Today: Genesis 3; Matthew 3.
I'm following the two-year version of this plan. Link is in the article, about halfway down, to a PDF copy of this reading schedule.
"The serpent..." What kind of creature is this? How did he get in the garden? This is a bit hard for me to visualize, but I believe it is an historical account nonetheless. There are many mysteries in the bible, things before and after this present age. There are angelic beings, and we are given glimpses, for example, in Ezekiel 28 and Revelation 12, of a mighty fallen angel who disrupts human history. Here he is called the "serpent" (nahash, "snake, serpent, dragon"), and this dragon image of a great spiritual enemy weaves all throughout biblical history and history today. (See Rev 12:9; 20:2) The first attribute mentioned of this being is not his evil nature but his craftiness. He is cunning and shrewd.
The fall. This is a pivotal chapter in the Bible and affects everything that follows. We see in this story the dynamic and the downward spiral of temptation and sin...
-- Questioning God's revealed will.
-- Doubting God's intention and character.
-- Looking to satisfy flesh and sight in sinful way.
-- Desiring to be independent of God.
-- Passivity of the man in failing to protect.
-- Sinful action of taking the fruit.
-- And then what follows: avoiding God; fear, vulnerability and shame; blame-shifting; broken relationships; separation, pain, and death.
Fear and shame (3:8-10). Adam and Eve hid themselves from God. One of the consequences of the fall, and a characteristic of our sinfulness, is that everyone has a con. That is, everyone of one of us has a way of hiding our true selves from others and from God. And there are a myriad of ways that we lie to ourselves (called "defense mechanisms").
It all began with deception, with a lie believed and acted upon. Satan is "the father of lies" (Jn 8:44). To yield to his lies is to embrace him and come under his power. The way out is to hear and believe the gospel of truth, and to embrace the true and trustworthy God, with the result being freedom and life. (Jn 8:32)
The order reversed. Also note that the order of creation was inverted. The man, assisted by the woman, was to rule over the creatures of the earth and to protect the garden. Here a creature in the garden approaches the woman first who then leads the man. As C. S. Lewis portrayed in Perelandra, the man should have, at the first questioning of the serpent, defended his wife and the garden by taking a large stick and killing the talking snake.
These dynamics of sin and temptation continue today: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-- is not from the Father but is from the world." (1 John 2:15-16 ESV) And "...each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (James 1:14-15 ESV)
Jesus' victory over the devil. In tomorrow's reading, Matthew 4, we will see how in a temptation rematch, Jesus, the second Adam, will resist Satan's lies, this time in a wilderness of deprivation rather than a garden of plenty. Jesus chooses obedience, humility, and worship of the only true God. He believes and quotes God's word as authoritative. The decisive and final victory will come at the cross. Where all of humanity has failed, Jesus stands faithful (Heb 5:8-9).
The first promise of a Savior appears in 3:15. God says to the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15) This rare word is translated variously, "bruise, crush, strike". The NIV best captures the sense: "...he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." As a Welsh hymn-writer once wrote, "Bruised was the dragon by the Son / Though two had wounds, there conquered One" (William Williams).
The woman's "offspring" (lit., seed) is an unusual phrase and likely denotes that the One who will crush the serpent will be uniquely the woman's offspring (see Isa 7:14; Matt 2:20).
One last question, the grand-daddy of them all: why did God allow evil into his good creation in the first place? God in his wisdom must have a higher plan than we can comprehend now. I believe (along with Augustine and many others) that God would not allow evil to come into this world unless he could manage it and use it for greater purposes. The cross of Jesus helps us see that what may seem a tragedy may actually be to the glory of God and for the good of man. Norm Geisler used to tell us, "This is not the best of all possible worlds, but the best way to the best of all possible worlds." I agree, and there's great comfort in the fact that here, in the earliest chapters of Genesis, the promise is given that the dragon will be destroyed in the end. The last chapter has already been written.
My take-aways: the Bible story is one consistent, God-guided, historical epic which encompasses all of heaven and earth, history and eternity, and involves both natural and supernatural beings. Jesus has fatally wounded the Serpent, who is yet thrashing about. Testing and temptation is a part of life in this age. Lies about God still abound today. The biggest questions to myself each day are... Am I continually filling my mind with biblical truth? Do I believe what God has said in his Word? And do I trust him enough to obey him today?
Image above: stained glass window in the Cathedral of St. Michael, Brussels, Belgium. Below: detail of engraving of Adam and Eve from 19th century German Bible.