The Shattering Blow
From Discover Your Destiny
If only it hadn’t happened!
Many of us might nostalgically wish that the story of man in the world could end with a sublime announcement that he was made in the image of God. How wonderful it would be if man could just have continued in that blissful state of innocence with the forces of nature conspiring in his favor. Here were roses without thorns, fruit without fungus, and happy pursuits that made every day a delight to live. Adam and Eve in their day of innocence experienced the pure joys of life and love unknown to most earthlings today. To them the words problem or frustration had no meaning. Everything was fulfillment. Each hour of life widened their ecstasy as they progressively discovered the goodness of their God, goodness that though immature, they shared with Him.
At this point, let us remember that when God made man He was not making merely a robot. God’s purpose in creation was not to create a stage full of puppets who would automatically do His bidding, but rather it was to bring “many sons into glory” (Hebrews 2:10).
God had specifically announced that He was creating a race of beings like Himself. This certainly meant that He was producing a being with the capability of living successfully in a moral universe, a being that would follow a correct course, choosing between powerful, moral opposites of good and evil. By his unwavering choice of good in the presence of evil alternatives man was intended to move from innocence to holiness. Achieving mature personal holiness by his regular choice of good as against evil, man would be perfected in his divine capabilities and become, not only an inherited, but an actively responsible reflection of the personality of his Creator. Then he would have fellowship with God, the fellowship of understanding, the only kind of fellowship that counts. We see, then, that the goodness of God is not impeached by His allowance of the presence of evil in the world. The fact is the goodness of God is vindicated. God’s wonderful purpose for man make it worth the risk of putting man under “light affliction which is but for a moment” that it may “work for him a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). No one can—at least at the beginning of his life of moral consciousness—achieve mature goodness unless he does so in the fact of an alternative choice, that of evil.
So it was that a loving God placed Adam and Eve, those well-formed but immature reflections of Himself, in the Garden of Eden to live through their probation for heaven. The story of Adam and Eve contains few of the physical props necessary in the production of a modern play, but it certainly presents some of the most dramatic moments in the history of mankind.
Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons (Genesis 3:1-7).
Enter the villain? Here is the fourth being that plays a lead role in the opening scenes of history. Obscure in origin, subtle in approach, but deadly in purpose, Satan steps into the human sphere. This beguiling archenemy of God, this ultimate repository of evil, this deceiver and blasphemer, clearly seeing the issues that are at stake, moves in to make his play.
Who is this being? From where did he come?
The Bible does not dwell at length on the origin of the devil. It does, however, make some significant statements about this malignant being, his origin and the decisions that made him the devil. Speaking of that power behind the evil in the world, God has said,
Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created, till iniquity was found in thee (Ezekiel 28:12b-15).
We have here the picture of a majestic being who was close to God, possessing great power and near perfection. There came a day in the personal history of this being when the seeds of revolution grew in his life and he aspired to assail the very throne of God. The humility that he doubtless once knew at his favored relationship with God gave way to the pride of aspiration to be God Himself. Pride, this competitive and destructive malignancy, drove this exalted associate of God into the insane vanity of a war with God Himself. Describing these emotions and their result, the Scripture says,
How are thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit (Isaiah 14:12-15).
Here is the ultimate in affrontery. Lucifer, the son of the morning, five separate times arrogantly states his intention to usurp the throne of God. Satan used his volitional capability in a moral universe in an attempt to perpetrate the most immoral course of action possible in such a universe, namely, assaulting the rulership of God.
It is interesting to note the reaction from God Himself at this attempt on the part of the devil to assail the divine throne room. As the devil has said five separate times what he will do against God, now God five times says what He will do to the devil.
By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God; and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more (Ezekiel 28:16-19).
Here, then, is the first moral cataclysm in the universe, the tremors of which are still felt in the world of today and in the hearts of men.
It is clear that the devil was not destroyed on the spot, but rather cast out of heaven where soon we see him appearing on a planet called Earth. Here he attempts, under divinely ordained limitations, to continue the revolution, the first battle of which was so unsuccessful for him. This continuing revolution is based on the same ideology—and every revolution needs an ideology—that the devil originated when once he stood by the throne of God. The ideology in effect says, “God is unworthy of the mastery of this universe. He is a tyrant and anyone is a fool who chooses to serve and worship Him. It is a simple step from this primary ideology to show the reason why the devil appeared in the Garden of Eden. He is now out to prove that it is impossible for God to create free beings and still see them remain true to Him.
Up to this point Satan had represented the hitherto unchallenged doctrine that no man will serve God if he is free to do otherwise. His own rebellion against God, based on this doctrine, is now in jeopardy. God has established a beachhead in the devil’s territory in the form of a man, bearing His image and doing His will. This move of God the devil must defeat lest Adam become the first of a race of actively righteous men. Righteousness in the abstract is one thing, but righteous men, free beings who live for God, that is quite another thing! Every day that such a being lived he would forge of his life a weapon for the devil’s defeat. Every moment that he bore in freedom the image of God would pointedly refute Satan’s doctrine that no man who is free will serve God.
God in His wisdom had now chosen to prove that the devil is indeed a liar and a deceiver with no truth in him. He had chosen to create a being like Himself and to give him the privilege of living in a world where he faces the possibility of both good and evil. The implications of this course of action on the part of God are simply fantastic. Think of it! Man has the privilege not merely of walking and breathing and eating and waking and sleeping. He has the utterly stupendous opportunity of proving by his life the very principles of the universe. He can certify by his actions and his thoughts the necessary truth that God is good. The will of man has therefore become an instrument that is somehow connected with the destiny of the universe.
I fancy that the devil was quite astonished at God’s decision to make man. He doubtless thought God to be quite foolish to create a free moral being and place him within the area of possible Satanic influence. Here he moves in, lecherous and salivating, to attempt to consume the spirit of man, a spirit made in the image of God.
The devil sees that he must act, for his kingdom is invaded. Satanic authority is vulnerable to the acts of a free being who walks with God. God has created a third force for this foe’s undoing.
Here a question asserts itself. Could not God destroy Satan by Himself? It is elementary that He could. He could not, however, refute the devil’s argument by Himself. He must call a third being, a “free moral agent” who would prove by his fidelity to God that a being, when free and wise, would choose God’s way. His subversion of a few angels, with their apparently limited moral capability, was nothing compared to this. God had now taken the daring course of reproducing Himself in the life of another. This attempt on the part of God to lovingly infuse joy and eternal purpose into the life of another must be frustrated by the devil lest it show him up in public humiliation for the fraud that he is. Having established his revolution on the erroneous thesis that God cannot produce sons but only puppets, for free sons would rebel against His autocracy, the devil must now subvert man.
This is the point where the devil began his protracted operation in this world against God. Here he lit the furnace of affliction and created the powerful moral alternative to believing God and serving Him. This is the point where the devil first began to outwit himself—for he is not omniscient—performing in a sense the will of God by creating an alternative to the will go God, thereby producing the opposite pole to that magnetic field of the holiness of God. Passing through these lines of force enables man to develop proven resolution and maturity—in short, responsible holiness.
So it was that Eve one day heard a voice speaking to her from the body of a beautiful creature (the serpent must have been such before he was struck to the ground in judgment), as the devil opened a conversation with her. Here it was that Eve made her initial mistake—that of being conversant with the devil. The devil is to be resisted, opposed, withstood; and no good course can ever be gained by even the briefest association with him. This principle obtains to this day and is well remembered as an axiom of life.
The devil approached Eve to tempt her away from the path of godly purpose in a number of ways. He cast doubt upon the veracity of God. Further, he specifically denied that God’s warning of death, on the day that one would eat the forbidden fruit, was true. Satan in his arguments with Eve, however, presented his strongest case when he accused God of jealousy toward Adam and Eve and of being determined to keep them forever in subjection and ignorance.
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5).
In effect, the devil said, God has no true destiny for you! He is only interested in keeping you forever subject to Him. He has no real interest in your future happiness so the only way for you to become as God, knowing good and evil, is not by fooling the path of holiness, but by pursuing the course of disobedience.” The devil exploited the very sense of destiny, created by the divine image in Eve, to cause her to short-circuit God’s appointed path of holiness, the only road to true attainment, and attempt another way. So it was that Jesus said, “He that climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1).
Here transpired the most breathless moment in all of history, the moment of decision. Would she say no to the devil and yes to God? Would she resist Satan and thereby take a giant step upward in moral maturity toward perfecting the likeness of God in her life? All of the hopes for the future years of humanity were hanging breathless on this decision. What would it be?
Deceived by the devil and beguiled by this “other way” or moral achievement, Eve reached out a trembling hand and took of the forbidden fruit. Moments later she presented the same to her horrified but loving husband and he also ate. That was the moment when Adam and Eve closed their eyes in death.
Not physical death—their physical hearts were still beating and their physical eyes still beheld the sun, the trees, the flowers, each just as beautiful as ever. They died in a more basic sense: they died the death of the spirit. Essentially, death is never the cessation of being. It is separation. Physical death is the separation of the body and the spirit while spiritual death is the separation of the person and his God. That was the moment when Adam and Eve stepped into the dark abyss of separation from God. The lights of the world went out; and Pandora’s box was opened indeed, for here originated all the evils of the world. From that moment death reigned as king.
This is the story of the tragedy that took place in the Garden of Eden. Adam, the federal head of the human race, sinned against God. In so doing he brought upon all mankind the penalty of sin. The moral image that God had invested in Adam is now twisted, defaced, and hardly recognizable. By willfull rebellion, which only incidentally took the form of eating of the forbidden fruit, man had shattered that beautiful likeness of the eternal God which he bore in his own nature. True to the principle that “whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7) mankind has been reaping the fearful harvest of the seeds of sin that were planted by the father of the human race in the bloodstream of humanity.
War, poverty, heartbreak, sickness, death—all that the world endures—comes to us. They are not the result of the wrong politics or the wrong education; they are the result of the wrong moral choice on Adam’s part. War and poverty are not the causes of the world’s problems. They are the symptoms. They are the result. In a universe that is moral it is axiomatic that tragedies in the physical world are ultimately caused by a moral fault.
All of the problems of all mankind, therefore, have their root in man’s disobedience to his God. The father and mother of the human race said no to God, and their disobedience has furnished the pattern for every one of us. We, like they, have inherited the results of Adam’s sin and contributed by our personal disobedience to that ever growing tidal wave of evil that sweeps downward through history.
All of mankind, far from being innocent, is a participant in Adam’s sin: every man has chosen of his own volition the precise direction as did Adam.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way (Isaiah 53:6).
So the image of God becomes a broken thing, reflected as through a glass darkly in the twisted personalities of the sons of earth.
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