Avoiding the Trap

Genesis 3:1 “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’?”

Generally speaking, the devil knows enough not to try to bowl us over with a direct and open frontal assault: “I’m the devil. Do this. It’s a despicable sin. It’ll be fun!”

He comes in camouflage, “The serpent was more crafty…He said to the woman.” A snake is just a snake. They were no more able to talk in the Garden of Eden than they are today. This serpent was something more. It may seem strange to us that the devil chose to use a snake’s body for his conversation with Eve, but he had to choose some form. He couldn’t just be an invisible voice in the air, or a third human being when it was quite clear God had created only two. That would have raised suspicions even more than the strange fact this snake was talking. It provided just enough cover to set his tempting trap.

He is not going to show up on your doorstep in red suit and pointy tale, either. He works through agents, behind the scenes, in disguise–anything he can do to make you unaware of his presence, maybe hoping you doubt his very existence. There is no more effective spy or saboteur than the one nobody knows even exists.      

Nor does he raise the alarm in the way he starts the conversation. “Did God really say…?” He isn’t proposing any radical change. He isn’t proposing anything at all. He’s just asking a question…really. “Let’s have an innocent little talk about some details of God’s instructions. What’s this all about, anyway? Explain this to me.”

Often we are stepping into his trap even before we have considered doing something God forbids. All we have to do is engage the conversation. All we have to do is have an open mind to viewpoints that are not God’s own. Maybe we will walk back out of the trap unscathed, but Adam and Eve didn’t. The list of those who have been caught, like they did, looks like a census of the world’s population from creation to the present day.

Satan’s question softened up his victims by calling God’s goodness into question. “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” “If that’s the case, maybe he doesn’t really care about you. Maybe he’s just cruel, judgmental, and scary. Maybe he isn’t worth following at all.” There wasn’t yet an explicit call for Eve to change her actions. All of this was aimed at undercutting her faith–at undermining her trust in the Word of God.

Eve’s response is a good one at first: “The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” There are two thrusts to her reply. First, she reaffirms God’s goodness. “Look around. We are surrounded by trees from which we can eat. God has been more than generous.”

Then she spits God’s word and command back to the serpent. She shows there was no confusion about what God said: “Eat from this one tree, and you will die.”

Here is how God also provides our protection from temptation, both before and after we fall. First, faith lives and feeds on God’s goodness. Since the fall into sin we have more than the good way he provides for bodies. God feeds our faith on the promise that he loves us so much he has forgiven our sins. More than that, he loves us so much that he sacrificed his only Son pay the penalty our sins deserved to make that forgiveness possible. Sometimes it may not be so clear to us that God has richly given everything our bodies need. But the promise of forgiveness and the sacrifice he made to make it possible never changes. Rehearsing God’s message of love over and over again fortifies our faith. It strengthens us against temptation when it comes around again.

Trust in God’s loving grace then helps us to cling more tightly to everything God has revealed in his word. If my Lord loves me so much he was willing to die for me, would he feed me lies? Would he hurt me with his words? Never! This is our weapon against temptation’s powerful appeal.

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