The First Temptation
Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. The author is not discussing technology, medicine, or any number of discoveries that have occurred. He is speaking of the fact that human nature does not change and so nothing is new. When we read the Bible, we will find that Adam and Eve faced a temptation that is the root of all temptation. This temptation is a major theme in the Bible, and many of the stories highlight the fact that every generation continues to struggle with this one temptation.
In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve are told not to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden. The temptation that introduced sin into the world was that they “will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5).” They are not seeking wisdom, knowledge, or intelligence. The temptation is to become like God and have the ability to determine what is good and evil.
The tower of Babel tells how the people came together with a plan to build a tower “whose top is in the heavens” (Genesis 11:4). The heavens represent the dominion of God. Their desire was to place themselves on the same level as God. God’s concern is that they are attempting to become their own god and determine their own good and evil. The result would be that “nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them (Genesis 11:6).”
Pharaoh becomes the archetype of those who have become their own god. He commands that the Egyptian baby boys should be killed. He has determined this is good. He has enslaved a people and treated them as his property. He has determined this is good. It would take ten plagues before Pharaoh would humble himself and admit the Lord was God.
The book of Judges begins with good rulers, but then they get progressively worse. By the end, the author paints a violent and gruesome reality of people who have abandoned God. The last sentence sums up why sin was rampant, “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).” The people had become their own god, and they defined for themselves what was good or evil.
The first temptation is the temptation that we all face and struggle with daily. We are locked in a battle over who will get to determine what is good or evil. The prophets are filled with the judgment against Israel because they oppressed foreigners, widows, and orphans. They have become thieves, murders, adulterers, liars, and idolaters even to the point of sacrificing their own children. How did they get to this point? Isaiah says the people call evil good and good evil because they have become wise in their own sight (Isaiah 5:20-21).
We all know how this temptation works. We are aware God has called something evil or a sin. We believe it to be true. But then, we are tempted to take part of it. We meditate on it, and we begin to think that it isn’t really that bad. Over a period of time that may last minutes or years, we decide what God has called evil is now good.
We face the same temptation that Adam and Eve had in the garden. Who will we let determine what is good and evil? Will we allow God to be the ultimate authority and decision maker? Will we eat of the fruit and become our own god so we can call evil good? Or will we die to ourselves and submit to God and allow him to be the sole determiner of good and evil in our life?