Kids, have you ever been caught with your hand in the cookie jar? I’m sure you know the feeling: you got your taste of sweet cookie, but then your mother comes back into the room. She is sure that you have done something wrong, since there hasn’t been a peep out of you for at least five minutes. You try to make excuses, don’t you? “But Mom, I was hungry, and the cookie jar was calling for me! But Mom, this cookie forced me to eat it! But Mom, it wasn’t me, it was my brother that dared me to do it. But Mom, it wasn’t me, it was my friend whom you invited over to play with me!” That last excuse sounds a lot like the excuse that Adam is about to make, doesn’t it? The real issue here is that we ate out of the cookie jar when we weren’t supposed to. We had been given a clear command from God that we should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and we disobeyed. Let’s not call it by anything else, lest we fall prey to making the same kinds of excuses that Adam and Eve made. Sin is sin, and it is sinful. Sin makes us guilty before a holy God. That is the plain teaching of this passage. There is grace at the end. However, let us not get there too quickly. What happened?
We will remember that Satan bewitched Eve into twisting God’s word by adding to God’s command, softening the punishment, and belittling God’s provision. Then we saw that Satan lied outright to Eve by saying that they would not surely die, when God had said that they would surely die. Satan said that they would become like God in knowing good and evil, when the truth was that they already knew good from evil. We saw the tragic consequences of Adam refusing to step in to defend the garden from the intruder. We saw the tragic consequences of Eve subverting her husband’s authority. We saw the Fall into sin. We saw that they made a pathetic attempt to cover themselves with fig leaves.
Now this week, we see what happens when God comes back into the room. This eighth verse is mistranslated in almost all translations. Most translations give you the impression that Adam and Eve heard the soft rustle of God’s “feet” as He took a stroll in the cool of the day, which is supposedly at evening. That is not what the text is saying. I believe that the “sound” of the Lord is the sound of judgment, and that the phrase “cool of the day” would be better translated as “Spirit of the Day,” as referring to the Holy Spirit on judgment day. We are not to think of God as being ignorant of what has happened, and calling to Adam as if He did not know where Adam was. This question is as if God had said, “It is time for judgment. Come forth!” God comes like a storm. No wonder Adam and Eve were afraid! No wonder they sought to hide themselves among the trees of the garden.
Ironically, the place they chose was the middle of the garden, the very same place where they had fallen into sin!
What is happening here is a covenant lawsuit. God had made an agreement with Adam: if Adam obeyed God, then eternal life in a glorified body would await him. If he disobeyed, then death would overtake him. This is a covenant, and it is called the covenant of works. The basis for Adam’s destination is his works, whether good or evil. Since Adam broke the covenant, God brought a lawsuit against Adam in the garden for breaking the covenant. Adam pleads not guilty. Actually he avoids confessing his sin. He only refers to the last event in the sequence of the Fall. That last event was the realization of being naked. Adam pleads that he was naked, and that therefore he was afraid to be seen by his covenant Lord. So he hid. But even in confessing that he was naked, Adam showed his guilt. He was not ashamed of his nakedness before the Fall. That is why God asks him, “Who told you?” Then God asks the next logical question, “Have you eaten of the tree?” The connection between the two questions is that the Lord knows that Satan is around, and must therefore have tempted Adam and Eve to eat.
What comes next is oh so typical of us, isn’t it? We pass the buck. Adam does a particularly thorough job of passing the buck this time. He blames Eve and God. He blames Eve because she is the one who first partook of the fruit, and is the one who gave it to him. Notice that Adam talks about his extenuating circumstances first, before he gets to the end and says, “Yes, okay, I ate.” First he blames the woman, then he blames God. He says that if God hadn’t put this creature here to be with him, and therefore tempting him with her, then he would not have fallen. Of course, it was Adam’s responsibility to guard the garden from the intruders. But Adam is saying that it is God’s fault. He is saying that God is the one tempting him. We see this elsewhere in Scripture, don’t we? James says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ’I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” So what Adam says here is completely out of court. Notice that God refuses Adam’s plea of not guilty. Just because God moves on to question the woman does not mean that He has let Adam off the hook. He merely stops with Adam’s confession, and goes on to Eve. After all, Adam did in fact confess that he had eaten.
So when God questions Eve, the same thing happens. God’s question has something of the incredulous in it, as it were, “How could you have done something like this?” What is her response? She passes the buck off to Satan.
However, she does not blame God directly like Adam does. She admits to being deceived. Her confession being now laid on the table, God proceeds to judge the serpent. Notice that God does not even question the serpent. He goes straight to judgment. Satan thought to elevate himself beyond God’s throne. Instead he was cursed beyond all livestock. It is evident here that we are talking about more than a simple snake. God is cursing Satan. The snake was merely the instrument that Satan used to insinuate himself into Eve’s favor. Satan thought to make a new covenant with Adam and Eve. Satan thought to raise himself up. Instead he is crushed into the ground. Satan thought to be in close relationship with Adam and Eve. Instead, there will be enmity between them all their days. Here we see God bringing down the arrogant, but lifting up the humble.
What would have been just at this point would be for God to completely destroy these unfaithful covenant-breakers. God could have wiped them out then and there. Instead, He promised them salvation, even through being cursed because of their fall, and coming under the punishment of death. In the midst of a curse, we have this promise, that instead of friendship with Satan, we have enmity with Him, thus allowing us the possibility of friendship with God again. Instead of being annihilated, we will continue to live physically.
This raises an interesting question: if Adam and Eve lived physically after the Fall, then did God lie when He said, “in the day you eat of it you will surely die”? The answer is no, God did not lie. Adam and Eve died spiritually, and were put under sentence of physical death. So they did die that day. However, God made them alive again. God’s purposes were not to be thwarted by a lowly serpent. God would show the world that the ultimate judgment would come on the snake, on Satan, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, who was the seed of the woman. God did not tell Satan which seed of the woman it would be that would crush his head. Notice here that the NIV mistranslates the word, which is the same in both instances (strike or bruise). So Satan had to live in perpetual suspense about every single child that came into the world. “Was that the seed?” Satan would have to ask. Satan has always tried to destroy the children of mankind in an effort to destroy the seed of the woman. Now that Christ has come, Satan tries to do this to the church. We see this in Revelation, when the dragon tries to swallow up the woman. The seed of the woman there is the church. Then, when the earth swallows up the river of water that the dragon throws after her in a sort of reverse Flood, Satan goes off to make war on the rest of the descendents of the woman. Jesus Christ is the one who has finally crushed Satan’s head, though His heel was wounded in the process. But Satan’s was ultimately the more final. Jesus had power over sin and death, whereas Satan does not. Jesus has conquered! We celebrated this last week on Easter.
To the woman God gives a punishment. However, the punishment has a silver lining. In what defines a woman, namely, her capability of being a mother, and her capability of being a wife, she will be cursed. There is a great example of the pain in child-bearing in my sister-in-law Annie. She has eight children. When one of them was being born, the pain got so great that Annie just kept repeating, “Why did she do it?” Paul, however, gives women hope who are going through this. He says that women will be saved through the child-birth. This is in 1 Timothy 2. By the very means of the curse of pain, God will bring about salvation. This is because by the pain of child-birth, a woman brings into the world another enemy of Satan. In the fullness of time, Mary brought forth the ultimate enemy of Satan.
When the text says, “your desire,” it is not entirely clear what is meant. I think it means that a woman’s desire will be to rule over her husband, but the husband will have dominion over her. Now, Adam was still head of the household before the Fall. However, after the Fall that relationship would be twisted. Instead of a harmonious relationship, the relationship would be bitter and contentious. The problem of divorce in our day ought to be proof enough that this text is true.
Adam was cursed in what defined him: his relationship to the earth. Notice that Adam sinned because of eating. Therefore he will be punished in the area of eating. Instead of being easy to anywhere in the garden and freely pick out what he wanted to eat, Adam would have to work hard to eat. Instead of the ground bearing fruit easily, the ground would bear thorns and thistles, until finally Adam would return to the ground he was working. Instead of ruling over the ground, the ground resists him, and eventually swallows him. Instead of ruling over the beasts effortlessly, Adam would be stepped on by the beasts when he turned back into dust. However, grace was here, too. God did say that Adam would not starve. Adam would eat. Yes, he would have to work for it, but he would not starve. This prefigures the Sacrament of Communion, in a way. We eat of the body and drink of the blood of Jesus Christ, and it brings grace to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Notice that Adam is not cursed per se, but the ground is cursed on his account.
Jesus Christ shines throughout this passage. We must see that Jesus took on Himself the punishment of Adam and Eve. In Jesus Christ the woman is redeemed from the pain o child-bearing. Even though we still live in an age when women have pain in child-bearing, we know that that pain has a redemptive purpose. We know that Jesus Christ came from just such a pain endured by Mary. In Jesus Christ the relationship between man and wife can become harmonious again. We know that Jesus Christ said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father.” We know that Jesus was himself the bread of life. We know that Jesus sweated drops of blood in Gethsemane. We know that Jesus Christ suffered the pain of death for us, and that He conquered that pain when we could not. Christ leads the way out of the punishment inflicted on Adam and Eve. Now there is a new humanity. The seed of Satan is now those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, and the seed of the woman are all those who do believe in Jesus Christ. Which seed are you?
If you are the seed of the serpent, then know this day that God can change you. You can morph into the seed of the woman. It takes an act of the Holy Spirit. All you need do is believe that Jesus Christ died for you. He took on your punishment that you might come back into relationship with God. Which seed are you?
If you are of the seed of the woman, then know that temptation always comes like this. It looks so attractive. The serpent must have been a beautiful creature before the Fall, such that Eve was tempted to believe it more than in the word of God. That temptation looks as cool and refreshing as lemonade in the summertime. That temptation looks as attractive as a million dollars. Know that there is always a way of escape. God does not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. He will always provide a way of escape. But you cannot do it alone. We as pioneers like to try to avoid temptation on our own. But iron needs to sharpen iron. We need each other. We need the fellowship of the body in order to avoid temptation. Pray for one another. Hold one another accountable. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and help in time of need. Know that Jesus Christ is even now interceding for you in heaven.
If you have sinned, then do not pass the buck. Do not blame your circumstances. Do not blame your spouse. Do not blame God. If you sinned, then you, and you alone are responsible for that sin. Satan is always going to be at your elbow providing temptation. Here is a secret, though: Satan cannot force you to sin. He does not have that power. Oh, he wants you to think that he has that power, but he does not. You only sin when your sinful nature decides to sin. So don’t. Don’t sin. “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Don’t you think for one moment that that bad sinful habit of yours can’t be broken. Yes, it can be broken. God has grace for you. I don’t care if you have been doing it for years, decades even. There is hope. God can bruise the head of that temptation just as surely as Jesus Christ bruised the head of Satan. Jesus did that so that we, who were stricken into the dust, and under sentence of death, being dead already in spirit, could be raised up with Christ, and be seated with him in the heavenly realms. No longer will we eat the dust. Satan will, but we won’t. So instead of having our hand in the cookie jar, there will be no temptation to sin in the new world. There will be cookies in the new world, I am confident. But there will be no cookie jars that are off-limits. Sin will be no more.