The First Question

God created the heavens and the earth. Then He created all life that lives upon it, including man and woman. All was well until His creations began to question Him. Do you question God or do you trust Him?

The First Question ~ July 07, 2019 ~ Genesis 3:1-6

We are in the first book, Genesis, this morning. Chapter 3. Why did I end up in genesis? Well, I was in my office the other day and I came across some books. I did some research into the author of these books, and something in his past came out and kind of struck me a little bit like, “Whoa, that’s interesting,” and it inspired me to do the next couple of sermons. His name is Matthew Henry.

Matthew Henry was a non-conformist, they called it, in England. Actually we, the Pilgrims, the Congregationalists, were actually all non-conformists as well. In the 17th and 18th century, when the Church of England was enforcing their version of church, you had to attend an Anglican church, you had to worship in the Anglican way. If you did not you were imprisoned, you were tortured, sometimes even killed. There were those who would not conform – non-conformists.

Well, he was also a pastor and an author. He was born in Wales in 1662, and Matthew Henry is best remembered for this: A six-volume biblical commentary that looks at this Book verse by verse and gives detailed explanations. This is a classic work within the church. It is exhaustive and well-respected. Famous evangelical protestant preachers such as George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon used and heavily commended Matthew Henry’s Commentary. You can get one now today in one volume – its kind of big, but – you can also get it online. The copyright has run out, so you have access to it. And I would recommend it. Whitefield read through it four times. Spurgeon said that every pastor ought to read it entirely and carefully at least once in their careers. But what really intrigued me about Matthew Henry when I came across him was that he had a previous publication that he wrote. It was a study of all the Bible’s questions. And that’s what we’re going to look at over the next few weeks – some of the very first questions that come up in the Bible (because I always have questions, I’m sure many of you have questions too). What were the first questions that others had in Scripture?

So, would you join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God?

Lord, upon the pages of this book is Your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Genesis 3, first six verses:

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

There it is. The first question in all of Scripture. “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.

Notice, she didn’t want the fruit. She wanted what she believed would come with it, the wisdom.

So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
(Genesis 3:1-6)

So, here we have the very first question in all of Scripture. “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit of the tree in the garden?” The first question is to doubt His Word.

Now, let’s be fair. Let’s put ourselves in Adam’s shoes (well, you know, illustratively shoes, he didn’t have shoes on). Let’s put ourselves in Adam’s path for a minute. You’re brand new, right? There’s no one here but you. You look around and you see that God has created all of this from nothing. He has that kind of power, that kind of ability. He creates the garden for you to live in. He creates a helpmate in Eve, just right for you. Has God done anything but love you and provide for you? Has He done or said anything that even hints at being dishonest or selfish? What reason would you possibly have to question Him or what He has to say?

But that’s what Satan does. That’s what the serpent does. That’s exactly how the evil one works. The first thing he tries to do is to get us to doubt God’s Word. Did God really say you must not eat of the fruit of the tree? See, he appeals first to our physical needs – in this case, it was Eve’s appetite. She was hungry, but not necessarily for the fruit. She wanted the wisdom. But he was appealing to her appetite, her wants, her desires. We all have different appetites for a variety of things. There are people who desire drugs or alcohol or sex or power or wealth or fame. What’s your pleasure? That’s what Satan will use to get you to doubt God’s Word. So, the first thing he does, the first question, is to get you to doubt God’s Word.

The second thing Satan does is he contradicts God’s Word, right? Verse 4: “You won’t die!” Why is that effective? Why did that work on Eve, do you think? Because that’s what she wanted to hear, and we fall for that every single time, it seems – people telling us things we want to hear. How many of you have clicked on advertisements for pills to lose weight? Sometimes you even sit through that long video, just thinking that at the end there’s going to be some magic potion that’s going to help. And all these people do for twenty minutes is tell you exactly what you want to hear, and they get you convinced. At the end, next thing you know you’re sending in your credit card number, and you’ve got these pills coming in the mail. None of them work.

But we love it. Politicians do it all the time – tell us what we want to hear, we vote them in, and then they don’t do what they said they were going to. Every election, both parties, doesn’t matter. This last election that we just had, our current governor said on the trail that he’s going to fight as hard as he could to make sure we don’t have tolls put back up in our state. What did it last, two weeks? After he got elected, “Oh, guess what? We’ve got to have tolls! And it’s not just going to be for trucks, it’s going to be for everybody.” We fall for it again and again and again. I’m telling you, friends, any politician that tells you, “We’re going to have free healthcare, we’re going to have free college…” they are lying to you. They are telling you what you want to hear, so that you will support them.

This is what Satan is doing – telling Eve what she wants to hear. “You won’t die!” It’s effective. He is tempting Eve by getting her to doubt God’s goodness, that’s what he’s doing. He is implying that God is strict, stingy, selfish, not wanting to share with Eve His knowledge of good and evil. Has God done anything to this point to show that He was strict, stingy, or selfish? He said one tree, that’s it, you can eat from all the other trees. Just don’t eat from this one.

Satan makes Eve forget about all that God had given her, and instead focus on the one thing she didn’t have. We get into trouble too, when we dwell on the few things we don’t have rather than counting on the abundance of things that God has given us. I feel like the next time we are feeling sorry for ourselves, perhaps we should stop and consider all that we do have and thank God instead. That way, our doubts will not lead us into… [takes bite of apple].

So, Satan is planting seeds of doubt. “Did God really say that?” Then he contradicts God’s Word. “God said you’ll die, but I say you won’t die.” Why is that important? Let me finish my bite of apple and I’ll tell you. (I should have taken a television bite, a tiny bite). Why is that important? Because there are consequences to believing a lie. There are, there are consequences to believing a lie.

Here’s a story that I came across that really shocked me. There was a poor Chinese farmer, true story. His name was Wu Jifa. Wu Jifa had joined a religious cult because this cult leader gave him dreams of attaining wealth and riches. The cult leader claimed that people could leave behind the worries and cares of the world if they only did two things. Ready? If they stood naked by a roadside with their identification papers on the ground, and the first person who came along to check their identification papers, they would kill. I’m not making it up, you can google it yourself. That’s what the cult leader said. You go to the side of a road. You stand there naked. You put your identification papers on the ground. First person that comes along to check your identification papers, you kill them. All your cares will be left behind. You will experience riches and peace and comfort from here on forward.

On June 29, 1998, Wu, his wife, his cousin, and his cousin’s two children went down to the roadside at dawn. They took off all their clothes. They put their identification papers on the ground. They grabbed the first farmer who approached them. They forced them to read their identification papers, and then they stoned him to death. Did he find peace? Wu and his cousin were executed. They got the death penalty. His wife got life in prison. The two children, ages 11 and 13, were not persecuted because they were minors. Now, what does this have to do with our story this morning? Think about it. Wu Jifa heard and listened to what he wanted to hear, and chose to believe. He chose to believe a lie. And instead of peace and instead of riches, he found only the judgment of the law. There are consequences for believing a lie.

Ask Adam and Eve. There are consequences for believing a lie. “You won’t die.” First, doubt God. Second, contradict God. Third, reinterpret God’s Word. That’s what Satan did, right, in verse five? “Oh, you won’t die. It’s not about death. God knows that your eyes will be opened. It’s about wisdom!” God was clear. Eat from the tree, you’re going to die. “No, no, no, no, no. That’s not what He really meant. What He really meant was…” The unbelievable thing to me – Satan hasn’t changed his strategy for 6,000 years. He uses the same tactic today. It’s how he has deceived so many millions of people. For instance, if we read, God created, in chapter 2, marriage, when He made Adam’s helpmate Eve, and joined them together in Genesis 2:24:

This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.
(Genesis 2:24)

One man, one woman, joined together forever. That is God’s design for marriage. It’s right here. I didn’t make it up. It’s right here, and no one doubted it for 6,000 years. And then in 2015, five people that happened to be Supreme Court justices, decided that marriage was something else. They reinterpreted it. Are we surprised? We shouldn’t be. The serpent has been using the same tactic since the beginning. Doubt God’s Word – “Did God really say that?” Then contradict God’s Word – “God said no, but I say yes!” He did the same thing with abortion. “Did God really say that? God said no but I say yes!” and poof! Sixty million babies are dead since we chose to reinterpret “Thou shalt not kill” in 1973.

Satan is still using the same tactic. There is a popular belief today that people love to listen to, and that is, “I think as long as I am a good person and I do more good things than I do bad things in my life, I will be fine. I will be okay.” That’s not what God’s Word says. Romans 3:23:

Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
(Romans 3:23)

Isaiah 64:6:

When we display our righteous deeds…

Our good deeds…

… they are nothing but filthy rags.
(Isaiah 64:6)

To which Satan has said over the centuries, “Did God really say that?”

And then there’s this idea that all roads lead to heaven. It doesn’t matter what religion you belong to, or what church you go to, we’re all going to heaven. Isaiah 43:10:

“…understand that I alone am God. there is no other God – there never has been, and there never will be.”
(Isaiah 43:10)

John 14:6:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6)

To which Satan says, “Did God really say that? Maybe God reveals Himself as Jesus to Christians, but as Mohammed to Muslims, and as Buddha to Buddhists, and as Joseph Smith to Mormons…”

Question God’s Word. Contradict God’s Word. Reinterpret God’s Word. The evil one has not changed his tactics since the beginning. Why would he? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

We continue to fall for it, to listen to what we want to hear. I know I did. For many years. I believed a lot of things that I don’t today when I was younger, before I got saved. You know what changed my mind? God’s Word. In 1989 I did something really radical! (Two things, actually.) First, I read it. Second, and perhaps more important, I chose – I made an intentional and conscious decision – to believe it. Not to doubt it. Not to contradict it. Not to reinterpret it.

God created the heavens and the earth, and then He created all life that lives upon it, including men and women. All was well with His creatures, all creatures, until we started to question Him. So, that’s my question for us all to consider: Do we question God? Do we trust Him at His Word? Or are we listening as the evil one whispers in our ears, “Did God really say that?”

You may have lots of questions. That’s okay. Me too. God is not afraid or upset by questions. At the same time, we cannot be afraid or upset with His answers. Do we trust Him at His Word? That’s the first question we should be asking ourselves. It’s the same question Adam and Eve faced in the garden. And I want to poit out, before I conclude – too many people blame Eve. Yes, she was the first to pick the fruit from the tree. But did you hear what I read? “She took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it too.” They were both standing there. They were both able to say no. Neither of them did. You don’t blame women.

But I feel, my prayer is, that this Adam answers better than this Adam did. I’ll try. How will you answer?

I don’t know, after I read it, I can tell you this. The amazing thing about God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness, is that no matter how far away from the truth we may have gotten, He is always ready and willing to welcome us back, because He loves us. There is no question about that whatsoever. How much does He love us? This much. This table represents how much God loves us.