Thank you for approaching me after the worship service this past Sunday with a really good and thoughtful question. I am always encouraged when people hear God’s Word and think deeply about what they have heard. It is in thinking deeply and praying fervently that we open ourselves up to knowing more of God, His will, and His ways.
I’m not sure I answered your question as fully as I would have liked, so I wanted to take the time to write this out. I hope you’ll find it and read it, but I am also hopeful that others, who may have wondered but not asked the question will find it useful in some way.
Your question was – “Why would God allow the serpent to tempt Eve and Adam in the Garden?” After making everything and calling it “very good,” why would God allow it to be messed up?!
Before beginning to answer that question, I want to reference a verse to which I have often had to return when struggling to make all the pieces fit in what seems to be a biblical puzzle. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9, ESV)
There are times when we simply will not understand the ways of God. That is not a convenient loophole for all the hard verses of the Bible; rather it is a bold statement that some things will remain revealed until we stand in the presence of the Lord.
I guess it is a little like my family putting a puzzle together when I was younger. Piece by piece it came together forming a picture, but when we got near the end, a piece would be missing. My dad would have hidden it somewhere. It was only when the final piece was put in that the picture became complete. The life we spent on this earthly plane is something like that, and the picture will not be made complete and fully perfect until God places that last piece into place. what an “Aha!” moment that will be for us all.
So, when I say that God’s thoughts and ways are far beyond ours, it’s not just a ready excuse when I don’t understand something. It is reality. In fact, I would argue that anyone who claims to be able to explain everything about God isn’t talking about the God of the Bible. We can know Him genuinely and intimately; we just cannot know Him fully – at least not until we are face to face with Him in eternity.
But God has not left us totally clueless. We can and should be inquisitive when a passage of Scripture challenges our thinking. So, Annabelle, when you came to talk to me after the service, it delighted my heart. Here, then, is a less rushed answer to your question… “Why would God allow the serpent to tempt Eve and Adam in the Garden?”
In Genesis 2, we read – 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 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.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
And then in chapter 3 –
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Even though God had provided an abundance of fruit from an abundance of plants, there was one tree that God insisted was off limits. God had called it the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and it was unlike any other tree in the garden. According to Genesis 3, the fruit looked delicious and appealing. I suppose God could have made it hideously ugly. We also see that the fruit was within reach and the tree seems to be located centrally in the garden. God could have put the fruit well out of their reach or had it hidden in some remote part of the garden. All that is true, but wouldn’t it just have been simpler to not have the tree there at all? Some people have even posited that God set them up for a fall.
I would disagree with that view for numerous reasons. Among these are:
– God is good, perfectly good. (Luke 18:19)
– God is holy. (Isaiah 6:3)
– God does not tempt people to sin. (James 1:13)
God created our Adam and Eve with the ability to think, reason, and choose. He provided for them in abundance and had a relationship with them that was personal and free of fear, dread, and shame. He warned them against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for their protection, yet God knew they would eat from the tree.
The decision of the first couple to eat the forbidden fruit did not take God by surprise. God is all-knowing (Psalm 147:4-5), thus God was fully aware of everything that would take place in the Garden. When He put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the midst of the Garden, He did so knowing exactly what would transpire. So why put it there? Why allow the Satan to manipulate them when He could have stepped in to prevent it?
God wanted Adam and Eve to obey Him. God wanted them to choose to express their love for Him and their joy in having unadulterated intimacy with Him by choosing to live in His will. God did not make robots; He made people in His image to be in relationship with Him. He desired that they want that relationship, too. They chose to abandon all that God had given them in an effort to grasp the promise of something more, something greater than intimacy with their Creator, and in doing so they lost everything — everything except hope.
Even in the midst of judgment, God gave them hope. That which was lost would not be lost forever. God had a plan to redeem, to restore, to renew. In the first book of the Bible we see everything fall apart. In the final book of the Bible, we see God making all things new.
Annabelle, I cannot explain everything about God, His will, and His ways. Had I the power to travel back in time, I’d go back to the Garden and slap that forbidden fruit out of Eve’s hand, sternly rebuke Adam for not manning up and intervening, and then lop off the serpent’s head before it could do any more damage.
God could have done the same, but He did not. So, Annabelle, I cannot fully explain why God allows and directs what He chooses to allow or direct, nor can I explain why He loves me and wants to spend eternity with me. And even those things about God that I do understand still leaves me amazed that His love is so great that He would send His Son to die for my sins. I find myself asking along with King David, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)