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Help! There's a Snake in My Garden!

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[Adam] answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And [God] said, “Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all the livestock

and all the wild animals!

You will crawl on your belly

and you will eat dust

all the days of your life.

And 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.”

To the woman he said,

“I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;

with pain you will give birth to children.

Your desire will be for your husband,

and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;

through painful toil you will eat of it

all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

and you will eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your brow

you will eat your food

until you return to the ground,

since from it you were taken;

for dust you are

and to dust you will return.”

Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.  And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.  After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Satan is identified throughout Scripture as the serpent.  For instance, John, writing in the Apocalypse, spoke repeatedly of that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan [e.g. Revelation 12:9-15; 20:2].  Paul, likewise, warned against the serpent’s cunning [2 Corinthians 11:3].  The basis for this characterisation of the evil one, besides the fact that this foe of the Faith exhibits serpentine characteristics, is found in the account of the Fall of our first parents.  Read that first verse of the third chapter once again.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

From earliest childhood, I should suppose that virtually all Canadians have some familiarity with Adam and Eve, at least in summary fashion.  They know that a snake enticed Eve to sample forbidden fruit (though most Canadians think it was an apple) which in turn led to rebellion against the Creator.

What Canadians don’t always know is that the serpent was more than just a snake.  Snakes don’t normally speak to people.  Should a snake ever address me, I am certain that I would vacate the premises even quicker than my legs would otherwise carry me from the vicinity of that critter.  I must interject that I am not afraid of snakes, it is just that I have little information to convey to them.  Neither have I any particular inclination to listen to whatever information a snake may wish to convey to me.  My mind realises that snakes are actually frightened of me, but my legs have somehow failed to receive that same message.  Obviously, this knowledge should lead us to conclude that in the account before us, this serpent is more than just a snake.

The fact that Eve was not startled assists us in understanding what is going on.  We know that Adam and Eve conversed with God in the garden.  It is apparent that they were used to speaking with Him and it would not be out of line to assume that even conversation with angels would not have been thought an exceptional event.  We also know that the Covering Angel, Lucifer, was in the Garden of Eden [cf. Ezekiel 28:13].  Since sin is the source of death and there was no death until the Fall, we know that the Eden in which this powerful cherub walked was likely the same Eden wherein Adam and Eve resided.  When we read that the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals, we would naturally conclude that the serpent refers to the father of lies, Satan.

Two options lie open before us.  Either this was actually a snake used by Satan to house his person, or God is referring to the true character of the devil.  Since he is identified as the dragon and the serpent in Scripture, I would assume that God is speaking of his actual character.  Reviewing the account before us, I would not argue with you that this was actually a snake.  It would appear that by this means God is revealing to us the true character of the enemy of souls when he identifies him as the serpent.  We are being introduced to the fallen angel who opposes God and seeks to destroy souls.

Focus on this exceptional verse to discover the source of evil and to witness the destructive power of evil.  The verse is required reading for us so that we may each be forewarned against succumbing to the enticements of the wicked one and so that we will be spared the execution of wrath which must fall on those who buy into the tempter’s lie.  We are not wiser than our first parents, though we do have powerful protection in the strong covert provided through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, though we should be wary of the enemy, we need fear neither his power nor his seductive words.  Explore with me the evidence of the snake in our garden.

Meet Your Enemy — The serpent is introduced abruptly.  His appearance is sudden, even startling.  There has been no hint of trouble in the narrative of creation to this point.  Though God had said when surveying the man in his environment that it was not good for him to be alone, He had just as quickly provided a companion who made man complete.  We would now assume that all was good in God’s creation.  Though we were informed that all the various animals were present, including those which move along the ground [see Genesis 1:24, 25], we have not actually witnessed the presence of a serpent … yet.

The serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.  This is nothing save a statement of fact that God made the serpent..  The words lead us to understand that the snake, and especially the enemy who is described as the serpent, were alike created by God.  This should not be taken to mean that God is responsible for evil nor does it explain the origin of evil.  That explanation will need to come from elsewhere in the Word of God.  The text will state only the origin of human sin and guilt.  Evil springs forth fully developed in this verse, though we cannot begin to appreciate the horror of that evil until we have at last encountered the full effects of its presence.  The ruin of the race and the destruction of intimacy with the Creator await the verses which follow.  We can only anticipate the full bloom of sin with something approaching horror.

Can you readily recognise the face of evil?  Are you so adept that you know wickedness when you encounter it?  How many Christians fall into sin through such seemingly innocuous activities as casting a horoscope?  Is an ouija board actually evil?  Can it really be dangerous to consult tarot cards?  We are under constant assault in the media to accept druidism and shamanism and Wicca as innocent spiritual alternatives.  Dear people, for every individual who finds such diversions to be harmless fun there is another who is mentally deranged through such pursuits or who is tormented by demonic powers admitted to that life through these very practises.  For the most part, Christians are aware that Satan is the father of lies and they know that those who think to use him and his power will themselves be deceived and used by him.  If it is easy to categorise the occult and the weird as evil, what about the world system within which we live?

Though many pastors will be called upon at one time or another to minister to those held in thraldom by demonic powers, evil is far more prevalent then to be restricted to the occult and to worship of that which is clearly satanic.  Evil is seen in the paralysing systems of destructive power in society, in the slanderous world of lies, deceit and defamation of others, which is so prevalent in our decaying culture.  Evil lies in shifting the blame, in aggression, and in the law of retaliation and revenge which disfigures so much of international life.  Evil, according to Paul, is witnessed in dissension and falsehood in the Church [2 Corinthians 11:12,13].  Evil pervades our world, the culture in which we live, and unfortunately, evil constantly threatens the church.

Who is this tempter?  How did he come to be in the Garden?  God created all things, therefore, He also made the angels of heaven.  We know this is so because in Colossians 1:16 we are informed By him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  You will also recall that Nehemiah 9:6 states, You alone are the Lord.  You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them.  You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

Among the angels of heaven, none were more powerful nor were any closer to God than was the one identified as Morning Star, Son of the Dawn.  God, through Isaiah, speaks of this creature and of his being cast out of heaven.

How you have fallen from heaven,

O morning star, son of the dawn!

You have been cast down to the earth,

you who once laid low the nations!

You said in your heart,

“I will ascend to heaven;

I will raise my throne

above the stars of God;

I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,

on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.

I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;

I will make myself like the Most High.”

[Isaiah 14:12-14]

This powerful angel actually thought to replace God on the Throne of Heaven.  According to Isaiah he has laid low the nations, and seems to actually have attempted to displace God from the throne of heaven.

Underscore in your mind that there was an angel who was thrown out of heaven itself because of his pride.  This angel aspired to replace God Himself.  As consequence of this self-exaltation he was cast out of heaven and thrown to the earth.  However, his rebellion touched the angels themselves and one-third of the angels followed him in rebellion against the Living God.  No doubt this historic event was what Jesus referred to in Luke 10:18 when He said, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  In Revelation 12:3,4 we read of the rebellion led by this powerful angel and the impact on the hosts of heaven.  Another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.  His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.

The fact that this malevolent being has laid low the nations is worthy of our attention for it speaks pointedly to the devastation of this fallen power.  The work of this fallen angel appears to bring destruction and ruin to all the earth.  He is the author of sin.  He produces sickness and has the power of death.  He lays snares for men and takes the word out of the hearts of the unwary.  He places wicked purposes in the hearts of men, blinds their minds and harasses them.  This fallen being accuses men before God and sows weeds among God’s people.  He resists the servants of God, hinders them and sifts them.  Moreover, he holds the world in thraldom and manipulates the nations.

Of this powerful enemy of the soul, God has detailed how he came into being.

This is what the Sovereign LORD says:

“You were the model of perfection,

full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.

You were in Eden,

the garden of God;

every precious stone adorned you:

ruby, topaz and emerald,

chrysolite, onyx and jasper,

sapphire, turquoise and beryl.

Your settings and mountings were made of gold;

on the day you were created they were prepared.

You were anointed as a guardian cherub,

for so I ordained you.

You were on the holy mount of God;

you walked among the fiery stones.

You were blameless in your ways

from the day you were created

till wickedness was found in you.

Through your widespread trade

you were filled with violence,

and you sinned.

So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God,

and I expelled you, O guardian cherub,

from among the fiery stones.

Your heart became proud

on account of your beauty,

and you corrupted your wisdom

because of your splendour.

So I threw you to the earth;

I made a spectacle of you before kings.”

[Ezekiel 28:11-17]

These verses indicate that he was perfect in wisdom and beauty when God created him.  He was in Eden, adorned with every imaginable beautiful stone.  Identified as the Guardian Cherub, he covered the mercy seat of God.  He was the recipient of special attention from the Creator.  Some hold that this creature may well have been the leader of the choirs of heaven.  The words translated settings and mountings in verse thirteen, are obscure words.  They could be translated tambourines and flutes.  If you happen to be reading the NIV you will see that there is a note indicating the uncertainty of the meaning of the words.  If you are reading the NASV you will see an alternative reading indicating that tambourines and flutes may be the meaning.  If this alternate reading is accepted, then musical instruments being created simultaneously would indicate musical leadership.

This is the enemy.  We cannot know why God permitted the rebellion to go to the extent that it did, nor why He did not slay this slanderer of the saints.  We do know that Satan even now has access to the throne of God and that before God he accuses the people of God day and night.  He does not live in a palace in hell; he stands before God slandering God’s holy people.

I must take a moment to tell you that though our foe is powerful, more powerful than we can imagine, he is not omnipotent.  He does have power to hold men in darkness and in bondage [cf. Acts 26:18].  Our enemy possesses great cunning and deceit.  However, when a child of God resists the devil, he flees.  This must assuredly be his one great fear.  Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you [James 4:7].  Do not imagine that you can speak lightly of this foe of righteousness, for even our Lord spoke of him as the prince of this world [John 12:31].  Paul would later reveal the wicked one as the god of this age [2 Corinthians 4:4].  Those who think they honour God through speaking arrogantly against Satan need to consider the words of Jude who warned against arrogance.  These dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings.  But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”  [Jude 8, 9].

Satan is a defeated foe and his end is certain.  He shall at the last be cast into the lake of fire.  Revelation 20:7-10 speaks of that fate which is already pronounced for Satan.  When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle.  In number they are like the sand on the seashore.  They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves.  But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.  And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

In Colossians 2:13-15 is a glorious statement of the freedom we enjoy in Christ.  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.  Our Saviour disarmed the powers and authorities.  He made a public spectacle of them.  He triumphed over them by the cross.  Because of Him, we need no longer fear the wicked one, for he is a defeated foe. 

We need but accept the teaching of the Apostle.  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints [Ephesians 6:10-18].

The Seductive Power of Evil — The Hebrew presents a play on word here which is not apparent in English.  The serpent is described as more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.  The word translated crafty is the Hebrew word !Wr[;.  In Genesis 2:25, the man and his wife were said to be naked, [!wOr[;].  The two words are similar in sound: !Wr[; and !wOr[;.  The first readers would understand that Adam and Eve thought that through eating the fruit they would become wise [see Genesis 3:6, lkc], but they were instead shown to be nude [Genesis 3:7, 10].  Focus on that word crafty [!Wr[;].  The word can be either positive or negative.  Thus, this word in and of itself is ambiguous.  The wordplay which I pointed out moments ago links the serpent’s shrewdness with the woman’s deception, finally resulting in the self-consciousness of human nakedness.

Understand that Satan does not appear in his full dress as evil to the woman.  The voice of temptation does not come to man as the voice of evil.  Satan does not appear as the cause of human failure, but as that which faces all mankind with the reality of their trust in God.  The tempter appears within God’s creation, and not from outside.  The man and the woman were created with freedom, and that freedom included the freedom not to trust God.  Satan exploits that freedom through deceiving the woman.  Though the serpent lies behind the fall of our first parents, I must emphasise that Satan is not the cause of the Fall.  The woman was deceived and the man chose to join her in rebellion.  Freedom not to trust God becomes the doorway to the loss of freedom.  The man and the woman are here faced with that choice by the tempting voice of the serpent.

Did God really say…?  The question which the serpent posed is an utter travesty of God’s original generous permission [Genesis 2:16].  In that Hebrew language the opening words of the serpent’s query [yKi #a'] convey scepticism, or at the very least a sense of surprise.  This scepticism carries through to the remainder of the serpent’s question … you must not eat from any tree in the garden.  You will notice by referring to Genesis 2:16 that the serpent has reworked God’s command in significant fashion by negating what was actually said and by expanding the scope of the command.  He also omitted the freedom which the Creator had included in His command, and he employed the plural, bypassing the singular which was used in the original command.  Lastly, he moved the key clause (from any tree) at the end of the sentence instead of at the beginning.  The nuance of liberality is robbed as the serpent refashioned God’s words for his own interests.

On the surface, the serpent’s words appear ingenuous or innocuous.  We should be asking, however, how did the serpent know anything about God’s command?  If he had actually heard the command, why should he distort it so grossly?  In this question is evidence of the serpent’s shrewdness which we shall examine shortly.  Furthermore, instead of speaking of the Creator as the Lord God [!yhil¿a> hw:hyÒ], simply referring to Him as God [!yhil¿a>], the serpent demonstrates His distance from Him.  The serpent present the Lord God as a remote creator and not as Yahweh, the friend of man.  The wicked one does not controvert outright God’s command.  Rather, he questions the divine motive with the phrase really say.

Satan has the power to destroy, but he has no power to build.  Before the Fall there was one will in the universe—God’s.  After Satan’s rebellion there were two wills—God’s and Satan’s.  After the Fall there were four wills—God’s, Satan’s, Adam’s and Eve’s.  With the birth of each succeeding child there was the introduction of one more will into the world until today there are billions of wills expressed in our world.

There is an exception to this devastating rule of multiplication of collective wills.  In Christ, the Church is once again submitted to the will of God and that One will reigns.  This is the reason we are to submit to one another as the will of God is revealed among us and as we seek His will through the Word He has given.  This is the reason we are to seek unity in the Body.  This is the reason the church is not a democracy and is instead a Body of which Christ is the head.

Why do you imagine that the sin of slander among the saints of God is so terrible in the eyes of God?  It is because particular that sin destroys instead of building up.  Why do you imagine that exaltation of self, identified as presumptuous sin throughout the Word of God, is so scandalous among the people of God?  It is because the presence of that particular sin returns the church to conflict arising from multiple wills and removes her from the harmony resulting from submission to the One great will of the True and Living God.  Distortion of the grace of God, speaking against the gifts of God including fellow saints who are added to the Body, is denial of the will of God reigning among His people in exchange for the exaltation of the multiple wills of those who are worldly.

Let me give an illustration of the evil arising from this sin of self-exaltation, an example of the seductive power of evil.  The Valemount church which I also pastor was a church divided when I arrived.  There was in the church one faction which had pitted itself against yet another faction.  If the church were ever to grow it would be necessary to unite the warring parties … or to exclude them from the fellowship.  For nearly a year I endeavoured to unite these opposites until it became obvious that neither party would settle for nothing less than absolute power over the entire congregation.  One party would have to leave the church, which they did with much grumbling and abundant slander.

The second party saw the removal of the first party as evidence that they had won and they immediately began to endeavour to exercise their control over the church.  When that party found it could not have its way it withdrew with the statement that without their wealth the church could not survive.

It is hurtful in the extreme to see people leave a fellowship; but I speak the truth when I tell you that it is more hurtful still to surrender to the exercise of multiple wills within a church instead of uniting under the one will of God.  This is the seductive power of evil.  None of those who left are evil people, but they permitted themselves to be seduced by evil.  Like Peter trying to circumvent the will of God they need to be rebuked.  They need to hear the words which Jesus addressed to Peter.  Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men [Matthew 16:23].

It is neither unkind nor severe to warn you that if you refuse to submit to the revealed will of God or if you haven’t the willingness to submit to one another you are a stumbling block who does not have the things of God in mind.  You have thus demonstrated through your exaltation of self that Christ is not ruling your life.  You have set yourself up to be rebuked shortly, for you have embraced that which is wicked having been seduced by the power of evil.  The church is not a political party to be manipulated, nor is it an organisation to be controlled.  This is the precious creation of Christ through His sacrifice and the people of God are to be united under His will.  Just so, the Christian life is a life which demonstrates a sweet spirit of submission.  That submission is to be demonstrated toward one another because we are submitted to the One will of the Father who loves us and who has redeemed us.

I plead with the people of God to see in the text before us that exaltation of your own will, exaltation of your best thoughts over the clearly revealed will of God, is evidence that you have surrendered to the satanic lie.  To be seduced by Satan is to rebel against the Father of Lights.  To rebel is to invite His punishment.  To invite His punishment is to defy Him.  Let us never surrender to such folly.

An Appeal to the Book — In the messages which follow we shall study the strategy of Satan.  He is a powerful foe, a roaring lion looking for someone to devour [1 Peter 5:8].  As we look into the Book we shall discover that Satan is above all else a creature.  God made him and he is therefore limited in his power.  He is powerful, but he is not all-powerful.  He has access to the throne of God, but he is not omnipresent.  He has been around since the beginning and thus possesses great knowledge, but he is not all knowing.

This means that the Christian must never ignore nor underestimate the foe, but neither must the Christian overestimate the enemy.  Though the enemy roars and endeavours to frighten us, we must remain focused on the Lord our God.  Though the wicked one makes every effort to terrorise us, we must not surrender to our fears but instead resort to Christ our strong defender.  Our Lord is our strength and He is our wisdom.  He limits Satan and at the last has ensured that this slanderer is a defeated foe.  Satan may tempt us, but he cannot tempt us beyond what we can endure.  Our Saviour shall always prepare the way of escape for us [see 1 Corinthians 10:13].

As we submit to the will of God and seek the harmony of His Spirit, we are able to stand against the wiles of the foe.  As we draw of Christ’s strength and as we appropriate His wisdom we are equipped to conquer the evil one and to hold the ground which Christ purchased with His own blood.  Neither Adam nor Eve sought this resort to the strength of the Lord, and they succumbed to the lure of evil.  Though you and I are far weaker then they were, we can nevertheless stand because we stand in the power of Him who defeated Satan through the cross.

What a glorious declaration of freedom is ours in Colossians 2:8-15.  Listen to it.  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.  In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Christ redeems us by His blood and He keeps us by His might.  Are you a Christian?  Have you trusted in Christ the Lord?  If not, you are certainly a victim of the evil one and you must one day give an answer to the Lord who created you.  Our invitation is to this day receive the life which is in Christ and to be born into the Family of God by faith in this risen, living Son of God.  Amen.

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