Sermon on Genesis 3:1-11 – “A Listening Problem”

Sermon on Genesis 3:1-11 -

SUNDAY AM SERVICE – 5/05/2024 – Genesis 3:1-11; Matthew 6

Introduction

Certain phrases tend to get my attention, and one of them is, “are you even paying attention to me?” It’s one of those lines that, at least in home life, signal that I at least appear to be focused other than where my attention should be. It reminds me that what I’m being told is important, worthy of my consideration, and should be well heard.

We value good listeners. You’ve probably experienced a conversation where someone wants only to talk at you. It feels like you could put a cardboard cutout of yourself in your place and your conversation partner would continue on as they are. They aren’t listening to you. That experience never feels good. It brings home how listening well is important.

In Genesis 3:1–7, we learn about how humanity has always had a listening problem. In this account of the first sin, Adam and Eve showed that they chose not to listen very well to God. They didn’t even listen to the serpent very well or they would probably have realized that he wanted to deceive them.

As we have seen in Genesis so far, this book is about our communion with God. It describes the blessed beginnings of our communion with God in creation and by his grace. In Genesis 1-2, God created us to have communion with him. Our purpose as the creature made after God’s own likeness is to reflect God’s own character and holiness into the world around us as we live in fellowship with him.

Genesis 3 marks a turning point. Although God made us for communion with him, we broke it. Rather than listen to God, we rebelled against God. When God has promised us infinite good and asked little in return, we traded it all to buy into the serpent’s lie.

This story tells us important details about why the world is the way it is. It also teaches us about the nature of temptation and what we need to do in relation to listening to what God has said. It helps us learn how to be on guard for the wiles of the devil, who would lead us away from truth and away from the good things that God offers to us.

The main point is that God’s Word must remain our trustworthy guide.

  1. Temptation
  2. Trustworthiness
  3. Triumph

Temptation

As Genesis 3 gets going, we find something unusual right at the outside. In everything that has come before, the focus was on God making good things and blessing them. Even the directly preceding event was how he made Eve to be Adam’s wife and commissioned them in marriage. That makes verse 1 a hard, abrupt transition: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”

Not only is the transition a curveball, but what is said is striking. It is unusual for Old Testament narrative to comment about the character in the story. We rarely see the narrator spell out this guy is a good guy, this guy is a bad guy, you should approve of what is happening here, or this should appall you. We have to read well to gather those points as we read.

But here at Genesis 3:1 we’re told that the serpent is the craftiest of the beasts of the field. For the narrative to comment like that signals something wildly important. As much as we’re about to see Adam and Eve fail to be good listeners, this unusual insertion is telling us that we better start listening extra well.

The story doesn’t get better, as the serpent sparks conversation on a hard note. If someone calls you and says, “Who is this?” you know better than to answer. If a stranger stops you on the street and asks an inflammatory question, you ought to know something is up. Here, a serpent starts a conversation with Eve with the opening move of “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 

If someone we don’t even know starts a conversation with by challenging the Bible, we ought to know that we are not in for a reasonable or even-keeled chat. For some reason, however, Eve seems to presume the best and tries to offer a response.

We can find some application already, can’t we? We need to be aware and prepared that challenges are likely to come from any angle. Hence, Jesus said in Matthew 10:16 to be ready to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” It’s hard to imagine that Christ didn’t have this Genesis background in mind. Christians should be ready to think as sharply as our enemy does but while never implementing it for the deceptive goals or to hurt someone else. That’s wise our serpent-level wisdom must be paired with dove-like innocence.

We learn that we must be committed to God’s Word as our trustworthy guide because the devil was ready to take advantage of any chip in the armor. Now, the serpent hit Eve with a direct question: what about that tree command. Why would he approach Eve?

Well, where was Eve when God explained that command to Adam? God hadn’t made Eve yet when, in Genesis 2:15–17, he instructed Adam not to eat from the tree. Before pointing fingers at Eve for adjusting the command, remember that Scripture consistently puts blame on Adam for bringing sin into the world. So, we have to ask at least, did he explain that command sufficiently? Had he taught his family God’s Word that had been entrusted to him?

In verse 6, Adam was “her husband who was with her”.  Adam was with Eve when the serpent confronted her, but he remained silent. He was tasked to keep and protect the garden but abdicated his role by silently watching the serpent tempt his wife and then remaining quiet as Eve misinterpreted the word that he was responsible to pass down to her. Satan saw the weak point and went right after it, which teaches us the need to be so alertly on guard. The temptation attacked God’s word as a trustworthy guide.

Trustworthiness

We should consider what we can learn from the response to the serpent’s temptation. The question was “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” That opening line “Did God actually say?” gives us some insight on temptation as it recurs throughout the ages.

Because in some form or another the same question faces Christians in every generation. In the garden, Adam and Eve knew good and well that God spoke to them. So, Satan’s question then was “Did God really say that?” He questioned the content of God’s word. Today, the temptation seems more like “Did God really say anything?” Both attack the trustworthiness of God’s Word in different ways.

Why was Eve’s response a bad example for how to confront this challenge? If we compare the original command in Genesis 2:15–17 to Eve’s recount of it, we see that she adjusted it: “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.’”

She adjusted what God has said because she thought it would help her resist the serpent. Even supposing that she was well motivated to try to make God’s Word more useful for the situation, her alteration of God’s Word shows that she thought God’s Word needed improvement to be useful. She did not see God’s Word as God gave it as a perfectly trustworthy guide.

Don’t a lot of people today think God’s Word isn’t trustworthy because it could not possibly be adequate as it stands? Churches around the world fill services with exciting ideas to attract more people because God’s Word read and preached couldn’t possibly do the trick to bring and save sinners. We have to get more inventive that ordinary means of grace worship if we are going to see the kingdom of God prosper. It’s one form of doubting that God’s Word is trustworthy.

Eve’s main adjustment was to add the condition “neither shall you touch it.” She set the standard higher than God had. Despite best intentions, by overcorrecting the serpent’s error and “magnifying God’s strictness,” she undermined the trustworthiness of God’s Word. As soon as we paint God as the stingy, demanding dictator, Satan has the open door to tell us that God does not want good things for us.

Doesn’t he do that here? “You won’t die. God just doesn’t want you to be like him.” In other words, “God doesn’t want good things for you.” Adam and Eve should have said, “We already are like God because we are made in his image.” They should have said, “God has told us about the true good things, but you want to ruin us.” Instead, Satan grabbed hold of how they changed God’s Word to tell them that God wasn’t good and didn’t want good for them.

The point for our discipleship is that we are easily tricked into twisting God’s Word to fit our own purposes, but that always ruins us. This danger is more subtle than we might realize. Every time we think that God’s Word, rightly understood, is insufficient to bring about God’s purposes, we have bought Satan’s lies. Every time we doubt that God’s Word, even in its most challenging aspects, aims at anything except good for his people, we bought Satan’s lie.

It’s clear that the serpent’s temptation led Adam and Eve away from what was truly good for them. In Genesis 2:9, Adam and Eve already had every tree that was desirable to the sight and good for food. So, they already had everything that they should want and nothing real to gain from eating from the forbidden tree. When Eve saw that the forbidden tree was a delight to the eyes, it was because she was looking at it through Satan’s spectacles.

Satan made sin look appealing. Eve took account of what seemed to be the case according to her own standards as she assessed the situation. One commentator put it, “Eve’s decision gives priority to pragmatic values, aesthetic appearance, and sensual desires over God’s word.” How many times does it seem more appealing to follow the world’s advice? How many times does it seem like adding just a little bit to Scripture’s meaning might help make our point? How many times is it easier to try to get Scripture to fit our situation than it is to look to Scripture to shape our concerns?  The true path to knowing the blessings God’s has prepared for us is by accepting Scripture’s trustworthiness.

Triumph

We must submit ourselves to God’s Word to hear what good things God has designed for us. God’s Word tells us what is good, helpful, and blessed. When we listen well and don’t reshape Scripture to our desires, we have a perfect guide to know how to follow into blessing. We know that listening to God’s Word will provide the best outcome. How do we know?

As we read in Matthew 4, Christ, the last Adam, faced temptation when the devil confronted him in the wilderness. When Adam was surrounded by garden paradise, Christ was in the dessert. Satan’s temptations probably looked even better without the obvious reminders of good things God had given. Yet, Christ repeatedly quoted Scripture to show that God’s Word, rightly understood, should be our true guard and protection against the devil’s attempts to pull us into sin and ruin.

But Christ was not just our example about how to heed God’s Word. Adam’s failure provides a stark contrast to understand Christ and his merit on our behalf. As Christ resisted the devil in the wilderness, he proved obedient where the first Adam failed. When Adam’s sin brought sin and death to us all, Christ’s obedience brings righteousness and life to all who believe in him. Christ died to provide the forgiveness of sin for all his people. He also lived the perfect life to earn our entry into heaven. Christ’s triumph over Satan was to bring salvation to all who come to him by faith.