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Monday, November 1, 2010

I learned the wrong thing

My pastor started his message this morning with Genesis 3:1-6. He went on to compare the first half of verse 6 to 1 John 2:16, which was an awesome point, but he had already lost me; I was seeing something in the conversation between Eve and the serpent that I hadn't seen before.

Okay, so in verse 1 of Genesis 3, the serpent asks Eve if God really said she couldn't eat from the tree in the center of the garden, right?


Look back at it. "He [the serpent] said to the woman, 'Did God actually say, "You shall not eat of any tree in the garden"?'" (my italics). God had simply said they couldn't eat from the one tree in the center of the garden, not any tree at all. But the serpent misquotes God on purpose, as though he had misheard a rumor through the grapevine. Why do you suppose the serpent did that? I think the serpent (who, we find out later in the Bible, is actually the Devil) understood human nature and knew that if he could just get her into a conversation, that was half the battle. Lesson #1 to learn from this passage: don't try to correct Satan's theology. Don't have a conversation with him. Shut him down, because nothing good will come of having a battle of wits with the Devil. You'll see why in a minute.

Eve doesn't know that the serpent isn't simply misinformed, so she tries to correct the "misunderstanding." But does she correct it? No she doesn't! She messes it up worse! "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.'" (again, my italics). What's with the "touch it" part? That's not what God had said either! God just said not to eat it. God didn't say a thing about touching it. Someone had added something to God's word. Was it Eve? Was it Adam, adding some extra insurance when he told Eve what God had said? We don't know, but it apparently happened somewhere along the line, and maybe when Eve was starting to wonder about things, she touched the fruit and nothing bad happened, and that made her feel bolder about actually taking a taste. Lesson #2 to learn from this passage: don't add things to God's commands that don't belong. God's Word can take care of itself.

Anyway, I was sitting there, lost in this conversation, actually giving Satan some props, because he knew how to play this woman. He had the psychology down. He got her talking, defending her faith. He waited until she twisted it herself and he saw the chink in her armor. Then he contradicted God outright ("...the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die...'") and told her a half-truth ("...God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."), distracting her from God's warnings and getting her attention on something that seemed like a better idea than following God's instructions. Come to think of it, it reminds me of how Satan tried to confuse and persuade Jesus Himself in Luke chapter 4 (which my pastor read later in his message) by quoting from Psalms. Oddly enough, Eve only had a few sentences of God's Word (that we know of, anyway) and Satan managed to twist it for her enough that she did exactly what God had said not to do. Jesus, on the other hand, had hundreds of years of God's word to deal with, and Satan actually quoted God's word correctly, but Jesus managed to see right through Satan's argument and avoid the sin Satan was trying to trick Him into.

And that's why we need the Holy Spirit. Even when the human race was only two people old, the Deceiver knew human psychology well enough that he was able to trick them. What chance to you and I have against an intellect like that, one which has debated with millions of the greatest minds humanity has ever produced and beat all of them but One, without the help of the One Who wasn't tricked? Don't go it alone today. Let the Spirit of God guide you, and you won't be deceived, even by The Deceiver.

And the next time you're sitting in church, don't worry about it too much if the Holy Spirit takes you on a quick rabbit trail. I didn't miss anything from the message that was coming from the pulpit, and as you can see, I seem to have received a bonus message that was mine alone... well, okay, mine and now yours! The Word of God is amazing and multifaceted, and sometimes it's just a rollicking read (think about the intrigue in that brief exchange between one seemingly naïve and clueless woman, and the enemy of all mankind! Now that's suspenseful writing!) The Bible isn't just a Theology text. The thing that caught my attention was the drama of the story itself. Enjoy the Bible for what it is, whether you're reading narrative or poetry or a vision of the future or a letter written from an evangelist to one of the churches he had visited... take it on its own terms and enjoy it as a book. And then when God has something to teach you, you'll already be listening, and it will be easy for Him to make the revelation clear.

Here's a link to the message I was listening to.

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