Imagine that Edenic paradise prior to the fall. Adam and Eve often wandered in the garden with God, no doubt talking excitedly about their paradise home and all that was in it. The variety of flowers and insects and animals was almost overwhelming to every sense, and their questions came faster than a toddler’s.
God explained math to them, and biology, and chemistry. He explained physics, pointing out the revolution of the earth as it orbited the bright sun in the sky.
They basked in the warmth and love of their Creator, falling more in love with God day by day. They felt as comfortable in His presence as any of us have ever experienced in our most treasured memories.
Given this, why then were they suddenly afraid after partaking of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?
God had warned them that eating it would kill them.
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die (Genesis 2:16, 17).
But they ate it and did not die.
Why did Eve not approach God gleefully proclaiming, “Look, Father! We’re not dead! The serpent said we wouldn’t die; so, we ate of the fruit, and Adam and I are still alive!”
What made them, instead, run and hide from God?
Satan twisted God’s warning against taking a poison into a threat of punishment.
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil” (Genesis 3:4, 5).
God warned they would die.
The serpent said they would not die.
Who was right?
It seemed the Serpent was right, and God was wrong! The evidence was seemingly incontrovertible, right before their eyes.
They were still alive.
Eating the fruit was a symptom of the sickness Satan had already introduced into Eve. That sickness was doubt about God’s character. When Satan caused Eve to doubt God’s character and His love for her, he was able to put a wedge between God and Eve. (It is this separation that God has been trying to restore ever since.)
Satan made it a point to ask Eve about what God had said. He then seemed to show that God was wrong. So, Eve concluded, God was either ignorant or lying.
We can only speculate about the conversation that happened next between the Serpent and Adam and Eve, but I suspect the Serpent convinced them to be afraid of what God was going to do to them now that they disobeyed.
The Serpent might have said, “God was not warning you. He was threatening you with punishment. The fruit doesn’t kill you when you eat it. God kills you if you eat it.“
The Serpent had already seemingly told the truth about eating the fruit. They were not dead. Maybe he was telling the truth about this. Maybe the truth was God was going to kill them.
However, God was no more threatening to kill Adam and Eve for eating of the tree than I would be threatening to kill you by warning you, “Do not jump from the top of the Empire State Building, for when you do, you will certainly die.”
Is that a threat? No.
Your death from jumping off the building would not be immediate, and it would not be at my hands, but you would certainly die.
The death God warned them of was not immediate, nor would it be by His hands.
Let us imagine God gives that warning to you: Do not jump from the Empire State Building or you will die. Satan comes along and convinces you that it is safe to jump from the building.
You will not die! You will fly! God just does not want you to reach your full potential and have the ability to fly around paradise.
You watch Satan jump off the building, and he just floats there. He says you can do the same!
You believe Satan and jump. Sure enough, the thrill of reaching terminal velocity causes a surge of adrenaline. However, you have jumped, and you are not dead.
Was God lying? Did He just not know?
But then the ground comes.
It turns out, God is not the killer–Satan is!
Adam and Eve believed Satan’s lies about the character of God. They believed that God was coming to kill them, so they ran and hid from their Creator.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:8, 9)
Notice that God has not stormed into the garden, flames erupting from his presence, sword in hand ready to slice and dice the disobedient.
He was walking peacefully, like He always had, calling out to them with love and concern.
God’s human children, who once frolicked with Him in valleys of flowers and butterflies, who sipped from fresh spring creeks with their animal friends, who delighted in singing songs to their Father, now ran away from Him, afraid.
God had not changed. The human beings had changed.
Their perception of God had changed, believing Him now to be an angry God who punishes law-breakers with arbitrary levels of violence, even to the point of death for something as insignificant as eating a piece of fruit.
Notice Adam and Eve’s reaction and the first symptoms of survival fear:
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12).
Notice where Adam puts the blame for this whole affair: on God!
The woman you put here with me…
Eve says the same thing about the serpent.
One of the symptoms of survival fear is the blame game.
Adam: God, Eve tricked me into eating the fruit. You created her to be my helpmate, but she has corrupted me. Please don’t kill me. She’s more guilty than I.
Eve: God, this serpent, that you allowed in the garden, tricked me into eating the fruit. Please don’t kill me. It’s more guilty than I.
Another symptom of survival fear is the “survival of the fittest” mindset and the “dog-eat-dog” worldview. The idea is that because of fear for your own comfort and life, you will always act to ensure your own survival, even if it means going so far as to kill someone else. In contrast, God’s law of love means going so far as to die in order to save someone else’s life.
This is the first place where God pledges to give His life to save humanity.
I will make you and the woman hate each other; her offspring and yours will always be enemies. Her offspring will crush your head, and you will bite her offspring’s heel (Genesis 3:15, NLT).
Adam and Eve were afraid of God because they believed a lie about God: that God would kill another to save Himself or His “glory” or “honor.” This fear put a wedge in their relationship, not because God moved or changed, but because Adam and Eve’s perception of God changed.
Jesus came to restore the truth about God: that He would rather die to save your life than live for Himself.
And Jesus proved it by dying on the cross, making available to you a Remedy for the fear and selfishness that has infected your soul.
Jesus came to restore the relationship we have with God, to remove that wedge of fear, embedded by Satan’s lies about God, so that we would, once again, be “at one” with God.
Do you want peace and joy in your life? Do you want hope and confidence? Seek to know the God of the Bible!