‘Did God really say…?’: Genesis 3:1

We are bombarded from all sides by words – especially with the advent of the internet and social media.  The big question is – which words are worthy of our attention?  Which words should we believe?  Generally, we have to ask – do we trust the source?  This challenge was posed right at the beginning of human history – Genesis 3:1 ‘Did God really say…?’

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.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
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. 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.

1. The temptation we encounter

Genesis 3 provides a historical record of Satan’s temptation of our first parents.  What happens concerns two individual human beings, although as our representative, Adam’s actions also concern all of us.  Satan however uses the same method to attack God’s people in all ages, so we are to learn from this account what to expect.  Satan begins with a question designed to provoke questions on Eve’s part (v1).  The aim is to get Eve to evaluate God’s word critically – is his prohibition reasonable or fair?  Eve exaggerates the prohibition – ‘you must not touch it’ (v3).  Satan then progresses to an outright denial of the truthfulness of God’s word – ‘You will not surely die’ (v4).  Is the God who gave the word to be trusted?  Often we face the same basic temptation – do we trust the word of God, even when it goes against what we desire, or it is difficult to understand, or it is questioned by ‘experts’, or it is mocked in society around us.  We may be tempted to question God’s word in Scripture.

2. The choice we must make

The word of God and the word of Satan present 2 rival interpretations of reality.  The whole of a person’s life is involved in this contest.  Which interpretation will we believe and act upon?  We have two ‘words’ offering diametrically opposed ‘world and life views’ – which one will guide us?

(i) The word of the Creator: given by authoritative revelation.  This provides the standard for all the big issues – how we can have accurate knowledge, how we are to understand our true identity, and how we are to conduct our lives.

(ii) The word of the rebel: Satan opposes God’s truth in every way possible.  He is ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44). His rival word is a false interpretation of reality.

In Eden we see human beings trying to occupy the place of God.  Instead of submitting to the Creator and his word, Adam and Eve set themselves up as judges of truth.  This refusal to accept our God-given position is the root of the sin that requires a Saviour.

3. The example we are to follow

Christ himself provides us with the perfect example of how we are to receive and use God’s Word.  In his redemptive work, he is unique, but in his earthly life, he is our example.  Note the statement in 1 John 1:6 ‘Whoever claims to live in [God] must walk as Jesus did’.  Jesus’ fundamental commitment was to obey the divine Word – ‘your word is truth’ (John 17:17).  Every part of the Saviour’s life was governed by the Word – ‘I have come to do your will, O God’ (Hebrews 10:7).  This is clear in his response to Satan’s temptations – ‘it stands written’ (Matthew 4:4,7,10).  We are to be imitators of him, with all our thinking and living to be done in joyful and loving submission to the Word of God.

David McKay

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