A second question that is worth discussing in relation to Genesis 3 is, "When did Satan fall?"
Jesus said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:18). But the question still remains when did this happen?
Many sincere Christians answer this by suggesting that Satan fell at some point long before the time that Genesis 3 speaks of. In this view, Satan's fall happened independently of, and a long time prior to, the events of Genesis 3.
I wonder, though, if this really can be correct. This is because, at the end of Genesis 1, "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1:31). When God said this man had already been created and so it seems unlikely that Satan could have fallen before man's creation. Otherwise, God's definition of 'very good' seems unusual.
On top of this, Eden is described as being a beautiful garden planted by the Lord himself (Genesis 2:8). The idea is that Adam and Eve are given the most perfect place to live. It seems odd to imagine that within this paradise God had allowed a really evil being to remain.
Instead, I think it is better to believe that Satan's decision to tempt Eve was his fall. Of course, he did fall slightly before Adam and Eve because Genesis 3 shows that his intent in initiating the conversation with Eve was evil. But his fall was not an event independent of and many years prior to Genesis 3. Rather his temptation of Eve was his fall.
This also explains why the Bible contains no record of a fall outside of Genesis 3. Scripture elsewhere does mention Satan's fall but only as a fact of it having happened. Outside of Genesis it never says what happened. Thus Luke 10:18 (quoted above), Ezekiel 28:12-18, Isaiah 14:12-14, and Revelation 12:2-3 do mention Satan's fall, but they do not say what happened only that it did happen.
And so Genesis 3 remains the only record in Scripture of how evil entered into God's creation. Satan fell by tempting the human race to evil and bringing death into the world. As a result God banished him from heaven. Humanity fell by heeding the voice of Satan and rebelling against God.
But praise be to God that, at Christmas time, we celebrate that his light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it! Amen.
During a service recently we looked at Genesis 3. There really is so much in this chapter that we didn't have time to cover it all fully. In a series of blog posts I thought I'd try to go into a little more depth.
The first question we'll try to answer is, "Who is the Serpent"? In classic images of this important story, Eve is being tempted at the site of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by what is clearly a snake.
But ought we to think that this character is a snake? Personally, I don't think so. Instead I think we should understand that this tempter is Satan himself and that 'the Serpent' is one of his titles or names. Certainly Revelation 12:9, 15; 20:2 name him this way.
This means that it is not a snake who speaks to Eve in the garden but Satan himself. As Adam and Eve are in Eden - the garden from which they are banished to the Earth - we shouldn't be surprised that they were able to speak to 'heavenly' beings.
I believe this understanding makes the most sense of many of the details of the text itself as well as the Bible overall. It explains why the Serpent could speak to Eve (snakes, as we know, don't speak). It explains why the serpent's 'craftiness' is highlighted to us in verse 1. Snakes are not more crafty than other animals as Genesis 3:1 states, and they don't tempt us to evil - but Satan certainly does. It explains the important verse 15 which is the first prophecy of the Lord Jesus coming into the world. He came not to crush snakes but to destroy the work of the Devil, or Satan (Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 3:8). And it explains why Scripture always suggests that Satan is the chief opponent and tempter of mankind. Snakes are nowhere mentioned in this manner.
And so who is this Serpent? Well passages that are worth studying on this theme include Isaiah 14:12-19 and Ezekiel 28:12-19. Both passages discuss different kings of the nations but in language that seems to be addressed to the spiritual king of these nations - Satan. Read in this way we learn that Satan was originally created good - even being described as a guardian cherub (Ezekiel 28:14, 16). But self-centred pride and vanity led him to turn to wickedness including, as Jesus puts it, lies and murder (John 8:44). For more on Satan's pride see also 1 Tim 3:6.
This means that when God declared the world to be 'very good' in Genesis 1:31, at that time it was. Even Satan himself was included under this declaration. He was part of the very good creation until he fell through his vanity and pride and his decision to kill the human race through temptation.
"I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground" (Isaiah 44:3)
This theme is far from random as if the dry place just happens to be the arena of God's amazing dealings with his people. Instead, the desert is the chosen arena so that the Living God can make it clear that he is at work. Not an idol. Not humanity. But him.
"I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it." (Isaiah 41:19-20).
It is so easy to attribute blessings to the wrong thing. Commonly it is ourselves to whom we give the credit. "I'm a self made (wo)man" we might say. Or we think some other person has got us out of trouble. Or worse, we attribute blessings to some false god of our own making.
The Lord knows this inclination and danger lurking in all our hearts and so, often times, he chooses the desert to do his most profound work. For when all is lost. When we are genuinely at the end of our tether. When there is no hope left. Then we are in a position to acknowledge that the Living God himself has done this because no one else could have.
It is a difficult truth to learn and appreciate but often the 'desert' parts of our lives - those times and seasons and things we most struggle with and want to change - can actually be the most fruitful seasons of spiritual growth for us if we walk through them with the Lord. For when he changes the desert into a pool, the parched land into a fountain, the thirsty land into a spring, then we give him the glory and respond in thankfulness and trust.
May the Lord give us grace to trust him to bring us through the barren place into the springs of living water. Amen.