Friday, February 8, 2013

Lessons from Genesis

In January I had the good fortune to read daily from the book of Genesis.  Scripture Union ( produces a daily devotional, Encounter with God, that I have used for years.  The readings began 2013, well, in the beginning, and continued for 31 days up to the death of Sarah, Abraham's wife, at the age of 127 years in Hebron.

The stories were familiar:  the creation of the earth, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the tower of Babel, but there was a freshness in them.  This happens often while reading the Bible; the old, old stories open up in a new way to teach the very lesson that the reader needs to hear.

It happened this way again as I read about the "fall of man".  Moses, the presumed author of Genesis, tells us that Adam and Eve were pleasantly strolling in the Garden of Eden when they encountered Satan disguised as a serpent.  Yes, in chapter 3, verse 6, we find that Adam was with Eve when this all went down.  Things so far had been pretty good, but Satan could not stand that God's creation was functioning well.

Before Satan could really begin to work on Adam and Eve, he had to soften up their hearts and make them fertile ground for the temptations he had in mind.  He introduced the most subtle of doubt into Eve's mind.  "Now, did God really tell you not to eat from any tree in the Garden?"

Eve then had to clarify exactly what God had said.  Eve could eat fruit from any tree in the Garden, just not from the tree in the middle of the Garden.  If she touched that tree, she would surely die.  "Oh, fiddle faddle," said Satan.  "You will not die.  God just doesn't want to share the knowledge of good and evil with you."

Does this sound familiar?  The Bible is a myth.  The existence of God can't be proven through science.  There is no life after death.  If God loves us, he won't send us to Hell.  Jesus wasn't really dead after he was crucified and that is how he was seen alive afterwards.  An embryo is not a person.  I can go on and on, because Satan is very good at getting that little doubt into the mind, just enough to mix up the thinking process.  Then he laughs.

Once Satan had Eve defending her beliefs and wondering if her memory was actually correct about what God had told her and Adam, he went in for the kill.  "That fruit on the tree you think God told you not to touch?  Take a good look at it," he said.  "It's good to eat, nourishing and tasty.  It makes a beautiful presentation on the plate--pleasing to the eye.  It will give you wisdom; who doesn't want to be wise?  It's a good thing!"  First the doubt, then the convincing argument that sin is good.

And the thing is, everything that Satan said about the fruit was true.  It was nourishing, beautiful, and instilled wisdom.  But to eat the fruit was against the will of God.  And therein lies the problem.  Life is full of wonderful gifts from God.  Daily messages fly around us about all the good things we can have in our modern lives that were prohibited in less enlightened times.  They're good things:  pretty, attractive, fulfilling, fair.  But they are against the will of God.  Satan lies.

Time passes in Genesis.  We find Abraham with the apple of his eye, his son, Isaac.  Young, naive, innocent Isaac.  Abraham follows God's command to travel to Moriah to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, but he doesn't tell Isaac or his two servants what the sacrifice will be.  Although Abraham's heart must have been as heavy as a steamer trunk full of bricks, he followed God's instructions and tied up his precious son and lay him on a pile of wood, ready to kill him with a knife.  God intervened at the last moment to provide a substitute offering, a ram that would be offered in place of Isaac to atone for sin.

And so it is with us.  In fairness, we should pay the price of our sins; we should be the offering on the pile of wood.  But God provided a substitute offering in our place:  Jesus.  I imagine that Isaac worshiped that day with a renewed sense of awe, love, and appreciation for the sacrifice of the ram that God sent.

These are lessons I learned in Genesis.  Satan lies and will make us doubt the love of God.  Anything that is outside the will of God, no matter how good it seems, is sin.  God substituted Jesus as the sacrifice that we should have paid, but couldn't.

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."  Romans 3:22-24