Genesis 3:1-24 Part 5: Where do we go from here?

Along the way, studying these passages and writing these posts I came across the following image of Adam and Eve walking out the garden, arms draped over each other’s shoulders, shame covering their face. And I imagined, what it must have been like for the two of them to leave Eden. What regret they must have felt, what embarrassment and what despair.

This post is an attempt to explore those moments, what position they were in as they left the garden. Their feelings and the various opportunities afforded them by God’s grace.

How far we have fallen

Undoubtedly, Adam and Eve would have reflected on their fall. How far they had strayed from the original. They were supposed to rule over and subdue creation, including the wild animals. And now the very ground they walk groans beneath their feet.

They were supposed to carry their heads high, with dignity and proudly bearing the image and likeness of God to creation. Now they seek to hide themselves and cover it all.

What once was a relationship characterised by love, protection, honour and intimacy. [See Vision for marriage]. Is now one characterised by hiding, blame and fear of allowing the other to see. A relationship of domination, tyranny, and abuse.

Where once, they had walked with God in the cool of the breeze. They now hide from Him. They leave His presence. They are estranged! Estranged from God, for each other, from creation and from themselves.

And were their work before had Preistly connotations, tending, guarding, keeping the garden of God’s Temple. It is now a frustrated, broken, endeavour, filled with futility, disappointment and despair!

Oh how much there is to regret with sin. How far it reaches to devastate and destroy. How severe it’s consequences. May the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin, move each of us to consider the cost of our sin. May we repent.

Opportunity to respond to Grace

And yet, all hope was not lost. We have seen that God’s response to their sin remembered mercy. And so Adam and Eve, although cast from God’s presence, exiled from the Garden, were still given the opportunity to respond to His grace.

Through confession rather than blaming. It is so tempting when we sin and fail to blame others, those nearby and those far off, society or families. The first step to receiving God’s grace is acknowledging and confessing our sin.

Then we must choose to receive God’s Grace. Both the spiritual blessings appointed to us, the promised blessing of the saviour to come, and the physical blessings of provision with food and clothes. May we not be too proud to receive God’s free grace, purchased for us by the Promised One.

Furthermore, the opportunities to continue sinning have not ended with the forbidden fruit. In fact they have multiplied. Adam and Eve can now, with the knowledge of good and evil, lie, steal, cheat, hurt and even kill one another. They can choose God’s way or become subject to sin which still lies crouching at the door (See Gen 4)!

Adam and Eve along with their family now to come have the opportunity to respond with faith to the Promise. In the midst of God’s curse, He also proclaimed the gospel. That someone would come, descended from the woman, would suffer and would conquer sin.

Fortunately, we see glimpses of the faith of mankind in it’s early stages in this chapter. Does Adam not name his wife, after the Promise? By naming her Eve, he demonstrates faith that she will produce a seed – eventually the promised Seed. Does Eve not in Chapter 4, demonstrate her faith in the promise by praising God for the birth of her three sons! Does Abel not continue with the family decision towards faith by offering God a pleasing sacrifice? Do a portion of the children not demonstrate faith when they start calling on the name of the Lord? (But all this to come!)

In short they, like us, have the opportunity to receive God’s grace through faith in the Promise.

Finally, as Christians, and inheritors of the Promised One! We have the choice to meet again with God in the cool of the day, with worship, with rejoicing, and intimacy!!!

May we Worship

Praise be to Jesus! For when I hear God walking – I don’t have to hide, but I can plead God’s mercy, earned by Christ and know that I am forgiven and restored. That the fruit of the tree of life is available to me! The Cherubim’s flaming swords has been lowered and I may enter the garden again!

This is the gospel! Such good news!

The curse is reversed, death is defeated and the garden is open to those who receive the Promised One

Genesis 3:1-24 Part 5: In Wrath Remember Mercy

On Monday we looked at the punishment given to man following his crime against God. In today’s post we will examine the other elements of the curse, and how even in the midst of God’s wrath we can see and celebrate His Mercy.

The Promise

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
And between your offspring and hers;
He will crush your head
And you will strike His heel

After God has cursed the snake, He goes on to issue a promise. Some commentators called this the proto evangelium as in, the first proclamation of the Gospel. For it tells us about Jesus:

  1. His Incarnation – this promise tells us He will descend from Eve,
  2. His Suffering – this promise tells us He will be wounded in the process
  3. His Victory – over evil and sin, He will crush the serpent!

The Woman

In light of the curse given to the snake we can see the God’s mercy in the midst of wrath, embedded in the sentence given to the woman:

I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
With painful labour you will give birth to children

Yes, this is a severe punishment and consequence to Eve’s sin. And yet, it is not without mercy. For firstly, she will bear children. This means that the promise above (in verse 15) will continue. God will remain faithful even when we are faithless – He will fulfill His purposes.

Secondly, after the pain of childbirth there will be joy! (John 16:21)

The Clothes

In addition to the mercy shown through God’s words. We also see further mercy, in God’s provision of clothes for the couple.

As an history graduate, God’s provision of clothes is very significant. In Andrews Marrs book, History of the World, he pinpoints the invention of the needle (for the purposes of making clothes) as one of the defining inventions that set man apart from other species. Obviously, this passage does not say that God invented the needle. However, the blessing of clothes provides protection, warmth and even comfort to the humans.

The Shame

Nevertheless, it is undeniable, that God has rebuked us. He has stripped us of the garden, of our pathetic leaf outfit, moved us away from His presence and the tree of life.

And yet, in this shame there is grace. God has shamed us that we might seek Him (Psalm 83:16). As Augustine said: He has rubbed salt on our lips that we might thirst for Him.

We see this in the story of the prodigal son, who realises how good it was in his Father’s house, when he is reduced to pig food!

What now?

What difference does this make to our faith? What difference does God’s insistence on Mercy, towards Adam and Eve, make to our walk with God today?

  1. We worship a God who is the same, yesterday, today and forever. People often assume the God of the Old Testament is not merciful. Yet this story tells us clearly it is there.
  2. God’s plan for rescuing us, is not a fad, it is not a fickle ambition. Rather it has been planned from the beginning.
  3. We serve a God who is able to turn our worst failings, into means to accomplish His glory and our good (Gen 50:20, Rom 8:28).

Genesis 3:1-24 Part 4: In Wrath Remember Mercy

Because mankind rebelled against God, and betrayed a Just God, there must be punishment. We see from verse 14 onwards, God’s punishment: first to the snake, then to woman, and finally towards man. However, our God is not only a Just God, He is also a Loving God full of mercy and grace. Therefore, even in the midst of the great curse of Genesis 3, we can see God’s wrath mixed with mercy.

We’ve already considered the anatomy of temptation and the character of the snake. Today we turn our attention to our Righteous and Graceful God. We will explore His response to sin and evil and remind ourselves that God hates sin, but He longs to rescue sinners. In this passage we can see a microcosm of the Gospel.

In reverse order:

Man’s Punishment

‘Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken; for dust you are,
and to dust you will return’
(vv 17-19)

The punishment is severe. The work that Adam once had to do before, is now frustrated, complicated and filled with futility. Tim Keller put’s it like this: “In other words, work, even when it bears fruit, is always painful, often miscarries, and sometimes kills us…in all our work, we will be able to envision far more that we can accomplish, both because of a lack of ability and because of resistance in the environment around us. The experience of work will include, pain, conflict, envy and fatigue…’ (Every Good Endeavour, 89-90). He goes on to explain that this curse also demonstrates that work will become: pointless, selfish and will reveal our idols.

In this curse we see the context of work (ground), the fruit of work (eat the plants) and frustration of work (thorns and thistles) all subjected to punishment.

We also see promised punishment of death – that Adam would return to the ground as dust.

So where is grace?

We see grace in the fact that the man is not cursed himself. It is the ground. A quick look at the snake’s punishment reveals that the serpant was cursed! We are merely ‘put under the curse’. The full wrath of God is withheld against us, and directed instead to the ground. (Hence Romans 8 speaks of creation groaning!) We are punished indirectly.

We also see mercy in that Adam will be able to eat. His work will not be entirely futile. It will provide food for them, in this way we see God’s ongoing provision of man. God could have punished Adam by making him work for fruit that others would eat! This is in fact a blessing elsewhere in the Bible (Psalm 128:2)

One commentator went so far as to say that the promised death, was also a demonstration of God’s grace. Otherwise, man would have to continue living forever in a state of separation from God, from life, from blessing. Instead, God allows death, so that through faith in the Promised One they might be saved and return to the Garden. (More on that in the next post).

In this way we can see wrath mixed with mercy. In Wednesday’s post we will examine the concoction of mercy and wrath served by the rest of the curse.

It is a cause of worship that we come to the same God who in His wrath remembers mercy.

Genesis 3:1-24 Part 3: Who invited the Snake?

‘I am deeply grateful,’ said Frodo; ‘but I wish you would tell me plainly what the Black Riders are…’
‘Is it not enough to know that they are servants of the Enemy?’ Answered Gildor. ‘Flee them! Speak no words to them! They are deadly.’
The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring – Tolkein

One of the questions that kept coming up in the various commentaries I was using was ‘where did the snake come from?’. In the first chapter of Genesis, we are told that everything was good, so who invited the evil serpent?

However, this question was not answered. Not by the commentators and not by Genesis 3. We know, when looking at this passage with New Testament eyes, that the serpent does represent the devil (Revelation 20:9, 12:9). But knowing where evil came from, is not the point of the story here. It is one of the mysteries of the Bible. That is why I have included the quote from Lord of the Rings above. Is it not enough to know, that the snake was a servant of the enemy, and the proper response was to flee, fight, resist and subdue it.

However, there are a few things we can learn about the snake from Genesis – it is not a complete mystery. And that is the subject of this post:

The Snake is not Eternal

We know that the snake/evil is not eternal, because it was not there in the beginning. In fact, in the beginning God declared all His work as very good (Gen 1:31).

The Snake is not (entirely) to blame

Interestingly, despite Adam and Eve’s attempt to blame the snake, the failure was on them. “The snake does not feature in this story as the cause of human failure, but as that which faces human beings with the reality of their trust in God.” (Atkinson) In other words, the snake provides an opportunity for mankind’s faith in the goodness of God to be tested.

See a previous post of mine to review the anatomy of temptation (as found in Genesis 3).

Nevertheless, the fact that the snake is cursed, does imply that it was guilty, hence: ‘because you have done this…’ (v14)

The Snake is not our friend

In the beginning of this chapter, Eve and the snake are talking like friends. Back and forth. Forming an alliance, a conspiracy.

But no matter how fine an allegiance against God (and His ways) may seem, the message of Genesis 3 is that: those who unite in wickedness will not be united for long. We see this as Eve quickly seeks to blame the snake for her “mistake”. We see this as God places enmity between the snake and Eve’s offspring.

We also see parallels in the Psalms, why do ‘the rulers band together against the LORD?…The One enthroned in heave laughs; the Lord scoffs at them’ (2:2&4).

Therefore we should be wary about sinning with others, thinking it will join us closer. I find that gossip is very sneaky like this. We engage in gossip, because deep-down we think it will “unite” us with someone we admire (or who’s approval we seek). However, gossip quickly turns against us and causes division. A wise saying is: ‘there is no honour among thieves’.

The Snake was supposed to be ‘ruled over’

In Genesis 1, God decides to make mankind ‘so that they may rule over…all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’ (1:26). Notice how Genesis 3 begins, ‘now the snake was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made’ (3:1).

There is no moral judgement in the word ‘crafty’, it is neither good nor bad, it is simply what the snake is like. However, by calling the snake a ‘wild animal’, the author of Genesis is hinting that this was one of the creatures that Mankind was supposed to rule over.

But this is not what happens. Instead of taking charge of the animal, and handling it with authority, Adam and Eve kowtow to the wishes of this crafty animal. They give it permission and space to question God’s goodness.

May we, as Christians, as co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8) as people invited to sit on God’s throne (Rev 3:21), not abdicate our authority anymore! If the snake, if the tempter must sit at the party or crouch at the door, may it be as our enemy – not our friend.

May we declare to God, like the Psalmist – ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’ (Psalm 23). But let us not invite the snake to take charge.

Genesis 3:1-24 Part 2: An Anatomy of Temptation

On Monday we looked at the role isolation can play in our battles with sin. We also explored how God has provided Church as a means to counter this. In today’s post we’re going to consider the other elements at work in mankind’s battle with temptation.

Temptation is complicated, as is most human behaviour. There are often many factors at work, many reasons behind the things that we do. Motivations both good and ugly. Physiologists Freud and Jung would probably blame our parents, Sociologists would blame our communities, the Left blaming the Right and the Right blaming the Left. Adam blames Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and both of them blamed God.

So how does temptation work, how does it get us to a point where we willingly conspire against God, seeking to disobey His law, to hurting each other and ourselves? Genesis 3 has some answers:

(I understand this is a longer post than usual, hopefully the sub-headings will allow quick transit between ideas.)

Temptation Twists Truth

The first thing the snake asks is, ‘did God really say, “you must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ (V1). In fact, God had said they could eat from any tree, except one! Temptation twists truth. It adds from God’s words, takes from them and can even distort them. We see Satan follow this pattern when he attempts to trip Jesus in Matthew 4.

Since temptation twists truth, holding onto truth, knowing it and believing it is essential for the Christian. Perhaps this is why Jesus promises to his disciples, those who listen to his teaching, would know the truth and the truth would set them free (John 8:31-32)

Temptation Begins with Trivia

How can it be that so great a fall can begin with so small an incident: eating fruit? Surely the whole world will not fall apart for such a trivial thing? Yet, this is where the snake goes on… ‘surely, you will not certainly die’ (V4). We must surrender to God everything in our lives even the most seemingly trivial. One commentator put it like this:

Some habit, some possession, some secret sin, some bitter resentment – in the context of our whole life, it seems so small, and yet it is at that one point that our trust in God is tested. If we will not let God be God at this one small, trivial, yet so crucial a point then we really do not trust him where it matters at all.” – David Atkinson (The Message of Genesis 1-11).

Since temptation starts with trivia, it is so important that we ‘nip it in the bud’. Perhaps this is why the Lord’s Prayer includes ‘lead us not into temptation’. Let us not play with fire.

Temptation Drives a Wedge Between Faith and Reason

Temptation oozes into the crevices between faith and reason, it erodes their oneness. The snake attempts to cause Eve to doubt the goodness of God’s word. Where God had said ‘don’t eat’, the snake implies ‘why would God say that?’. And so Eve begins to doubt her reason for believing God’s words.

Reasoning faith acknowledges that in the space between heaven and earth, there are secret things which belong to the Lord. Reasoning faith causes gratitude, rather than doubt. Reasoning faith knows God by trusting Him, by experiencing His loving-faithfulness. Reasoning faith can say: ‘This is a trustworthy saying…if we are faithless, He remains faithful’ (2 Tim 2:11&13).

Temptation seeks to come between reason and faith.

Temptation Suggests Benefits to Us

Once the snake has disarmed/trivialised the cost of disobedience, (‘surely you won’t die’) he promises benefits. It is important to note that the Hebrew word for ‘die’ in verse 4 is ‘Muwth’ and according to one count it appears in the OT 835 times. ‘Surely you won’t die’, surely?

Obviously, we are tempted because we think we will gain through sin. In this passage the snake promises that they will be like God, their eyes will be opened, they will gain knowledge about good and evil (V5). After lying about the cost (‘surely you won’t die!’) the snake seeks to promise blessings for disobedience.

And is this not the case with our temptation and sin? We lie because we think it will be easier than telling the truth. We steal because we will get what we want without working for it. We lust and covet because we think we will be satisfied or empowered. We are tempted by the apparent gains we hope to make.

Temptation (seeks to) Insult God and Us

Perhaps most significant is that temptation attempts to insult, and offend! It seeks to reproach God’s goodness, by questioning whether a good God would really deny us eye-opening, knowledge-giving fruit. “Surely God cannot be good if He is denying you these things”.

We see that the snake drops the intimate name of ‘LORD God’ (aka: Jehovah) and Eve follows suits, referring to God as ‘God’. But notice how many times, after this conversation, that Genesis 3 refers to the ‘LORD God’ – over and over again! It becomes so obvious that the tempter is seeking to insult God’s relational-goodness.

But it’s not just God who is insulted by temptation, it is also us! You see when God first made human beings, He made them in His image and likeness (1:26,27). When the snake tempts Eve and promises that by eating the fruit she will become like God, he is saying “look, you’re not like God enough, you are not significant enough etc”.

Perhaps this is one reason why we sin, because we want to fight back against this insult. We want to prove we are strong, powerful, able to make ourselves god-like and hence we rebel against God. Perhaps we need to turn to the promises and truth that God offers about our value and importance. That we are made in His image, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that He has got good plans for us, that we are His workmanship created in Christ for good works. That He does already take great delight in us. That we are His beloved Children. That He died for us, because He loved us. That we are new creations, kings, priests and prophets of a Kingdom about to come!

Genesis 3:1-24 Part 1: An Anatomy of Temptation – Isolation

A couple of years ago, I watched this dystopian film with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson – I would highly recommend it. Very thought provoking. Without giving any spoilers away, this film is based on the idea that ‘human beings behave better when they are being observed’.

And whilst this isn’t exactly the message of Genesis 3, it is related. What we learn about temptation in this chapter of Genesis, and what is later reinforced throughout scripture, is that temptation often occurs in the midst of isolation. When we are alone.

There was a little disagreement in the commentaries about whether Adam was there & present in the moment Eve was talking to the snake (see v6) or if he was at a distance hence the dialogue between two not three. Either way, it is clear the enemy is talking his lies to Eve alone. It is a 2 “person” conversation.

A common theme of temptation is isolation.

Perhaps this is why: Cain, Moses, Saul, David and Peter all experienced significant moral failures when they were on their own! Even Jesus was tempted severely when He was in the wilderness (Matthew 4).

We’ve all been there, it is easier to sin when no one is watching. And it is easier to opt for righteousness when others are around. (Maybe Tom Hanks had a point?!)

So, what is the solution?

Is the solution, then, to always be around people?! Or as Emma Watson decides, to have 24/7 surveillance present in our lives? Do we need 100% accountability with everyone we meet? No. Obviously not.

Whilst isolation is often the battle ground for temptation, it is also the crucible in which God develops and grows us. It is the place that He meets us. This is why Jesus withdrew to quiet places, this is why Joshua would stay behind in the tent of meeting when Moses had finished with God, and this is where David learned to trust God’s hand to deliver him as a youth. In the secret, hidden, quiet and lonely places. The Psalmist encourages us to ‘be still and know’ that He is God.

So, what is the solution?

Introducing: the Church. The body of Christ. Regularly meeting, to consider ways in which spur one another on to love and good deeds. To encourage one another, support one another, comforting, rejoicing and mourning with one another. To model a pursuit after God’s heart, declaring to each other ‘follow me as I follow Christ’.

Over and over again the New Testament invites us to live out our faith in the context of community. To fight our temptations together and to strive to obey God’s commands together.

“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with Psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything” – Ephesians 5:18-20.

If we want to see significant breakthrough in our addictions, ongoing battles with private sin, let us disarm the enemy early and bring others alongside us.

Do not let the enemy isolate you further with lies that you are alone. See how 1 John 1:7 connects walking in the light, fellowship with other Christians and being purified from all sin.

Caveat: Church Community does not make you immune to Sin

It is obvious from history, that just because we are in a collective does not make us immune to sin. The letters to the Churches, in Revelation, remind us of this. Sometimes we can be collectively “lukewarm”. Oftentimes, it is because everyone else is sinning, that we feel justified. “It’s okay, everyone else does it”, is not a good enough excuse to disobey God.

Finally, on Discipleship

The Greek nerds among us, will know that when Jesus delivers the Great Commission in Matthew 28 He is speaking to a group of disciples. When He promises that ‘I will be with you’ , He is using ‘you’ in a plural form.

If we want to be able to resist temptation it helps to be part of community. Likewise, if we want to obey Jesus’ commands, (specifically, to make disciples of all nations) we should likewise go as a Church together.

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 5 A Vision for Marriage and Friendship

In this chapter we see human relationships as God originally intended. We will explore 4 dynamics of this vision, and consider an application for each.

1) Equality

When God made woman, He used a rib, taken from man’s side. If you read the footnotes in your NIV you’ll see that the word ‘rib’ was taken from ‘part of the man’s side’. Why is this significant? Because it denotes equality between man and woman, not sameness, but equality.

But is this a modern reading, have I only come to this conclusion because I’m a 21st century reader in the western world?! No, see Matthew Henry’s Commentary (written in 1708) written over 300 years ago:

“That woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, or out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him” (pg. 8)

This was God’s original intention for relationships between man and woman. Equality, protection and love. How far we have come from this! How far we have rejected God’s plan and decided our way was best. How wrong we were!

In terms of an application, as people of a New Covenant, who live for the Kingdom of God, let us pursue equality.

2) A Song of Appreciation

We see some of God’s creative qualities arise in man, at the sight of his new companion! Man composes the first ever song, and it wasn’t a “worship” song! It was a song of appreciation towards his wife!

Too often we take relationships for granted, either that or we idolise them. Here Adam models for us a healthy middle option, appreciation and thanksgiving. May we do the same!

3) Leaving Parents, Cleaving to Wife

A challenge all couples are faced with, abandoning the old and enjoying the new. Marriage does not work if we carry our parents into it. Boundaries are required.

Jay Stringer uses the dichotomy of simultaneous “honour” and “honesty” when we think about our parents. We are to honour them, even as married people, but we must also be honest about how they have impacted us (for good or for ill). Part of this honest assessment is choosing to abandon that which was wrong, hurtful and damaging.

We all carry childhood baggage, either intentionally and explicitly handed to us, or subconsciously and unwittingly received. May we choose to leave this behind. At the same time let us seek to honour, and thank God for good parents who loved us and attempted to pattern for us God’s parental love.

4) Naked and Unashamed

This was God’s intention. And we see that it is one of the very first things to be destroyed by sin. Shame creeps in, people want to hide themselves, and forgo intimacy. We may hide physically, mentally, emotionally, creatively, verbally, or even behind various personalities. We dare not let people in.

And we have very good reason not to, have you see the damage and harm “letting people in” can do? We have all been betrayed, and hurt by those closest to us.

In marriage, may we lead by example in vulnerability. In our friendships may we match

One of my favourite definitions of intimacy, is a cheesy word-play: “in-to-me-see”. Within intimacy, we allow others to see into us, for who we truly are, and we are allowed to see into them.

I am stirred by the concept and power of vulnerability. So here is one final thought: We are most tempted to cover-up and feel shame over our weaknesses. We hide them, whatever they are. But in marriage God invites us to be truly vulnerable, to share our weaknesses. The Bible says that God’s power is, in fact, made perfect and complete in our weaknesses. Chose to reveal yourself in marriage today, not hide.

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 4 The Gift of Work

My work from home set-up

The theme of Work is closely linked and intertwined in my Personal life purpose. (So please excuse me if I get carried away!) To be a man after God’s own heart, then to lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to be the same. I desperately, wholeheartedly, and unashamedly want to labour for others to know my God.

Paul, the apostle, puts it in language that my heart thrums to hear: “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me’ (Colossians 1:29)

I know that salvation isn’t a work I can muster for others, or even myself, nevertheless it is a work God has invited me to co-labour with Him in (see Matthew 28:20). This is why I seek to ‘work out my salvation with fear and trembling’ – souls are at stake!

Anyway, I digress! We’re looking at Genesis 2:4-25, not my life purpose or even the various quotes from the New Testament. In this story God is seen giving man work to do (working the ground and naming the animals – manual labour and mental labour). From this passage we can see the beautiful intention for work, before it is corrupted by sin in Chapter 3!

Firstly, this passage calls us to check our attitude towards work.

Do we idolise it? Do we sacrifice everything else to our work, our time, money, relationships, energy, our praise and worship? Does it define us? Do we give our work authority to value us, determine our worth, to rule over us?

Or do we avoid it? Do we seek to shrug off our duty, hand it over to someone else, negate our responsibilities?

God has given work to us, as a gift, something to thank Him for, something to appreciate His creation with, to bring form to the formless. It is a gift to be stewarded wisely and faithfully. Elsewhere the Bible writers remind us ‘to remember God who has given you the ability to make wealth’ (Deut 8:18). Surely our work is a gift and our attitude & response to it should be such!

Secondly, this passage defines what work and creativity are intended to be.

There was quite a bit that came up regarding the Protestant work ethic, and the western world’s unhealthy obsession with work. In my own reading I’ve encountered several voices that talk about the dangers of overworking, and seeing work as a means to power, prestige, possessions, wealth, freedom, happiness or life.

So how does this passage define work and creativity? Interestingly, our work and creativity is to be modelled on the work and creativity of God. This means that creativity is less about “innovation”, self-expression or making economic value (although these are good things). It is not about tirelessly, endlessly, striving in a chaotic, grab-as-much-as-you-can manner. No, the creativity of God is about:

  • Bringing form to the formless, order to the chaos
  • Transforming and making new
  • Defining, naming and creating boundaries
  • Filling and enabling to flourish
  • Blessing
  • Sharing and appreciating

This is the defined work and creativity we are called to.

Thirdly, this passage allows us to see work as an invitation for us to come alongside God!

We see that nothing had grown because 1) God had not sent rain and 2) no one had worked the ground. Both God and man are to work the garden, it is a joint assignment. We may be tempted to think our work is all our responsibility and worry and fret whenever something goes wrong or is difficult. On the other hand we may be tempted to think that work is all God’s responsibility and we can take a back seat and put our feet up. Neither view is correct. Work is a joint project. Embrace it.

Invite God to help you, ask God how you can help Him. (Not because God needs our help, but because He delights to work alongside us!)

After studying this passage I invited God to help me work, both in my full time job at Cancer Research, and in the other ‘work’ God has given me. The work of discipleship, marriage, friendship, family, church, using my gifts….even my blog. God please help me, give me wisdom!

This is why Paul writes: that he strenuously contends with all the energy that Christ works in Him (Col 1:29). He declares that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, because it is the Lord who works in you! (Phil 2:12-13). This is why Paul says that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ to do good works prepared by Him in advance. (Eph 2:10)

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 3 How do you know that?

This passage in Genesis also speaks into our acquisition of knowledge. Throughout Scripture God pleads with humanity to gain knowledge, insight and wisdom. The apostle Peter even urges believers to ‘add to their faith…knowledge’. God wants us to study His word, to discover truth, to walk the right path. Moreover, God praises the humble and those who are teachable.

God means for us to adopt the posture of a life-long learner.

And yet, in this passage God plants a tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and He commands mankind to not eat from it! What is that about?

You see, it is important to God how we come to know things. (The sub-category attitude to learning – if you will.) He does not want us to idolize knowledge (Jeremiah 9:23). Nor does He want us attain knowledge without love (1 Corinthians 8). In fact knowledge is supposed to build up and edify the Church (1 Corinthians 12). It is important how we acquire knowledge, and for what motive.

In this passage, God presents Adam with an option, to acquire knowledge instantaneously, through disobedience to God’s word, to His commands. To acquire knowledge via worship of the intellect rather than worship of God (- for we cannot serve two masters)!

What is the alternative, how else will Adam discover the knowledge of good and evil? It is intended that Adam discover what is good, by obeying the good command of God, by experiencing the “goodness” of creation as declared repeatedly throughout Genesis 1. To see evil, as disobedience to God’s will, by experientially ignoring/subduing the snake – (or by speaking God’s truth in place of the snake’s lies – just as Jesus did in Matthew 4).

The rest of the Bible supports this, approach to acquiring knowledge. We are told to acquire knowledge through:

  • Obedience to His commands
  • Careful study, meditation and response to God’s words (Psalm 1, Matthew 7:24)
  • Through love and relationship with God and mankind
  • Through stillness, rest and sitting at Jesus’ feet (Psalm 46:10, Luke 10:38-42)

He does not want us to take shortcuts to knowledge, that bypass experiential knowledge. One commentator that I read, notes that the rise of “enlightenment” taught that we can learn through detachment and isolation. God’s word, on the contrary, teaches that we learn through involvement, relationship and experience. Through obedience and engagement with God’s word.

God wants us to learn. He wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. To be set free by His truth. To be still and know that He is God.

When we are tempted to reach out and grasp at knowledge to satiate our pride, to garner power for ourselves, to elevate ourselves above others. Let us remember Christ, who did not: “consider equality with God [something to be grasped at] to be used for his own advantage. Rather He made Himself nothing taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient even to death even death on a cross (Philippians 2)!