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First Sunday in Lent
“More Crafty Than Any Other Beast”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
St. Matthew 4.1-11; Genesis 3.1-21
21 February 2021
+ In the Name of Jesus +
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. (Gen. 3:1; ESV).
The Law of God was given, even in paradise. The Law for Adam and his wife was that they were to eat of every tree in the garden, but not of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “For in that day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” In this, they knew good from evil. Good is to do as God says. Evil is to eat of the tree and to therefore surely die. A pretty clear line and boundary.
The devil’s craft is to challenges the veracity of God’s Word with the woman. He mocks the Word of God: “You will not surely die.” God is hiding something from you – your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing all good and all evil, he claims.
The devil lies. You will surely die for going against God’s Word. And the woman’s eyes were already open, but to the light and life and presence of a holy God. And she did know good and evil, on God’s terms – eat of that tree and you will die, do not eat, and you will live.
But the craftiness won out. The woman sees the goodness of the fruit for her nourishment, lusts after it with her eyes, desires to obtain wisdom on the devil’s terms, on her own terms, instead of receiving it from God and His Word.
“What is this that you have done?” says the Lord God.
“The serpent deceived me, and I ate,” confessed the woman.
The woman paid the price for receiving and listening to the false preaching of the devil. God’s consequence for her sin was that the one thing she alone is uniquely given to do, to bear life within her and give birth to new life, would be painful and even dangerous to endure.
As she had dared to preach falsely to her husband about the fruit, and falsely became the provider of food to her husband, reversing the God-given roles, now God says, there will always be that tension in the marriage. It will be difficult for the sinful wife to submit to the husband and humbly return back the love he provides; and it will be difficult for the sinful husband to resist the temptation to lord it over his wife instead of humbly leading the family through loving service, sacrifice, and devotion to the family as he is called to do.
The man paid the price for receiving and listening to the false preaching of the devil through his wife, and allowing her to provide him food from the forbidden tree. Now his job of providing for wife and family would be fraught with hard work, sweat, pain. Thorns and thistles infest the ground.
They will also return to the ground from which they came. “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The wages of sin against the Law of the one true God is death.
The serpent was cursed for being more crafty than all those beasts, used as it was by the devil, cursed to slither on his belly and eat dust, the stuff from which the first Adam was formed.
The craft of the devil, causing the man and woman to disregard and disbelieve God’s Word by eating of the fruit of the tree, it did not nourish, did not bring life, did not bring beauty, light, or wisdom.
Instead it brought about all the things that hurt and harm and abuse, and at the last bring decay and death, to you and me and your neighbors, even to this day.
Yet, the Lord God crafted His own will and plan to reverse Satan’s work and rescue our fallen race. He is yet more crafty than Satan and every other beast of the creation – for the Lord God is the Lord and Author and Giver of life, no ordinary beast, no tame lion as C.S. Lewis portrayed Him in the Narnia adventures.
God would one day put enmity between the devil and the offspring of the woman. No longer would the lies and craftiness of the devil be listened too without it being rebuked. And that strife between the devil and man would come to violence – the devil would bruise the heel of the offspring of the woman, would bring harm to the man, but that man would bruise the devil’s head – in other words, bring about his defeat and ultimate destruction.
The eternal Son of God willingly is the seed of the woman, willingly taking upon Himself, into His divine person, her flesh, and your flesh, and mine, a man of heaven becoming a man of dust, the Second Adam, and becoming the Seed, the Son, the beloved One of God the Father, with whom He is well pleased.
Adam and Eve, barred from the garden and the way to the tree of life, went into the wilderness of this world to live out their days, fraught now with the devil’s craft. Their first son would murder their second. There would be grief and sorrow, sweat and pain, thorns and thistles.
Years later, the Lord Jesus, the Second Adam, the perfect Son, went vicariously for all mankind into the wilderness to be tempted by the same crafty beast, the devil.
No surprise, the devil works to challenge the veracity of God’s Word with this Seed of the woman, mocks God’s Word even, calls it into question.
The devil offers stones for bread to the hungry Lord. Would Jesus, as Eve once had, see the fruit the devil offers as being good for food? No – He knew it was a rotten fruit, the devil’s bread, not good for food. Man is only to live by every Word that comes from the mouth of God. He will go hungry rather than eat the false food of the deceiver of this world.
The devil tempts Jesus to test whether or not God’s power and purposes are guiding Him – throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple, let the angels catch you. Would that deception of the devil be seen as making Him wise, as the fruit was desired by Eve for new wisdom so long ago? No – there is no wisdom for Jesus in testing His Father, he trusts His ways perfectly, He will not put God to the test.
The devil offers the glories of the world’s kingdoms to Jesus. Would it be a delight to His eyes, as the fruit was a delight to Eve’s lusting eyes? Would He worship the devil and his deceptions even as Eve had so long ago? No – “You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve Him alone.” Jesus will not turn aside from wholehearted worship and service of God His Father. His life and ministry will be a perfect act of worship and service to God.
Perfect, even to the winning of the final victory outside of Jerusalem three years later. He did not turn aside from the work He was sent to do, and He will not turn aside from the will of His Father, enduring every temptation, and the rejection of men who mocked Him and crucified Him.
God’s Son came to know and feel for Himself the shame and mocking, the bitter anguish of body and soul. His heel was bruised. He knows the temptation, the testing, the lying, the deceiving, the hurt and harm and abuse, the tears and grief and sadness, He knows the illnesses, the fear, the loneliness, the heartbreak, and a cruel death and the cold grave. He knows and has felt in His body and soul all that happens to you and me and to your neighbors in this corrupted life.
Through it all, Jesus perfectly went out in your place and on your behalf won victory over Satan, in the wilderness, throughout His ministry, through His perfect obedience, even unto death. Christ has stripped the devil of his ill-gotten kingdom and has replaced it with the kingdom built on His Word.
The devil still does try to make a sordid mess of your own brokenness, still tries his ill craft each day to tempt and test and question Jesus and His Word of promise to you. He tries to bring terror and angst to every stage of life in this world, from cradle to facing the grave. But he’s judged. The deed is done. Rebuke him as Jesus did, rebuke him as he was rebuked at your Baptism into Christ. The victory has been won. One little word from your crucified and risen Savior fells the crafts and assaults of the devil, and brings you wholeness, forgiveness, hope, and the guarantee of eternal life with Jesus at the Resurrection of all flesh.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +