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Light and Truth: The Old Testament: Chapter 4 - The Sin, the Sinner, and the Sentence

By Horatius Bonar


      Genesis 3

      THE first two chapters gave us creation's perfection. Like a newly finished statue, there it stands. The chisel has given its last touch. The sculptor is satisfied; pronounces it very good, and rests. All is fair. Earth is like heaven.

      But now the descent begins. The steps are no longer upward, but downward. Creaturehood cannot stand alone. The moment that it is left to itself if totters, it falls. It must be joined to the Creator before it can stand. The fall is the first step towards this everlasting union, in virtue of which creation is to become infallible.

      I. The Tempter. Outwardly the serpent, inwardly the devil; hence called "the old serpent;" hence the Apostle says, "as the serpent beguiled Eve," and "lest Satan should get advantage over us." This is the first demoniacal possession. Afterwards we read that the devils entered the herd; that Satan entered Judas; that he filled the heart of Ananias. In speaking to man he must use some fleshly form. Thus by means of the serpent he communicates with man.

      II. The Temptation. The tempter makes use of the testing- tree, and points to it as a mark of restraint and tyranny. His object is to separate Adam and Eve from God; to produce the evil heart of unbelief, which would make them depart from the living God. For this end he suggests doubts on three points, (1.) As to God's goodness,--in prohibiting the tree.

      (2.) His faithfulness,--in fulfilling His threats. (3.) His truthfulness,--in deceiving them as to the real nature of the tree. Having got Eve to listen, he leads her on, and then flatly contradicts God. Ye shall not surely die.

      III. The Bait. (1.) Negative, ye shall not die. (2.) Positive, ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil. The first was to remove the dread of danger, the second to lead on. Knowledge! Knowledge like that of God! Intellectual ambition,--this is man's first snare, and it shall be his last. Worship of intellect and genius. Human supremacy in mind. Progress! Not in the knowledge of God Himself (Satan does not dare promise that); but of good and evil. Does not this imply that evil is in itself a strange attraction? To know evil man will do and dare as much as to know good. Evil is in his eyes an empire of boundless range, to whose utmost limits he fain would penetrate. Hence his love of the "sensational." The opening of the eye to see afar off, whether into space or time, or the substance of things, is an irresistible bait. For the obtaining of a wider range of vision, what will man not do?

      The Success. The tempter triumphs. Woman, "the weaker vessel," yields. She falls, and in falling, drags her husband down. Three things win her over. (1.) The tree is good for food. Why then not eat of it as of all the rest? Yet for this she had only Satan's word. But "the lust of the flesh" prevailed. (2.) It is pleasant to the eyes; it looked goodly, and the lust of the eye prevailed. (3.) It makes wise; it is the tree of knowledge. She wants to be wise, and she will not wait God's time, nor take it in God's way; but in her own, or rather the devil's. Wisdom is the devil's bait; wisdom apart from the God only wise,--apart from Him who is the wisdom of God. What harm is there in wisdom, says he still; and so with this sophistry he leads men into knowledge where God is not; into literature where God is not, and where Christ is unknown.

      The Shame. We are unfit to be seen, is the first feeling that arises after the sin; unfit to be seen by any one, even by one another; unfit for the sun to shine upon. A covering or darkness is their only refuge. Now they know what nakedness is. The virus of the forbidden tree has shot through them, and the sense of disobedience clouds their conscience; they now for the first time know the distinction between their comely and uncomely parts,--the clean and the unclean. They take the nearest and the broadest leaf, and twist it over them. Here it is simply covering, in after days it became ornament as well.

      VI. The Dread. How shall we look on God, or God look on us? God comes down,--they flee, as far off as possible, into the covert of the trees. Their fig-leaves were more for themselves, this is for God. They dare not face Him. They dread His anger. O folly! To hide from God! Yet man has always done so; his doing deeds in darkness or when alone, which he would not do in the light or before the others, is the same feeling as here.

      VII. The Trial. God summons them. They come forth and stand at His bar. He questions them, and brings out their whole guilt step by step. They blame each other, they blame God, they blame the serpent. But they sullenly admit the deed. Poor excuses! What can palliate sin? What will God accept as palliation? Guilty on their own admission; this is the verdict.

      VIII. The Sentence. Each of the guilty parties receives judgment. (1.) The Serpent. As the instrument he is cursed, and as the representative of the old serpent. A greater than the serpent is here. In this curse on the serpent, God reveals His love to the sinning race, and tells that instead of cursing the victim, as no doubt Satan expected, he means to take his part against Satan,--to raise up a deliverer, the Son of the woman, who, though not without wounds, will destroy man's enemy. The man with the bruised heel is to be the bruiser of the serpent's head.

      (2.) The Woman. No curse, but still a chastisement, a memorial of her sin; as the first in sin she is to be in subjection, and though through child-bearing she is to be the source of blessing, yet this very thing shall be in sorrow, to remind her of her sin. (3.) The Man. No curse on himself, but on the ground for his sake. Fruitfulness in evil is the doom of the soil; sorrow and death, toil and sweat is the doom of man. Yet these after all are earthly. They do not separate from the love of God.

      The Man's Faith. He names his wife according to the promise; mother of the living, not of the dead mother of him who is the living one, the resurrection and the life. Adam believed God, and was justified; he accepted God's testimony to the coming Messiah as the living One, though born of her who had brought in death, and he became partaker of life eternal.

      God's Clothing for Man. Coats of skins; those of the slain sacrifices, provided by God himself, better and more durable than the fig-leaves; types of heavenly raiment, and pre- intimations of the source from which that raiment was to come,--of the materials of which that raiment was to be composed, viz., the life and death of the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. This was what the Lord meant when he said, "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him," and what Paul meant when he said, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ."

      Yes; the Son of God has come to clothe us! He has provided the garments, and He puts them on. They are fair and goodly; washed white in His own blood; glorious as the sun. He asks us to take them; nay, He entreats us to allow Him to put them upon us." Buy of me white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear" (Revelation 3:18).

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See Also:
   Preface
   Chapter 1 - The Old and New Creation
   Chapter 2 - The Link Between Being and Non-Being
   Chapter 3 - A Happy World
   Chapter 4 - The Sin, the Sinner, and the Sentence
   Chapter 5 - Man's Fig-Leaves
   Chapter 6 - Expulsion and Re-Entrance
   Chapter 7 - The Blood of Sprinkling and the Blood of Abel
   Chapter 8 - The Way of Cain
   Chapter 9 - The Man of Rest
   Chapter 10 - Going Out and Keeping Out
   Chapter 11 - The Shield and the Recompense
   Chapter 12 - Liberty and Service
   Chapter 13 - The Day of Despair
   Chapter 14 - The Blood of Deliverance
   Chapter 15 - How God Deals with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 16 - The Fire Quenched
   Chapter 17 - The Vision from the Rocks
   Chapter 18 - The Doom of the Double-Hearted
   Chapter 19 - Be Not Borderers
   Chapter 20 - The Outlines of a Saved Sinner's History
   Chapter 21 - Divine Longings Over the Foolish
   Chapter 22 - What a Believing Man Can Do
   Chapter 23 - Song of the Putting Off of the Armour
   Chapter 24 - The Kiss of the Backslider
   Chapter 25 - The Priestly Word of Peace
   Chapter 26 - Human Anodynes
   Chapter 27 - Spiritual and Carnal Weapons
   Chapter 28 - Divine Silence and Human Despair
   Chapter 29 - Jewish Unbelief and Gentile Blessing
   Chapter 30 - The Restoration of the Banished
   Chapter 31 - The Farewell Gift
   Chapter 32 - God's Dealing with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 33 - God Finding a Resting-Place
   Chapter 34 - The Moriah Group
   Chapter 35 - Diverse Kinds of Conscience
   Chapter 36 - The Soul Turning from Man to God
   Chapter 37 - Man's Dislike of a Present God
   Chapter 38 - True and False Consolation
   Chapter 39 - Gain and Loss for Eternity
   Chapter 40 - Man's Misconstruction of the Works of God
   Chapter 41 - The Two Cries and the Two Answers
   Chapter 42 - The Knowledge of God's Name
   Chapter 43 - Deliverance from Deep Waters
   Chapter 44 - The Excellency of the Divine Loving-Kindness
   Chapter 45 - The Sickness, the Healer, and the Healing
   Chapter 46 - The Consecration of Earth's Gold and Silver
   Chapter 47 - The Gifts of the Ascended One
   Chapter 48 - The Speaker, the Listener, the Peace
   Chapter 49 - The Believing Man's Confident Appeal
   Chapter 50 - The Love and the Deliverance
   Chapter 51 - The Sin and Folly of Being Unhappy
   Chapter 52 - The Book of Books
   Chapter 53 - The Secret of Deliverance from Evil
   Chapter 54 - The Voice of the Heavenly Bridegroom
   Chapter 55 - The Love that Passeth Knowledge
   Chapter 56 - The Vision of the Glory
   Chapter 57 - Man's Extremity and Satan's Opportunity
   Chapter 58 - The Day of Clear Vision to the Dim Eyes
   Chapter 59 - The Unfainting Creator and the Fainting Creature
   Chapter 60 - The Knowledge that Justifies
   Chapter 61 - The Heritage and its Title-Deeds
   Chapter 62 - The Meeting Between the Sinner and God
   Chapter 63 - God's Love and God's Way of Blessing
   Chapter 64 - Divine Jealousy for the Truth
   Chapter 65 - Divine Love and Human Rejection of it
   Chapter 66 - God's Desire to Bless the Sinner
   Chapter 67 - The Resting-Place Forgotten
   Chapter 68 - The Day that Will Right all Wrongs
   Chapter 69 - The Glory and the Love
   Chapter 70 - False Religion and its Doom
   Chapter 71 - No Breath No Life
   Chapter 72 - Every Christian a Teacher
   Chapter 73 - Work, Rest, and Recompence
   Chapter 74 - Human Heedlessness and Divine Remembrance
   Chapter 75 - Lies the Food of Man
   Chapter 76 - The Love and the Calling
   Chapter 77 - The Anger and the Goodness
   Chapter 78 - Darkness Pursuing the Sinner
   Chapter 79 - Jerusalem the Centre of the World's Peace
   Chapter 80 - Jerusalem and Her King
   Chapter 81 - Looking to the Pierced One
   Chapter 82 - The Holiness of Common Things
   Chapter 83 - Wearying Jehovah with our Words
   Chapter 84 - Dies Irae

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