The Beautiful Side of Evil
A primary strategy of Satan: the perversion of good.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said,’ You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’ And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
– Genesis 3:1–5
And so it was one day as Eve was walking in the garden near the tree of knowledge that Satan spoke to her. She was without fear, for fear had not yet come into the world. Satan asked her about the forbidden fruit. He questioned God’s warning and His motive toward man. Eve listened and began to doubt God. She considered the fruit and ate. Then she gave the fruit to Adam, and he ate. And immediately, they were aware of their nakedness and they were ashamed.
– The HOPE, Chapter 3
Observe & Consider
The section of The HOPE we are now considering is described in greater detail in Genesis 3. Notice from the Bible passage above that Satan appeared to Eve and spoke to her as a serpent. Yet Eve, unlike you or I might be, was not frightened by this serpent. Let’s consider why that might have been.
First, up to this point in God’s story we see no indication that fear even exists in the world God has created. The first recorded manifestation of fear is in Genesis 3:10 after Adam had disobeyed God. And from Genesis 9:2 we might conclude that up until that time, animals did not fear man (or at least their fear of man was minimal). Imagine the mindset of Eve at this time, never having encountered anything in the world that would evoke fear in her!
Secondly, let’s consider the way in which Satan presents himself. The word that is translated as serpent in the Genesis passage comes from the Hebrew word nachash1, which literally means, “shining one.” Ezekiel 28:12-18 describes Satan as an exceptionally beautiful creature. 2 Corinthians 11:14 says that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” From these verses, it is evident that evil does not always appear to be evil.
We usually associate the idea of evil with something that is sinister, dark, and threatening. But in reality, evil often comes in nicely wrapped packages. Satan probably looked very beautiful to Eve. And what could be wrong with listening to counsel from a beautiful creature of God? After all, isn’t gaining knowledge a good thing?
Sometimes we can choose a way that seems good to us and to those around us. But really, what may seem to be a good way may not be God’s way at all. The word iniquity is used often in the Bible. A root definition of the word iniquity2 is “the perversion of good.” Iniquity is one of Satan’s primary tactics. He doesn’t have to launch an all-out frontal assault to keep us from God. Sometimes he just subtly alters or twists the truth to get us off course.
Ask & Reflect
- Can you think of people, things, or situations in your life that appeared to be one thing, but when you became more familiar with them, you saw them differently? Does that help you to understand the issue we are dealing with today?
- In Lesson 2 we looked at a Bible verse that says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). When you must choose a way, how do you know if it is God’s way or a “beautiful” way of death?
Decide & Do
You might remember from Lesson 14 that “Knowing your purpose in life starts with knowing the One who gives you a purpose.” We come to know God’s way by coming to know Him in a personal and intimate way.
When the United States Treasury Department trains its agents to recognize counterfeit currency, it doesn’t have them study fake money. Rather, agents spend an incredible amount of time becoming intimately familiar with the real thing. They view, handle, and examine real money so much that when they encounter a counterfeit, it is immediately obvious.3
Have you ever actually read through the entire Bible? In a sense, the Bible is God’s autobiography. Should we not study His story with as much or greater attention than a treasury agent studies currency? Make a commitment to regular Bible study and begin to know God through His word.
For Further Study
- Ray C. Stedman, “The Enticement of Eve” from his series Understanding Man (Message No. 4, Catalog No. 314, January 28, 1968). (http://www.ldolphin.org/RCSgenesis/0314.html). Retrieved October 4, 2006
1John MacArthur, Satan: What Is He Like? Part 2. (© 1997, Grace to You). (http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1355/satan-what-is-he-like). Retrieved October 4, 2006. “He [Satan] appears as an angel of light. Most interesting, nachash was the Hebrew word that was used to speak of him as a serpent. That word really has two meanings; to hiss or whisper, and it also means to shine. He is the hissing, shining one.”
2D. Miall Edwards, Iniquity. (© Bible.org, 2005). (http://net.bible.org/dictionary.php?word=Iniquity). Retrieved October 4, 2006.
3Gary H. Strauss, The Real Thing. (© Questia Media America Inc., 2006). (http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&se=gglsc&d=5002480464&er=deny). Retrieved November 20, 2006. “It is commonly understood that when currency agents are trained to recognize counterfeit bills, they do not spend time examining and becoming familiar with the vast array of the best samples of the counterfeiter’s art. Rather, they spend many hours developing an intimate acquaintanceship with “the real thing,” to quote a familiar advertising phrase. Literally, every “jot and tittle” are scrupulously examined and poured over to the point that agents develop an indelible and finely detailed mental image of both sides of the various bills that make up the U.S. Treasury issue. Having developed such a thorough knowledge of even the most minute details, they are prepared to spot the incredibly subtle variations from the standard of perfection, “the real thing.” No aspect of these bills is ignored. Thus, when these agents encounter a counterfeit bill, a careful examination can typically result in the ready identification of the fake item, even though its degree of match with the real might be so close that most who regularly use these bills would never suspect the truth.”