Summary: Temptation is as old as mankind, seen first in the Prototype in the Garden of Eden when the First Adam fell, but the Second Adam was Triumphant in the Wilderness from which we can be forearmed to meet Satan’s temptations.
Why does God allow temptation? That, together with the origin of evil, are great mysteries and they’re closely related. The Bible gives us no explanation as to the ultimate origin of evil but is undoubtedly connected with the devil. When we open the pages of Scripture he already existed. The prophet Ezekiel tells us that Satan is a created being, an angel of the highest rank. ‘The Sovereign Lord says: “You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty”’ (28:12). He was given a position of superiority but he became lifted up and consumed in pride. Instead of leading the worship and the adoration of God in heaven, he desired to be worshipped himself, and to be equal with God. He raised himself up against his Creator, sinning against God.
Isaiah tells of his downfall: ‘How have you fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! … You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise up my throne above the stars of God … I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit’ (14:12-15). Satan so hated God that his great ambition was to destroy God’s creation as he had no power against the Almighty. Mankind, too, was made in perfection. Genesis records that God said: ’Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ (1:26). The first couple, Adam and Eve, was endowed with a natural and spiritual perfection. But here again there’s mystery: why did they fall? Although made in the image of God, they had in their possession the gift of freewill which held the possibility of disobedience. God had placed them in a beautiful garden. Adam was the park keeper, the estate manager. It was in that ideal setting that we learn of the:
PROTOTYPE OF TEMPTATION
It was all sheer enjoyment in the Garden of Eden. There was no evil, no cause for unhappiness at all. It was a place where God talks with man. The highpoint of the day was when God would come to meet Adam ‘in the cool of the evening’ and have fellowship with him. God had made man in order that he might have this companionship. Man would also benefit, for being made in God’s likeness, he needed communion with his Maker. It’s been said that man has a ‘God-shaped gap’ in his make-up. It was a state of perfection - a state of innocence - a state of perfect bliss.
At the centre of the Garden were two trees - the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. These were to be crucial in the relationship between God and man. The trees were God’s reserved territory, standing as a symbol of God’s supremacy over his creation. The ‘knowledge’ the Tree represented was ‘deciding for oneself what is right’ – ‘doing your own thing’ without God. It’s the morality of humanism where ‘anything is right’ if it suits you. It’s at this point that our forebears made a crucial decision whether to:
OBEY GOD’S LAW OR THE DEVIL’S TEMPTATION
This is something we have to do every day! Adam and Eve’s freedom in the Garden was limited by one prohibition. They were told quite clearly that the Trees were "out of bounds" - they weren’t to be touched. God had established a moral boundary in the divine command ‘You shall not eat.’ God has set moral boundaries for our good. And if we over-step those boundaries, the word comes to us as it came to Adam and Eve, ‘In the day that you eat of it you shall die.’ The prohibition not to eat of the Tree wasn’t a harsh restriction, but rather given for the good of our first parents.
Freedom without bounds can all too quickly become destructive. That’s why we tell children not to play with matches! True liberty is only found within bounds. If you have a goldfish in a bowl and somehow it gets ‘liberated’ from its water, it won’t survive long in its new-found freedom! Adam and Eve were told that their continued life of bliss depended on obedience to the word of God.
This was a risk that God took, as there was the awful possibility that the freedom He had given the human couple might be expressed in disobedience. Part of the freedom of the Garden of Eden is the freedom not to trust God, and when taken it becomes the doorway to the loss of freedom itself. Why God created the world with the possibility of man’s fall is a question we ultimately have to leave within the mystery of God. However, for a time all was well and yet there was menace in the air! Here we see: