Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Sun Tzu in his famous book The Art of War said the following: "What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy."* Sun Tzu said many things that Christians should pay no attention to, but this particular saying isn't one of them. We must know our enemy and the strategies that he uses against us if we hope to prevail. Christians have traditionally understood that the enemy in the above passage of Scripture is Satan in the form of a snake even though the text refers to him simply as a snake. Taking into consideration Genesis 3:15 (which seems to require that there be something more to this snake) and Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 (which seem to clearly allude to the snake in Genesis 3 and identify him as Satan), I believe this is an entirely reasonable interpretation of the text. The Hebrew word "satan" literally means "adversary." This accurately describes what he is, and in this passage of Scripture we get a rare behind the scenes peek at his strategy for deceiving us. Though, I am sure Satan has more tactics than the ones he used in the garden, this passage should be studied so that we can avoid falling for the same deceptions again.
First, our adversary casts doubt on God´s command. "Did God really say...?" He does his best to make a very simple command into a fuzzy and complicated one. Here we have a luxury that Adam and Eve did not. We have God's Word written and preserved for us. When doubts arise in your heart and mind over what God has said turn first to the source of all truth. Do not turn to scholars or pastors or the wise men of the world. Turn to Scripture. In it you will find clearly laid out for you what He has commanded.
Second, Satan misquotes God´s word. "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The only tree God told them they were not allowed to eat from was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). Satan uses a variation of this tactic on Christ while tempting Him in the desert. Satan correctly quotes Psalm 91:11-12 to Christ but he does so in order to tempt Him to sin. We learn from this that our enemy will try to convince us that God's Word says something it does not either by misquoting it directly or by confusing us as to how it should be applied in our lives. There is a reason Scripture is called the sword of Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). It is a weapon. It was meant for you...to protect you from your enemy. But if you are not careful, if you do not hold to it tightly he will twist it against you. Hold God's Word close.
Third, he calls God a liar. Oh…he doesn´t come right out and say it, but he clearly contradicts what God has said. “You will not certainly die,” he says. He sets up his false truth in place of God´s absolute truth. Every day he does the same. Every day you and I are bombarded by messages- messages about sex, abortion, right and wrong, who Jesus is, whether the Bible is true, whether Christianity can be trusted- all purporting to be the "truth." We must choose for ourselves what is and what is not true. Too many of us base this decision on what our own logic tells us is true and false. God's Word tells us that we are sinners, that even our minds are prone to error. We must turn in faith to the only source of absolute truth, God's Word. We must meditate on it day and night as the Psalmist suggests (Psalm 1:1-3) so that we can recognize the lies our enemy is pushing on us and so that we might withstand his assaults.
Fourth, Satan will try to convince you that God is holding out on you. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” How often we fall into sin because Satan has convinced us that it is desirable! We know that God has told us not to do something, we know that He has identified it as sin, and we know that He has told us that sin brings death (Romans 6:23); yet we allow ourselves to be convinced that in this case God is wrong. This sin won't bring death. It will make me happy. It's what I want. What a victory our enemy has won if he can convince us to want the very thing he plans to use to destroy us! Perhaps what is most dangerous about this last strategy is that it implies that our Father doesn´t have our best interests at heart. Remind yourself of the precious truth we find in James 1:17 "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
Guard your heart against the traps of our enemy. Call to mind the truth of I John 5:4-5 "Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." So hold tightly to your faith. Hold even tighter to the source of your faith, the Word of God. Hold tighter still to the true Word (Jesus Christ) that has come down from heaven to make the Father known to you.
For further reading...
- Matthew 4:1-11: See if you can discern any other strategies of the enemy by looking at how he tempts our Lord.
- Ephesians 4:25-28: Do not give the devil a foothold.
- Ephesians 6:10-20: Take a closer look at the armour we are given for the battle.