140309 Genesis 3:1-15

Last Updated on Monday, 10 March 2014 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Genesis 3:1-15
Theme: A Day That Will Live In Infamy

The mood of the nation was somber, mixed together with more than a little anger. The United States had just been attacked by the Empire of Japan, and the losses were devastating: a dozen warships, almost 200 airplanes and more than 2,400 lives. All of the sudden World War II was no longer confined to the other side of the world. The news, along with hundreds of bombshells, had hit home.

The morning after the attack the American people were feeling vulnerable, and they looked to their leader to lead. Addressing a joint session of Congress, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt introduced his post-attack speech with these famous words: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy..."

For some people the day when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, is the saddest day they can remember. Other Americans, especially younger Americans, might think of September 11, 2001. It can be difficult to rank tragedies because they are all (by definition) tragic. It doesn't matter how many lives are lost. It doesn't matter how many buildings are destroyed. Tragedies happen everywhere. Tragedies happen every day.

But there is one day and one tragedy that rises above the rest. Every vile offense, every heinous crime, every evil deed that has ever been done in the history of the world can be traced back to the same place, a garden. In Genesis 3 Moses records for us the events that led up to the first sin, and that single act of disobedience started an avalanche of sin that is responsible for so much of the death and destruction we see in our world.

The day when Eve was tempted by the serpent in the Garden of Eden started out as a perfect day, but it didn't end that way. For Christians, for people who understand the lasting and devastating effects these events have had on our world and our lives, it is truly...

A DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY

Today's text comes to us in the form of a conversation, but this was no ordinary dialogue. Moses tells us that Eve was approached by a talking snake. He doesn't explain how this snake could talk. He doesn't give us any information about Eve's reaction either. It is simply reported as a fact, and so that is how we understand it.

Even though Moses doesn't identify the snake, a number of other Bible passages do. More than once the book of Revelation mentions an "ancient serpent" (12:9, 20:2), and it is identified as Satan. In II Corinthians 11 Paul refers to this account and how Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, and later in the chapter he associates the serpent with Satan (3,14).

Jesus made the same connection (that the serpent was none other than the devil) when he told the unbelieving Jews: "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44).

The father of lies didn't initiate the conversation with a big, bold face lie. He was more subtle than that. He is more cunning than that. Instead the serpent asked Eve a question: "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'" (1)? The question sounds harmless enough, but it wasn't. Instead of looking for information, the devil was looking to plant a seed of doubt in Eve's mind.

The woman replied: "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die'" (2,3). There are basically two ways to evaluate Eve's response...

1. Eve started out strong, but she faded at the end. She was accurate when she repeated God's command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but then she threw in the part about not touching it, and that addition was the beginning of her downfall.

2. Eve's reply was appropriate. She was asked a question, and she answered it clearly and truthfully. And if you take her words in the kindest possible way (ala the eighth commandment), it is possible to understand her claim that they couldn't touch the tree as another way of saying that they were not to have anything to do with it.

Even if you don't accept the second explanation, it is interesting that the serpent didn't go after Eve for what she said about touching the tree. Instead he picked up on the last thing Eve said ("or you will die"), and the second time he spoke he was much more direct: "'You will not surely die,' the serpent said to the woman. 'For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil''' (4,5).

There is no need to read between the lines here. Just read the lines. The father of lies called God a liar. The devil told Eve: "There is a reason God has forbidden you to eat fruit from this tree, but it is not the reason he gave you. God is jealous of you. He doesn't want you to see what he sees. He doesn't want you to know what he knows. Just listen to me, and you can be just like him."

The serpent had injected his venom, and it didn't take long for the poison to take effect: "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" (6).

This could be the saddest verse in the whole Bible. This was the saddest day in the history of the world. Adam and Eve doubted God's love. Adam and Eve disobeyed God's will. Adam and Eve sinned, and immediately that first sin started to multiply: "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" (7).

As is often the case, the devil's lies contained an element of truth. He made a vague promise that eating the forbidden fruit would give them knowledge, and in a certain sense it did. They now knew good...as something that had been lost. They now knew evil...by their own personal experience. Their eyes were opened, but it wasn't a good thing like the devil claimed it would be. They could see what they had done, and it wasn't pretty. They could see what their actions had done to their relationship with God, and they were ashamed.

In the NIV the heading of this section is "The Fall of Man," but it could just as easily be, "How Not to Deal With the Devil." We could start by asking why Eve went anywhere near the tree in the first place. Why did she place herself in a compromising situation? Why did she engage the serpent in conversation? Why didn't she recognize the danger and run away?

When Eve answered the serpent's initial question, she started out pretty well. She answered Satan with Scripture. She quoted God's command not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, but she didn't stop there. Maybe she didn't think that was enough. Maybe she felt that she needed to justify herself. The Lord had told Adam and Eve that eating from the tree would result in death, but the devil didn't need to know that. And as it turned out, the devil turned those very words against her.

And when Eve was dealing with the devil's temptations, where was Adam? We know that Adam was with his wife, but only because Moses tells us. He didn't say anything to support Eve. He didn't do anything to stop Eve. Adam was willing to follow Eve's sinful lead, and even though he wasn't the one who was deceived he was no less guilty.

With the benefit of hindsight it is pretty easy to see what happened. We can see the trap the devil laid. We can see the mistakes Adam and Eve made. We can see how they fell for Satan's lies and fell into sin. The day Adam and Eve sinned is a day that will live in infamy, but if there is a silver lining in this dark cloud it is that we can learn from them. We can learn how not to deal with the devil when he tempts us.

So have we learned any lessons from Eve? When we see Satan coming do we turn and run the other way? Or do we invite the devil into our homes? Do we allow him to influence the things we see and the things we say? Do we flee from temptation, or do we see how close we can get to the flames without getting burned?

And when we face temptation how do we respond? Do we follow the example of Jesus? Do we use God's Word to ward off Satan's attacks, or do we leave the double-edged sword in its sheath? Do we rely on God to fight our battles, or do we rely on ourselves?

Maybe our biggest problem isn't saying the wrong thing. Maybe Satan has intimidated us so much that we say nothing. Like Adam we let sin happen. We don't identify it. We don't condemn it. We accept it. And before we know it we get caught up in it.

Adam and Eve may have brought sin into the world, but each of us has dumped our own load onto the ever growing pile. There is no covering we can put on. There is no place we can hide. We are exposed. Our sin is exposed, and the wages of our sin is death.

Physical death was the final consequence of Adam and Eve's sin (3:19), but before God laid down the law, before he even talked about punishment, he gave his fallen creatures a promise. Adam and Eve were listening when the Lord said to the serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Genesis 3:15).

God didn't do what the devil expected him to do, or at least not what he hoped God would do. Instead of striking Adam and Eve down, God gave them hope. He gave them a second chance. He gave them a promise of a Savior. The devil had won a decisive victory, but he would not win the war.

Not that he didn't try. In today's gospel lesson we heard how hard the devil worked to sabotage God's plan of salvation. He tempted Jesus again and again. He turned his people against him. He got his own disciples to desert him. And it looked like the devil might get the upper hand again when Jesus prayed in anguish in another garden.

But the second Adam did not fall like the first. With God's Word Jesus defeated the devil's temptations. Without a word of complaint Jesus went to the cross. With words spoken in triumph, "It is finished!," Jesus crushed the serpent's head. Once and for all. For you and for me. Forever.

Because God made good on the promise he made on that infamous day, because Jesus declared victory over the devil on Good Friday, today is a good day, a day to thank and praise God, a day to renew our commitment to serve and obey God. And every new day brings us one day closer to the Last Day, the day when Jesus will take us to our heavenly home. Amen.

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