Understanding God’s Love and the Sin that Changed the World
ATTENTION: You are reading the 5th chapter in a blog to book series about Genesis (God in the Garden). I recommend starting with the introduction if you haven’t read it yet. If you are interested in learning when the book will be released or discussing anything said in these posts, please reach out through the contact page.
Is obedience really necessary? Do we need to obey God? An all-powerful God shouldn’t need us to accomplish His will. If he was omnipotent, why would he need us? He doesn’t, but the point of obedience isn’t because God needs us or that He can’t carry out his will without us. It’s not because it makes God feel good about himself to boss us around either. It’s not because He gets amusement from forcing us to do His bidding as if He is some cruel taskmaster. No, he requires obedience because he loves us. There are actually multiple benefits to our obedience, but once again, the big one is relationship.
We need to be obedient to grow closer to God. This is not because God is withholding, but because it’s the way things work. If we don’t listen to our boss and do what he says, what benefit will we gain from our job? How will we grow and learn if we ignore our teacher? What kind of relationship is healthy where one side says I’m going to do what I want and don’t care what you want or say? Whether the teacher, the boss, or the parent wants to have a relationship doesn’t matter. A close relationship isn’t possible if the employee, student, or child refuses to listen and lovingly obey them. There can’t be a close relationship, and one can’t receive the advantages (blessings) that come from having a close relationship. The same is true for God. He is not withholding, but because of our free will He can’t force us to have a relationship with Him. The only way to have a relationship is through our faith (trusting in God’s will, power, love, and grace), which in turn produces our obedience. By faith (trusting in God), we grow closer to Him, and in growing closer to God we become more obedient.
God designed us to rely on Him, but temptation and fear cause us to ignore this and rely on ourselves. We allow our desires, pride, and fear to control us and justify taking matters into our own hands. We worship at the altar of self-sufficiency. There is a popular belief that all independence is good. That history is just one big progression of mankind becoming more independent from tyrants, oppressors, and oppressive values. Is our independence from God just the next logical step in this process? Is today’s liberation from God no different from when the American colonialists shucked off their chains of oppression from Great Britain? Yes, it is significantly different! There is a galaxies difference between being liberated from God and being liberated from foreign rule. For like a banana republic, in shucking off one ruler (God), we accept a new ruler (the self). Except, we free ourselves from the light yoke of honoring and worshiping God and put on the heavy yokes of humanism and atheism.
In truth, the point I’m making is that independence does not actually exist, for we all worship something. That thing could be God, or it could be a million other things. Our once monotheistic society has become a polytheistic one. There are many gods out there (the God of money, the God of sex, the God of race, the God of gender, the God of the environment, the God of nutritional supplements, the God of self-help). There is always something we can worship. Some of us may worship one big thing or god for most of our lives, while others may bounce around between the different gods throughout their lives (some in the open and some in secret). Ultimately if we think there’s such a thing as independence, then we are lying to ourselves. We all have something that we honor above all else.
Obedience is so important because, in conjunction with faith, it allows God to work through us in this world. Not that He needs to work through us to accomplish anything, but in it, we grow in our relationship with Him and become more like Him. That’s been the plan since the beginning. Obedience is not about living in fear of God. It’s about seeking to honor God for the incredible gifts that He has given us (salvation, grace, love, mercy, and on and on). We can disregard the importance of obedience, but it’s vital to our spiritual growth. For faith without works is dead (James 2:26). If we are not obedient to God’s calling in our lives, then we are disobedient. And disobedience leads to separation from God and spiritual death (as Adam and Eve found out).
Hard Knocks Life
God was teaching Adam and Eve how to become like Him as He does with us today (through the Holy Spirit), but the process was interrupted through Satan’s temptation. Adam and Eve decided that they didn’t want to walk with God or do it his way anymore. They didn’t want to take the time to learn how to be more like Him. They took the shortcut by eating the fruit (doing it independently). They died spiritually when they did this (cut off the relationship and fulfilled God’s word that they would die). They also lost access to the eternal tree of life when they destroyed the relationship.
In Genesis 2:17, God also says, “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.”
Not only did that start the time clock for their physical death, but even worse it was spiritual death. Based on the entire reading of Genesis 1-3, it’s evident that Adam and Eve had died spiritually. They willing believed the devil’s lies and showed no remorse or repentance afterward. Instead of running to God, they hid from Him. They separated themselves from God and sought to be their own God / do life on their own.
This grieved God. Originally He had given them access to the tree of life. It was a gift freely given because their hearts were in the right place (they saw God as their provider, trusted Him, were thankful, loved Him, didn’t consider their own will above His). God planned to continue spending time with Adam and Eve and teach them to be more like Him as they grew in eternal relationship with Him. Yet that was ruined when Adam and Eve set themselves against Him and decided to do life independently.
Grieved He had no choice but to send them out and give them what they wanted. Sometimes you can correct a child with words. Other times, a harsher punishment is necessary, and occasionally, the best thing to do is to let them learn from their own mistakes. That’s what God had to do. He knew that in order to reconcile us (fix the relationship and let us take from the tree of life), He had to redeem us through Christ first. He could have done it right there in the Garden, but He knew that Adam and Eve weren’t ready (they wouldn’t have received it). He had to wait to send his Son until humanity was ready for that. It was going to take some time. God would have to guide his people as he prepared them for that glorious day.
Punishment or Prophecy?
In Genesis 3:16 – 19, God talks of what is to come. We can see this as a curse or a punishment, but could it also be a loving prophecy? Could He have been letting Adam and Eve know what the consequences of their ambition would be? Laws govern everything. If you drop an apple, it will fall to the earth. If you combine the right chemicals, there will be an explosion. Just as there are scientific laws that are all around us, there are also unseen spiritual laws. If you seek a life independent of God, there will be negative consequences. God is the light, and the absence of the light is darkness. Eventually, we will reap what we sow in some form.
To say God is cruel because there are spiritual consequences for our actions is just as ridiculous to say that God is cruel for allowing gravity to exist. God did not create gravity to punish the person that jumps from a skyscraper. Gravity keeps us bound to the Earth. Are we to hate it for its limitations and ignore that it allows us to exist? In a similar vein, we are created to live in communion with God. Are we to be angry with God when we disregard this, fail to seek Him, and find our lives in turmoil? God could have designed us to live separately from Him. But he chose to have a relationship with us because that is the most loving thing he could do. Any good father knows that a relationship with their kids is paramount.
Most of all, God knows the greatest benefit to us is not temporal pleasure but an eternal relationship with Him. So whatever you might think of these laws (consequences for disobedience), they are a good thing. Because through pain, it can serve as a reminder of our purpose. It keeps us on track when we get off it. It helps us steer back on course (seek and glorify God). Not always, maybe not even most of the time, but it’s enough for some of us, and that’s what’s important. God is always thinking eternally.
To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”(Genesis 3:16)
The prophecy He speaks over Eve also tells of the sorrow that her future children will cause her. It appears evident that this means there will be pain in childbirth, but in a larger context it could also mean that Eve’s children will be the cause of her pain (cause her sorrow as they grow). They will be just like her and Adam. Sin will rule them. Disobedience and selfishness will cause pain and suffering (Cain and Able but also humanity as a whole). In this, Eve will understand the same grief she caused the heart of God in her disobedience.
Eve’s prophecy also tells us that her desire will be toward her husband, and he will rule over her. This is not something that God is telling her to punish her. Again he’s telling her the effects that will happen as a result of their decisions. Just as gravity brings an Apple to the earth, so does sin follow specific laws. God was telling her the effects that sin would have on the relationship between man and woman. Without God at the center, marriage becomes a burden instead of a blessing.
Some have used this verse to label women as inferior or permit cruelty. They argue a husband has the right to do whatever he wants, mistreat his wife, or make unloving demands. Unfortunately, this attitude has become the impression some have of God, that He condones that type of behavior. In the New Testament, we get a better picture of God’s design for marriage. Ephesians 5 does mention a woman should willingly submit to her husband’s authority but that husbands are also commanded to love their wives as they love their own bodies (Ephesians 28). In the end, the ideal relationship should not be a power struggle or an excuse for one to dominate the other. It is a partnership. Only by mutually placing Christ at the center can we overcome this conflict. We are not wrestling for our will but mutually seeking His will. This is the ideal picture of love and how it was supposed to be from the beginning.
God also told Adam, cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. (Genesis 3:17)
For thy sake means this is the result of what Adam wanted. He wanted to elevate himself to God’s position in his life. So in receiving that, God was letting him know the struggles that went along with that. Independence from God wouldn’t be easy. Work would be toil because Adam wouldn’t have God to rely on, only himself. There wouldn’t be a relationship with God that he could go to for encouragement, wisdom, and hope. Everything would feel like it was on his shoulders. Worry, anxiety, and depression would plague him as he struggled to support his family.
There would also be obstacles that stood in the way too (thorns and thistles) and doing it yourself meant you wouldn’t receive the same blessings that you would through God. Instead of eating the fruit of the garden, you will eat the herb of the field. Which sounds more delicious to you? Remember, there was no Gordon Ramsay back then. Again God reminds Adam that it will be a struggle, there will be hard physical labor, and he will sweat in the heat of the sun and toil to get the ground to bring forth food. That this will be his condition until the day that he dies. That in the end, he began as dust, and he would end up as dust. Relationship is essential. Without it, eternity becomes hell.
So what happened after the fall was a direct consequence of what mankind wanted (independence from God). No longer would we rely on him, but we would rely on ourselves and our own understanding. We are far from God, and what is easy for Him is toil for us. God doesn’t want to curse us, but He will allow us to have what we desire and the resulting consequences. He has to. To do anything less would negate our free will and free will is essential for us to have an eternal relationship. We must look beyond the temporal pains and sorrows caused by our sin because it is more loving of God to allow us to live in temporal pain than to remove it. Pain can give us the clarity to seek God again and regain our eternal relationship with Him. If He were to take it away every time, we would never grow. We would never seek Him. We would never regain that relationship.
Think of it this way. The spiritual blessings we had (before the fall) were a part of God, so we also rejected those eternal blessings by rejecting a relationship with Him. You can’t have the ice cream if you don’t want to be around the ice cream man. You need to go to the ice cream man to get it. The same is true of God’s blessings. So in rejection of Him, Adam and Eve also rejected His blessings. They willfully chose what we perceive as God’s curses. God isn’t cursing Adam and Eve but letting them know what life will be like without Him and His blessings. (God even says, in 3:17 KJV – cursed is the ground for thy sake (benefit). Again this implies that this is what they want. They would rather have a cursed independence than a blessed dependence. They showed this in their sin and continued to show it after the fall. They wanted to be like Him so they wouldn’t need Him. All of this is not a rash punishment. It’s God’s warning of what their rebellion has/will bring.
We ultimately never see Adam and Eve repent, or seek forgiveness or tell God that they can’t handle this. They never have one objection against leaving. This doesn’t point to the fact that they were willing to leave, but in conjunction with everything else (disobeying, hiding, blaming), it is a good sign that they didn’t want to stick around. It’s fairly obvious they didn’t trust God or think He had their best interests in mind. When God spoke of the curses, maybe they thought they could take it or that God wasn’t being 100% truthful with them. Whatever their motive was, all clues point to the fact that they willingly accepted the consequences rather than ever seeking forgiveness or reconciliation.
Just because something happened doesn’t mean it was destiny. Adam and Eve eating the apple wasn’t destiny. God gave them free will just as we have today. We do many bad things that we can’t blame on God, and we can’t blame this on God either, but were the consequences too harsh?
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Genesis 3:22
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:24
One might interpret that Genesis shows us a God threatened by humanity, so He banishes Adam and Eve from the garden as a result, but this isn’t true. We don’t threaten God. His plan was always to make us more like Him. It was the plan at the beginning and is still the plan today. It hasn’t changed. So then, why did God drive out Adam and Eve? It seems strange that He would punish Adam and Eve for trying to be like Him if He wanted them to be like Him! Well, actually, there is a very good reason.
What we see as punishment isn’t punishment. It’s protection. Adam and Eve took the shortcut. They had become like Him, but not in the right way. They had done it out of their own selfish ambition and not in loving communion with God as had been intended. Walking in faith and love with God changes our hearts. In one way (salvation), it is instant, but it takes time in another (maturation). Relationships take time and work to grow and develop. In an effort to sidestep that, Adam and Eve stole some attributes of God, but not the most important ones. They gained the lesser (a little knowledge) and lost the greater (relationship with God, the Holy Spirit, wisdom, etc.). They may have become more like him in one small way but less like Him in many more ways.
God saw there was no repentance from Adam and Eve and knew their hearts. If He did nothing, there was no doubt that Adam and Eve would’ve taken from the Tree of Life. If they did with their heart in that place, it would have been a curse even worse than the first. It would mean eternal separation from God (as was with Satan). There would be no way God could ever reconcile them back to Him. He had to protect them from causing irreparable damage.
We can try to interpret this as God protecting his possessions or that he was afraid, but again there is no threat to God. For an all-powerful God to be threatened by us even if we had immortality is ridiculous. The only reason God put the cherubim there with the sword was to protect us. Any other reason is putting our fallible and sinful nature on an infallible and perfect God. God knew what would happen. Humanity proved they wouldn’t listen. So God had to do more than ask. The only way to protect us was to use force this time.
In Genesis 1:28 – it’s clear from the beginning that God never intended us to stay in the garden. He wanted us to fill the earth. We get stuck on the fact that paradise was a location. It was never about real estate. We weren’t supposed to stay in one place forever. Banishment wasn’t a punishment. God always intended for us to grow beyond Eden (in communion with Him). But Adam and Eve didn’t want that. They didn’t want to grow and mature in harmony with God or depend on him. They wanted their benefits now and thought they could get it themselves. Because of their free will, God had no choice but to give them what they wanted (independence).
As they were going out into the world, one of the last things God did was make them tunics and clothe them. Does that sound like the act of a vengeful and angry God? Even here, he is still supplying their needs even though they had let Him clearly know they didn’t need Him and were forsaking Him.
Here are some of the key takeaways from this chapter.
- Obedience isn’t about God being on a power trip. It’s crucial for us to have a relationship with God. Just as we need oxygen and gravity to walk on the earth, we also need faith and obedience to walk with God.
- There’s no such thing as total independence, as we all worship something. In freeing ourselves of God’s yoke, we put on the heavier yokes of humanism and atheism.
- Obedience is so important because, in conjunction with faith, it also allows God to work through us. Not that He needs to, but in doing so, we grow in our eternal relationship with Him and become more like Him (becoming a blessing to others). That’s been the plan since the beginning.
- Laws govern everything. If you drop an apple, it will fall to the earth. Just as there are scientific laws, there are also spiritual laws. We will reap what we sow in some form. To say God is cruel because we receive consequences for our actions is as ridiculous as saying that God punishes the person who jumps off the building with gravity. God didn’t create gravity to punish someone, but there are still consequences if they decide to jump.
- God’s laws are loving because an eternal relationship is far more valuable than temporal pleasure. The absence of pleasure or the experience of pain are reminders that steer us back to this truth in times of trouble and bring us closer to God.
- God wasn’t rashly punishing Adam and Eve but giving them a prophecy. He was letting them know what the effects would be of their actions.
- Eve’s prophecy of her children causing her sorrow isn’t just about childbirth. It tells us her kids will be just like her and Adam (selfish, disobedient, and controlled by sin).
- God was telling Eve that her relationship with Adam would be difficult. Without God at the center, there would be a power struggle over who would be in control. The ideal relationship is in submission to God. The wife’s submission isn’t about the husband overtly imposing his will on her but about him being accountable and taking responsibility for his family as they mutually seek and submit to God.
- God told Adam that the ground was cursed for his sake (this was another consequence of what Adam wanted). God was letting him know how difficult it would be doing it on his own. If you jump off a building, gravity will kill you, and if you try to operate independently of God (rely on yourself instead), there will likewise be negative consequences.
- Adam’s reliance on himself meant there would also be obstacles (thorns and thistles). He wouldn’t receive the full blessing that he would get in communion with God (herb of the field instead of the fruit of garden). It is also more difficult (sweat of face). Lastly, it is futility or death (return to dust).
- In a way, God is the ice cream man, and the blessings are the ice cream. If you refuse to go to the ice cream man, you can’t get the ice cream. It’s the same thing with God’s spiritual blessings. Even if he does come to you and you run away from him, he can’t give you that ice cream.
- God sending out Adam and Eve was to protect them. If they had taken of the tree of life in that state, it would’ve caused an eternal separation. Reconciliation would have been impossible, just as it was for Satan.
- God still loved them. He wasn’t seeking to punish them unjustly. Even after sending them out, we can see His love and mercy as he clothed them.