Human beings, from the beginning, have been tasked with the all-important mission of transmitting the Creator’s glory—and thereby bringing life and order and abundance—to the entire creation. That’s we discovered last time in the pages of the creation narrative of Genesis 1-2.
As we explored earlier, however, every good story has a villain who seeks to thwart the hero’s efforts to accomplish her objective. The Opponent threatens the whole endeavor and brings drama to the narrative.
Who is the Opponent of humanity in the creation narrative? As the Bible begins its saga, who threatens humanity’s job of governing the earth of God’s behalf?
It’s among the most well known tales in all the world: Adam and Eve and the serpent.
Will the first couple succeed in extending the order of creation beyond the borders of Eden? Will they continually eat of the Tree of Life—a symbol, not only of the free-flowing life of God to them, but to the whole of creation?
The serpent has other ideas. He’s out to reassert the realm of chaos, to bring disorder back into the peaceful space the Creator has carved. Agent and Opponent are in a fixed struggle in the early verses of Genesis 3.
A fulfilling tale, however, does not leave the Agent to her own devices. Typically, the Agent receives some kind of Helper. In fact, an audience generally knows this to be a necessary component of a good drama.
Playing in the backyard with the neighbors, we might regularly invent for ourselves superhero identities and enter into pitched battle for an afternoon:
I call out, “My guy can fly!”
“Yeah?” says Greg, indignantly. “Well, my guy shoots lightning bolts. Kapow! You’re dead!”
“Nuh-uh,” I retort. “My guy has an invisible Faraday cage around him at all times. Electricity has no effect!”
No fair! Why? Because it’s cheep victory. My guy has overcome without any real struggle. Indeed he was never in danger from the lightning bolts.
So in a good story, including the biblical story, there must be an external Helper who enters the scene to aid the Agent in accomplishing her goal. In the superhero example, if my guy is to over come the lightning bolts, the help must come from outside himself. He needs a lightning absorbing Helper, a sidekick.
What Helper do Adam and Eve receive to overcome the serpent’s wiles?
In this case, the help has come prior to the serpent’s introduction. The first couple has received help even before they’re tempted. In fact, their help comes from the Lord himself, in the form of instruction. They’ve been pre-warned:
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen. 2:17, NRSV).
God’s commandment, his word of warning is their Helper to combat and overcome the serpent’s crafty temptations. If Adam and Eve—if humanity—rely on God’ word, defeat their Opponent, the serpent, and proceed to delivering God’s life-giving glory across the entire world. The future hangs in the balance.