When God created the first man and woman, they were the high point of all Creation (see Story 7 and Story 8 for the details). They were made in the image of God and given the high honor of acting as His appointed viceroys over His created order. He placed them in a special Garden, called Eden, which means “pleasure.” They were meant to live together in blissful union with each other and perfect responsiveness to the goodness of God.
Imagine life among the gorgeous, sprawling trees and gentle sunlight! What a deep and passionate love they must have shared in their innocence and purity. There was nothing to come between them. They had nothing to hide or be ashamed of. Eve would always carry great beauty for Adam. It would never fade, and his delight in her would never wane or grow distracted. There was no fear of rejection or loss or shame because they lived in a perfect, sinless world.
Imagine a world where love could be lived fully and freely with no fear. They didn’t even know what the words hatred or anger or violence meant. There were no lies, there was no danger from disease or animals or storm or age. There was no violence or starvation. In man’s perfect nearness to God, he knew how to love perfectly and lead his wife, and she knew from the Lord exactly how to respond to him in love. There was a deep harmony between them, and the Lord watched over them with delight. They walked with the Lord in the cool of the day as one walks with a dear and trusted friend. What could ever break the rhythm of this perfect goodness?
One of the animals of the Garden was a serpent, the most cunning creature of all the animals. He is brilliant, but not with the bright brilliance of God’s goodness. You see, this particular serpent is actually Satan, the great enemy of the Lord. He is the leader of the fallen angels, and he is twisted with evil and treachery. He uses his cunning and charm to bring downfall and death and destruction. He lives with a constant, evil hunger to break all the beauty and goodness that God has created.
Satan did not have the power to destroy God in Heaven. He didn’t even have the power to defeat the heavenly angels. So he had to find another way to work his evil. He would go after something that God deeply loved. He would find the weak point in God’s plan. He would go after humanity.
One day, he was slithering through some dark and deceptive plans when he slithered up to the woman. He knew exactly what thoughts he was going to plant in her mind. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the Garden?’” he asked.
The woman answered him, “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.’”
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Did you hear what the serpent just said? He called God a liar! He accused the perfect, pure, holy Lord of being a cheat…of denying the first man and woman of some good that would bless their lives. It is hard to imagine what a monstrous evil this was. The serpent knew full well that he was the one who was lying. And he knew that his reason for lying was to destroy the woman in front of him and bring death and hatred and murder into God’s perfect, peaceful world. Yet there he was, accusing the very God who made him of being dishonest.
It is important for us to understand how the Evil One operates now that we live in a world where he has so much power.
Satan worked by breaking down the woman’s faith in God. He was trying to get her to question whether God was truly loving and wise when he told them not to eat of the fruit. He was trying to break the woman away from her trust…her righteous, whole dependence on her Lord. He wanted her to cross over the line from grateful devotion to God into self-reliance and independence from Him.
But Satan wasn’t just after the woman. In the middle of the Lord’s sacred Garden Temple, he was trying to create a mutiny. This man and woman were the crown of God’s creation, and they ruled over all the animals. God had tied the fate of the world to the fate of these humans. The Serpent wanted to turn them against God and bring on a war. The snake went after the woman’s faith as part of his plot to bring a cataclysmic curse on all humanity and the whole created order. He was completely and utterly evil.
Think about the lies the Serpent told to destroy the woman. He treated the fruit of one tree as if it was the only blessing in the world, when God had given the woman the whole Garden to enjoy. Satan made it seem like God’s command was just a suggestion that she could ignore. He made it seem like God was petty and small, wanting to keep His human creations from having His own brilliance and knowledge. But Satan knew the truth. God was protecting them from knowledge that would destroy them and cause unimaginable suffering.
Satan hid the devastating truth about what would happen to the woman and the world if she crossed over into disobedience. She didn’t know what temptation, sin, suffering or death were. She did not understand the greatness of the gift God had given her by protecting her from it. But if she had put her faith in God, none of those things would have mattered. If she had responded with obedient faith to God’s goodness, it would have been enough.
In the bright beauty of the Garden, with the sunlight filtering through the trees, the woman didn’t recognize the evil plotting of the Serpent. What happened to her love and loyalty to God? Where was her innocent trust? Why would she trade her trust in her mighty, tender Lord for trust in a snake?
We don’t know why she did it. We don’t know how she could do it. But she did. She looked up at the fruit that she had once ignored. She suddenly realized that it looked good. She thought about how it would give her wisdom like God, wisdom that He said she should not have, and she wanted it. She crossed over the line of mercy that God had drawn between humanity and the dangers of that tree. She crossed the line of obedience into sin and grasped the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And then she took a bite.
But she wasn’t done. The woman stepped further out into her sin. She gave the forbidden fruit to her husband. She was meant to be his helper, walking with him before God, but she became his temptress, drawing him away from his Maker. He was meant to guide and protect her, but he became her willing stooge. The man obeyed his wife instead of his exalted Lord.
He could have stopped her. He could have protected them both…he could have protected the fate of their offspring. But he didn’t.
As they swallowed the fruit together, something about them changed. Their eyes began to see things that they hadn’t seen before, to understand what they had been protected from. The fruit had done what the Serpent had promised, only he hadn’t told them the whole story. Now they understood evil. They could see with the eyes of evil and it was strong and tempting. A new, domineering power came over them that they had never felt before. Suddenly, the easy brightness of doing God’s will felt heavy and toilsome as a host of dark things that they would rather do began flashing across their minds.
God did not make human souls to partake in evil. He made them to partake in the goodness of He, Himself, but now they were separated from Him, and that separateness brought shame. His holy covering was lifted. Suddenly, they knew they were naked and they felt exposed. Their freedom to walk bare and whole and trusting with each other was gone. The sweet, whole purity that had brought them such intense nearness, trust and love for each other was shattered and broken by their sin, and they no longer felt safe to walk in raw vulnerability and openness. They scurried to a fig tree and stitched leaves together to cover themselves.
As they huddled in their humiliation and shame, they heard the sound that they must have dreaded most. God was walking towards them in the Garden. They ducked and hid from Him, not wanting Him to see what they had done. They did not want to face His perfect purity now that they felt the force of their disgrace and rebellion. So much was already falling apart.
But God was coming after them, pursuing His children. He knew what they had done and He loved them still. He called out, “Where are you?”
The man answered Him, “I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”
God asked him, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
Now listen to what the man did. He did not answer yes, which was the truth. He put the blame on someone else! He said, “This woman You put here with me-she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” How quickly he turned against his beloved wife now that evil was in his heart!
He was willing to blame everyone except himself. The woman handed him the fruit…and God had handed him the woman. Everyone else was at fault!
The Lord spoke to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
Once again, the blame was put on someone else. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate,” she said.
God had given the man and the woman the unspeakably great honor of being made in His image. They were the most exalted creatures in the universe, but now they were acting like the snake. They were creeping and slithering through the truth, trying to get away with deceiving the God who knows all things.
The voice of the snake was the voice of the enemy of God, and the man and woman had given their allegiance to him. They had turned away from the goodness of their Divine King and towards the Author of Lies himself. Already, sin had begun to blind them. Already they were becoming corrupt and tarnished, and they knew it.
As horrible as that day must have been for the first man and woman, only God knew the full implications of what they had done. He understood that they had invited great suffering and evil into His pristine world. He knew that their offspring, to the tune of billions of souls, would experience many millennia of struggle because of their choice. He knew that it meant that His own Son would have to go to earth and die. And yet, still, He sought them out in the Garden. He did not visit the suffering they had brought into the world upon them. He did not ask them to pay the price for their choice. He accepted that burden for Himself.
God is perfectly holy and just. Evil, or the sin that produces it, cannot exist in His presence, and neither can those who carry it in their hearts. The pollution of sin was now a part of the DNA of humanity, and it created a necessary separation from the holiness of God. Yet this was an untenable situation, for humanity was created to live in the presence of God.
Even at that horrible moment, that cataclysmic tragedy, God had a plan. He had already prepared a way to solve the dilemma. One day, the Son of God Himself would embody the sin of us all. He would receive all of God’s wrath…the fires of God’s holiness against sin would exhaust themselves on Christ as He hung on a cross. God’s wrath for the first sin, this eating of the forbidden fruit, was the beginning of God’s storing up of His wrath for that terrible but totally victorious day when Jesus would pay for every sin through His agonizing sacrifice. God knew all this, yet how calmly and kindly He came to the first humans in the Garden on the day of their great failure. What an amazing and gracious Lord is He.