Posted by: mikebackup | March 9, 2014


Reading – Genesis 2.15-17; 3.1-7 (NIV UK)

Genesis 2:15-17
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’

Genesis 3:1-7

Now the snake 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”?’

The woman said to the snake, ‘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 certainly die,’ the snake said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

There is a very traditional way of looking at this scripture – the dreaded fall. This is the moment that Adam and Eve disobeyed God, evil and death entered the world and we fell. We are all connected to that one sin and so are all born into separation from God. Only by accepting Jesus into our hearts, the one who sacrificed himself for us can we bridge the gap that separates us from God and achieve salvation.

I’m going to offer a different take on the fall today, but not before I mention a little bit about how we read this. We do have to get past the fantastical nature of the story and delve deep within it. Consider the snake for example. The serpent or snake is often blamed for the coming of evil, or at least temptation, into the world. But the serpent, too, is part of God’s creation, and has a place in God’s garden. The snake was telling the truth in the story, Adam and Eve didn’t die literally though we could say innocence died.

We can ask what is the nature of temptation in Eden? Verse 2.15 makes it clear that there is an order to creation, with humanity placed within Eden to ‘till it and keep it’. The temptation is to take on the role of the Creator – be on a par with God. Hebrew prose uses merism – a figure of speech whereby two opposites express a totality: e.g. up and down, day and night. Thus the tree of the knowledge of ‘good and evil’ is a way of expressing all knowledge, omniscience. When the woman and the man make the choice of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, their eyes are indeed opened: but not in the way the serpent promised. Instead, they are aware of their nakedness – which represents both their vulnerability and their mortality.

I was going to offer a different take on the traditional view before a very interesting edition of Horizon was shown looking at how we make decisions. Nobel prize winning research has shown that we are hard wired to make the majority of our decisions at a subconscious level – they call it the inner stranger. This way of thinking is intuitive, fast, automatic, incredibly powerful, but totally hidden. It is so powerful, it is actually responsible for most of the things that you say, do, think and believe. Careful logical, reasoned decisions take our brains a long time and also take up a huge amount of energy.

Not sure – try going for a walk today whilst trying to solve a math problem or a crossword. You will want to stop and concentrate on the problem.

So hard wired is it in us that we cannot change how we make decisions, only shape the environment around us to assist us into making better decisions.

This informs our text today in a new way. Adam and Eve made that impulsive decision, they didn’t think slowly and logically about it. God knew this was going to happen, the decision to try and go it alone was part of God’s plan.

You see we can shape our lives to help us make the right decisions – it’s when we ‘fall’ into Jesus’ arms through a journey of faith and let his Spirit take the place of that inner stranger. True, sometimes we will have to make very carefully considered decisions and pray for God’s guidance in it, but the majority of the time we’ve got to let God get on with it.

This scripture describe the death of innocence, but that is no bad thing in itself. When we gain knowledge and experience we can use that for good.

Bringing this together, you could say that we all lose our innocence as we grow up and that if we are not very careful will mean a separation from God. But God wants us to make a decision consciously and deep down to find him. The Spirit can then fall on us and we are no longer shaped by an inner stranger, but a God whom we get to know better and better.

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