Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-5 God uses laws not to restrict, but to protect the blessings He has intended
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-5 God uses laws not to restrict, but to protect the blessings He has intended for His people
Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
God installs man in the garden with an explicit instruction against eating from the forbidden tree and the consequences that will ensue should they transgress His word. The devil in a form of a serpent tempts man with the very device that seals his own destruction. Today’s devotion tells us that prohibitions are in place not for the purpose of restricting us, but to protect our freedom and abundant life. Without which, we endanger and rob ourselves of the blessings that God has intended. That said, the devil tempts men not by changing God’s expressed instructions (perverting the letter of the word), but by corrupting the spirit of the word: by sowing distrust, by twisting doctrine and by exploiting God’s mercies. Today’s devotion teaches us the use of God’s law: God uses laws not to restrict, but to protect the blessings He has intended for His people.
From any tree of the garden you may eat freely…
God gave explicit instructions that man may freely eat from any tree except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is important to note that God did not substantiate with reason for the prohibition. However, God did say in no uncertain terms that if they disobey by eating from the forbidden tree, they will surely die. It is understandable that man did not (at the time) possess the notion of death except that it is a cessation of bliss and the devastation of everything that life in Eden has to offer.
In the Israelite tradition, true life is found in the presence of God within the sanctuary. However, to be expelled from the camp as lepers, to be abandoned with clothes torn and disheveled (in those days) is to enter the realm of death (see Leviticus 13:45). If to be expelled from the camp of Israel means certain death, expulsion from the garden sanctuary is to experience an even more severe kind of death. In the story of Saul, he is considered dead as far as Samuel is concerned when he rejects the expressed instruction of God. So Samuel mourns for him and does not see him again until the day he dies (see 1 Samuel 15:35-16:1). To die is to be cut off from God, losing one’s birthright and inheritance as a son of God.
Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?’
The serpent, the devil himself is allowed access into the garden as a beast under man’s regency. In order to inflict chaos to the human regency, the devil’s stratagem is to cause man to defy the expressed instruction of God by perverting the spirit of the word. When enquired by the devil, the woman unwittingly revealed her ignorance when she exaggerated God’s expressed instructions, “You shall not eat from it or touch it…” when God only said they cannot eat from it. Apparently, her exaggeration also hinted at an uncanny fixation on the tree, an existential affinity towards the forbidden fruit.
The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!…”
The serpent’s bold assertion, “You surely will not die!…” downplayed the divine warning by diverting her attention away from the consequence of eternal death should she disobey. Indeed, God may not immediately destroy man for his transgression, but will out of divine mercy grant a window of opportunity for repentance. But the devil exploited this window of divine mercy by veiling the true consequences of disobedience thus emboldening the woman to transgress the divine edict.
The serpent did not stop here, but continued to sow distrust by calling into question the motive behind the divine prohibition: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The devil further encouraged the woman to free herself from God’s rule and to be sovereign as God is sovereign. The devil, with this temptation sealed the downfall of man just like it sealed his.
The devil may not pervert the letter of the word, but he will pervert the spirit of it.
Therefore, believers must beware of the devil’s devices. As evidenced by the Jews’ inability to recognise Jesus despite possessing the Law for more than a thousand years; it is indeed the spirit of the Law that gives eternal life, not the letter of it. Hence, the devil attempts not to pervert the letter of the Law but the spirit of it. Humanity, since the days of Adam and Eve have fallen into this age-old scheme. What are the devil’s insidious schemes that destroyed many men and women destined for eternal glory? Here are a few:
a. The devil promotes man’s penchant for lust by exploiting God’s mercies and patience.
The devil (rightly) alluded to the fact that God is merciful and may not immediately destroy them should they eat of the fruit. Hence, in the light of God’s mercies, she may have considered the consequences that ensue are well worth the prize of freedom and personal “sovereignty”. And ever since then, man has been exploiting God’s compassion and lovingkindness…
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:8-10
Eve may not have fully comprehended the repercussions of her transgression. But she has singularly brought the bondage of eternal death upon the human race. The fact remains, that every time man disobeys, he enters into greater bondage making it more difficult for him to break free from the path of eternal destruction.
b. The devil seeks to corrupt the meaning of faith and works.
Faith is a divine virtue, the posture of the heart that compels one to love God and love others despite temptations and inconveniences. Hence, a person of faith is evidenced through his charitable works of providing for the needy (see James 2:14-16). In the case of Abraham, faith is proven through his works of offering up Isaac his son on the altar at God’s request. And it is through Abraham’s act of picking up the knife to slay his son that the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God (James 2:23). That said, the apostle Paul taught,
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
What does the above passage mean to the typical churchgoer? The devil has perverted and reinterpreted the above passage to mean: One can escape eternal punishment by simply agreeing with the notion that Jesus came to remove the consequences of transgressions from sinners. Since this removal is a gift of God, one shouldn’t have to “earn” it by practicing good works. Faith is then perceived as an asset of the mind (knowledge) as opposed as to the heart (conviction). They believe when sinners sincerely appeal to God’s infinite mercies for exoneration, God summarily transfers the punishment due them to His Son.
It is regrettable many churchgoers remained unsaved because what they possess is false faith; their lives continue to encircle their needs, their desires, and their salvation. Until they come to this realisation and begin to acquire true faith; which is to walk in the truth and to put the interest of others above themselves, they remain outside God’s kingdom. In the earlier verse, Paul said,
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). Ephesians 2:4-5
The above passage speaks of God’s grace that destroyed man’s inclination towards sin and self-centredness (dead in our transgressions). Consequently, those who believe are made alive in righteousness transforming them to love God and love others. Indeed, the mission of Christ is to turn man from self-centredness and self-rule to a God-centred existence. This process of regeneration causes man to be exonerated to enter God’s kingdom.
c. The devil denies humanity of the true power of Christ’s blood.
That which differentiates Christ’s blood from animals’ blood is the power to cleanse the soul from sinful instincts and inclinations. This is first and foremost the purpose of the blood – to transform man according to God’s image which he was created to be. Hebrews 9:13-14 says,
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
“Cleansing of the flesh” denotes man’s moral determination towards perfection. Men of the Old Testament make covenant with God to live a sanctified life by shedding animal blood. However, this had no lasting effect because animal blood cannot cleanse man’s conscience of his sinful inclinations. And the men who offered the sacrifices will inevitably return to their lives of sin. But the blood of Jesus (by virtue of His perfection) is able to cleanse man’s conscience from dead works to serve God out of goodwill. Because of the blood of the New Covenant, believers are empowered to stay the course of righteousness.
However, popular among mainstream Christianity is the notion that Christ’s blood imbues much blessings and forever takes away all consequence of sins. So much so many who are impenitent came into the church having been given this irresistible offer. As a result, the churches today are incapable of displaying the holiness of Christ. For they are populated by people hoping for salvation and more blessings, nothing more. Bible translators are partly to blame as they have introduced extraneous elements into their work. As a result, these elements became deeply entrenched within Christendom. The below passage is one such example of extraneous elements being introduced into the English translations.
For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Hebrews 9:15 (NASB)
The New American Standard Version (NASV) of the text differed from the Greek text by an extraneous verb “committed” that was not present in the original text. The translator also omits a genitive plural article “τῶν” (those, the ones) which represents believers of the first covenant. Hence, the NASV translation connotes the purpose of the death of the mediator (Christ) as redeeming the transgressions committed as opposed to redeeming the transgressors themselves. A straight forward handling of the Greek text translates into the following,
For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of those at the first covenant of disobedience, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
This translation is more appropriate as it fits the context better: the blood of Jesus redeems the transgressors by cleansing them of their sinfulness as opposed to redeeming their acts of transgression. Indeed, its the transgressors that need redemption, not their acts of transgression! By redeeming their acts of transgression, I can only take it to mean removing the punishments relating to the transgressions. This grave misrepresentation of scripture is the result of the devil’s perversion of mainstream Christianity. He has caused many mainstream churchgoers to continue in their sins supposing that Christ’s blood has forever removed the punishment from them.
The removal of eternal punishment is in actual fact the by-product of a regenerated conscience is purified by the blood. Indeed, without the regeneration of the conscience towards righteousness, there is no removal of eternal punishment. Indeed, the blood of Christ has brought hope to believers of the first covenant making it possible for them to be regenerated to enter God’s kingdom on the day of resurrection.
God prescribes prohibitions to protect man’s freedom and blessing.
God has given man freedom to choose among the ample assortment of fruit trees for his consumption and enjoyment. Among which is one single tree that God has placed upon it the mark of prohibition. The workings of society tells us that prohibitions are in place for the purpose of protecting man’s freedom and wellbeing. For example, certain vegetation and fruit are prohibited because they are poisonous to life and certain places are out of bounds. One can choose to obey the laws or he can learn from the pain of transgressing the prohibitions. The world (as we know it) comprises a mixed bag of things permissible and prohibited. We will do well to avoid the prohibited and with great expectations work towards the blessings that God has planned for us.
People are instinctively attracted to the taboos and the forbidden; the ever expanding vine of gossips in both social and formal media attest to it. Proverbs 17:4 says, “An evildoer listens to wicked lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.” Believers will do well to avoid fools and liars, who go from persons to persons speaking things that are not proper – Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince (Proverbs 17:7). We must stop our ears from being infected by forbidden knowledge that leads to the destruction of communities and the human soul.
Pornography appeals to the lust of the eyes and fires up fleshly passions which no human being can possibly satisfy. It pushes man/woman into the forbidden realms of pleasure robbing him/her of the blessing as God has intended between husband and wife. Therefore, the bible tells us to set our gaze aright while averting eyes from evil: “Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.” (Proverbs 4:25). In recent days, many spouses with the accessibility of messaging devices and dating websites crave for sexual fulfilment and companionship outside their marriage. This has resulted even in eastern societies broken marriages at an alarming rate.
Nevertheless, many follow their perverted cravings while questioning God’s motive behind the prohibitions as the woman did in the garden. Some play into the devil’s scheme by arguing against the inherent authority of the bible in matters of faith and practice citing issues concerning context and translation. It is important to note that being good and kind do not exonerate man from the consequence of transgressing the spiritual laws and prohibitions set forth in the word.
Any transgression almost inadvertently robs man of God’s intended blessings for him.
The transgression of Adam has brought swift consequences that resulted in humanity being cut off from God’s intended blessings. David’s murder of Uriah resulted in the death of his first born son. The dishonesty of Ananias and Sapphire hastens the day of their deaths (see Acts 5:1-11). The reality is… all transgressions to some degree rob man of God’s calling and blessings for him. Many well-meaning people look back with regret wondering what life could have been if only they take heed to the divine rules and abide by them. In ignorance and idiocy, they test the divine prohibitions only to reap irreparable consequences. In no uncertain terms, all transgressions will produce consequences of varying severity.
It is safe to say that most people make decisions without seriously considering boundaries and laws as written in the word; they test God to see if He will really bring upon them the consequences as set forth in the word. Popular teachings purport that the sacrifice of Christ has completely cancelled out all debts, thus, releasing sinners from the consequences of their transgressions. As the serpent spoke in the days of Eden, he is speaking today through some misguided teachers, “You surely will not die!” Jesus, upon healing a man incapacitated by a disease for 38 years seeks him out at a later time and warns him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” (John 5:14).
Therefore, before committing to a course of action, we must consider the divine law and think long and hard of the consequences that may ensue. If man will take heed to God’s commands and abide by them, God promises blessings of unimaginable proportions. As Moses speaks to his generation, the Spirit is speaking to believers today of God’s intended blessings,
“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God:
3 “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
4 “Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.
5 “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
6 “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. (Deuteronomy 28:1-6).
Do you often fall into sin because you do not think that God will punish you? Remember, each time you yield to sin, you sink deeper into the devil’s bondage making it more difficult for you to be delivered from it. In the same breath, you deprive yourself of the Spirit’s fruit and gifts which in turn robs you of eternal glory. Note down a list of sinful inclinations that have plagued you. And by the blood of Jesus, make a covenant with God to cleanse your soul of its darkness and fleshly inclinations.
Dear Lord, I recommit my life towards Christ-likeness. Forgive my sins, and by your blood break the strongholds of sin and cleanse my conscience. Use me as a vessel of honour to do your works. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.
Are you accustomed to making decisions based on your own reasoning or for that matter the ethos of the world? Do you choose to accept certain beliefs and practices or to reject some according to your personal inclinations? Even if we believe in the whole bible but reject one single precept, we have not believed at all. The apostle James says “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” James 2:10. Unless and until we come to the full realisation of the bible and its inherent authority, we may miss out on the full abundance that this life and the one to come have to offer.
Dear Lord, I commit myself to study and understand your precepts so that I may fulfil my calling and experience eternal life. As I humble myself and reject the spirit of humanistic wisdom and unbelief, fill me with understanding and revelations of your truth. Cause me to perceive the world and its culture as how you would perceive it. In so doing, I will become wise and experience unimaginable blessings and eternal life as you have intended for me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.