Mistaking Evil for Good and Good for Evil

Isaiah 5:20
In God’s creation of the world, we see the statements in Genesis 1 that God saw that it was “good.” Hebrew (tov) (Gen. 1:4,10,12,18,21,25). Then in verse 31, He says that it was “very good” or “excellent.” Hebrew (tov m’oth). Here God is making a statement about creation. He is saying that His creation is “good.” Now, “good” we know describes an ethical or a moral quality. It describes value. It also describes the lack or opposite of evil. While the fact that God called creation “good” is of itself significant, I want to draw attention not to the goodness itself, but to the fact that it was God who was making this judgment. It was God who decided that the creation was “good.”Then in Genesis 2:16, 17, it says, And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good [Hebrew (tov) ] and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”God introduced the first rule to mankind. Notice, based on the fact that they are going to die if they eat from this tree, that this tree is not “good” for them. Whatever we can say about this tree, it is not good for food.Chapter three of Genesis, the moment of crisis. The serpent came to tempt Eve into eating the fruit, and then giving the fruit also to Adam. Look at Eve’s statement. She had the command of God not to eat the fruit. She knew because she told the serpent about it. She had the Word from God telling her that this fruit was not good for her, because it would cause death. But in Genesis 3:6, we see Eve’s response to the serpent’s temptation, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good [Hebrew (tov) ] for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for wisdom, she took some and she ate it.”Up until this point, only God had made judgments about whether something was good or not good. God said that creation was good or very good. In 2:18, it was God who said that it was not good for man to be alone. And in Gen 2:16,17, when giving the command about the tree, God calls it the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Again, the word used here is the simple word for good and the simple word for evil. The same word tov/good that has been used throughout the story, is used here.Up until this point, God made the assessment of what was good and what was not good. Mankind did not have any need to know good and evil, because this sort of judgment is not his to make. But what this tree did, was cause mankind to forget God’s assessment of what is good and what is evil, and try to make his own assessment. It takes mankind from hearing the voice of God and obeying it, to looking around and making a determination for himself.Eve made the first assessment of something’s value, not only apart from the Word of God, but contrary to the Word of God. She assessed, by looking, that the tree was “good” for food. But she was deadly wrong. Eating from that tree was the worst thing she could ever have done for herself. It led directly to the judgment of God that follows later in the passage. And as we know it led to the curse that still 6,000 or so years later plagues the earth.Mankind is no more capable of telling the difference between good and evil than he ever was. He is just as much a desperate failure as before. And the reason for this is simple. The assessment of goodness is left to God and God alone. For only God is able to accurately make that judgment. When we try to assess things ourselves, we end up mixing up the values. We end up calling the “good” evil and the evil “good.”Isaiah addressed this issue in 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Once again, we have the same Hebrew word for “good” here. (tov)Society says that what is right and wrong is up to you. What is good for you may not necessarily be good for me. And what is bad for you, might not necessarily be bad for me. But this is a lie. This is the same lie that caused Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. This is the same lie that brought the judgment of God on the sons of God in Gen. 6. This is the same lie that brought judgment on Israel in the days of Isaiah. And this is the same lie that will bring judgment upon us if we buy into it.The world claims that morality is relative. But we must be careful that while we’re fighting against moral relativism on the front side, that it’s not creeping in through the church’s back door. Eve had the Word of God, which told her that the tree was not good for her, we also have the Word of God. We have the Bible, the Word of God, which clearly tells us what is good and what is evil. God, knowing that were incapable of properly assessing goodness, laid it out for us.The Bible lays out the way that we should live. It lays out the types of things we should do and shouldn’t do. But it seems that sometimes we want to come to the Bible as just a guidebook. When we have a decision to make, we use the Bible as a reference point to try to make a good decision. We use the Bible as a reference point, from which we decide what is best for us. But this goes against the very nature of the Bible. The very reason for God giving us His Word is that He knows that our judgment is faulty. He knows that if the judging is left up to us, we will make the wrong choice every time. He knows that we will end up calling good evil and evil good. So He has laid out the answers for us. He has told us what is good and what is evil, so we don’t have to rely on our own faulty judgment.This lack of true-judgment-ability on the behalf of man is the very reason why God chose by “the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Preaching and teaching are God’s primary method of “instruction in righteousness.” This generation has cast aside the holiness lifestyles in order to judge according to their own feelings and logic rather than what God deems “good.”The first word of Isaiah 5:20 packs a lot of meaning. It’s a simple word, “woe” and yet it says so much. This listening to God’s Word. This not mixing up good and evil, it is a very important thing. It is so important that Isaiah says “woe” to those who don’t listen. Woe to those who make this wrong judgment. And what is this word “woe.” This word describes more than just coincidental misfortune. This woe that is going to occur for those who mix up good and evil is not just that things won’t work out. It’s not just saying that because what you did wasn’t good for you, there will be some natural consequence. That may be true. When we do harmful things, there are often natural consequences. But when “woe to those who…” is used in the Old Testament it means one thing. It means the judgment of God is coming. It is an introduction to the judgment of God. The woe that comes to the one who makes a wrong judgment about good and evil is nothing less than the direct judgment and fury of God. When we refuse to hearken to the Word of God, and insist upon making our own judgments of what is right and wrong, then we are inviting the wrath of God into our lives.The Bible is not a suggestion book. We don’t have to understand the reason behind God’s commands to obey them. We don’t have to know why something is good or something is evil in order to obey it. In fact, that’s the whole reason that God has told us—He knows that we are unable to properly differentiate between good and evil. Do you think Eve knew why she wasn’t allowed to eat from the forbidden tree? She only knew one thing about that tree. God said not to eat of it or she would die. And that should have been enough information for her to run as far away from that tree as she could. That should have been enough, that God said it was not good for her, to keep her away. But it was her distrust of God and His Word that led her to eat of that forbidden tree.Faith comes from one thing, and that is hearing the Word of God but remember that “faith without works is dead.” Eve heard the Word of God. She had the Word from God that said, “Do not eat of this tree.” She heard His voice. But she also heard another voice. And that was the voice of the serpent. And in the beginning of chapter 3, the serpent begins to make Eve doubt the Word of God. He begins to make her doubt even the very character of God. Instead of God making this judgment of good and evil for her, now she perceives it as God manipulating her for His own benefit. She listened to the voice of the “craftiest of all the creatures” instead of listening to the voice of the God who had lovingly created her. She allowed herself to doubt God’s words. See for her, it was no longer a decision of did God say it or not. She knew He did. It wasn’t even a choice of would she obey God or not, at least not in her mind. It wasn’t even a question of whether God knew what was best for her. She went even deeper to question whether God even wanted what was best for her. In God’s judgment of Adam, we see that he is guilty of the same thing.Genesis 3:17, “To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you… “The emphasis here is that Adam listened to the voice of his wife, instead of listening to the voice of God. This was the tree “about which I commanded you.” He had the Word of God. And even though we don’t know just how he got from the point of trusting in that Word to trusting in the Word of his wife, we know that he got there. Adam, like Eve, chose to listen to a voice that did not know, instead of the One Voice Who knew.And we have voices all around us. We have people who whisper all kinds of Satan’s ideas in our ears. Our very society is so turned against God that just in living here we are bombarded with messages that are contrary to God’s Word.Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” While the writer of Hebrews wrote this definition of faith so well much later, this concept was around from the very beginning. This idea of faith being contrasted with sight is clearly seen in the book of Genesis. Eve didn’t just hear the voice of the serpent and decide that the fruit was good. She didn’t reason in her mind and conclude that the fruit was good. And she certainly didn’t believe that the fruit was good. But as verse 6 says, she SAW that the fruit was good. Eve looked at the fruit. And the fruit looked good to her eyes. The Word of God says the fruit is not good. But now not only does the voice say that the fruit is good, but the sight says that the fruit is good. The “unseen” is the spiritual counterpoint to the carnal seeing. Faith is a spiritual thing.Like Eve, we have a choice. Will we believe and trust in God and His Word that we cannot see, or will we trust in what our senses tell us. The purpose of the voices is to get us to look. The voices that contradict God’s Voice tempts us to look at our circumstances. They may get us to look at our circumstances and evaluate God’s Word in light of our circumstances. So, we may look at something the Bible says and think that it’s a good suggestion and may even be possible in an ideal world, but it just doesn’t work in your real world.The life lived in light of the Scripture is the life that works. But the life lived in light of God’s Word is first and foremost, a life of faith and obedience. Before you can approach any of the individual mandates of Scripture in a meaningful way, you must first take the leap of faith, to trust the God of the Word and then obey it. You must place your life in His hands, knowing that He knows better than you what is good and evil. And when you ignore the voices and the sights around you, you won’t mix up good and evil, for God has already laid it out for you. The life of trust doesn’t allow for selective obedience. It’s all or nothing. Let’s give ourselves to following ALL of God’s Word. And then we will see that we will inherit ALL of God’s promises.