The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “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.”
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”
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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
Today is a very good day. For we have this opportunity to look at the first few chapters in the Bible. These are among the richest chapters in the Bible. Today we’ll only scratch the surface of these riches.
These chapters, this message, when we understand it, gives us a lens through which we can clearly see what is wrong with this world and what is wrong with us. It truly makes us wise. Let’s gain some wisdom.
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “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.”
First thing that we can see in these verses is the abundance of God’s generosity. He gave to Adam this wonderful freedom. ‘Everything is yours. You may enjoy all my gifts, all of them’.
And He gave to Adam this wonderful wisdom. Adam understood how God’s creation functions, as we can see from him naming all living beings, and from summarizing so well what marriage is.
It was like God saying ‘you may live in this state of abundance and blessedness forever, free to enjoy my gifts, free from any worries and concerns, free to live the life for which you are created; as long, as you trust me and listen to me.
Everything is yours. That’s my gift to you. Enjoy your freedom. Enjoy your wisdom. But if you turn away from me, if you reject me, you surely will die. For I am the source of life. If you are separated from me, you will die, for you don’t have life in you, you receive if from me’. This is how good it was according God’s design.
Now, a little comment about good and evil. We usually think about them as moral categories. Not so in these chapters. These words have different meaning. We could rephrase and say that good is something that functions properly.
Something that functions according God’s design, according to His will, to His Word. Evil, on the other hand, is something that doesn’t function properly, something that is against God’s Word, against God’ very good design.
To know good would be to know God’s order of creation and to live accordingly in God’s presence. Evil would be to go against this good order, then the goodness of God’s creation would be broken, and death would come in the world to stop further destruction.
Now, let’s see what happened. What did the serpent do? He knew that Adam and Eve lived from the Word of God, listening and obeying Him. The Word of God was their source of life, and wisdom and freedom.
That’s why the serpent attacked God’s Word. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” This is the most devilish of questions. Do you see what the serpent did?
He twisted what God had said and changed God’s gift into some sort of unfair restriction and prohibition. Loving Creator said ‘be with me, listen to me and enjoy freely all these gifts forever’.
The serpent changed it to ‘did He really forced you to stay with Him and prohibited to eat what you want?’ Think about this and you will understand how the devil fights, how exactly he deceives people. It is so simple, once God’s Word explains it to us, and then we can resist these deceptions.
The devil takes wonderful gifts of God and presents them as oppressive prohibitions. And then offers to set us free by disobeying our loving Creator and Redeemer. Let’s see some examples.
Loving Father gives us the gift of Himself ‘I will be your God, and will provide for you’, the devil turns it into ‘He is robbing you of your choice, you should go and find a god that suits your taste.’ And many are deceived.
Loving Father says ‘I give you my name so that you can know me and call upon me in days good and days bad’. The devil takes it and turns into ‘this is so narrow, He is just restricting your options, feel free to search for your god whichever way you want’. And many are deceived.
Loving Father says ‘I will come to be with you and to bless you on the holy day, come and receive my blessings’, the devil turns it into ‘He just wants to take away your time, you should be free to decide when and where you will meet your god.’ And so many are deceived.
We could continue these examples with all Commandments seeing how the devil destroys and twists God’s gifts of peace and order, of life, of marriage and sexual intimacy, of possessions and so on.
Entire Western society suffers today terribly, because they have listened to this voice ‘did God really say’. We see this society which can’t receive God’s blessings for they have rejected the gift of the office of parents. And result is… Growing numbers of selfish individuals who care only about themselves.
We see this society where the gift of life is rejected in favor of our rights to kill those whose can cause us inconveniences. And result is… we should be allowed to kill the unborn and the sick and the elderly.
We see this society where the gifts of marriage and sex have been distorted and mocked. Where premarital sex, cohabitation, different sexual perversions are celebrated. And result is… people’s lives, souls and all hopes to true joy, trust, faithfulness and happiness are treaded into mud.
We see this society where the gift of possessions is made into a god that defines who we are and how valuable we are, and so on. I am sure we could come up with different others examples from our and our church’s life.
Once you understand how the devil works, it helps to understand why the world thinks that Christianity is about restrictions and prohibitions, and foolishness; because this is how the devil has presented the most precious gifts of God.
And don’t make a mistake thinking that we are not a part of this problem. We are. The Church in the West has accepted too many of these things as normal. We have rejected the Word of God. We have been weak, and scared, we haven’t spoken the truth. And we believed that nothing will change…
But now we worry, – where are our next generations? By doubting God’s Word and wisdom we, and the blame mostly goes to us, pastors, we have let the next generations down. Now we all are paying the price. A very high price.
Let’s get back to the text. “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” See what is happening?
Here the serpent attacks the loving Creator. He portrays Him as some kind of evil despot who wants to restrict our freedom, our potential. ‘God just doesn’t want you to have all the good things that you could have. But don’t worry, you can be like gods themselves’.
Did you notice how ‘being like gods’ was defined in these verses? Being like gods is to have true wisdom, and to be able to know good from evil, that is, to know what functions and what doesn’t according to God’s design.
In other words, God is the Creator, and He has established His order how things are to function, and to know this good order is true wisdom. What the serpent was saying was that people will be able to define themselves what works and what doesn’t. That we will become our own creators. He lied, and his lies robed us of God’s blessings. And many have believed his lies. Today more than ever.
Remember, true wisdom is to know God’s good order of creation. To know God’s will. And we can know it only from God Himself, when He speaks to us and we listen to His Word. God’s Word is the source of true wisdom.
The way the devil works is quite simple, once we understand it. He twists things. He presents God’s gifts as oppressive restrictions. He presents wisdom as foolishness and foolishness as wisdom. He presents freedom as slavery and slavery as freedom.
True freedom is when we desire to live the life for which we are created. Trusting our God, and loving our neighbors. We lost this freedom, when the first Adam turned back to God.
What the society today calls freedom, is in fact slavery to our sin, slavery to our evil hearts. People don’t want to listen to God, they want to be their own creators. Except, it never works, it never functions well.
This is how you can see what is wrong with the world and with us. We have lost trust in God. We don’t want to listen to His Word. We have lost true wisdom. And we have lost true freedom.
Sure, it is good to know and understand this all, however, it doesn’t help much. Therefore, here are some good news for us, too. Our loving God still desires to give you the wisdom and the freedom that the first Adam lost at the Fall. This is, why Jesus, the Son of God, came as the second Adam.
He was similarly tempted. He remained faithful confessing that true life comes from the Word of God, that God is God and we are not and never will be. He clung to the Word of God, and finally the devil had to leave.
On the cross Jesus overcame death, our greatest enemy. He triumphed over all our enemies, who have been enslaving us since the dawn of humanity. He rose victorious as the firstborn of many.
Now He comes to you to bring back to you what the first Adam lost. As Jesus speaks to you He gives you His Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit sets your heart free to trust our loving Father again.
He sets you free to desire what God desires for you, He gives you true freedom; that with your whole heart you can desire to be with Jesus Christ, to know Him better and to strive to live the life that pleases Him. He gives you true freedom.
He also blesses you with His wisdom. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit make you wise, truly wise, they reveal you God’s design for your life and, also help you both – to rejoice in this wisdom, and to live accordingly.
And ultimately Jesus brings you back into God’s presence. Back to the paradise. And it begins already here. This is our garden of Eden. The Sacrament in our tree of life. Jesus Himself comes to us and serves us His life-giving feast right here, in the midst of His chosen people.
This is where heavens and earth meet. This is where all the angels and saints join together in the feast of our Lord, and where we, rebellious and foolish sinners are welcomed and fed by Jesus Himself.
This is where the eternal life begins, and it will continue when you see your loving God Jesus Christ face to face. What the first Adam lost, the second Adam has regained. And here it gives it to you.
All God’s blessings – true freedom, true wisdom, and true life in the presence of God. Come and receive, for everything is prepared. And the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding keep your minds and hearts in Jesus Christ. Amen.