Thursday, September 12, 2013

Choices and Consequences

Scriptural Reading: Genesis 3:8b-17
Devotional Reading: Deuteronomy 30:11-20

Our God is awesome and all-knowing. It has been said that He is a God of second chances. He allows men and women to make choices and grants grace and mercy in the midst of their punishment for bad choices as a consequence of their willful, negligent, or accidental behavior. There is a gospel song that explains the relationship between God and man. The lyrics read in part, “I don’t know why I have to cry sometimes, I don’t know why I have to sigh sometimes. But there’s gonna be a perfect day trouble get outta my way, I don’t know why, but I’ll find out by and by.” There was a time when man and woman lived in Paradise under God’s will. In our lesson today we shall find how the relationship became estranged due to disobedience. Once the relationship changed between God and man, He continued to warn them to be obedient to His will. (See Ex 19:3-8; Deut 11:26-32) God encouraged man to choose the life of obedience versus the resulting death of disobedience (Deut 30:11-20), stating at verse 16, “For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess”. (NKJV)

This quarter of study is entitled “First Things”. We are in Unit I – “First Days” of the three units of the quarter. This is the third lesson of a five-lesson study. It focuses on God as the Creator of the universe and humanity.

Before our Lord God created a helper for man it is recorded at Gen 2:9, 15-17, “And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not evil, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’. (NKJV) We might want to ask God why He put a tree in the midst of the garden that could not be touched. It was a test for man’s obedience and loyalty to the all-loving God. After receiving the commandment the man began to name the livestock, the birds in the air, and the wild animals. No helper could be found for man in the image of God who connected with him on the same levels, so the Lord put the man in a deep sleep and created a helper from his rib. God presented her to Adam and they felt no shame in their relationship, although they were naked. (Gen 2:18-25)

Satan did not want God’s people to know that sin existed. God called him an “anointed cherub” whose heart was proud, who had corrupted his wisdom, and desecrated his sanctuaries. For these reasons and more, God threw Satan out of His mount. (Ez 28:14-19) Satan is jealous that God has such a respect for mankind that was made just “a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor”. (Ps 8:5b NKJV) He had been an angel in good standing once (Ez 28:14-19) and believed God’s new creation was unacceptable. How dare God give man dominion? So Satan approached the woman in the shape and likeness of a serpent, the craftiest of the wild animals. As the serpent he conned the woman stating they would not die, and they would be like God once their eyes are opened to both good and evil. Although the woman was in the image of God; i.e. mind (psychological), body (sociological), and spirit (soul), she believed the serpent’s lie that they needed to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge to “be like God”. The woman knew of God’s commandment not to eat of the fruit. However, she was deceived by the serpent’s temptation which was designed to misrepresent God as withholding benefits from the man and woman. She testified of her knowledge of the tree’s existence and understanding what God commanded at Gen 3:2-3. But she had not been created when the commandment was issued; she did not state God’s commandment correctly. The serpent knew it and immediately pounced on her doubt. The woman should have consulted with Adam to whom the command had been directly given. Instead she continued to listen to the con of the serpent. He convinced her that its fruit was good for food (the lust of the flesh), pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree desirable to make them wise (pride of life). In 1 John 2:16 it is recorded, “For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world”. (NKJV) It is unfortunate she was so easily deceived. Whether man was with her at the time the serpent spoke to the woman is unknown, but she later went to the man and gave the fruit to him. God had given the command for obedience directly to man (Gen 2:16-17) and the consequences should he choose to disobey. Adam had no excuse for his disobedience by eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree. His choice to eat of the fruit was in willful and deliberate rebellion against a loving God. In 1 Tim 2:14 it is recorded, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression”. (NKJV) So they both were violators of God’s command.

The man and woman realized that the serpent lied to bring about their unhappiness as it began to unfold at Gen 3:7-9, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him,‘Where are you?’ (NKJV) Prior to eating of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil the man and woman had no shame in their nakedness. Now they were ashamed. They had failed God’s test of obedience and loyalty. Their eyes were opened, not to their honor and advantage but to their shame and grief. They saw the happiness they had fallen from and the con game the serpent had tricked them into. They had discovered nakedness and the shame behind it. They had to make a covering because of their shame between each other. When they heard the Lord walking, not running, in the garden, they hid from his presence. Why would they believe the all-knowing, omnipresent God would not know they were hiding from Him among the trees? Why would they hide when they were used to fellowshipping with God, walking in the Garden. They had chosen to disobey and, in suffering the consequences, there was a downhill lesson to learn. Then we have the first recorded question of God to humanity directed to Adam who had willfully disobeyed His commandment, “Where are you?” Man had not been lost before. This allowed them to see they were lost and God was there to always save them. The Lord already knew the answer to this all important question, but He was giving Adam (head of their family) the opportunity to accept the responsibility for their disobedience.

Adam responds to God’s question with an excuse instead of the truth to which God counters with further questions as recorded at Gen 3:10-11, “So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’” (NKJV) Can Adam stand up to God’s intense interrogation? God gave him an opportunity to confess. He feels guilty due to his fear and shame. Adam has never felt this way before with God. There was no sin in sexual relations between man and wife. It had been ordained by God Himself (Gen 1:28). However, because of their sin, this blessed relationship has been seen differently by many people since that time. The Apostle Paul declared at Rom 1:26-28, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind to do those things which are not fitting;” (NKJV)

In response to God’s accusatory question directed toward Adam, Adam and the woman played the blame game as declared at Gen 3:12-13, “Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’ And the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” (NKJV) Once again God gave them the opportunity to be responsible in their confession. Yes, they confessed they had eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Truth can be found in their confession. So, what is the problem with their confession? Adam’s confession was one that blamed the woman that God gave him. Is he accusing God for giving him the woman for sin? Was not Adam the head of the family? He was given the commandment directly, not the woman. She had not been created as yet. Adam should have taught her God’s commandments. That was his responsibility and he failed in that aspect. So he should not blame her for having given him of the tree. The woman’s confession was one that blamed the serpent that deceived her. Even though the serpent’s lies deceived her, it was the woman who was drawn into the lie and actually chose to sin against God. She chose to believe that God, in all His wisdom and love, had lied instead of providing everything they needed. The woman trusted a created animal in the garden to tell/deceive her about the Creator. She did not choose to seek any consultation before moving forward with her whim to eat of the forbidden fruit.

God begins to pronounce the sentence for the disobedience of His commandment in addressing the serpent at Gen 3:14-15, “So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.’” (NKJV) God cursed the serpent above all creatures. The serpent “shall eat dust” as it now has a new way of going about life on its belly. Satan, who had taken the form of the serpent, was cursed also. God put a deep-rooted hatred between Satan and the woman and his seed (not only evil spirits but wicked men) and her Seed. Women don’t have seeds; they have eggs. But the virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, bore the victorious Seed. The serpent wounds the heel that crushes it; so Satan would be permitted to afflict the humanity of Christ. The serpent’s poison is lodged in its head. A bruise to its head would be fatal. Similarly, Christ shall bruise the head of Satan and cause a fatal wound. This foretells of the death of Jesus on the cross and His victory over sin through resurrection.

In continuing to issue punishment God addressed the woman at Gen 3:16, “To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’” (NKJV) God did not curse the woman as He did the serpent. However, she was punished for her disobedience. In the first half of the punishment she is addressed as a mother. God expected her to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:27-28). Now she is punished with pain during child-bearing and multiplying her sorrow. She was also placed in humble subjection to her husband, but not to be placed in a slave mentality.

In addressing Adam’s punishment God stated at Gen 3:17-19, “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.’” (NKJV) Adam made his livelihood tilling the ground. But now God has cursed the ground and it will no longer be an easy task tilling the ground. It will take much pain and work toiling to get food for the remainder of his days. Instead of producing grains and vegetables as he was accustomed, the ground will now render thorns and thistles which were not edible. Weeds will choke out the seeds that he plants as he works hard. The continued sweat on his brow shall be a reminder of his sin until the day he returns to the ground. God had said that if they ate of the fruit they would die. They would become mortal and subject to death. Their bodies would become aged and subject to illnesses. Over time there would be death and their bodies would convert back to dust and the spirits would go back to God. But that is not the end of the story.

Adam and Eve were eventually put out of the garden of Eden by God at verses 22-23. It would not have been good for them as created beings to have eaten of the tree of knowledge and then eat of the tree of life and live forever. I can imagine having knowledge forever. I can’t imagine being sick forever. God knows what is best for us. When Adam and Eve sinned there was a gap created between mankind and God. In His wisdom He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, the Seed, to reconcile mankind to Him through the sacrificial blood Christ gave for each of us on the cross in obedience to God’s Plan of Salvation. Regarding the death we inherited from Adam versus the life we inherit from Christ, it reads in part from Romans 5:12, 15, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many”. (NKJV) The consequence for our eternity life is all about the choice that we make.

Written by Deborah C Davis

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