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Apr 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 21, 2013 – Genesis 3:1-7

Dangerous Conversations

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” Genesis 3:1

INTRO: For a couple of years, friends have been telling me about the Los Angeles Book Fair

This year, they let me tag along and it was overwhelming
– a long line of display booths as far as the eye could see, filled with books begging, “Read me”
– I wondered, “Am I in heaven?”
• I didn’t want to miss anything, like a kid who wants to go on every ride at an amusement park in one day
• but decisions must be made – “Is this booth worth it to stop and browse? What if there’s something more interesting in the next booth?”

The sign over one booth read, “Atheists United” — walking past that one was easy
• I thought to myself, “Don’t want to talk with them!

Some temptations are easy to resist
– but do we always escape them as well as we think?
• as I walked by, curiosity got the best of me and I looked inside
○ what books are they selling? – what does an atheist look like?
(they looked as fervent as any fundamentalist)
– but what about the other authors, the ones I was willing to chat with?
• were they any safer?
• am I safer when I let my guard down, because the person I’m talking with is not an atheist?
○ “Better the devil that you know than the devil you don’t”

This is exactly where we find ourselves in today’s scripture

★ YOU ARE HERE ——–> Genesis 3:1-7

– if there’s anything you get from the passage – it’s that this is our story!
– the man and woman are representatives of humankind
• we are all in the garden – we have all tasted the fruit

V. 1, The introduction of the serpent is simple yet revealing

“Now the serpent was more crafty . . .”

Last week’s reading ended with a song and description of the intimacy the first couple enjoyed
– they were “naked and were not ashamed”
• naked is arumim, “crafty” is arum
• the Hebrew Bible is filled with puns like this
– the pun here  hints at what is about to unfold
• the humans are about to be robbed of their naive intimacy

“Serpent” – there’s no better animal to symbolize the twisted movements of thought
– he is going to twist the woman’s ideas of God
• he begins by twisting God’s word, “You shall not eat from any tree?”

The serpent leads with a question
– in fact, the chapter is structured in two parts around questions answersstatements
• the serpent questions the woman, she answers, then he delivers his speech
• God questions the man and woman, they answer, then he delivers his speech

We can already see the serpent’s craftiness in way he words question
– remember what we saw in chapter 2?
• after verse 3, every reference to God is Yahweh Elohim
• the serpent drops God’s name, Yahweh – what does this do?
○ it depersonalizes God – it creates a sense of distance between them and God
• they’re talking about God in the third person, as if he weren’t there
○ as if he wasn’t watching or listening

People who are devious know how to use questions
– they can make a point, insinuate, even slander while looking innocent
• “I’m only asking a question! Is that the real color of your hair?”
• he wants to engage her in conversation so he draws her in with a question
○ he makes her the expert – gets her to state the conditions God placed on them
• I imagine the serpent stressing the word “any” (2:16) – this is his strategy:
○ if even one tree is off-limits, then they’re being deprived

Vv. 2-3, The woman is quick to respond

Some people know just how to draw you into their web
– they make up a twisted description of your actions
• they invent twisted motives to explain why you’ve done certain things
– you’re sense of rightness and fairness drives you to respond, to clarify and correct their errors
• what you don’t understand, they don’t care about rightness and fairness or errors
• they thrive on conflict – and they’re good at it
– as soon as you respond, they spring their trap

“It can’t hurt to get together and talk things out.” Oh yes it can! (See Nehemiah 6:2-9)

Already, the woman has been pulled into the serpent’s mind-set — she also drops God’s name
– a person’s name was radically connected to the person
• to mention a name in conversation was like bringing them into the interaction

The woman: “It’s not like God’s here right now. We’re not talking to him, only about him. We don’t need to say his name, because we’re just talking about his rules

– this is serpent’s second major success

Let me point out that the word “eat” is the centerpiece of this chapter
– in this first part, it’s the heart of the serpent’s temptation
– in the second part, it’s the key issue between God and humans
– in the third part, it’s at the center of the curse
• the challenge for the woman now: Are you going to swallow this?

Vv. 4-5, There’s something the serpent wants to do, but can’t do himself

The serpent plays the role of an antagonist in the story
– who is he against? What is he trying to accomplish?
• he wants to break what God has created
○ he wants to fragment the harmony of creation
○ where God has produced intimacy, he wants to produce alienation
– but he can’t do this himself
• again, the snake is a fitting symbol – it has no arms or hands
• since the serpent can’t do it, he has to trick woman into doing it

So he feeds doubt into her mind
– he get’s her to question God’s word – is it true?
• he gets her to question God’s rules – are they fair?
• he gets her to question God’s motives — does he want what’s best for them, or to have it all to himself
– but he’s not an atheist!
• it’s not God’s existence he calls into questions, but God’s goodness and generosity
○  and where does that lead?

Helmut Thielicke, “The serpent knows very well that, if this seed of distrust falls on receptive soil, it is only a short step from doubt of God’s goodness to doubt of his existence.”

Vv. 6-7, The woman fell for the serpent’s scheme

There’s a pathetic beauty to the woman’s innocence
– she did not know evil – she did not know someone could lie — she couldn’t lie
– she did not realize there was a dark side to knowledge
• she didn’t know about pain, sorrow, despair, or guilt
• the serpent knew this and he exploited her innocent ignorance
– we learn from this how innocence is lost
• it isn’t lost, it’s stolen
• stolen by someone less naive, less innocent
○ “more crafty” or stronger

Now that the woman is thinking about “God,” she forgets Yahweh
– she feels hemmed in by the Rule-Giver and forgets the hands that formed her and the lips that gave her breath
– the fruit serves the exact two functions God intended, “pleasing to sight and good for food”
• and a third – it “was desirable to make one wise”
– what’s to stop her? Yahweh isn’t here and there’s no electrified fence, no barbed wire

The serpent had promised her enlightenment – her eyes would be opened
– what is the first great revelation the woman and man see now that they’re enlightened?
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked”
• “they knew” – this is their new knowledge
• it immediately fragmented their relationship
○ suddenly their nakedness became a problem — a source of fear or shame
– they hid themselves from each other, behind fig leaves
• next week they’ll hide from God, “among the trees”
• they are putting something between themselves and anyone else
○ their I – Thou relationship has been damaged

CONC: It may seem like a stretch to get from serpent and tree to last weeks bombing in Boston, but it isn’t

The story tells us how evil entered the world
– we can be disgusted with the woman and man, but remember, they are you and I
• let’s not add to the evil in the world, let’s not open the door to evil
• every time we slander someone, every time we feel our animosity is justified, every time we pass judgment on someone
○ we eat the fruit and release a little more evil

There is another temptation story, but with a different outcome
– for us, evil is already in the world, but so is Jesus
• we’re not alone with our temptations

For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted (He. 2:18)

We have protection, we have help, we have a Savior

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