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Bible Thoughts & Themes
by Horatius Bonar
The Old Testament
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THE SIN, THE SINNER, AND THE SENTENCE
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
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.
You shall not surely die.
III. The BAIT. (1.) Negative, you shall not die. (2.) Positive, you 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 sincerely 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?
IV. 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"
(2.) It is pleasant to the eyes; it looked goodly, and the lust of the eye
(3.) It makes wise; it is the tree of knowledge. She needs 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.
V. 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 lovely and unlovely 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.
IX. 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.
X. 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 clothing, and pre-intimations of the source from which that
clothing was to come– of the materials of which that clothing was to be
composed, that is, the life and death of the Lamb of God that takes 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
you 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;
no, He entreats us to allow Him to put them upon us." Buy of me white
clothing, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do
not appear" (Revelation 3:18).