We’ve been introduced to a good and beautiful world with a loving God who creates and cares for his people. However, we know that this isn’t our experience of the world today. We live in a world where there is pain, suffering, decay and death. How did that come about?
Read Genesis 3:1-5
The serpent is described as crafty or cunning in 3:1 indicating first that animals are often associated with particular temperaments and characteristics but secondly, an indication of the nature of the persona behind the serpent. The New Testament describes Satan as “The Father of Lies.” Here in Genesis 3, the serpent represents Satan either because this is the language used to describe him in metaphorical/anthropomorphic terms, he took the form of a serpent or, he was he took possession of a serpent.
This is now the third voice to speak in the Bible after God and Adam. The presence of a talking creature has been used by some to suggest that this is intended as myth and not a literal account. However, given that God is able to speak through creatures such as Balaam’s donkey, we shouldn’t be surprised to see Satan able to do something similar. His very first words are to question God’s Word. His first tactic is to get the woman to doubt what she had heard from God: “Did God really say?” Note, that he extends the command to any tree. As well as encouraging her to doubt God’s Word, he wants her to doubt God’s character, his goodness and provision. Of course, they have no reason to doubt either of these things. God has provided for them abundantly and everything he has said has come to pass.
The woman responds by insisting that, no God hasn’t prevented them from eating the fruit of the trees but that God had issued the command that they must not eat from the one tree. She says that the command includes a requirement that they “must not touch it.” Some commentators think this suggests an addition to God’s Words, a form of legalism. However, it is equally possible that Genesis 2:17 offers a summary of God’s Words and that Eve’s reporting is equally accurate. I don’t think we need to worry too much about this specific example. If we need an example of how legalism distorts God’s Word, we have it in the serpent’s attempt to extend the ban to all trees (v2-3).
Now comes the serpent’s second attack. He further questions God’s truthfulness and goodness. First, the truth of what God says. He claims that it is a lie that they will die. God has warned of negative consequences, the serpent argues that the result will be positive. Their eyes will be opened, they will see the world in a new way with knowledge, understanding and discernment. They will become “like God.” Secondly, he insinuates that God’s intentions are not for good. God knows this and so is seeking to keep them from something that will benefit them. The implication is that God fears their potential rivalry to him (v4-5).
Applying this through Jesus
Satan would repeat this kind of attack when tempting Jesus in the wilderness. His repeated line “if you are…” is an attack on truth. His temptations encouraging Jesus to seek his own provision (it’s about eating again) and protection are an attack on God’s goodness and provision. His offer of the kingdoms of the world are a false promise that he can raise Jesus up to the status of being like God, a rival to his throne.
Of course the irony is that Satan offers nothing that he can truly provide or that Jesus lacks. Jesus, like Adam and Eve has no reason to doubt the truth of the Father’s Word about him. Jesus lacks nothing from his good Father. Jesus does not need Satan to become like God because he already truly is God and the rightful ruler of the world.
Applying this to us
In the same way, we have no reason to doubt God’s truthfulness or faithful goodness. We have benefited from both. Yet, Satan continues with the same tactics. His big offer is that we can rival God.
The point for Adam and Eve was that if they were made in God’s image, they already had an appropriate likeness. They reflected his character, they were blameless and they had eternal life. Satan offered them an alternative way to be like God through autonomy, knowledge and power. The result was that they lost the good and appropriate likeness. They lost their blameless character and they lost life.
It is important for us to remember that whenever Satan tempts us, attractive as it all may sound, his promises are false, his claims are lies and he cannot out promise God. When we pursue temptation, we may enjoy the pleasure of his offer for a time but it is at the loss of things far greater.