“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1)
Well, everything was moving ahead just fine at Rancho Eden. The King watched as His vice-regents carried out their duties, making sure the ol’ homestead was in perfect order. Trees were trimmed and prepped for pollination, walking paths were cleared of roots, and all the animals were happy and healthy. The only problem for the Man and Woman was getting the hungry, hungry hippo out of their way as they strolled to the orchard side of the lake to pick some morning breakfast from the low-hanging fruit.
The Couple had to guess which path to take a few times as they were still learning Eden’s terrain. After grabbing a few fruit snacks, the Man and Woman decided to take a short survey of Eden’s edge to verify how big their plot of land was and what it would take to begin expanding the boundaries as their King had commanded.
Inside the garden, it was paradise! In Eden, life was lush, well-maintained, and comfortable. It was a place of sublime security. The Couple had everything they would ever need – protection, provision, and, best of all, God’s presence. In short, they enjoyed a wholly secure and predictable life under the watchful eye of their benevolent Creator. But outside of Eden? Well, that was something else.
Peering through their protective wall of vegetation, they could barely make out the wild and untamed world surrounding their Home Sweet Home. It was a veritable jungle of twisted vines weaving through a massive carpet of new growth erupting through the ground interspersed with great stretches of open land and pooled water. Many of the plants were unfamiliar, and the desire to explore suddenly welled up in both of them. Some of Eden’s creatures had migrated beyond its protective barrier and were already starting their work of populating the world after their kind.
Despite the chaotic and haphazard outside world, the Man and Woman weren’t afraid of the Eden Expansion challenge. Any uncertainty they had was overwhelmed by their urge to run out into the wilderness and start getting things under control and setting Eden’s new boundaries. A place for everything and everything in its place, you know? Yes, they had fun trimming, cultivating, and beautifying Eden, but this? This was a challenge par excellence. The Man was itching to tackle the fresh ground. What kind of new and exotic vegetables and fruits would he find for them to savor? And the Woman? Oh, she was already dreaming of expanding their Eden homestead. After all, her maternal instinct was stirring within her.
They looked at each other and smiled. It was a new day, filled with fantastic opportunities and possibilities. God Almighty was on His throne, and all was right with the world.
Everything was going God’s way.
They turned and walked down the path back to where they had been working that morning, not far from the Tree.
That beautiful and intriguing Tree.
That off-limits Tree!
Although their God had given them everything in Eden to manage and enjoy, the Tree was the only thing their King said was not for them. Well, to be clear, God told the Man about the Tree, not the Woman, because she hadn’t been formed yet. God commanded the Man not to eat the Tree’s fruit, or He would die that same day, whatever that “die” thing meant. It seemed pretty important, so when the Woman was created (“And what a weird experience that was!” thought the Man), he relayed their King’s warning to her. “He said we can’t eat from that Tree. All the other plants are allowed. If we disobey God,” he said with a serious tone, “and eat of the Tree, there’s some sort of super serious punishment we’ll get, and it doesn’t sound good at all. Tell you what. If we don’t even touch it, then we certainly won’t eat from it as God commanded, right? So let’s make that our rule. No touch-y, no eat-y. Okay?” The Woman enthusiastically nodded in agreement.
As they walked toward the center of Eden toward home, the Couple passed by the clearing where the forbidden Tree stood. They had passed by it numerous times recently, but there was something different about it this time. There was a glow to one side of the Tree, and they could barely make out the shape of some creature. Curious, they turned aside to look. As they drew near, they began to see that the glow came from one of God’s other created beings, the ones with a different kind of body that was more like God’s, which made it striking and a bit scary at the same time. The creature was magnificently beautiful, and it shone like the dawning sun. God’s creation never ceased to astound the Couple!
As they drew close to the Tree, the creature turned to face them. They became transfixed as it began to speak to them with a voice like a multitude of angels singing God’s praise. The creature’s voice resonated deep within them, and its words were simple yet strangely compelling.
“Did God really say…?”
Up to that terrible day, all creation was perfect. It wasn’t just good. It was “very good,” as declared by humanity’s covenant King (Genesis 1:31). This “very good” designation meant that everything was working flawlessly according to the Creator’s design. The pinnacle of His creation, the Man and Woman, were ready to work in complete harmony with their King. Because they were their King’s loyal subjects-in-waiting, He bound Himself to them with a grant covenant to reward them for being His faithful people. God would provide everything the Couple required for life – land, provision, protection, and everything else. In return, their Sovereign required only a few things; absolute obedience as they lived their lives and carried out their duties, specifically Edenize-ing the earth, bringing the entire world under their control, and maintaining it in an ordered and holy state for their God as His two-person kingdom of priests. And so it was.
But sadly, it was not to last.
In Genesis 3, we come to humanity’s Fall, and we’ll learn how it corrupted our Subdue and Rule Mandate. As we go through the Fall’s sad chain of events over the following few parts, we’ll explore fascinating insights. We’ll consider what it meant for the Couple to be “naked,” who this Tempter was and his temptation strategy, why we’re to handle God’s word correctly, and how the Fall changed the Couple and their Subdue and Rule Mandate.
The Fall: The Naked Truth
You wouldn’t know it by today’s cultural standards, but most people have a fear of, let’s say, “physical exposure.” Besides some movie stars, rappers, fashion models, and narcissistic social media “influencers,” most of us don’t want to flaunt our physiques. The reason “less-than-stunning” comes to mind, although at the beach near where I live, there are exceptions. Horrifying exceptions. Like guys with overly-fed shapes who strut about in the tiniest swimsuits as if they were Mr. Universe. Quite frankly, they’re doing no one any favors.
Anyway, apart from the wild toddler who loves to run about the house au natural, most of us fear being naked in front of other people. Yes, I hated gym class. More specifically, the communal after-gym class shower. I felt exposed, humiliated, and embarrassed because I was “husky,” as my mom would say. Without my clothes, I also felt unprotected, vulnerable to the jibes of unkind classmates freshening up after the gym. Because of my weight issue, my attire was my mobile security blanket. Even today, I still feel very self-aware when I’m at the beach (not in a speedo, mind you).
All of this plays a part in what the Man and Woman experienced after the Fall in Genesis 3. Before the Fall, in Genesis 2:25, the Bible says that the Man and Woman were “naked, yet felt no shame.” That seems like an odd observation because, throughout the Bible, references to nakedness often imply great shame (2 Samuel 10:4; Isaiah 47:3; Nahum 3:5). Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary says, “Public nakedness was regarded as a shameful state and often accompanied shameful activities such as idol-worship and lascivious behavior.” So, something happened during the Fall that caused nakedness to become a shameful thing.
However, in Genesis 2:25, nakedness denotes being completely exposed before God, i.e., fully known. As the All-knowing (omniscient) God, the Lord knew everything there was to know about the two people standing before Him, and it was more than just the color of their eyes or their skin tone. In the sense of the Hebrew word, yada (as in “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…” Genesis 4:1), God’s knowledge of every human being is complete intimate knowledge, and it hasn’t changed.
David testifies to how well God knows a person in Psalm 139. “Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord” (Psalm 139:1-4). This revelation overwhelms David, “This wondrous knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it” (Psalm 139:6)
It’s this depth of knowledge that God has about human beings is what made the Couple “naked” before Him. And here’s today’s scary thought. God hasn’t changed. It’s still the same with each one of us today. It’s bad enough to imagine if another person could know our thoughts and feelings entirely. We don’t have to imagine with God. Like the Man and Woman, we still stand “naked” before God. Regardless of how we try to conceal any part of ourselves from God and claim He can’t see each one of us for who we are, each one of us is still fully exposed before God (1 Corinthians 13:12), who knows the deepest, most concealed part of our being, the inner person, “the thoughts and their intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
There is, however, more to nakedness than exposure. Nakedness also means vulnerability. As physical nakedness renders us physically vulnerable to the elements, the exposure of our inner state (as in “naked” before the All-Knowing God) renders us vulnerable to the One who can accurately discern their thoughts and intentions from afar (Psalm 139:2). But the Couple had nothing to worry about, right? Exposure? Vulnerability? Piece of cake! Why?
Nakedness also implies innocence. “In some instances, however, nakedness characterized the innocence and dependence of birth (Job 1:21; Ecclesiastes 5:15)” (Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary). It’s a truism that those who are innocent have nothing to hide. Therefore, the Man and Woman’s nakedness reveals both a physical condition and a spiritual condition, their inward state of moral innocence. Consequently, they could be totally exposed and vulnerable before God because they had nothing to hide from Him. They felt no shame being “naked” because they were in covenant compliance with their King’s terms (innocence) and thus enjoyed a safe and secure relationship with their covenant partner.
Nakedness as “covenant innocence” also implies trust. Within a covenant, both parties trust the other to remain loyal to the relationship and fulfill their obligations as a demonstration of their commitment. For the Man and Woman, their obligations were to reproduce and rule according to God’s will alone. For God, His self-imposed obligations were to bless their efforts (Genesis 1:28) and fully provide for their needs (Genesis 1:29). As the Man and Woman went about their subdue and rule duties, they could wholly trust their King for everything needed for life. Their “nakedness without shame” denotes trustful innocence, a secure dependence on God, and proves that the creation covenant was intact and unviolated.
However, something was about to happen that would make the Duo painfully aware of how truly naked they were. They would know exposure and vulnerability in a whole new way. And with their newly-perceived “nakedness” would come more unique experiences, distrust, insecurity, and fear that accompanied their loss of innocence by violating their King’s covenant.
And their Subdue and Rule Mandate with its drive to control everything? That’s going to go wild-weasel after they meet the stranger by the Tree.
Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, “nakedness.”
Pastor Jay Christianson
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