July 8, 2015 • Life for Leaders
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’”
If you were watching the movie version of the Bible, it would start not unlike many other movies, with a positive, happy beginning. Just as the hobbits enjoyed a peaceful existence in the shire, or Woody and his fellow toys were loved by Andy, so the world created by God was very good. The man and woman he created shared together in the good work of stewarding this beautiful and potentially fruitful world. They also shared an unbroken bond of commitment and uninhibited intimacy. Everything was perfect, or, as The Lego Movie puts it, “Everything is awesome!”
Yet, as you watch the first act of the biblical movie unfold, having been introduced to its protagonist (God) and major characters (human beings), you begin to feel a little nervous. Movies often start out with sweetness and light, but soon the plot thickens. So, as you get to the end of Genesis 2, with a very good world populated by the man and wife naked and unashamed, something in your gut warns you it’s all about to change.
Sure enough, this change begins in Genesis 3 with the introduction of another character, the serpent: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’” (3:1). The Hebrew word translated as “serpent” suggests something worrisome, since it can mean not only “snake,” which can be poisonous, but also “dragon.” The word translated as “crafty” can have a positive sense, such as “prudent,” but it often signifies cleverness in opposing God’s ways. So a very crafty serpent would be a creature to watch out for. Moreover, something about the serpent’s question, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” seems wrong, since this is not what God actually said (see 3:16-17). With the introduction of the serpent, the plot begins to thicken.
As we’ll soon see, this thickening becomes bad news for human beings as well as the whole world. Soon, God’s wonderful world will begin to fracture. As we read, we will ache over the pain that comes when the man and woman turn from God to follow the serpent’s advice. Yet, we ache not just for the characters in the story, but also for ourselves, our loved ones, our fellow human beings, and, indeed, our whole planet, because this story is our story as well. In the thicker plot, suffering becomes an integral part of life, one that makes life much harder and, as we’ll discover later in the story, much more wonderful as well.
So, today’s devotion is, you might say, a word of warning. It’s like the movie soundtrack that lets you know something bad is about to happen. Yet, as the plot thickens, as life becomes filled with pain and sorrow, we will discover that the protagonist in the biblical story is not defeated. God can be trusted even when his story – our story – takes an apparent turn for the worse.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you feel when the serpent is introduced in Genesis 3?
What thoughts do you have about the thickening of the plot in this chapter?
Why do you think God allowed his perfect world to be tainted?
How do you see your life playing out in God’s story today?
Gracious God, there is a part of me what wishes your story had gone in a different direction. I am no fan of pain and suffering, as you know. There’s a part of me that wants life to be easy. Yet, I believe that your story is the best one, that you are the master author, that you know what you’re doing with the cosmos. So, even with some trepidation, I thank you for the story that’s unfolding in Genesis. I ask that you will teach me what I need to know, that I will meet you afresh in this passage. Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.