Chapter Five: Man’s Desires
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
From the garden to the gate; from the yes to the no; from God’s holy nature to man’s fallen nature. Was it just three bites that Eve took? Was it only one? Did she polish off the whole fruit? How many licks does it take to get to the center of God’s grace? As we now look at man’s life outside of the Garden of Eden, we continue to see the manifestation of the Law of Opposites. From man’s desires, to his design, to his dilemmas; at every turn, in every fold, there’s a left and a right, a to and a fro, a push and a pull.
In man’s desires, we see a preference for that which is visible over that which is invisible and a craving for knowledge over a hunger for wisdom. This is evident in Eve’s pre-fallen, though present tempted, state. How did Satan lure her toward the tree? He caused her to look upon it…to examine it…to study it. This wasn’t a passing glance, as perhaps it had been before; this was a visual scrutinization: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it,” (Gen. 3:6; italics mine). Eve saw the fruit, touched the fruit, held the fruit, and then tasted the fruit. It all started with the casting of an eye, and in the blink of an eye, the tangible dethroned the intangible.
And haven’t we been following Eve’s example ever since? Don’t we find within ourselves, and all too often affirmed by the voices around us, the desire to place our trust in that which is seen over that which is unseen? Sure, God had said not to eat of the fruit, but at that moment Eve saw the fruit and not the Father. And the eyes of her heart looked away as the eyes of her flesh looked upon. Eve may have been the first to pick the visible over the invisible, but her desires are no different from our own. Just as we are like her, so too was she just like us! Any of us would have done the same thing then and, what’s worse, we do the same thing today…even with all the knowledge acquired through thousands of years of examples. We still reach out for that which is seen; we still desire the apparent over the invisible. In Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is believing in that which we have yet to see, accompanied by the assurance (through Christ) that we will one day behold that in which…Him in whom…we believe. Why would this be recorded in Scripture if it was not a truth that needed repeating, that needed reminding…a truth we need to behold with our spiritual eyes because our temporal eyes desire that which is visible? Lest we fail to see how tempting our vision is, let’s look at the past and remember that history lies not only behind us but also before us as we continue to allow it to repeat itself.
Before the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, their earthly eyes got the better of them. While God had delivered them from Pharaoh and led them through the Red Sea, they doubted His ability to feed them. They looked around and there was nothing to eat. Gone, in their minds, were the abundant tables of food they’d sat down to while slaves in Egypt. (Mirage number one…and only a few days into their journey! There was no abundance of food for slaves…but the hunger of their stomachs skewed the hauntings of their mind. Ironically, in looking for the visible, they remembered the invisible!) God provided manna and quail; the people saw and believed, for a time. Years later, when the Israelites entered Canaan, God warned them, through Moses, to beware of that which they saw. He told them not to want what the other nations had; not in their lifestyle, not in their worship, not in their government. But once again, the people wanted what they saw. They saw the goods, the gods, and the guide…they were visible, they were touchable. They failed to see the unseen hand of Him who held them; they failed to see their Provider, their God, and their Guide. And so their hands followed their gaze and their hearts followed their hand and, years later, they asked for a king (I Samuel 8:4), and in time they worshipped statues (2 Kings 23:4-14), and they valued earthly treasures over heavenly rewards. In their hearts, the tangible had, again, dethroned the intangible.
Fast forward from the fall of Judah in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25) to the fall of Herod’s temple in 70 A.D. and we find a change in walls, courts, and altars…but not a change in hearts. Before man stood a glorious temple that was encrusted with gold. It was a sight to behold! Under the rule of Herod the Great, the temple in Jerusalem was rebuilt. In all, it took 82 years (46 for the temple and 36 for the surrounding courts) to complete. It has been said that, in Jesus’ day, the magnificence of the temple caused the Jews to delight more in its spender than in God’s grandeur. Once again, the visible captured the hearts of mankind. Jesus foretold of the temple’s destruction (Mark 13:2), to which His followers gasped and the Pharisees grumbled. For many, the Who of the temple had been replaced with the what of the Temple. Wasn’t it beautiful? Didn’t it exalt God? Couldn’t it be looked upon…and touched…and held…and worshipped?
Not only do our eyes deceive us, but so too does our appetite for knowledge. In fact, too often, it is our craving for information that causes our eyes to look upon forbidden fruit. What did Satan tell Eve that caused her gaze to shift? It’s recorded in Genesis 3:4, “in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Timber! What led to the fall? The desire for knowledge; the desire to “be like God”. Satan knew of this desire for he had it too, and from his fall (Ezekiel 28), to Eve’s fall, to our fall, it’s the temptation that keeps on luring; the fruit that keeps on appealing. And yet, we know that knowledge is not always bad. Solomon wrote of its value in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” and in Proverbs 2:6, “…from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Hosea supports this when he records God’s own words on knowledge: “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings,” (Hosea 6:6).
So, if knowledge is God given and God desired, then why is it wrong to seek it, to pick it? The answer lies not in the what but in the why. Knowledge is foundational, which means it precedes that which is to come and, by its very presence, implies that something will be built upon it. When knowledge erects its own scaffolding for the glory of man, its beams are hollow and the result is destruction. (Remember the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11? Which, by the way, is a referential opposite to Hebrews 11.) But, when knowledge seeks to build that which will glorify its Source, then its beams are filled with wisdom and its walls are braced with understanding. Knowledge, apart from God-given understanding and wisdom, will cause man to turn from God rather than toward Him, to reach for the immediate rather than toward the imminent. Those verses on knowledge (recorded above) are incomplete and, as such, are as hollow beams without the rebar of wisdom. Their strength lies in their complete filling:
- Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
- Proverbs 2:6, “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
Fast forward 1,430 years, and how much has changed? Have we learned to look back in order to know how to look forward? Have we stopped valuing the visible more than the invisible, wisdom more than knowledge? Upon what is our gaze cast, to what is our hand extended, and to whom do our hearts cling? We are, and always will be, a visual creature, so much so that God warns us to look not at the appearance, but at the heart (I Samuel 16:7). Our desires will lead us in the opposite direction of where we need to look, of what we need to know, and of Whom we need to serve.
This started off as part one of a chapter…I broke it into two pieces. The full context will cover the Law of Opposites as evidenced in man’s desires, design, and dilemmas. This part covers man’s desires; chapter six will address man’s design and his dilemmas. Whew! And I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough to write about!