In the form of a serpent, Satan said to Eve, “Yea, has God said you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”. Simple words, simple question, simple answer.
These are the first recorded words of Satan as he spoke to Eve (Chawah) in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1). They may be simple words, but there is something behind these words that I believe still has direct relevance for us today. Perhaps there’s a method Satan used here to deceive Eve that remains the key method in our own deception and temptations.
The initial thing to notice in this first sentence spoken by Satan is that, although it’s a question, there is nothing inherently false in what he said. YHWH did, in fact, limit which trees Adam and Eve could eat from (His words are in Genesis 2:16,17). However, Satan is cleverly turning YHWH’s words to make Eve begin to question things in her mind. Let me paraphrase the words of each.
YHWH: “You can eat of every tree – except one.”
Satan: “You can’t eat of every tree.”
Satan’s statement (which his question implied) is true. So what? Eve could have – should have – answered “yes, that’s right” to the question, and moved on. But she didn’t. Some doubt had been sown in her mind, and this doubt grew to the point that Satan’s later lie was fully accepted and it led to the first ever sin. And remember – this sin wasn’t a small misdemeanor, but the greatest calamity of mankind which has impacted everyone to this very day!
So, what was Satan calling into question here that made Eve ripe for deception? He was creating some doubt and distrust in her heart by implying the question, “Would a good and loving God truly forbid or limit something? Is it really a good thing if something is forbidden? Perhaps YHWH is not as good as you think He is.”
The Torah contains numerous limits and restrictions. It teaches us that we can eat animals, but not the unclean ones. We can observe days and festivals, but not the pagan ones. We should wear clothes, but not those pertaining to the opposite sex. We are to work for a living, but not on the Sabbath. We are even permitted to have intimate relations with another person, but only with your spouse (of the opposite sex). Beyond some of these clear instructions, we also realise there’s restrictions in most areas of our lives. We can read books, but not every book. We can enjoy songs, but not every song. We can go to parties, but not to every party, etc, etc.
These restrictions, along with many others, are lovingly given from the Creator who clearly knows what’s best for us. In fact, these restrictions give us a chance to show our trust and love for Him through our obedience. Interestingly though, Christianity teaches that a number of these Torah restrictions are now obsolete – but why is that exactly? Did these views originate from the belief that YHWH wouldn’t restrict us in certain areas of our lives? Perhaps some restrictions were seen as incompatible with a loving and good God!? One thing we do know is that Satan doesn’t like restrictions and, if we are honest, in our natural, fleshly state – neither do we.
In the very next chapter of Genesis (4:1-7), we read of Cain’s anger at YHWH’s restrictions concerning sacrifices. Cain was given a clear and gracious chance to change his attitude and his ways by bringing an animal as a sacrifice instead of his own plant-based produce. However, it seems he heard Satan’s sinister question, just as his mother had years earlier: “has God said, you shall not offer any type of offering you want?“. The goodness of YHWH was being called into question. Why would a good God restrict him anyway? Wasn’t he good enough in bringing an offering of his own choice? As Cain questioned these things in his mind, his anger grew to such a point that he committed the first murder and subsequently showed little remorse before the God that he now viewed suspiciously.
Although we can’t see inside the hearts of people, it isn’t a stretch to realise that this satanic ploy was probably used throughout the pages of Scripture. The Israelites fell for this trick time and time again it seems, as they complained and questioned YHWH’s motives and plans. If this tactic continued for that long, we would be wise to consider it’s use in our own lives today.
The point for us to learn here is: will we allow Satan to make us question YHWH’s goodness when He restricts us in areas of our own lives? Are we going to see restrictions as a kill-joy from a deceptive God, or will we choose to simply live in obedience through faith in a God who knows best? Reading this right now, this might seem like an easy decision to make – but let’s think deeper. In another time and another place, when we are being tempted in certain areas of our lives, do we feel like YHWH is holding something from us by limiting us? Do we feel like there is something good beyond the boundaries that He has set? If our feelings are drawing us away from direct Scriptural commands or concepts, then we are slipping from full faith and trust in our God. In other words, we are heading towards sin. So, when we are asked, “has God said …?” in specific areas of our lives, we need to answer with Scripture and truth and not with our feelings!
Ultimately, we need to find our true satisfaction in YHWH and all the good things that He has for us – and only those things which He has for us. Let us choose to fulfill these prophetic words from Jeremiah in our own lives …