Genesis 1 and 2 give us a glimpse of the good world created in the beginning. Genesis 3, on the other hand, shows us the corruption of that good world. After the beauty and goodness of chapters 1 and 2, this chapter saddens us. It explains the many problems in our world and teaches us a number of lessons along the way.
Genesis 3 begins with the entrance of a new character into the story – the serpent. Without question, this is Satan (2 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9; 20:2) – the enemy of God and everything good and right. Instead of protecting the garden as God intended, Adam allows Satan to enter. And Satan – by means of his cunning and devious lies – attempts to get Adam and Eve to eat from the tree which God had forbidden. In line with his character (John 8:44), Satan twists and contradicts God’s Word in an attempt to draw God’s people away. He is not interested in good – though he acts as if he is. He tempts Adam and Eve and leads them into disobedience – just as he does still does today.
Sadly, Adam and Eve give into Satan’s temptations. Instead of submitting themselves to God, they follow their own desires and disobey their Creator. Instead of trusting Him, they trust their own judgment and wisdom. It is easy to criticize them, but we should consider what happens in our own hearts when we sin. Ultimately, all of our sinful actions begin with desires in the heart (Matt. 15:19; James 1:14). Just like Adam and Eve followed their own selfish desires for pleasure and power and autonomy, we often surrender ourselves to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Adam and Eve assumed they knew better than God, and it led to their fall. If we imitate them, we will experience the same tragic result.
As the chapter continues, we see the disastrous consequences of sin. Immediately, God’s good world is polluted by shame and guilt and fear. When God seeks an explanation, Adam and Eve blame and make excuses rather than take responsibility. As a result, God adds to the trouble by meting out His own justice against those involved. The serpent is cursed and told that he will be at war with the woman and her seed. The woman is told she will have difficulty in childbearing, and her relationship with Adam will be broken and difficult. Adam is told that his work will now be hard and frustrated, and he is told that all human beings will die. Then he and Eve are ejected from the garden paradise – and from God’s presence – to live in the now-corrupted world.
Here we see the bitter fruit which sin always produces. Prior to Adam and Eve’s sin, the world was “very good”. It was their disobedience that brought corruption. This chapter explains the problems with our world. We are separated from God because of our sin (Eph. 2:12). We are by nature objects of God’s wrath because of sin (Eph. 2:3). God is holy, and He never allows sin to go unpunished – whether in the time of Genesis or today. We have broken relationships with other people because of sin. Infertility and abuse and slavery and exploitation exist because of sin. Famine and floods and earthquakes and other natural disasters exist because of sin. Those things are the “groaning” of creation under God’s curse (Rom. 8:20-23). Death exists because of sin. At the root of everything bad in this world is the grim reality that we disobeyed God. The broken world around us is the result of sin.
Without question, this is a sad and tragic section of the Bible. But, thankfully, this chapter is not full of only bad things. In the midst of disobedience and judgment, we also see the mercy of God. He does not immediately kill Adam and Eve. Rather, He makes clear they will have children. And he even promises that one of Eve’s children will crush Satan and his children (Gen. 3:15). The rest of the Bible shows us this epic struggle between the two sets of children. And, eventually, we come to find out that Jesus is the greatest child of the woman who came to fully and finally defeat Satan (Heb. 2:14). Jesus came to fix that which was broken in Genesis. He came to redeem that which was lost and reconcile all things back to God (Col. 1:20). This was God’s plan all the way back in Genesis 3 – and He made that clear.
Thankfully, Genesis 3 is not the end. As it turns out, it was actually a beginning of sorts…the beginning of a new creation story which has a better and happier ending. Without a doubt, there is much that is wrong with this world. But thankfully, there is also no doubt that God is in the process of making it all right again. Just as darkness is swallowed up by dawn, death will be swallowed up by life. That victory is not yet completed, but it is certain.