There are several worthwhile daily devotionals, but some are better known than others. In this review I consider some tools that are excellent for encouraging one’s time with the Lord, but may be less familiar to some readers.
For organizational purposes I separate two categories: daily devotional calendars and daily devotional books.
Daily Devotional Calendars
- Choice Gleanings by various contributors (Gospel Folio Press): Brief, paragraph long meditations that include Scripture and sacred poetry. A variety of Christians write different types of devotionals – some are gospel oriented, while others exhort believers. Others succinctly teach a point of doctrine, while many others warm the heart. One valuable feature is that there is a daily Scripture reading plan included on every page, which enables one to systematically read through the Bible in a year. It is available in different formats, including a wall calendar, desk calendar, daily journal, and daily planner.
- The Lord Is Near (Bible Truth Publishers; available here): This offers one page long meditations – some by contemporary authors and others by departed gifts like J.N. Darby, C.H. Mackintosh, and William Kelly. Longer than Choice Gleanings pages, these well-written articles likewise offer some gospel-oriented and some believer-oriented thoughts.
- The Continual Burnt Offering by H.A. Ironside (Walterick/Loizeaux; available here): Henry Allen Ironside is well known for his excellent commentaries on the Scriptures, as well as classics like Unless You Repent. This devotional offers short one-page devotionals for every day of the year. Many theological gems are contained within its pages.
- One Day At A Time by William MacDonald (Gospel Folio Press; available here): As with his outstanding Believer’s Bible Commentary, brother MacDonald offers well-written, Christocentric meditations in his customary understandable prose.
- The Day By Day series (Precious Seed Publications; available in Europe here and in North America here): From the publishers of the well-regarded Precious Seed magazine. In page-length meditations these books guide one through a Scriptural theme during the course of a year. Contributors are drawn from seasoned Bible teachers in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. Volumes in the series include:
- Day By Day In Prayer
- Day By Day: Christ Foreshadowed
- Day By Day With Bible Characters
- Day By Day In The Old Testament
- Day By Day In the New Testament
- Day By Day: Bible Commands
- Day By Day: Moments With The Master
- Day By Day: Bible Promises
- Day By Day: Paradise To The Promised Land
The newest one in the series is the recently published Day By Day: Christ And His Apostles. If you use the Logos Bible Software, some of these titles are available electronically: Link: Logos Day By Day Collection.
Daily Devotional Books
“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’” Revelation 21:5
In our studies of the first three chapters of Genesis we have learned much about the person and works of the One True God.
This book of beginnings shows Him to be an all-powerful, all-wise, omnipresent Creator who works all things after the counsel of His own will. In contrast to modern thinking, Genesis also reveals the tremendous value of human beings who were purposefully created in the image and likeness of God for His good pleasure. They were invested with tremendous dignity and authority and put over other works of God’s hand.
Accordingly, their fall brought tragic and devastating consequences upon planet Earth. The momentous purposes of God that begin in these early chapters of the Bible run throughout the pages of holy writ. Therefore, it is not surprising that when we come to the last book of the Bible, Revelation, we meet old familiar things and issues.
Paradise Lost, And Found
Genesis 3 ends with the sad tale of Adam and Eve’s banishment from Eden. Their loss is most poignantly seen in the fact that the tree of life is now closed to them. The cherubim and flaming sword bar their way to the enjoyment of eternal life.
Yet the chapter itself also contains assurance of the saving goodness of God to be manifested in a future day through the “seed of the woman” (Gen 3:15). Happily, Revelation promises fresh access to the tree of life (Rev. 2:7).
This access is brought about through a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ who died on a cursed tree to open the way to this blessed tree.
Glorious Dominion Over The Earth
The first Adam failed miserably in having dominion over the earth for the glory of God. All of the earth’s potential lay dormant and unfulfilled. What is more, man’s sin ushered in a new epoch of groaning for planet earth (Rom. 8:21-22). In the wisdom and power of God, the last Adam – as the New Testament calls the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 15:45) – will accomplish what the first could not. As King of kings and Lord of lords, He will reign until every enemy is vanquished beneath His feet (1 Cor. 15:24-28). After ruling over the earth for 1,000 years of blissful prosperity, He will crush the last vestiges of wicked rebellion and usher in new heavens and new earth “in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13).
Indeed it is no exaggeration to say, as many have before, that the last Adam gains far more than the first ever lost. That is because the redeemed and glorified church along with the tribes of Israel will share in the glories of this eternal kingdom. All the purposes and plans of God will find their culmination in His unparalleled work.
Editorial Note: This post concludes brother Keith Keyser’s Entry Level series. I would like to express my personal gratitude for Keith’s faithfulness in writing this helpful series on the first three chapters of Genesis. Thank you brother Keith. ~~Scott
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“So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24
The cherubim were created beings that fall under the broader category of angels. Genesis 3 presents their first appearance, but they figure prominently later in the Bible as decorative representations in the Tabernacle and Temple. They adorned the veil & the mercy seat in each of those structures. Their presence on the former was a daunting reminder that man could not stride boldly into the presence of a holy God on a whim. As Hebrews succinctly words it: “The Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing” (Hebrews 9:8). Atop the mercy seat, the cherubim flanked the place were God’s glory sat enthroned (Psalms 99:1). The symbolism accentuates that these heavenly beings were sentries who guarded the Lord’s glory.Read More
“Therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man.” Genesis 3:23
Since the fall, life on this planet is a continual struggle for humanity to survive and thrive. Some of the difficulties are self-imposed through mankind’s pervasive evil behavior, fallibility, and impotence; other problems are the product of sin’s effects upon the natural world. All of this trouble may be traced back to Adam’s disloyalty to his Creator as seen in his disregard of the first commandment recorded in Scripture (Genesis 2:16-17.) Instead of being God’s steward on earth to make the planet achieve its potential, through his disobedience, the first man brought the curse upon the world. Rather than performing his work with joy and without impediment, Adam is now banished from the garden of pleasure to laboriously eke out a living from the recalcitrant soil. Thus, the man of dust (Genesis 3:19) tills the ground with mixed success – he obtains his bread, but toils for every crumb. Relief from this hard life is only to be found in the Lord’s future promises regarding the new heavens and new earth.
The Daily Grind
The existential angst that man feels on this earth stems from the tragic history of Adam’s fall. Though made from earth and meant – under God’s authority – to be a lord over the earth, he is a stranger here, never quite in control of his environment. The natural problems facing his progeny are legion, and they are as much incapable of fixing them as was their first ancestor. Amid the gloom, however, the history set forth by the Bible offers hope for deliverance.
Centuries after Adam was afflicted by the curse his descendant Lamech named his son Noah (“Rest”), saying: “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD has cursed” (Genesis 5:29.) This moniker proved to be prophetic, for he was the builder of the ark that the Lord used to preserve humans through the flood. Afterwards, the Almighty promised not to destroy the natural world, declaring: “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease” (Genesis 8:21-22.)1
“Rest And Holiness There Find”
God’s deliverance of Noah through the flood reveals the Almighty’s design to give rest from the effects of the curse to those who receive His grace. The Lord Jesus spoke of it in His famous invitation: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-20.) The Lord Jesus offers this spiritual rest now to anyone who will receive His yoke by being saved. In the future, His victory over sin and the curse will be extended throughout the new heavens and new earth. As Revelation 22:3 asserts: “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” Man’s toil will give way to trouble-free service and worship towards His Creator. Fellowship will be completely unfettered and humans will enjoy God as He always meant them to. As Watts poetically asserted this truth:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.2
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1Two able Hebrew scholars are worth quoting on this point: “‘I shall not curse the soil any further.’ It is important to note the position of עוד in this sentence, coming after לקלל to ‘curse,’ not after אסף ‘do again’ as in the parallel clause ‘Never again shall I smite.’ This shows that God is not lifting the curse on the ground pronounced in 3:17 for man’s disobedience, but promising not to add to it. The flood was a punishment over and above that decreed in 3:17. This is further confirmed by the milder word for ‘curse,’ קלל ‘treat lightly, disdain,’ used here as opposed to the graver term ארר, used in 3:17…Furthermore, it is also quite apparent that the curses pronounced in Gen 3—weeds, toil, pain, death, emnity with serpents—are part of man’s present experience, so that 8:21 cannot be stating they are lifted after the flood.” Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 1. (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), p. 190. [Boldface mine.]
“The assurance goes far beyond [verse] 21. It does not abolish disasters, but it does localize them, so that the human family may overcome them by forethought such as Joseph’s and by compassion such as Paul’s (2 Cor. 8:14).” Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 1 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967), p. 101. [Boldface mine.]
2Isaac Watts, Hymn: “Joy To The World,” accessed here: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/j/o/joyworld.htm on 9/29/12.
“Rest And Holiness There Find” in second heading quoted from R. C. Chapman, Hymn: “Oh my Savior Crucified,” from Spiritual Songs, #71; accessed on 9/26/12 here: http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/71
“Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’— therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:22-24
Eviction is never pleasant. Involuntarily leaving one’s home is traumatic. Worse still, in Adam and Eve’s case it also meant losing the freedom of unimpeded enjoyment of their Creator (Genesis 3:8.) They were sent from the garden – “Paradise Lost” as Milton dubbed it – into an uncertain world of labor, hardships, and tribulation. In spite of this drastic alteration of scenery, however, the Lord was actually acting in mercy towards them.Read More
“Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21
Since the entrance of sin into the world, nakedness connotes vulnerability and shame – a naked person cannot hide anything about his physique. It is a metaphor for man’s undisguised guilt – the creature as he actually is before his Creator, as Hebrews 4:13 implies in these pointed words: “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
It was the awareness of this reality that pushed Adam and Eve into textiles, fashioning fig-leaf tunics in a futile attempt to cover their shame (Genesis 3:7.) It also moved them to hide from the Lord among the trees of garden (v. 8) – an absurdity considering that He is both omniscient and omnipotent (Psalms 139.)
Thankfully, the matter of dealing with human sin is not left to fallible, inconstant man; instead, the Almighty Himself provides a covering for our first parents’ nakedness, thereby signalling His redemptive plan that centered on the “seed of the woman” (v. 15.)Read More
“To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it”: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.’” Genesis 3:16-19
The fall of mankind brought radical consequences to Adam, Eve, and all of their descendents – in essence, every human being who ever existed was affected by it. Some of the reminders of Adam and Eve’s sin targeted their unique roles: the former as the provider and the latter as the mother. Their marital relationship – once meant for companionship and cooperation – now would be subject to strife, as competing desires between the spouses led to friction (Genesis 3:16, the last clause in particular.) Of course, the worst consequence of all was eventual physical and immediate spiritual death, ushered into the world by Adam’s sin (Romams 5:12.)Read More
“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:15
Conflict is endemic in this fallen world. Famous feuds permeate history: the Greeks against the Persians, the Romans against the Carthaginians, Spain/France/Germany (depending on the century) against England, even down to the family level of the Hatfields and the McCoys.
But no struggle is more severe, protracted, and momentous than the age-long battle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Happily, the outcome is not in doubt: the chief representative of the latter group has already triumphed by dying on the cross, rising again three days later, and ascending to heaven where He sits in the position of authority (Hebrews 8:1; 1 Peter 3:22.)
God Is For Us
God is not an indifferent observer to this war; rather, He is actively leading His side – represented here by “the seed of the woman” – to overcome the serpent’s forces. Bonar cogently explains the Almighty’s role thus:
…Satan’s ruin and the sinner’s deliverance are bound up together. It was to ‘destroy the works of the devil’ that the Son of God was to come; nay, it was ‘to destroy him that had the power of death, even the devil.’…God Himself undertakes man‘s cause.—‘I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.’ It is not, ‘there shall be enmity;’ but ‘I will put it.’ God Himself will now proceed to work for man. The serpent’s malice and success have but drawn forth the deeper love and more direct interposition in man’s behalf.1
One commentator puts in perspective the Creator’s promise of Genesis 3:15:
…He blesses before He curses; He points out, afar off, the remedy, before He brings upon His guilty creature all the evils to which his crime will give birth; He causes a feeble light to shine forth in a dark futurity, that man may direct towards it his uncertain footsteps, amid the deep obscurity which surrounds him. Let us, then, with profound reverence, approach the tribunal erected in Eden, and, in the sentence of condemnation, let us endeavour to discern words of mercy and grace.2
The First Gospel Prophecy
The most outstanding member of this band of believing loyalists is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is “the seed of the woman” par excellence. A teacher notes:
Is not the seed of the woman here individualised and matched in deadly conflict with the individual tempter? Does not this phraseology point to some pre-eminent descendant of the woman, who is, with the bruising of his lower nature in the encounter, to gain a signal and final victory over the adversary of man? There is some reason to believe from the expression, ‘I have gotten a man from the Lord’ (Gen. 4:1.), that Eve herself had caught a glimpse of this meaning, though she applied it to the wrong party.3
Biologically one normally thinks of the seed of the man; yet in this singular description there is a hint of the virgin birth of the Messiah. Only when the Word became flesh would Genesis 3:15 become fully understood. As Kidner writes concerning the “seed of the woman” prophecy: “There is good New Testament authority for seeing here the protevangelium, the first glimmer of the gospel. Remarkably, it makes its début as a sentence passed on the enemy (cf. Colossians 2:15), not a direct promise to man, for redemption is about God’s rule as much as about man’s need…”4
The Union Of The Snake
The serpent’s seed (“offspring” ESV) are those who reject God’s authority in favor of the rebellious pathway of Satan and the fallen angels. Sailhamer elaborates:
As representatives, the snake and the woman embody the fate of their seed, and that fate is their fate as well. The author has brought about this ‘headship’ of the snake and the woman by means of a careful but consistent identification of the snake and his ‘seed.’ At first in v. 15 the ‘enmity’ is said to have been put between the snake and the woman and between the ‘seed’ of the snake and the ‘seed’ of the woman. The second half of v. 15, however, says that the ‘seed’ of the woman (‘he’) will crush the head of the snake (‘your head’). The woman’s ‘seed’ is certainly intended to be understood as a group (or individual) that lies the same temporal distance from the woman as the ‘seed’ of the snake does from the snake itself. Yet in this verse it is the ‘seed’ of the woman who crushes the head of the snake. Though the ‘enmity’ may lie between the two ‘seeds,’ the goal of the final crushing blow is not the ‘seed’ of the snake but rather the snake itself; his head will be crushed. In other words, it appears that the author seems intent on treating the snake and his ‘seed’ together, as one.5
Eternal Scars, Eternal Victory
The Lord Jesus came to earth to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8.) In order to accomplish this He must feel the serpent’s tormenting bite. As Hebrews 2:14 puts it: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
Briscoe’s comments on the metaphorical language of Genesis 3:15 bear repeating: “The all too common experience of serpents biting men on the heel before being crushed underfoot takes on striking significance when applied to the wounding of Christ through Satan’s hostility and the crushing of Satan through Christ’s humility.”6 Christ crushed the serpent’s head: this is a mortal blow that also invalidates that lying murderer’s cleverness, annuls his authority, and devastates his arrogant pretensions.
Although the roots of the devil’s defeat were accomplished through the Lord’s death and resurrection, his final crushing will take place after Christ’s Millennial reign (Revelation 20:10.) Thankfully, the saints will share in this victory as Romans 16:20 asserts: “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” Everlasting peace can only flow from total triumph over the Evil One and every form of wickedness that he encourages.
Image accessed here: http://aardvarkalley.blogspot.com/2011/12/adam-and-eve-our-first-parents.html on 8/9/12.
1 Horatius Bonar, Earth’s Morning: Or, Thoughts on Genesis, (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1875), pp. 165f. Italics original.
2 L. Bonnet, The Exile from Eden; Meditations on the Third Chapter of Genesis, With Exegetical Developments, trans. W. Hare, (London: James Nisbet and Co., 1839), pp. 130-31.
3 James G. Murphy, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Genesis, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1863), p. 138.
4 Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries,Vol. 1. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967), p. 75.
5 John Sailhamer, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis. electronic ed. (Zondervan.)
6 D. Stuart Briscoe, Genesis, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 1. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1987), p. 55.
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“The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.’” Genesis 3:14
Evil appears to prevail in the modern world. Murders, immorality, cruelty, and greed fill the headlines so frequently that wickedness fails to astonish contemporary people anymore. Since the day sin entered the world through man’s disobedience, it has established a foothold in every corner of the globe. In spite of the apparent hegemony of the current, malevolent “ruler of this world” – as the Lord Jesus dubbed Satan (John 14:30) – evil and the evil one will be banished from the world in a coming day. The scene of the first judgment against human sin is a preview of the more extensive judgment to come against everything ungodly and evil.
Condemning Evil At Its Source
There is no need for the serpent to have his day in court to present an excuse or a defence: he was patently guilty. In a sweeping judgment that includes the animal agent and the insidious devil working through him, the Lord condemns both Satan and his tool at one stroke. In order for salvation to extend to mankind, evil must be dealt with at its source. As Bonar says: “Grace cannot come forth to the sinner, save in connection with the utter condemnation of the sin. There can be no true love to the sinner, which does not extirpate and utterly make away with the sin. Sin was the real enemy, and love to the sinner must proceed at once against this enemy, not resting till it is utterly destroyed.”1
Learning To Crawl
The punishment fits the crime: sin’s essence is self-exaltation; therefore, the serpent was cast down to the ground in abasement. In the words of a nineteenth-century commentator: “To lick the dust, is a scripture expression of ignominy and reproach. Psalms 44:25, 72:9, Isaiah 49:23, Lamentations 3:29. Micah 7:17. Pride is supposed to have been the first sin of the fallen angels, and here God lays them low enough.”2
Another concurs by saying: “Prostrate, no longer erect, and feeding on the dust which man shakes off from his foot, the serpent-race typified the insidious character of the power of evil, to which the upright walk of man was the typical contrast.”3 The point is clear: those who raise themselves in defiance against God’s authority will be put down. In Scriptural terms: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18.)
Of course the humiliation of the terrestrial serpent prefigured the utter defeat of that ancient serpent the Devil (Revelation 12:9.) Observing a serpent crawling reminds one that divine justice is certain and shall prevail. He who humbled the serpent in the dust will eventually cast Satan down to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10.)
A contemporary writer refers to this abiding picture of God’s judgment in this way: “The curse of the snake, then, as a result of his part in the Fall, is to be the perennial reminder of the ultimate defeat of the rebellious ‘seed.’ So strongly was this imagery of the snake’s defeat felt by later biblical writers that in their description of the ultimate victory and reign of the righteous ‘seed,’ when peace and harmony are restored to creation, the serpent remains under the curse: ‘dust will [still] be the serpent’s food’ (Isaiah 65:25).”4
“Oh How Vile My Low Estate, Since My Ransom Was So Great”
Satan is doomed to fall irrevocably and eternally. God hates sin and will judge it thoroughly and finally. He deplores every atrocity – every infraction large or small – every lustful look and thought; consequently, He will vanquish and judge all evil. Indeed, in the sacrificial death of His Son He has already demonstrated what He thinks of sin: it is so bad that its condemnation produced Christ’s horrible sufferings that wrung out of Him the cry: “My God, my God why have You forsaken Me?” The answer is provided by a later portion of the New Testament: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21.) Sin is so hideous that it necessitated God’s total, unmitigated anger poured out on it at Golgotha. Such is the Lord’s unwavering and righteous hatred against evil. He will banish every trace of it from the universe in the new heavens and earth.
Image from: http://propertydrum.briefyourmarket.com/Images/JD94/JD94_12_B2.gif Accessed on 8/9/12.
1 Horatius Bonar, Earth’s Morning: Or, Thoughts on Genesis, (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1875), p. 165.
2 Philip Henry, Exposition of the First Eleven Chapters of Genesis, (London: J. Nisbet and Co., 1839), p. 81.
3 Herbert E. Ryle, The Book of Genesis in the Revised Version With Introduction and Notes, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921), p. 54.
4 John Sailhamer, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis. electronic ed. (Zondervan.) Emphasis mine.
Quote in the 3rd section header: Robert Cleaver Chapman, “Oh, my Savior crucified”; Spiritual Songs, Hymn #71; accessed on 8/9/12 here: http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/71
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“Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’ And the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life.” Genesis 3:12-14
The present era ought to be branded the “No-Fault Age,” for the amount of ceding of personal responsibility that one sees at every level of society. “Passing the buck” is a lifestyle for many people. Accused criminals so frequently defend themselves by arguing that they are a product of their environment that it has become a cliche. The thinking seems to be: “I couldn’t help robbing that bank, I was from a poor neighborhood,” or “I was abused by parents/teachers/coaches, etc. therefore I committed this crime.”
It is rare to hear someone publicly or privately say: “I have no one but myself to blame; it’s my fault”; and to hear public figures openly say: “I’ve sinned” is virtually unheard of (far be it from anyone to use the “S” word – i.e. SIN; that would be bad form and might irrevocably damage someone’s self-esteem!)
In light of the ubiquitous human tendency towards self-justification and denial, this article will not argue that our problems are all the fault of our first parents. Responding to the question “what is wrong with the world?”, Chesterton famously retorted: “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton.”1 While I heartily disagree with Chesterton’s theology otherwise, I concur here, agreeing: “Yes, I am part of the problem; I am a sinner whose sins put the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.”
Having said that, the age-old technique of excusing oneself at the expense of others goes all the way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden.
The Blame Game
When God confronted the first human couple regarding their disobedience through incisive questioning, Adam immediately cast the blame upon his beloved mate (oh, that he were the last husband to have done such a thing!) Bonar describes the root idea of this action:
He accuses others to screen himself. He does not hesitate to inculpate the dearest; he spares not the wife of his bosom. Rather than bear the blame, he will fling it anywhere, whoever may suffer. And all this in a moment! How instantaneous are the results of sin! Already it has rooted out affection, and broken the nearest tie, and made man a being of dark selfishness. He has ceased to ‘love his neighbour as himself.’ Self has now risen uppermost within him. He is steeled against his dearest of kin. He does not hesitate to expose them to the wrath of God; he cares not what their doom may be, provided he escape! ‘Hateful, and hating one another,’ is the inscription on the forehead of our fallen race. It is this that we here read upon the brow of Adam.2
Another commentator agrees, saying: “My brethren, behold sin, corrupting the most intimate and the purest affections. See that monstrous selfishness, which withers in the root the most generous feelings of the heart, brought into existence, and become the moving principle of human life! Let all around me be humbled and confounded, so that my pride be satisfied! Let even that which I most love be stricken before my eyes, so that I escape! Let all perish, so that I live!”3 Rather than take personal responsibility, Adam blames Eve, and leaves her exposed to the wrath of the Judge. Thankfully, the Lord knows all and is able to mete out just punishment to all parties concerned (Genesis 3:14-17); He is not mislead when humans absolve themselves at others expense.
God In The Dock
By blaming Eve, Adam indirectly indicted the Almighty as an accomplice in the crime. The inference is: “If you had given me a better wife – or perhaps no wife at all – I would not have eaten of the fruit.” Bonnet’s thinly-veiled incredulity pours forth in these words:
What! the companion whom God had given him to complete his happiness, saying, ‘It is not good that man should be alone;’ the being who was destined to unite with him in loving, adoring, and worshipping the same God—that God who had surrounded him with so much felicity; Eve is now, in the mouth of guilty man, a subject of reproach to his God! If we have seen, that from selfishness to hatred, there is but one step, we now see that hatred, pushed on by pride, never fails to pour forth blasphemy! What an awful fall! What deplorable effects of sin!4
In like manner, another teacher paints this sinful strategy paraphrasing Adam’s absurd suggestion: “‘Thou saidst it was not good for me to be alone; but it seems now it had been better for me to have been alone; for if thou hadst either left me without a wife, or given me a better, I should have done well enough.’ Thus doth one sin beget another. The foolishness of man perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord. Proverbs 19:3.”5 It is hubris indeed to convert God’s goodness into an excuse for sin, yet many people still blame their Creator for their problems and personal errors.
Denying The Obvious
Listening to her spiritual leader evade blame, the woman demonstrated herself to be a quick learner by likewise throwing the culpability on someone else: the serpent. As Henry summarizes it: “He followed her example in sinning, and she followed his example in excusing it.” The serpent is given no chance to reply, or else he doubtless would have denied responsibility as well. Modern readers have no room to point the finger, for who among them has not blamed someone else for their own sins?
Many people deny that they sin at all, but God is not fooled by such outrageous claims (1 John 1:8, 10.) In light of God’s omniscience and the inevitability of His righteous judgment (Hebrews 9:27), the only reasonable course for individuals is to confess their sin, refrain from blaming others, and receive the divine mercy that flows from receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. Only the One who died as a sacrifice for sin and rose again in victory may free people from guilt and eternal punishment (Jnohn 3:36; 5:24; Romans 8:1.)
Image from http://blog.hillsbiblechurch.org/2011/01/24/stop-pointing-the-finger-at-others-look-in-the-mirror/ Accessed on 8/3/12.
1 G.K. Chesterton, quoted here: http://www.booksshouldbefree.com/book/whats-wrong-with-the-world-by-gk-chesterton Accessed on 8/3/12.
2 Horatius Bonar, Earth’s Morning: Or, Thoughts on Genesis, (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1875), pp. 147f.
3 L. Bonnet, The Exile from Eden; Meditations on the Third Chapter of Genesis, With Exegetical Developments, trans. W. Hare, (London: James Nisbet and Co., 1839), pp. 121-22.
4 Ibid, p. 122.
5 Philip Henry, Exposition of the First Eleven Chapters of Genesis, (London: J. Nisbet and Co., 1839), pp. 77-78.
6 Ibid, p. 78.
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