Reading Genesis 3
How many of you remember Keith Green, he was a Christian singer back in the 70 – 80’s (he died in 82), He wrote one of the hymns that we sing occasionally – 133 There is a Redeemer. Another song he wrote, not in our hymn book , has these lines in it -
"My job keeps getting easier, as time keeps slipping away.
I can imitate the brightest light, and make the night look just like day.
I put some truth in every lie to tickle itching ears,
You know I'm drawing people just like flies, because they like what they hear.
I'm gaining power by the hour, they're falling by the score.
You know it's getting very simple now, since no one believes in me anymore.
I used to have to sneak around, but now they just open their doors.
You know no one's watching for my tricks, since no one believes in me anymore."
Can you guess who it is speaking about? Satan – “No one believes in me any more”
It’s a title that still speaks of the general opinion of men even today – what picture do you have of Satan? A horned being, with a tail, and with a pitchfork, and he's red or an angel of light who's gone bad? What is the devil? Who is he like? What is he?
Mankind’s first encounter with Satan is recorded for us in Gen.3 When God had finished His work of creation – he declared it to very good (Gen.1:31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.). Shortly after this Satan in the guise of a serpent comes on the scene with the intent of ruining all that God had done. Satan hates everything that God has made and desires to make it bad.
And what’s the best way to make it bad? Not by turning the animals, not by turning the ecosystem, nor on the galaxies – no, by bringing down the crown of God’s creation – MAN. Man for whom all these other things had been made, man who was made to fellowship with God – upon man the schemes of Satan succeeded or failed.
And that is how things are today – the schemes of Satan succeed or fail in men. Today men and woman are either a success story for Satan or they are a failure.
I John 3:8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. The KJV translates it better - He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. - that word for committeth is a word that means the habitual committer of sin. It is not talking about committing an individual sin, but someone whose lifestyle is marked by a drift away from God and a rebellion against God. Sin is a rebellion against God.
Who is the serpent?
3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. The little word ‘now’ joins ch.3 with ch.2. and so as it introduces the serpent to us it tells us that here is one of the creatures God has made and also that it is one of the creatures that God has called good. This serpent would also have been one of the creatures that Adam named – Gen.2:19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.
The word ‘serpent’ doesn’t bring nice relaxing thoughts to my mind – snakes make me very uncomfortable– some people find them attractive but I’m not one of them – and if one came towards me, well I would be off in the opposite direction!
Eve didn’t have and concerns at all about the serpent that came to her, she had no sense of danger, no experience of harm and this was the garden of Eden - remember what God said in Gen.1 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. The serpent was included in this. When Adam and Eve saw the serpent they saw a creature of splendour - a creature with finely detailed, intricate colourful skin and scales. It was one of God's, perhaps, most beautiful and delicate creatures. Not something to run from, not something to make you nervous – but a beautiful creature.
What was different about this serpent was that it spoke to Eve, something the animals didn’t do – This serpent was not as it should have been, and this strangeness is made even more apparent by what it says – it reasons, it debates on the words of God – there was more to this Serpent than meets the eye.
To understand what that ‘more’ was we need to move into the rest of scripture and when we do we see that the serpent was a tool in the hand of a superior being – Lucifer, the son of the morning, a fallen angel - Is.14:12-15 How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! 13 For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' 15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.
The immediate context of this passage is that of a prophetic warning to the ‘wicked King of Babylon’ but Isaiah seems to go beyond denouncing this pagan king and speak to the evil influence that was directing his actions, to Lucifer, son of the morning, to his being cast into the dust. If you read the charges raised in this passage you find also that here is an ambition that no earthly king could aspire to - I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.
Likewise in Ezekiel 28:12-19 "Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created. 14 "You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. 15 You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you. 16 "By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones. 17 "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you. 18 "You defiled your sanctuaries By the multitude of your iniquities, By the iniquity of your trading; Therefore I brought fire from your midst; It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you. 19 All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror, And shall be no more forever." ' "
The context here is a warning against the King of Tyre – again the words point beyond the King of Tyre to that evil influence – v14 says You were the anointed cherub who covers, - covers what? The very throne of God! Here, referred to, the highest being in all of God’s creation
There is a tragedy here that is hidden from us – that such a creature should fall into ruin – Ez.28:17 Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour – what was this corruption of his wisdom that led to his downfall? Is.14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. - he wanted to be greater than God, he wanted to ascend above God, he wanted to be like God, and immediately he did that God said 'Get out' and cast him out of heaven - and he became a fallen spiritual being.
Who is this Serpent? The fullest answer is given in Rev.12:9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. So the serpent in the garden is the devil (which means slanderer), and Satan (which means accuser), and the deceiver of the whole world. Jesus calls him “the evil one” (Matt.13:19) and “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The Pharisees call him “Beelzebul, the prince of demons” (Matt.12:24). Paul calls him “the god of this age” (2 Cor.4:4) and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph.2:2).
This is the one we meet in Gen.3. He is already evil, already a deceiver, already a murderer when he appears in the garden of God.
Where did Satan come from?
Between the perfection described in Genesis 1:31 (“behold, it was very good”) and the appearance of evil in Gen.3, something happened. The good creation was corrupted. The little book of Jude and 2 Peter give us clues as to what happened.
Jude 1:6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;
2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgement;
From these verses it would appear that some of the host of heaven sinned. or as Jude 1:6 says, “did not stay within their own position of authority.” In other words, the sin was a kind of insurrection. A desire for more power and more authority than they were appointed by God and under God. So Satan originates as a created angel who, with other angels, rebel against God, reject him as their all king and joy, and set out on a course of self-exaltation and presumed self-determination. They do not want to be subordinate. They do not want to be sent by God to serve others (Hebs.1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation?). They want to have authority over themselves and exalt themselves above God.
How could this happen?
I don’t have an answer to present to you, the bible is silent on the subject and the best answer I can give is simply to say that it did happen. I cannot fathom why a creature made for the service of God by God should turn to rebellion, but I do know that God is sovereign, eternal, from everlasting to everlasting whilst Satan is a creature who existence is fully dependent on God – the bible tells. It presents God as having the right and the power to restrain Satan anytime he pleases?
Though Satan is called “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), Daniel 4:17 says, the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He will, and sets up over it the lowest of men. And Psalm 33:10 says, The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He breaks the plots of the people. Yes, Satan is the “ruler of this world” but the ultimate one—God—holds final sway.
The Lord Jesus Christ has all authority over Satan and his angels Mark 1:27 He even commands the unclean spirits with authority, and they obey Him
Satan is a roaring lion, prowling and seeking to devour. Peter says, Be sensible and vigilant, because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone he may devour; 9 whom firmly resist in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions in the world are being completed in your brotherhood. (1 Peter 5:8-9). In other words, “suffering” is the way Satan is trying to devour the saints. But Peter says in 1 Peter 3:17, “It is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” If God should will it so. This suffering, these jaws of the prowling lion, are opened and closed only according to God’s will.
Satan is a murderer from the beginning, Jesus said (John 8:44). But has he taken the gift of life out of the hand of the Giver? No. Deut.32:39 says, Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand. It is as James says in 4:15 If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that. Not if Satan wills, we will live and do this or that. When Satan wanted to move against Job he had to have God’s approval! Job 1:12.
Satan is the great tempter. He wants us to sin. Luke tells us that Satan was behind Peter’s three denials. He tempted him to deny Jesus. But could he do that without God’s permission? Listen to what Jesus says to Simon Peter in Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Satan could not do what he wished with Peter without God’s permission. And when he had it, just like with Job, God had set him a boundary: “You will not destroy Peter. You will only make him stumble tonight.” Which is why Jesus says, “When you have turned again [not if you turn] strengthen your brothers.” Jesus, not Satan, has the upper hand here. And Satan is allowed to go so far and no farther.
Paul says in 2 Cor.4:4 that the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers. But is this power to blind people an ultimate power? Can God overcome it and resist and nullify it? Yes, he can. Two verses later Paul says, For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. In other words, the blinding effect of Satan gives way to God’s light when he says, “Let there be light.”
God Governs Satan’s Every Move - God permitted Satan’s fall, not because he was helpless to stop it, but because he had a purpose for it. Since God is never taken off guard, his permissions are always purposeful. If he chooses to permit something, he does so for a reason—an infinitely wise reason. How the sin arises in Satan’s heart, we do not know. God has not told us. What we do know is that God is sovereign over Satan, and therefore Satan’s will does not move without God’s permission. And therefore every move of Satan is part of God’s overall purpose and plan. And this is true in such a way that God never sins. God is infinitely holy, and God is infinitely mighty. Satan is evil, and Satan is under the all-governing wisdom of God.
How to Relate to Evil
How should we relate to evil? The evil that is daily before our eyes on the TV, or the evil you confront in your own lives?
1. Expect evil. Beloved, do not be astonished at the fiery trial which is to try you, as though a strange thing happened to you, (1 Peter 4:12).
2. Endure evil. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake, but he enduring to the end, that one will be kept safe. (1 Corinthians 13:7; cf. Mark 13:13).
3. Give thanks for the refining effect of evil that comes against you. “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Romans 5:3-5).
4. Hate evil. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9).
5. Pray for escape from evil. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).
6. Expose evil. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).
7. Overcome evil with good. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
8. Resist evil. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Never despair that this evil world is out of God’s control. “[He] works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).
Never give in to the sense that because of random evil life is absurd and meaningless. “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! . . . For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:33, 36).
Never yield to the thought that God sins, or is ever unjust or unrighteous in the way he governs the universe. “The Lord is righteous in all his ways.” (Psalm 145:17).
Never doubt that God is totally for you in Christ. If you trust him with your life, you are in Christ. Never doubt that all the evil that befalls you—even if it takes your life—is God’s loving, purifying, saving, fatherly discipline. It is not an expression of his punishment in wrath. That fell on Jesus Christ our substitute. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6).