Fundamentals of the Fall

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For those of you who may not have noticed it yet, we have begun to fall into something of a pattern during our time here at Stage #1 of God’s One Big Story.  First, we have watched and enjoyed each new segment of the Story as it has been presented to us; then, we have paused to analyze each new segment to see what we could take The Critic's Hataway from it.  In effect, what we have been doing is donning two different hats for each of our theatrical outings—the first hat made expressly for the devoted, theatre-going patron who is just out for an evening’s entertainment, while the other is perfectly suited for the questioning, somewhat jaded theatre critic who is searching for the pathos inherent in any new presentation.  Well, now that we have finished viewing the third Vignette in our current series—that being Man’s Sin and Fall From Grace—it is time for us to once again remove our Patron’s Cap and change into our Critic’s Cap so that we can search for the deeper meaning hidden within the characters’ actions in this portion of our Story.

I suppose that for us, as critics, there can be no more pathos-producing element within a Story than the introduction of Evil into it—especially when that Evil seems to be so unwarranted and out of place.  When you consider that in our Story so far, everything and everyone in it is Good, for…

  • God is holy, so there’s no way that Evil has any place in Him;
  • The world God has created is perfect so, as yet, there is place for Evil in it; and,
  • Our human characters, those beings made in the very image of God, are still both innocent and undefiled.

So, what purpose could possibly be served by the Author of this Story, who is none other than God Himself, in allowing the introduction of Evil into this, His most magnificent opusespecially when He knows better than anyone else the dire consequences which will result from just such an introduction?

Before we can answer this all-important question, however, there are two other questions that will need to be answered first:  why was Man created, and how was Man created?  And, for the answers to these questions, we only need to refer back to Another Learning Interlude, where we only recently learned that…

  • Man was created by God for Sonship; and,
  • Man was created in the image of God, so that he could become a Son of God.
    However…

Being created for Sonship…

…would require that the Son be holy, like his Father.  Before he could be found to be Holy, though, he would first have to prove to be righteous; and, in order for that to happen, he would have to maintain his innocence in the face of testing.

…would also require that the Son be obedient to His Father, even if he didn’t fully understand the reasons for that obedience.

Being created in the Image of God…

…would mean that the Son would have a will like His Father; a will giving him the power to choose to either obey or disobey—or, to choose to between doing Good or doing Evil.  Before he could do any choosing, though, there would first have to be both Good and Evil options from which he could choose.

These requirements, then, bring us to God’s purpose for allowing the introduction of Evil into His Storya purpose which can be summed up by one nasty, four-letter word (and ordeal) which most of us try to avoid at all costs—and that is a…TEST

Test now1You see, Vignette #3 is all about a TEST

  • A Test to see if Man would maintain his innocence in the face of temptation, so that he could be found righteous and holy, like His Father; and,
  • A Test to see if Man would exercise his will to obey His Father, or use it to satisfy his own fleshly desires.

So, here, then—for all of you critical thinkers, are the Fundamentals of the Fall, and of …

Man's Really Big Test


The Life Lessons to be learned from the Fall…

Using what we have just learned from the Fundamentals of the Fall, we can now identify some of the important Life Lessons about testing to be found in Vignette #3.  Based upon Adam and Eve’s experiences, we say with certainty that…

  • Fail or pass1Everyone will be tested—even Christ was tested (Matt. 4:1-9) but, unlike the first Adam, He put His trust in the Word of God when he was confronted by temptation.
  • God allows/requires the testing. While Satan tempts us in order to separate us from God, God allows our testing so that we can be drawn closer to Him.
  • Just like Adam and Eve, we will be tested on the revelation of God’s Word that we have received.
  • And just as Eve was, we will be tested in three areas: the lust of the flesh (body), the lust of the eyes (soul), and the pride of life (spirit).

There are also some other Life Lessons, relating to the choices that we make and their consequences, to be learned from Adam and Eve’s experiences.  They are the hard lessons that…

  • Everyone will be judged…

    …inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes the judgment (Heb. 10:27).

  • We will reap according to what we have sown…

    Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Gal. 6:7-8), and…everything will reproduce “after its kind” (Gen. 1).

  • We will be judged according to our works…
    The righteous will be judged to determine their rewards, however, these rewards will not be immediate; they will be determined by our good works, all of which will be tested by fire, for…

    …each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work (1 Cor. 3:13-14).

    But the wicked will be judged to determine their degrees of punishment…

    …And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds (Rev. 20:12).

  • A broken relationship with God can only be restored by an atoning sacrifice for sin; and this sacrifice must be the work of God alone, involve the death of an innocent substitute, and involve the shedding of blood.  (Heb. 9:11-14)

    …Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ…for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God… (1 Peter 2:18-19, 23).

The Contributions that the Fall makes to the Heavenly Story…

With the introduction of Evil into our Story, a new and altogether unsavory Character joins its Cast.  Although this Character has not yet been named and he will, for the present time, remain invisible to us, his presence will surely be felt as He and his nefarious activities continue to wreak havoc among the people of God’s creation.  And, it is through his evil actions in this, his first appearance in our Story, that the conflict which propels our Story forward is also introduced. 

The Revelations of God to be found in the Story of the Fall…

In as much as it is becoming our practice at this juncture to look for new revelations of God that can be found in the preceding Vignette, let’s once again do that by using the same criteria that we have used during our previous critical pauses: 

The names God uses to identify Himself… 

In Vignette #3, God is still identified by the name, the Lord God, Jehovah or Yahweh. Although His name remains unchanged, a whole new dimension is added to it in this portion of the Story.  Whereas, in Vignette #2, Yahweh was revealed as the immanent personal God, directly involved with Man as his Creator, life-giver, provider, and sustainer; in Vignette #3, Yahweh is revealed as Man’s seeker, his judge, his redeemer, and his restorer.

The Things that God does…

God’s actions in this segment of our Story can best be described as measured and proportional.  Having already instructed the Man on what would and would not be acceptable conduct, He then allows him and his partner to have the time and opportunity to choose how they will conduct themselves.  When they fail to do what it right, God doesn’t wait for them to come to Him; instead, He seeks them out, giving them a chance to repent, yet still holding them responsible for their actions.  As He must, He judges and imposes punishment on them for their sins; but, after doing so, He immediately provides a covering for those sins so that their fellowship with Him can be restored.  In addition, He offers them the hope for a brighter future through the promise of a Redeemer who will eventually deliver them from sin’s bondage.

The Way that God relates to His Creation…

When we look closely at God’s actions, just described, it is easy for us to see that He is relating to His Created Beings as any Father would to His Children.  For, after providing His Children with love and a wonderful home, He teaches or instructs them in the right way to live, and then lets them choose whether or not they will obey.  When they choose wrongly, He must discipline them–but it is always done with love.

What God says about Himself…

Once again, in this portion of our Story, God has nothing to say about Himself; He lets His actions do all the talking–and, as usual, they say quite a bit about the God and Father that we are coming to know and love.

With this, our critical analysis of Vignette #3 comes to a close, making it time for us to move on to Vignette #4, where we will meet Cain and Abel—the two sons of Adam and Eve who will bring a whole new level of drama to our Story.  In anticipation of that, we need to take off our Theatre Critic’s Hat and replace it with our Theatre Patron’s Cap, as we prepare to observe how the fruit of the Two Trees will be reproduced in the children of Adam and Eve.

Smiley Face with Earphones2

Until then, join the Sidewalk Prophets in their prayer to “Change This Heart”…

The Perils of Personal Autonomy

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When the last installment of God’s One Big Story ended, here is where we were in the Story:

  • God had created a beautiful world, and designed it perfectly to sustain the lives of the people He would soon be creating;
  • Then, when this earthly home was completed, God created Man, a being so much like Himself that he would have no problem in being adopted as one of God’s sons;
  • Next, God created a Garden Sanctuary where He and the Man could meet regularly for fellowship; and, upon its completion, He placed the man in the Garden and designated it as his new home;
  • Because it was a grace gift from God, there was nothing that he could do to earn the privilege of living in this beautiful Garden Sanctuary, however, once it was completed, Man was charged by God with the responsibility of tending and protecting it. While it was an idyllic place in which to live, and was one which satisfied almost all of his needs, there was still one need that remained unmet, and that was Man’s need for human companionship;
  • So, to meet this need, God created a Woman from the Man, and then brought her to him, to be his Partner and Helper, and his Co-Regent over all of God’s Creation;
  • Together, they wanted for nothing. Their Garden home was filled with every kind of tree that was good for food; however, two trees in the middle of the Garden were designated by God as being special—the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Man and Woman were free to eat from the former but forbidden to eat from the latter;
  • At this point in the Story, everything in God’s Creation was “good,” and every one of Man’s experiences in life had been “good.” Man and Woman were living in harmony with one another and with God; they were naked before one another and before God—naked and innocent, and in their innocence, they were completely unashamed. At this point, Man had no knowledge—either theoretical or experiential—that a thing such as “Evil” even existed.

This, then, is the scene now opening up before us on Stage #1, as God’s One Big Story resumes, and as Vignette #3:  Man’s Sin and Fall from Grace begins.

Temptation1

“…Now the serpent was more crafty…”

As the Vignette opens, we find the Man and Woman busy in the middle of the Garden, going about their daily routines, when a Serpent appears, seemingly out of nowhere.  We are immediately struck by the mysterious beauty of this creature, as he glides effortlessly across the ground and positions himself in and around the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  In his advancement toward the Tree, we watch almost spellbound as the multicolored scales of his skin give off the appearance of iridescent, undulating tiles rippling with each of his movements, as they glisten in the light of the sun.  This hypnotic effect is soon broken, however, when our off-stage Narrator suddenly calls our attention to another, far less attractive, characteristic of this particular creature…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made (Gen. 3:1).

As startled as we are by the sudden intrusion of the Narrator’s comments, we are even more stunned when the Serpent himself begins speaking to the Woman, instigating this brief but very effective dialogue:

Did God say1

“Did God say…?”

Serpent:  Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’

Woman:  We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 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.’

Serpent:  You will not surely die.  For God know that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

Eve thinking1

“Hmmm…”

With the Serpent’s seed of doubt so simply yet skillfully planted in her mind, we watch as the Woman takes a piece of fruit from the forbidden Tree.  Holding it in her hands, she studies it from every angle, no doubt reasoning within herself about how beautiful the piece of fruit it is, how delicious it must taste, and how delightful it would be to be as wise as God.  Suddenly, after apparently casting aside all doubts as to what her next move should be, she bites into the fruit and then hands it to the Man who is with her, and he, following her lead, shares in the forbidden delicacy.  Immediately afterward, as an unsettling pall settles over the Stage, we realize that we have just witnessed an event so tragic that it will forever change life here on the earth.  Where everything in the Garden was, just a few minutes earlier, so light, bright, and beautifully untarnished, now the very same scene is one in which every pure hue of every created thing has been diminished or toned down through a universal application of gray.

Sewing fig leaves1

Self-efforts Can’t Cover Man’s Sins

In addition to these unpleasant environmental alterations so rapidly taking place in the Garden itself, we also become aware of some unexpected changes taking place in the Man and Woman.  For, immediately after eating of the fruit, we observe them looking at each other with such startled expressions that one would think that they had never seen one another before.  Instantly, the precious innocence which they once shared is gone; an innocence that has so quickly been replaced by the uncomfortable awareness of their nakedness, and of the shame accompanying it—a shame so intense, in fact, that it compels them to rush to a nearby fig tree where, after plucking multiple leaves from its branches, they begin fashioning make-shift garments with which to cover their nakedness and shame.  However, as we are about to learn, works such as these can never cover Man’s sin, nakedness, and shame before God.

This lesson is driven home to us as we see the disgraced Couple, upon hearing the Presence of God walking through the Garden, hiding themselves among its trees.  Even though they have done their best to completely cover up their disobedience and its results, when in the Presence of One so holy as the Lord God, these Sinners still find themselves to be naked and ashamed.  However, as the One who is ever seeking the lost, God calls out to the Man, asking where he is, and initiating the following exchange:

God:  Where are you?

Man:  I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.

God:  Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?

Man:  The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.

God (to the Woman):  What is this that you have done?

Woman:  The serpent deceived me and I ate.

God (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 you, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

God (to the Woman):  I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.  Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.

God (to the Man):  Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out if it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Families1

They All Go Back to Adam and Eve

Once these judgments have been handed down, our Narrator interjects a final, seemingly unrelated, comment, when he tells us that…

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living…

…no doubt, to remind us that we, as descendants of Eve, are all partakers of the same sin nature that originated with her and her husband at this pivotal moment in time.

Fortunately for Adam and Eve, and for us, too, this is not where or how this part of our Story ends; for, as soon as our Narrator finishes with what he has to say, we get to witness another act of grace on God’s part, as He slays two innocent animals and, from their skins, makes the garments that Adam and Eve need to appropriately cover their nakedness.  With their sins temporarily covered in this way, God speaks once more, acknowledging the momentous change that has just taken place, saying…

Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.  Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever…

Outcasts1

Sin Results in Separation from God

…a change so devastating that, before He even finishes His sentence, God takes the action of driving the Man and the Woman out of the Garden; sending them back to the ground from which Adam was taken–where he will now have to toil for that which had freely been enjoyed in his Garden home.  Then, to keep them from returning to the Garden and eating of the Tree of Life and living forever in their present sinful conditions, God graciously places Angels and a Flaming Sword to guard the entrance to the Garden, and to the Tree of Life.

While it is at this point that Vignette #3 does come to a close, our Story certainly doesn’t end here.  For, as we shall soon see, because everything in God’s Creation was designed to reproduce “after its own kind,” Adam and Eve’s choices will produce fruit that will prove to be very bitter indeed, not only to themselves but also to their children, and to the society that these children create.  Because of that, in our future Vignettes, we will spend a considerable amount of time acting as “Fruit Inspectors” !

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Until then, though, let’s enjoy the message of “Before the Throne of God Above” by Selah