God's End Game - Part 6
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
November 04, 2018
We are trying to figure out God’s end game. What’s he up to with us and the world? Where is all this headed?
To do that we have to go back to the beginning of the game, which is found in Genesis, the book of beginnings.
In the very first verse we learn where all this came from and where we came from…
Genesis 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
God made the heavens and the earth and all creatures great and small and it was good. He planted this beautiful garden called Eden on the earth and in it were two trees. This garden was a good place for him to rule over his creation, to coexist with the pinnacle of all he created: man.
So he made man and declared things very good. But man, Adam, was alone which wasn’t good, so God made him a helper suitable for him, woman. And they were married.
The final verse of chapter two sums up the beauty and simplicity of what the world was like in the beginning…
Genesis 2:25 (ESV) — 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
There was a child-like innocence. There was no shame. There was no baggage in their lives, no hangups. Adam and Eve were completely at ease within themselves. Completely transparent with each other and completely comfortable in their skin.
And because of that, they were able to enjoy a close, personal relationship with the One who made them and gave them all they enjoyed.
Can you imagine a world like that?
But it’s all about to change.
Genesis 3:1–5 (ESV) — 1 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’?”
This verse seems abrupt, intrusive. Like when you’re having a Hallmark moment with your child or something and someone comes in and ruins it. I think that’s the point. Things are so good in God’s new world, and suddenly an intruder bursts in.
Genesis 3:1 raises a host of questions, but the big question begging to be asked is, “Who or what is this serpent?”
On the one hand, the text plainly tells us it is a created being, not unlike all the animals God had made. But on the other, it’s different in two major ways: it’s crafty or shrewd (which can be a good or bad thing) and it talks! That’s all we know here.
There has to be more this critter than that though. There is, and to figure out what it is we have to do a bit of digging in the New Testament.
When we look at Genesis 3:1 from what is revealed in the NT backwards, we discover the serpent’s association with the devil.
The apostle John, in the book of Revelation, presents a scene from the past, the very ancient past…
Revelation 12:7–10 (ESV) — 7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
We weren’t the only beings God made. Before us, sometime in eternity past, the angels were created.
Job 38:4–7 (ESV) — 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
And some of these angels, particularly one referred to as Satan, rebelled against God and were cast down to the earth.
Luke, in his gospel account, records Jesus recalling this event…
Luke 10:17–18 (ESV) — 17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
It’s no coincidence that the disciples’ rejoicing over their ability to cast out demons makes Jesus think about satan’s casting down. Demons, as well, as the devil himself, are fallen angels.
Satan hated God’s good earth because he hated the God who made it. So Satan somehow possessed or influenced the most crafty of God’s creatures to approach Eve. And what are the first things we hear him saying through this serpent?
“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
There’s a sneer here, sarcasm even, concerning the one rule God gave Adam and Eve.
It’s like when you are a teenager and some of your peers discover you’ve never drank or smoked pot because your parents forbid it. And they say with sarcasm, “Did your parents really forbid you to do that?!” There's so much more to what they say than just what they say.
A little aside here: Eve is not surprised that the serpent talks. I’d run from a snake, but I’d sure as all get out run from a talking snake!
Look at verse 2…
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 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.’ ”
Much is made of Eve’s reply. Many condemn her for leaving out “freely” or “surely” as God had given it to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17, and adding “neither shall you touch it” which God had not said. But I’m not so sure that’s fair. If anything, Eve was trying hard to stay away by not even touching the fruit that God only commanded them not to eat.
So Eve resists as best she can. But remember, the serpent is crafty, and it’s under the influence of a powerful fallen angel.
4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
We’ve moved from sarcasm to downright denial of what God had said. Then serpent makes God out to be a liar. He impugns God’s character, his motives…
5 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 the serpent says, “God lied: you will not die. God is hiding something from you: He wants to keep you from being like Him.”
Satan deceived Eve into believing that it’s the knowledge of good and evil that makes God God – WRONG!
Satan deceived Eve into believing that she could know good and evil like God – WRONG! We can’t handle the truth.
Satan deceived Eve into believing that God was jealous and insecure and that was the real reason behind the one rule about the tree. Also WRONG!
Satan called God a liar, but he was really the liar. That’s the thing about the devil, he’s so crafty, so shrewd, so subtle, he makes you think he’s telling the truth when he’s really lying to your face.
Look at what Jesus said about him, speaking to the Jews…
John 8:44–45 (ESV) — 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
Think about that. These were religious people. They were keeping the commands of God. Yet they were really the devil’s kids. He had so subtly deceived them, they thought they were right when they were wrong. That’s why when God showed up and stood before them in the person of his son, Jesus, they didn’t recognize him.
The devil isn’t some red, horned, winged thing with goat hooves that goes around causing mayhem like what you see in the movies. He’s way too smart for that. In fact, he loves it when people see him like that.
If you’re looking for a guy with a pitchfork, you won’t see the real; danger sneaking in. If you’re busy being religious and looking for the devil under every rock, you won’t see the lie you’re living.
On the other end of the spectrum, the devil loves it when you deny his very existence too!
Charles Spurgeon, over a hundred years ago described the devil’s motives for and ways of making us fall…
[Satan has abundant craft, and is able to overcome us, for several reasons. Methinks it would be a sufficient reason that Satan should be cunning because he is malicious; for malice is of all things the most productive of cunning. When a man is determined on revenge, it is strange how cunning he is to find out opportunities to vent his spite. Let a man have enmity against another, and let that enmity thoroughly possess his soul, and pour venom, as it were, into his very blood, and he will become exceedingly crafty in the means he uses to annoy and injure his adversary. Now, nobody can be more full of malice against man than Satan is, as he proveth every day; and that malice sharpeneth his inherent wisdom, so that he becometh exceedingly subtle.
Besides, Satan is an angel, though a fallen one. We doubt not, from certain hints in Scripture, that he occupied a very high place in the hierarchy of angels before he fell; and we know that those mighty beings are endowed with vast intellectual powers, far surpassing any that has ever been given to beings of human mould. Therefore, we must not expect that a man, unaided from above, should ever be a match for an angel, especially an angel whose native intellect has been sharpened by a most spiteful malice against us.
Again, Satan may well be cunning now,—I may truthfully say, more cunning than he was in the days of Adam,—for he has had long dealings with the human race. This was his first occasion of dealing with mankind, when he tempted Eve; but he was even then “more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” Since then, he has exercised all his diabolical thought and mighty powers to annoy and ruin men. There is not a saint whom he has not beset, and not a sinner whom he has not misled.]
We would do well to give the devil credit where credit is due. We are no match for him. But don’t forget he is a created being and not on equal terms with God. When you see God’s end game for what it is, you will not be impressed with the devil’s cunning.
Conclusion: What’s so crazy here is that a good and loving God made a good place and two good people to live in that place in a good and unhindered relationship with him. He gave them a good marriage and a good vocation.
And yet, as Tim Keller explains,
[…the messenger from hell does not try to make them atheists. He doesn’t go after the existence of God. He doesn’t say there is no law of God; everything is relative. He doesn’t even really do that. He doesn’t even really go after the power of God. What is he going after? What is he saying? “If I can destroy this, I have them. If I can destroy this, I can destroy their relationship with God and with themselves and with each other. This is the key. This is the taproot.”
What does he go after? He goes after the goodness of God. He says, “You can’t trust that God really loves you, that God really is gracious. You cannot trust the grace and the love and the good will of God.”]
And the devil is still doing that today, folks.
So let’s look at our illustration…
That serpent’s presence is going to change everything…
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