earth and break that curse through His death and resurrection. And He had already planned the day when He would make all things new and the woman’s offspring would rule as a second Adam on a New Earth with His redeemed bride.
And that’s all that I’m going to say for now, because there’s a lot we’re going to need to wait for later on in this series. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything here for us today. There is.
As we think about what this means for us today, we can start by remembering that when Adam sinned and fell into sin, so did we. Romans 5:12 says that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin.” 1 Corinthians 15:22 says that “in Adam all die.” Adam fell, and we have been fallen ever since.
And so the curse on creation which we still see all around us is a reminder not just of Adam’s sin, but also of our own. Like Adam, we’ve all sinned. Like Adam, we’ve all bitten our own forbidden fruit and turned our backs on God and chosen other things instead of Him. Like Adam, the worst suffering we can experience in this world does not compare with the ugliness of the sin that each of us have committed.
And so we should respond to the curse with humility. We deserve it, and so much more. And so we should not complain. We should respond to our experiences of the curse with humility and repentance.
But there’s more than that. Because if you know Christ, you know that the promised offspring has come, and bore our sins in his own body on the cross, and paid for them in full. We know that He rose to life, and that we will rise with new bodies just like His. We know that our aching longing to return to Eden, to return to innocence and paradise, is going to be satisfied as we reign with Him on a New Earth someday.
And so our experience of the curse is transformed. Our suffering becomes hopeful suffering. It’s like the pain of birth. It hurts, but we know that on the other end is new life.
And that’s why we’re going to end this heavy morning by worshipping. We’re going to sing that song we learned last week, celebrating creation, and celebrating that the serpent-crushing offspring of the woman has come, and celebrating the way that, through Jesus, every experience of pain and suffering is just one more reminder that we have a new creation to look forward to.