We all know the story of Adam and Eve, and how they were tempted by the serpent. Did you ever wonder why, at the very beginning of God’s created and “very good” world, He appears to be absent, while the serpent works to lead the pinnacle of Creation into disobedience?
Why didn’t God show up just as Satan was telling Eve to eat that fruit He had forbidden them to eat, and crack him over the head with a huge rock (which, incidentally He would have had no problem “lifting”, since he’s not even subject to gravity)? It would have saved untold problems and suffering.
Was God distracted, or asleep, or in another part of the universe? Why did He even put that dangerous tree in the garden anyway: wasn’t it a huge mistake for a perfect being to make? And what was He doing to allow that serpent to roam around in His perfect world anyway? If the Bible is all “made up”, couldn’t the writers have thought of a better story line?
The evidence throughout Scripture is that God not only allows the devil to tempt, but actually keeps him on hand (and on a chain) for that very purpose. I’ve written about this before in a series I wrote on suffering:
Once as a new Christian I was asked if life is a test. In my ignorance my answer was “no”. I now know different, because while we certainly are saved by the mercy of God only, and not by managing to pile up more good deeds on our ledger than bad, our response to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in our heart and in our life, determines whether we “pass” or “fail”.
It’s not just the devil who’s been employed to test us. In fact, we can gather a picture from the context of Scripture that our entire lives are a test, designed to reveal “what we are made of”, or what principles and whose leading we prefer to believe and live by.
Simeon, speaking to the parents of baby Jesus, prophesied that because of the man who would grow from the boy, “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed” (Luke 2:35). So recorded the doctor (no, not the doctor), Luke. This theme seems to have been on Luke’s mind during his writing of the gospel, because in the very next chapter he recounted the words of the Baptist, who said the following about Christ:
“His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).
The theme of division between the children of God and those who are not is a recurring one throughout the New Testament. Jesus put it this way:
“Whoever believes in him (God’s only son) in not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already…”This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:18-19).