I am up a sycamore
Looking through the leaves
A sinner of some position…
Joni Mitchell, The Passion Play
"You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
The Lord God, Gen. 3:16 – 17
Adam and Eve, Carlos Botero
Adam knew better. Some scholars have suggested he was by Eve’s side by the tree while the whole transaction with the devil-in-a-snake came down. He listened to her dialogue with the serpent; he watched her reach for the fruit. He saw the juice run down her forearm. He accepted her offer to take a bite. HE WAS PASSIVE. He chose silence. By eating, he chose himself over God.
Eve knew better. She said as much to the talking snake when offered fruit from the forbidden tree and even added to the original command: “I can’t even touch the fruit of this tree” just for an extra measure of precaution. SHE BELIEVED A LIE. From the devil, no less, of course he fathers lies. She chose the deception. By eating, she chose herself over God.
The serpent uttered his first words. What were they? A question for Eve to cause her to doubt God. HE QUESTIONED GOD, despising His authority. He killed, he stole, he destroyed.
This is the anatomy of the fall.
I’ve taught this story many times. It isn’t uncommon to hear someone say, “I would NOT have done that… I wouldn’t have listened to the snake and eaten from the tree.” I used to think the same way.
But at the core of this act of disobedience lies the true problem you and I share. We choose ourselves over God. That is at the root of our sinful choices and thoughts and passivity.
I used to wonder why God would make humankind with the potential to sin. In other words, by instilling free will in man, he could conceivably disobey Him and eat from the forbidden tree. A yellow rose cannot choose a new color on a whim. It will just stay beautifully yellow, thank you very much. So why make such a creature? I finally came to understand that it was for love.
The potential to sin has a flip side, and that is the potential for adoration and love, freely given. To make it impossible for man to choose himself thereby preventing personal rejection is prescribed love and God would have none of that. He wanted His creation to choose to love, believe, honor and obey Him.
Death did come to Adam and Eve. Three ways. Physically, spiritually and eternally.
Their bodies died, granted not right away. They lived over 900 years! They populated the earth, toiled and labored for their food, and watched the decay of their bodies as we do now. Their bodies returned to the dust.
They died spiritually – separated from God. They were removed from their home. Ohhh. I grieves me to write it. Can you imagine this? This was an act of mercy as much as an act of discipline. Adam and Eve were being protected from themselves! Had they eaten from the tree of life, might they have tasted immortality in their fallen states?
Adam and Eve’s death was eternal. They were not “grounded” from their bodies for a month. Their bodies returned to the dust. Their separation was eternal, save the work of the Redeemer Jesus in whom every person of faith finds their salvation – all those who lived before Christ, their faith was credited as righteousness. Verily, (did I really use that word?) the hint of their ONLY hope came in Gen. 3:15 and 21 where the only VICTOR over death was foretold.
When Isi was just 5 years old, 9-11 happened. It was her very first day of kindergarten. We were in devotions when a cryptic prayer request was issued by the headmaster that something awful had happened. We all know this devastating story.
So many blamed God. How could a loving God let this happen? Where was He? And so on and so forth.
As I unpacked this life-shaping and life-changing event with Isi in the days to come, I told her that those terrorists crashed into the towers because Adam ate the apple. We don’t need to blame God. We blame Adam!
It is a mystery, but sin and death and brokenness entered mankind because of the sin of Adam and Eve, which was to choose themselves. Those airplane bombers chose themselves over God, over love, over peace.
I opened this post with the lyric from one of my all-time favorite songs by Joni Mitchell. She references Zaccheus, a tax collector who was vertically challenged, they say. He climbed up a tree to see Jesus going by through a thick crowd.
Oh, climb down, climb down he says to me
From the middle of unrest
They think his light is squandered
But he sees a stray in the wilderness
And I see how far I’ve wandered.
We have wandered so far from, “oh, you are VERY good… I don’t want you to be alone, it’s not good for you… here is your soul mate made from your flesh…work and name, tend, organize, innovate together… with freedom and creativity… have lots of babies… taste everything… you won’t ever get bored there is so much variety… I’m in the garden with you…”
I’m really tempted right now to make you feel better about this whole mess. But, God Himself waited 4000 years from the mess in the garden to fulfill the prophecy in Gen. 3 where Jesus was promised to come and crush death. So I’ll wait for a few posts as we look soberly at why after so illustrious a start as humans, we have all found ourselves sinners of some position.