“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made” (Genesis 3:1).
Really? When you look at what serpent, or Satan, said to Eve, it doesn’t seem THAT cunning. In seems in fact pretty straight forward. But read between the lines with me. Satan is saying something else – something more – than what he’s actually saying.
Satan led his attack with a simple question: “Did God really say you can’t eat from any tree in the garden?” It’s a twisting of God’s word, to be sure, but there’s also something else here. He is causing Eve to focus on the one prohibition God gave to His children. He’s moving her to a fixation on the negative – to what she can’t have – rather than focusing on the hundreds or thousands of trees she could. The underlying message behind this simple question is this:
God is a miser. He is not generous toward you.
But let’s not stop there. If we continue to trace that thought down to the center, we see what Satan was really getting at:
God doesn’t really love you. If He did, He wouldn’t be holding out on you. But He is. He doesn’t want you to be happy, and the way you know it is there’s something else out there that He won’t let you have.
Now we see the cunning. The craftiness. But let’s not stop there, because his cunning is evident in other subtle ways. Think, for example, of what the implications are of Satan going to Eve instead of Adam. God created the world, and humanity, within certain guidelines and systems. In His design, it was the male who was to lead the home. But Satan didn’t go to the male; he went straight to the female.
In this, too, we see the subversive attacks of the enemy. He is challenging the authority, wisdom, and plan of God simply by asking the question to Eve at all.
Then there’s the word choice of the snake. If you look back to chapter 2 of Genesis, it’s interesting to note that in this chapter, which talks much of the creation of man and his purpose in creation, the name of God reads like this:
That is, the revealed name of God signifying his dominance, mastery, and power with the name for God as creator. And yet here slithers the snake and says, “Did God really say…”
No LORD. Subtly, subversively, the snake strips the authority out of God’s name and causes Eve to hold God at an arm’s length. A creator who has no real claim on her or her husband.
Cunning indeed. This is the true genius of Satan, for with each one of these seemingly small choices of words or phrases, he steadily chips away not at the will of the human, but of her belief. That’s the real key, isn’t it? Satan recognizes that actions spring from beliefs. Always. So if you want to direct action, you must begin with belief.
Maybe God doesn’t know what He’s talking about.
Maybe He doesn’t have authority over me.
Maybe He is holding out on me.
Maybe He doesn’t really love me at all.
And the dominoes of a belief system begin to topple. It’s only a matter of time when belief begins to falter that actions follow.