Tag Archives: Temptation

Punishment

Meditations on the Psalms

You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2:9 ESV)

Those who rebel against God face His judgment. Those who teach others to rebel, and lead them in their rebellion, face total annihilation. There is no wiggle-room in God’s courtroom.

Both to break and to dash them in pieces means to shatter to a point of destruction. That which is broken cannot be fixed and becomes useless. This statement is a direct answer to Psalm 2:3. “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” There is no hand strong enough to burst the bond, nor arm great enough to cast away God’s cords. God created people a particular way, giving them a nature and placing them within a universe of laws and boundaries which they cannot breach. Seeking to break the laws of nature has deadly consequences. Breaking the moral laws of God implanted within human nature as the image of God, has eternal, damning consequences.

Jesus is adamant about the effect of sin on people. Knowing temptation to sin comes naturally, because of the rebellion of the Deceiver and the corrupted nature of people, He still singles out special condemnation for those through whom the temptation is delivered.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matthew 18:5-9 ESV)

Jesus’ disciples discussed among themselves who the greatest was in the kingdom. Such a question is arrogant and ignorant. They were speaking to Jesus, the Son of God. They had seen His works and heard His words. He is the King and the greatest in the kingdom. What earthly king would allow one of his counselors to ask such a question without quick and sure discipline and retribution. But Jesus did not come to hold Himself up. He came as a Servant, because that is His nature. Instead of pointing to Himself, He placed a small child in front of His disciples and told them “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4 ESV).

In Psalm 2, Jesus uses a parallel illustration to thrust home His point. Sin is judged harshly. God rains down His wrath upon those who cause sin and teach others, especially children, to sin. It would be better for the person who taught and led a child into sin to commit suicide than to finish instructing their student to the place the student becomes a teacher. It would be better to perform radical, maiming surgery than allow oneself to become enslaved by sin. Cut off your hand or pluck out your eye if either leads you to sin.

The implications of His teaching about sin is startling. Jesus is saying nothing in the world, nothing we do or want or desire is more important than God. To allow something which has no eternal value to control our lives and dictate our relationship with God is to rebel against Him. It is better to live a short life in extreme poverty with no hope of worldly success or continued physical survival, and know God, than to live in abundance and not know God intimately.

Either the person who follows God and His Son discipline themselves or God will discipline them. Either we give up the world and gain eternity or we give up eternity with God and watch the world fade away to non-existence when we face God at judgment.

This statement is a warning for those who teach and lead people to sin. You face total annihilation, your life and works become worthless, and your existence is consigned to a place away from the absolute source of life, which is God. Beware.

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Tree of Life

Meditations on the Psalms

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:3 ESV)

The Psalmist continues to describe the blessed Man who does not follow the ungodly into their sin but actively seeks to intimately know God through Scripture. We are given an illustration, a metaphor, of who Jesus Christ is in this world and throughout eternity. He is like a tree planted in the one place where that tree will always bear fruit and will always be healthy. The tree is planted next to streams of water for abundant nourishment. It is hard to not think of the trees planted next to the nourishing river coming from the Garden of Eden.

Scripture begins and ends describing the tree of life (see Genesis 2:9) planted in the Garden of Eden. Before the fall, Adam was given permission to eat from the tree of life. After the fall, Adam and all men are excluded from the Garden so they could not eat from the tree of life and live for eternity in their fallen state. “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—’” (Genesis 3:22 ESV). People were created in the image of God for relationship with Him. When sin corrupted that relationship God’s justice required they be excluded from His presence. Yet, God provided a means for people to be righteous before Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God the Son and who is also the perfect Man.

Scripture ends with the tree of life. “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2 ESV). From this tree those who dwell in eternity may eat and be healed.

We have already seen, in Jesus’ response to the temptation of the Deceiver, that “‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus then tells us that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:53-54 ESV; see John 6:55-58). Jesus Christ is the source of life for those who belong to God. This suggests that Jesus was present in the Garden of Eden as the tree of life. People are now commanded to accept Jesus and in doing so will receive life.

One sin excluded Man from the presence of God. That sin was committed by one man, Adam, when he ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of his action all men are condemned. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12 ESV; see Romans 5:12-21). So, because of the sacrifice of one Man, Jesus Christ, redemption is offered to all men.

Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many (Romans 5:14-15 ESV).

Adam was a type of Christ. Now, the command is to eat from the tree of life, which is also a type of Christ. One act of disobedience excludes those who disobey from the presence of God. That act of rebellion is to not obey God’s command to eat His flesh and drink His blood. God’s command to all is to eat from the tree of life, which is the body and blood of Christ, and live spiritually with Him in eternity.

Adam’s Sentence

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; (Genesis 3:17 ESV)

God now turns His attention to sentencing the man. In this verse God uses the word man as a proper name for the first time. Up until now the word adam means man, the human race comprising the gender man and woman. In this verse, there is an article preceding the word Adam making it a proper name.

Adam’s sentence, because of his rebellion, is the third declared by God to those present. This just sentence carries the gravest consequences for all people. To the Deceiver, inhabiting the serpent, God’s sentence is a “curse” truthfully predicting that a Son who will come from the woman will crush it even as it tries to hurt Him. To the woman, God sentences her to pain in childbirth and conflicting desires for her husband, to be over him and protected by him. God does not use the word “curse” with the woman. To the man, God uses the word “curse” as He did with the Deceiver. God’s just sentence is pain and suffering in work.

But first, God declares the reason for the sentence. For the Deceiver, the reason is “because you have done this” tempting and lying to the woman about what God said. For the man, the reason is “because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it’” (see Genesis 2:17). The Deceiver cast doubt on the words of God to those created in His image. Adam completely rebelled against the word of God, spoken directly to him.

Listening to the voice of his wife does not mean everything she said up until or following this time was contrary to God’s will. Adam cannot claim ignorance of the debate had between the woman and the Deceiver. Nor can he claim ignorance about from which tree the fruit came that she gave him to eat. We have none of the words spoken by the woman to Adam at any time after she was created and while they were living in the Garden of Eden. They talked. When she handed him the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil we do not know what was said but he knew from which tree the fruit was plucked. We do not know if he questioned her about what she was doing or why she plucked the fruit and took a bite. We do not know if they argued or if she went through the entire discussion she had with the Deceiver. We do know she plucked the fruit, took a bite then gave some to her husband and eat also ate.

Adam was given dominion over the earth. He was put in charge and was given the responsibility of caring for that which God had made for Himself. His act of rebellion showed he could not be trusted to do that for which he was created. Adam bears responsibility for his rebellion.

God confirms what theologians have labeled “federal headship” by making Adam ultimately responsible for the sentence of separation from God for all people. Because he sinned all sin. Federal headship is a theological idea foundational to Christ’s redemptive work. Just as Adam’s sin brought death, spiritual separation from God, to all people, so Christ’s just and righteous act brings spiritual life to all people. (See Romans 5:12-21.) But not all people will claim Christ’s righteousness because they desire to cling to Adam’s rebellion.

Judgment

Studies in Genesis 3

The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15 ESV)

What does God mean when He uses the word “cursed”? To curse carries several implications. First, it is a judgment against someone who has violated an expectation or command. God cursed the serpent when He sentenced the Deceiver for tempting and enticing the woman to rebel. God’s curse is the sentence.

We know the curse, the judgment and sentence given to the serpent, was to crawl on its belly and eat dust.  If I am correct that there are physical representations of spiritual realities, then the curse of the serpent is a physical reminder of the judgment and sentence of that which inhabited the serpent. Serpents have not evolved out of their condition. God has not changed them. They have not sprouted legs or grown wings and feathers. God is in control and continually sends messages to those made in His image that His decree and judgment will not change because of circumstance.

The serpent could not repent. It is a beast created by God to fulfill its designated place in the order of the creation. Neither it nor the Deceiver when created were given the image of God. Man was given the image of God and made for intimate relationship with Him. God determined to make a way for Man to be reconciled to Himself through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. His judgment against the Deceiver points to this future event and reconciliation.

God turns, in a manner of speaking, from judging and sentencing the serpent, to judging and sentencing the Deceiver. Part of that judgment is the curse, the judgment and sentence, of enmity between the woman and the serpent. God puts enmity between the woman and the Deceiver, and between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the Deceiver. Enmity means hatred. To put means to appoint and fix, to take a stand. God appointed a hatred between the woman and the serpent. This can be understood both immediately and in the future. Immediately, the woman loathed the serpent, and serpents in general. To see a serpent is a reminder of the lie of the Deceiver speaking though the snake. Is it fair to suggest this loathing has continued through the ages? Most women fear and loath snakes?

Hatred is a natural condition of the Deceiver. It hates God and everything created by God. It wants to destroy, compromise and corrupt everything God does. Contained in this curse, in the sentence against the Deceiver, is the ultimate prophecy of how God will execute judgment. When God declares how He will executes judgment, there is the hint of the means of reconciliation between God and, the now fallen away from God, Man.

Judgment

Studies in Genesis 3

The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. (Genesis 3:14 ESV)

God immediately pronounces judgment and sentence upon the serpent. Yet, the serpent is only an animal, a creature of the earth. We do not know what the serpent looked like before the rebellion of the man and woman. God’s sentence suggests the serpent changed, its appearance becoming different. Perhaps it had legs and God took away those legs as part of the sentence. Making such an assumption is beyond the truths taught in Scripture.

When God pronounced judgment and sentence without questioning the serpent, and the Deceiver inhabiting the serpent, the implication was He already knew the Deceiver’s motive and personality. The Deceiver was created by God a spiritual being and had already rebelled against Him. God allowed it to tempt the man and woman as a test. It, the Deceiver, did not have the image of God, and therefore, did not have an intimate relationship with God. Still, the actions of the Deceiver in lying to the woman suggest prior rebellion against and hatred of God.

Scripture is filled with “types” or physical representations of spiritual realities. One example is relationship between the man and woman, a husband and wife, showing the mystical intimacy of the relationship between people and God. Another example is the relationship between parents and children. Children are subject to their parents just as people are subject to God. In the middle of the garden was the tree of Life. Jesus Christ is viewed as the tree of Life. Eating His flesh and drinking His blood brings life to those condemned to death because of sin (see John 6:53-58). This last example fills libraries.

God pronounces judgment and sentence upon the serpent. The serpent is a physical representative of a spiritual being. There is no evidence to suggest God created the serpent one way and then changed its physical appearance. Because of God’s omniscience, He knew (we have no evidence to suggest otherwise) the created serpent, in its current physical appearance, would be used by the Deceiver and consequently judged and sentenced by Him.

God’s judgment and sentence is toward the Deceiver, who inhabited the serpent in its quest to subvert and compromise God’s creation. It was the intent of the Deceiver to corrupt those created in the image of God. The temptation of the Deceiver against those created in God’s image, was focused upon God, and was the first shot in a war of rebellion. The Deceiver is fighting against God and those who are His in an all-out effort to destroy whatever it can with no hope or expectation of winning the war.

Deceived and Purposeful

Studies in Genesis 3

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Gen 3:6 ESV)

Adam was with his wife. She gave him a piece of fruit she had picked and eaten from, and he, too, ate the fruit. Did Adam watch the entire transaction and conversation between the Deceiver and Eve? Every sermon I have ever heard has Adam standing passively next to his wife while she deliberately disobeyed the command of God. Either he heard the discussion or Eve told him of the discussion. Or she didn’t tell him, because he was not there and simply offered him a piece of fruit when he arrived and he ate.

In Genesis 3:6 the word “with” can mean beside. It can also mean against and in spite of. Like many of the words in the first three chapters of Genesis this is the first time this word is used. We assume Adam and Eve were together all of the time. This does not necessarily have to be true. We can know for certain he was present when she gave him the fruit. Whether he was present during the discussion with the Deceiver and then when she actually picked and ate the fruit is only assumed.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for disobedience. Adam knew he was to not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Either he ate knowing the fruit was from the tree or he ate not knowing from which tree the fruit came. Either way, he ate the fruit which God has specifically forbidden from eating.

Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Timothy 2:14 ESV)

There are many implications from Paul’s statement. The woman was deceived by the Deceiver. Adam was not deceived, by either the woman or the Deceiver. His rebellion was purposeful. He knew the consequences of his rebellion. We know nothing of his thinking or feeling which brought him to the action of eating the fruit. We are reminded daily of the consequences. For the consequences of Adam’s purposeful rebellion is abundantly clear and always present. It is sin and death.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12 ESV)

“For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19 ESV)

Answer with Truth

Studies in Genesis 3

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Genesis 3:2-3 ESV

When questioned by the serpent, or whatever was inhabiting the serpent, Eve responded with a vague half-truth. She did not identify the tree from which they were to not eat and she added to the command of God. When God gives an explicit command, we do not have the authority to alter His words into something vague and imprecise. Nor is it ever our place to speak for God by putting words in His mouth. Eve could have countered the deception of the serpent with the exact words of God.

Notice what Jesus does in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. When tempted and tested by the devil He does not respond in generalities but with the actual words of God.

Why is this important?

When we allow the thinking of our hearts about God and His commands to descend into generalities we open ourselves to believing compromise is essential and begin adding boundaries, exclusions and misinterpretations to what He said. We begin to believe He did not say what He really said. This gives us a false view of God and of ourselves in relation to Him. This would be like an “editor” randomly adding clarification to someone’s writing without knowing the person, what has already been said or agreeing with the message, working with the intent to steal the message away from the author and make it their own. God said “you shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 ESV). This command has for some, morphed into not allowing justified killing of the criminal or killing during a justified war. The most prevalent use of compromising the word of God is the justification of murdering a baby in the womb because the baby is not considered a person. God’s words are twisted to fit our insane beliefs.

God is not mysterious and vague in His Words to Adam and Eve. He spoke to them directly, face to face. He embedded His image in them so they had the inherent tools and abilities needed to understand Him and intimately know Him. Having His image gave them an absolute advantage over every other physical or spiritual creature. Both the snake, a physical creature, and the spiritual being inhabiting the serpent were created by God. Eve had a conversation with a dumb, unable to speak, physical creature being used by a different, intelligent and morally compromised spiritual creature. Physical creatures are separated from physical creatures by flesh and blood and bone. It is possible a spiritual creature could inhabit, or take up residence, in a physical, as evidenced by Jesus confronting the myriad of demons who had taken possession of people. Adam and Eve had all they needed to know something was amiss and that whatever was in the serpent was not speaking the truth to them.

We do not know why Eve did not counter the lies of the serpent with the truth of God. We know that she did not specifically identify God’s true statement, and that she added to His words. The serpent set her up to fail, gambling that she would fail. She failed almost immediately.