Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made” (Gen. 3:1).
Everything was good. Very good, in fact. All creation existed in perfect harmony, and at the center piece of everything was the crown jewel of creation. The man and the woman lived in perfect fellowship with God, walking without guilt, shame, or any other hindrance with Him. And into this harmony slithered the cunning serpent armed with what must have seemed like a very innocent question and just a few short sentences that followed it:
“Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’”
“No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-4).
It was a simple question really.
“Did God really say…” he said to the woman. Just four words. And yet into those four words are packed a far more cunning charge.
The serpent was calling into question the word of God, at least on the surface. And we would do well to pay attention to the fact that he was, because he does the same thing in our ear today.
Those four words still haunt us. They haunt us not only because of the devastating effects that came afterward in the garden, but because those same four words are at the core of every temptation, social evil, and moral compromise we still face:
- “Did God really say not to worry?”
- “Did God really say He would provide for you?”
- “Did God really say that judgment would come to all people?”
And we can still take it further:
- “Did God really say that there were male and female?”
- “Did God really say that all life is precious, even in the womb?”
- “Did God really say that Jesus is the only way to the Father?”
One basic point here is that we can’t answer the question, “Did God really say…” unless we really know what God really said. Christians are people of the book, and they must be. The Bible must remain not just on our shelves, but in our hearts. It must be the basis of our very definition of truth and reality, for this is the Word God has left us so that we might not stumble around in the darkness.
But it goes deeper than that. Because Satan’s true aim was even more sinister than leveling a charge at the word of God. Behind the simple question the fork-tongued liar was leveling charges against the character and nature of God. What came off like a question was really an accusation.
The charge against God’s Word was really a charge against God’s character.
Satan was not just asking whether Eve knew what God had said; he was accusing God of a lack of generosity. Maybe, just maybe, God was holding back something from them. And if He was, then maybe He was holding back the very best. Never mind that there were hundreds, or even thousands, of other trees to eat from; never mind that only one was forbidden; and never mind that the one was forbidden not because God isn’t generous and loving but instead precisely because He is.
And he was calling into question the trustworthiness of God. Could Eve, and Adam, and us for that matter – can we we really believe God says what He means and means what He says? And if He does, can we trust that He actually has our best interests in mind when He issues prohibitions like this?
And he was calling into question the love of God. For if we cannot trust He is doing what is good and right by us, and if we cannot believe that He is generous with us, then how can we believe He actually does love us?
Oh, yes – there is much more at play here than a simple question. And we would do well to look to our own hearts, and in particular the way we approach the Word of God. Now that doesn’t mean we can’t ask questions of God’s Word. Quite the opposite, in fact. But there is a spirit of asking questions, and then there is the spirit of questioning. The first is seeking understanding; the second believes it has it already.
So we return, again, to the Bible. We return to this core thing, this basic question not of God’s Word, but of ourselves. Do we really believe God has spoken to us through His Word? Because if we do, then He has given us the means by which we can know Him. If the more we know Him, the more we trust Him. Of course, it works the opposite as well.
If God’s Word is in question, it’s not merely an academic exercise into the nature and historicity of the Bible. If God’s Word is in question, then God’s character is in question. So we must be clear with ourselves, and we must remind ourselves of what clarity day after day, and even moment after moment:
God has spoken. He has told the truth. We can trust Him.