Boot Camp: “What Went Wrong?” (Part Three) – Genesis 2:4-4:26

It was a beautiful wedding! Your little sister brought a young man home from college – and he was a football and track star. The two looked very much in love, so it was no surprise when he asked her to be his wife. You were excited because she seemed truly happy – maybe the happiest you had ever seen her!

That was a decade ago…. Over the ten years, none of you recognized that he had been cheating on her in a series of sneaky relationships. One day she picked up his cell phone, read some texts, and it felt as if her world was reduced to a pile of rubble. Confronted, he stormed out of the house muttering something inane about her invading his privacy, but did not even acknowledge her pain over the substance of the texts.

A few months later, this man showed up at your house and sat down on your patio lamenting what he had done. He sobbed and seemed broken over that reality that he lost his wife. Stop. Listen closely to his words…If you aren’t distracted by his tears, you will hear his words. He is broken because he now has to cook his own meals. His heart is heavy over the reality that his life is now made up of laundry, alimony payments, child support, and embarrassment in front of many people in his life. How do you feel? Honestly, you are deeply offended by his tears. You are indignant that your dear sister has been crushed, your family has been burdened and you don’t hear him CARING about the effect his choices had on innocent people. His remorse isn’t about the relationship with his wife. He hurts over the consequences of his sin because they brought HIM discomfort and guilt.

One pastor I know said, “Many people come into my office weeping because of the consequences of sin, but few weep because of the sin itself. They have far more concern about the discomfort they feel in life than they do over the deep offense against the living God they have made in attitudes and choices that show unbelief.

If we are honest, most of us would admit we are often wounded by the consequences of our sinful choices, but are rarely broken over the sin itself.

Much repentance in our life has been more motivated by pain of consequence rather than an overwhelming sense of how greatly we have offended God’s holiness. We act like we sinned against inanimate “principles” when we sinned against a very personal Creator. Let’s talk about how we got to this state…

This is our fourth “dip” into the Scripture in this study of Genesis. For three of them (after the Prologue in 1:1-2:3), we have been searching intently for “What went wrong?” In a world created by a perfect God, we live with pain and problems. We haven’t rushed in our study, because this isn’t that kind of subject you run past. Deep troubles and pains take careful excavation to uncover the foundation.

So far, we discovered two reasons we face trouble:

• First, we noted that because of God’s highest ethic – that of love – man was created with the ability to choose to follow God or NOT. That choice was essential because love cannot be forced (or it is not truly love). As a result, the very design of man left the back door open to the temptation to fall away from God. That wasn’t a flaw in the design; it served the Author to tell His story.

• Second, we carefully uncovered the fact that the enemy exploited the designated purposes for both men and women in the creation narrative in the garden.

Truthfully, these insights lead us toward the moment of sin’s introduction. The present darkness of our world came from an historical past we will uncover today in Genesis 3. As we study the words of the text, look for this truth:

Key Principle: Every facet of life was disastrously infected by the insertion of sin into a world not designed to operate well after that incursion.

It is important to note that while man willfully chose to do wrong, he had no real idea of the extent of the cataclysm that would result from his actions. He was warned, but the warning had no context he could fully grasp. That doesn’t excuse the choice – but it explains one aspect of why the results seemed surprising to him.

Ultimately, he chose to mutiny for two core reasons:

• First, man didn’t truly believe that God’s Word was accurate.

• Second, man didn’t believe God’s will was paramount to his life.

The truth is: most people in our world still think like Adam and Eve. They trade what they truly want for what they want RIGHT NOW. They believe pleasing God is a good thing, unless it gets in the way of pleasing SELF.

Genesis 3 unwinds the perfection of the Garden of Eden in three parts:

• First, Genesis 3:1-7 tells of the conversation between Eve and the serpent.

• Second, Genesis 3:8-21 explains the curse because of sin.

• Third, Genesis 3:22-24 revealed man’s casting from the Garden into the fallen world.

The Conversation with the Serpent (3:1-7)

In this lesson, I want to focus ONLY on the first part of the chapter in Genesis 3:1-7. The conversation between Eve and the serpent is the single passage that describes the temptation process at its core.

Go back to the place where mutiny came into the human story, and death began its long reign in our world… Go back to Genesis 3. It opens with the story of a shadowy figure walking low in the garden:

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”

These words begin the twenty-four verses in Genesis 3 that are among the hardest to read in the entire Bible. They aren’t difficult in verbiage, but in even a glancing observation of the passage, this is the story of an explosion and destruction of something beautiful. Genesis 2 ended with two unashamed people tending God’s wondrous garden, taking walks with God in the cool of the day, and living with one another in harmony, without shame or struggle. As Genesis 3 opens, a serpent walks calmly into the garden and will leave nothing behind but total scorched earth when he is done his work. Look at Genesis 3:1 and note his description:

First, he came in the form of the most “crafty” animal in the land.

The text suggests the animal that approached was one known to man as “from the field,” but doesn’t specify if the speech of the animal should denote a “possession” of the animal by God’s enemy, or if some animals in the garden originally had a range of communication larger than they had after the Fall. The FACT the animal spoke didn’t seem to bother Adam or Eve. Perhaps they were still quite unfamiliar with many of the animals beyond a brief encounter where Adam “named” them. On the other hand, animals may have had greater communication skills at Creation than after “the Fall.” I don’t have a “Dr. Doolittle” complex about talking animals, but we just don’t know for sure.

Be open to another thought, if you can. Before sin, the line between the spiritual world and the physical world hadn’t yet been drastically cut. Let me say it this way: It may seem amazing to watch animals at a zoo, but imagine angelic beings wandering around in the beginning at Eden. They may well have been seen as part of the wondrous things God made. The break between material and spiritual may have come at the Fall, not before.

What I can see in the text is this: Adam and Eve perceived the talking serpent as acceptable.

At his introduction in Genesis 3, the serpent leaves us questioning: “Who or what was this ‘crafty animal?’”

Think of it this way: If you were in the Garden, everything you could see was good. The place was filled with wonder and color and all manner of creation to behold – and you were NEW to the place. Some of the creations could fly over your head into the sky. Others walked slowly, lumbering along the earth. Some had high necks and could eat from trees while others walked low to the ground. You saw them all and were excited by each variation.

Along the ground walked a serpent. The term for serpent (Heb: “nachash”) is the name used later for a reptile. Though artists often picture a snake wound around a tree, we don’t really know if that’s what they saw. The word for the serpents was “low to the ground” until the penalty God placed in Genesis 3:14 to slither on the ground. It appears the animal may have begun with short legs originally. Interestingly, the word nachash wasn’t a reference to appearance, but relates to the verb “to hiss,” and is associated with sounds that a reptile makes. That isn’t the only Hebrew term for a snake. The other word referring to reptiles, tannin seems to be used interchangeably (as in Moses and Aaron in Pharaoh’s court in Exodus 7:9-15).

Note carefully this serpent was compared to other animals in the field. It “was more crafty than any beast of the field,” which suggests this animal belonged in the animal kingdom. This doesn’t seem to be a “one off” singular kind of creation, a unique animal.

Take a look at that word “crafty” for a moment. It offers us a hint.

The term “crafty” (Hebrew “aw-room”) which is a common term for “shrewd” or even “discerning” and:

• It is used in Job for those who plot and deceive (Job 5:2, 15:5).

• It is used in Proverbs to denote someone who is difficult to “read” by face, particularly when insulted (their look doesn’t show how they feel – Proverbs 12:16, 23).

Something seems strange about that description on its face. The idea of the term is one who cannot be read easily, but keeps his intentions to himself. Remember: it is characteristic for a reptile to be able to look at peace even when it is about to strike. I suspect that is the true reason the enemy took its form.

How do I know the enemy took the form of this animal? It is very likely this wasn’t simply an inhabitant of the garden, but a mock materialization of the enemy of God in a form that mimicked a known animal. Later Scripture revealed the fallen Lucifer, Satan, as a serpent of deception. Revelation 12 called him the serpent that deceived the world. Revelation 20:2 reminds us Satan is the “serpent of old.” 2 Corinthians 11:3 made clear that Satan was, in fact, “the serpent who deceived Eve by his craftiness.” 2 Timothy 2:13 made clear the deception was physical, literal and historical.

With that in mind, think about the cunning craftiness of the enemy. He doesn’t show you where you are going to end up if you follow him. He attracts you and beckons to your desire, but has no interest in you at all. He wants what he wants from you…rebellion and mutiny and self-serving behavior.

Second, (in keeping with his description) his opening line was crafted to deceive.

Read the words again:

Genesis 3:1b … And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?

It is clear reading the account the serpent had no real question about what God did or didn’t say. This was a misleading question designed to deceive, not gain insight. Consider for a moment what that shows about the difference between God’s interactions with man, and Satan’s interaction:

• God started the story by SHARING with man all that He made. Adam had God’s instruction concerning what would happen if the path of disobedience was followed. God hid nothing and disclosed the end at the beginning. It is not God’s nature to HIDE or OBSCURE His intentions.

• Conversely, note how the enemy of God BLOCKED man from seeing where he wanted things to go in their time together. He essentially “masked” the nature of his desires in the opening line of his appearance before men.

Deception thrives in an environment where no one can easily connect the negative outcomes of succumbing to current temptations.

If you keep reading, you will notice the woman engaged the serpent as if more information was what was needed:

By Genesis 3:2, we have the first words of the woman found in Scripture. Not surprisingly, they were words of helpful explanation:

Genesis 3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”

By design, Eve was a helpful person. She was brought into the scene to add what was missing from her husband.

• Adam was made to oversee organization and administration of the garden, to do the practical work of maintaining both the garden and his walk with God, and also to maintain an intimate relationship with Eve.

• For her part, Eve was to deliberately assist him in his labors of life, to love and connect with him and to (eventually) care for the blessings of the womb. HELPING was what she was designed to do. Being helpful was her natural state.

We made the point that although Eve had no way of knowing, additional information couldn’t help in this situation. The serpent wasn’t confused, he was deliberately deceptive. When one desires to manipulate and obfuscate, more information only offers more to twist. It took a moment, but the serpent couldn’t WAIT to stand in direct opposition to God’s word and oppose Him.

Eve left the door open in what she said: “God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” Some commentators attempt to suggest her reference was inaccurate, but that is not at all certain. Perhaps Adam offered more information to Eve that was not incorporated into the text. Perhaps God told them more in the cool of the Garden afternoon walks. What is clear is this: if Eve thought “death” would be immediate and if she thought it would look like her toppling to the ground clutching her heart, she was wrong.

God used the terminology of “death” to refer to the umbilical cord of free flowing connection between Him and man.

In the Bible, the physical death of the body is a mere symptom of “real” death – the forced separation between God and man because of man’s mutiny against God’s authority. When man walked unquestionably with God, there was no mutiny. As a result, there was unending intimacy and obvious transparency. When man chose sin, a break with God was immediate. That was the primary meaning of death. Yet, that caused a problem. If her perception was immediate physical death, it seemed untrue when she first touched the fruit of the tree. It wasn’t her eating of the fruit that was her first sin – it was the decision to reach for it. Sin is of the heart, not of the hands.

Satan focused Eve on the notion that touching the fruit wouldn’t kill her, as if God wasn’t telling the truth. Watch what he said:

Genesis 3:4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!”

The serpent was subtle until he had Eve’s attention. This serpent clearly hated God. He was angry and on a mission to foment mutiny and pull mankind down into iniquity.

Don’t let the familiar passage cause you to lose focus. In this simple story we can observe one of the enemy’s oldest and dearest tricks. Satan takes our PERCEPTION of something (especially if it is incomplete) and uses it to show how God’s Word about something is at least insufficient of at worst just plain wrong!”

Think of it this way: Eve touched the fruit on the tree (after what Satan said) and perhaps she thought to herself: “See! I am still breathing! It didn’t KILL me. I wonder why eating it will be any different!” One bite and the enemy effectively used deception and her misconception to help her rationalize open rebellion.

Let me offer a simple example:

Maybe you grew up in a Christian home and had family devotions where someone read:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Following that reading, your dear loving grandma taught you “as if” from the Word, “You know, God will never give you more than you can handle!” That misstatement became a “Bible truth” that you placed into your heart. It became a part of your faith. You believed that like you believe that Jesus died for you. After all, God is good and He wouldn’t throw you into troubles beyond your ability, would He? If He were a teacher, He would gauge what you could handle before any assignment, or He wouldn’t be a very good teacher, would He?

Then the car accident happened. Your little child was killed. You sat in a dark corner and angrily told God He lied. “This IS more than I can handle!” It just IS. You told lies, God, if you are even real!” You didn’t notice the Word didn’t promise what Grandma promised in Jesus’ name. You didn’t recognize the passage had to do with “escape hatches” when it came to temptation. Your misconception opened the door for Satan to drive you to open rebellion.

By the way, just so I don’t leave the door open let me be clear: God WILL “sign off” on MANY THINGS that are beyond your ability to handle without Him. Your need of God continually opens the door to His gracious supply. People who won’t be pushed won’t grow. People who cannot be broken will not be reconstructed by God’s good hand, period!

Look at the follow up ploy of the enemy:

Genesis 3:5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The opening of the verse is marinated in rebellion. When He said, “For” he was contradicting God’s claim and saying “The REAL REASON is…” Strip that down and all it means, all it CAN mean is this: “You cannot trust God! You cannot trust His Word. You cannot count on His goodness and you should suspect His intentions toward you. All the enemy said was absolutely true – but not about GOD. She should have applied all the suspicion to the serpent, and NONE toward her ever-good Creator.

Look at the promise Satan made: “You will be like God!” If you look back at the description of the fall of Satan, you will identify that was the chief desire HE HAD that led to his own rebellion.

In the poetry of Isaiah 14:13, the prophet recorded of Lucifer’s fall:

Isaiah 14:13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”

Some time before Lucifer made that choice of rebellion to unseat His Creator. He thought he could be like God. He thought God got where He is by some knowledge He acquired – a knowledge that could be duplicated or attained by Satan.

That isn’t what it takes to be GOD. Satan may be cunning, but he’s not omniscient, he’s not omnipotent, and he’s not omnipresent. He’s not immutable and he’s not sovereign. In fact, he’s not like God at all. He is as UNGOD as he possibly could be.

Yet, he knew that promise held an appeal.

Watch closely as Eve gazed at the forbidden. She knew what God said. She rehearsed it. The problem is, the thing she wanted NOW became more important than the thing she wanted MOST. Genesis recorded:

Genesis 3:6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

Look at the careful description of the first human temptation…

Eve “saw” (Hebrew: raw-aw’) it was “good for food” literally says she entertained the notion that the food was edible. But wait, God said it would KILL HER. Nothing is LESS GOOD for food than poison – and that is what God said this was to her. Remember, in temptation, we believe that we know what will be GOOD for us more than the God Who made us.

She observed it was a “delight to the eyes.” The term “delight” (tah-av-aw’) is sometimes translated desire, greed or lust. It is a word for “appetite” and “longing.” It is used in both a positive and negative sense, but always of a strong inner compulsion. Remember, often our desires don’t reveal what is best for us. Because we want it badly, doesn’t mean it will, in the end, be a good thing for us.

Look at the final phrase before she succumbed, where it recorded: “the tree was desirable to make one wise.” Eve reckoned acquisition of the fruit would improve her life beyond the counsel of God. Remember, the beginning of sin occurs when we believe God is not looking out for our best interest, so we have to attend to it ourselves. We sin because we have lost confidence in God’s intentions, and therefore in His Word.

Consider the wise words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his little book “Temptation” where he shared:

In our members there is a slumbering inclination toward desire, which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power, desire seizes mastery of the flesh. All at once a secret, smoldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames. It makes no difference whether it is a sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, our love of fame and power, or greed for money…At this moment God is quite unreal to us. [Remember those words.] He loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real. The only reality is the devil. Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God… The lust thus aroused envelopes the mind and will of a man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us. …It is here that everything within me rises up against the Word of God…. Therefore the Bible teaches us in times of temptation in the flesh, there is one command: Flee! Flee fornication. Flee idolatry. Flee youthful lusts. Flee the lusts of the world. There is no resistance to Satan in lust other than flight. Every struggle against lust in one’s own strength is doomed to failure.”

Temptation, then, is focusing on self-interest. It is losing trust in God to fulfill your needs. It is fixating on the promise that something else can satisfy in a way your Creator simply cannot.

Succumbing to temptation killed Paradise. It killed Eve. It killed Adam. Thankfully, that isn’t the end of the story God told us.

Because of Jesus Christ, Paradise will be restored. That truth is our chief comfort in our currently sin-cursed world.

Before I leave the passage, let me close by answering a question that many have posed over the years I have been in ministry. In one form or another, people ask: “Is the Adam and Eve story to be understood literally?” A few years ago at a Youth Conference, I was confronted with this question by a professor in a public university.

In response, let us assume the view of the antagonist for a moment. Let’s assume the record of Adam and Eve are simple stories, not meant to be understood literally.

What would be the harm in such a view? Would our faith be adversely affected by removing this literal sense to the story?

Let me suggest our faith would be dramatically altered by citing the history as a mere fable or moral story. Let me even suggest that virtually every major doctrine of the Christian faith hangs on this story and its veracity!

For instance, if Adam was not a real man, a specific choice to mutiny against God did not enter the world through one man as Paul related to the Roman church in Romans 5:12 states. He wrote:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned

When and how did sin enter world, then? We have no answer. Since the Word’s account, repeated many places in the text, is found to be a myth – our faith offers no answer to the problem of sin, suffering, injustice and wrong.

Consider something more. If Romans 5:12 repeats a moral myth as though it were an event, how do what other parts of Scripture are simply stories that should be taken lightly?

Never take the eternal words of a Sovereign God with a “grain of salt.”

That was the essence of the first temptation: You don’t have to believe the Word of God.

Honestly, if we didn’t have rebel parents in Adam and Eve, how do we know that Satan himself isn’t supposed to be an “avatar of evil” like a “dark force” and not a person?

Chopping parts of the Bible off to make the story palatable to modernity plays directly into the hands of the enemy to remain unseen, doesn’t it?

If Adam wasn’t real, maybe Satan wasn’t real. Maybe sin is a general concept. Maybe Cain didn’t slay Abel. Maybe Jesus’ reference to “the beginning” and “the blood of Abel” was all just a way of teaching moral lessons based on made up details.

Here is the point: once parts of the Bible can be tossed aside, why should we believe anything is literal? Did Jesus come? Was He God in human skin? Did He die on the Cross? Why would He do so if sin wasn’t a specific violation as taught in the Word?

When Jesus referred to these events as history, was He naïve or even intentionally deceiving people?

To deny the literalness of Adam and Eve is to place oneself in opposition to Jesus and the apostle Paul. If one has the audacity to claim he is right and Jesus and Paul are wrong, then Jesus is a sinner, not God, and not the Savior; the apostle Paul is a false prophet; and the Bible is not inspired, inerrant, or trustworthy.

Every facet of life was disastrously infected by the introduction of sin into a world not designed to operate well after the assault.

It all started with a singular temptation: Don’t trust what God says. Don’t believe His Word. He doesn’t know how to care for you…Isn’t it ironic that so many dismiss the story, but claim allegiance to the God Who told the story?

What do YOU believe?

Eve’s problem was food. This wasn’t the last time in the Bible the enemy used this ploy. Go to the desert. Sit with a hungry Jesus surrounded by stone. The enemy said: “If you are the Son of God, make these stones bread.” Jesus wouldn’t do it.

Bread wasn’t wrong. Fulfilling perceived needs enticed by the enemy without seeking that fulfillment from His Father would have shown what Jesus thought was most important. Hunger was second to doing His Father’s will. Temptation is about what we come to believe is most important.

Boot Camp: “What Went Wrong?” (Part Two) – Genesis 2:4-4:26

 Our history books can be filled, not only with stories of great men, but stories of incredible women. For instance:

Marie Curie (Maria Sklodowska) was born in Warsaw, Poland in the second half of the nineteenth century. Even from a very young age she showed vast academic promise, but was not allowed to attend university because she was a young woman – and these were the days when women weren’t to work in such areas. That wasn’t true everywhere, so she relocated. First diving into studies secretly, she eventually moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne in the open in a society that allowed her to pursue her passion. She excelled and earned advanced degrees in both mathematics and physics. Within a short time after she was noticed by the French academy, she met an impressive scientist named Pierre Curie, and the two fell in love and were married. Not a normal husband and wife, they formed a unique partnership in scientific study – each helping the other in projects and experimentation. Over the years of her work, Marie Curie organized disciplines of study and essentially is credited with largely assembling what today is dubbed “atomic physics.” In a paper, she coined the term “radioactivity” as her description of atomic phenomena observed in the collective lab work they did, along with the work of other contemporary scientists. Pierre and Marie discovered together two radioactive elements: polonium (named after Poland) and radium. In 1903, Marie Curie’s work was recognized internationally when she became the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in physics. After Pierre died in 1906, Marie took over his position as a university professor, becoming the first female professor at the Sorbonne. Later, in 1911, Marie was recognized again in a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry. To this day, Curie is the only woman to win two Nobel Prizes. She is one of many incredible historical figures, explorers, artists and brilliant minds that dot the landscape of human history.

What is clear to anyone who has truly studied history is this: women contributed in dramatic ways throughout human history. They still do, and they will until time gives way to eternity. In this lesson, we want to look at the design and purpose of God’s creation of woman.

In our study of Genesis, we found two important (and intentionally densely worded) truths:

• In the prologue of Genesis 1:1-2:3, we learned in the “story of the seven days” that God made everything according to His desire, ascribed each creation its only true purposes, and is (by virtue of creation) the absolute Owner of all of the universe.

• In the first of four stories in the scroll of “What Went Wrong” (2:4-4:26) God made man and placed within the design MORAL AGENCY, thereby opening the possibility of sin and destruction – because it suited Him to tell His story in such a world.

We noted there are three more stories of the “What Went Wrong” scroll.

Last time we looked at the “creation of man.” This time we will examine the “creation of woman.” As we look at the passage, I want you to notice yet another foundational truth that helps explain how “things went wrong.”

As man was designed to be a moral agent, so woman was designed with very specific purpose. Within the statement of her purpose there is more than just a pedantic story of “Adam gets a helper” – as the children’s storybook version suggests. Her purpose was disclosed as part of the story of how things went wrong in the cosmos. If you read the passage carefully, I believe you will see that the woman was created with purpose, and then (as you knit the account into the scroll from which the story was taken) you will see this truth…

Key Principle: The enemy exploited the unique design for man and woman to use their own purposes against them.

Go back to near the beginning of the human story…The fall of angels had already happened, and a rebellion was afoot by the time man was first placed in the garden. The “morning stars” that sang at creation were now divided into two groups – one following God and one in mutiny against God. When God placed man in the garden, He moved forward with a story the entire cosmos could observe. It is the story of Who our Creator truly is.

Genesis 2:18-25 is the primary text that described the creation of woman by God. The passage can be cut into three natural parts:

• The first part supplied the background: it teaches about man before her creation and his needs to set the stage for her introduction into the story.

• The second part offered the “essential substance” of the story: God brought forth the woman.

• The final part included an important note about the basic building block of human society – the formation of the nuclear family.

All of it ties into a larger story of how evil and trouble entered our world.

The First Part: Genesis recorded the following about man and his needs:

Take a moment and examine the background setting in Genesis 2:

Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.

From the first part of the record, ironically we learn four essential truths about man, before the woman is on the scene in the garden:

First, man was not only designed for organization, administration, service (work) and guardianship of God’s estate, but also intimate relationship with others (2:18).

Look again at the simple statement:

Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…

It may be hard to tell when you look at the behavior of some men in your life, but men were originally designed to crave relationship and connection. “Alone” was not a description of what was BEST for man.

Consider two important observations that we learn from this simple sentence:

First, the twisting of a God-given desire for companionship, including physical contact, was one of the most effective weapons Satan could invent by twisting it from its natural shape. He isn’t creative; he is an impostor. He steals what God made and warps it to help us mutiny still more. The man’s inherent created desire for connection, when twisted, becomes his inordinate attention to sexual expression and physical relationship. He was made to DESIRE TO CONNECT. In his lost state, that connection of heart is all too willingly traded for self-pleasure.

Second, anyone who counsels those who struggle emotionally and spiritually will easily testify that isolation is another one of the excellent weapons our enemy has formed against us from our design. As the father of deception, he pushes us to isolate ourselves with shame and guilt because we are most vulnerable and susceptible to his direction when isolated. That isolation is, perhaps, the area we need to guard most strongly against. We need to force ourselves to keep relationships solid when we are tempted to retreat. Think of it! There are a plethora of “one another” commands in the Scriptures that suggest that in our fallen state we will not naturally connect and care for one another as we ought without a push from God.

Second, man needed a specific kind of companion (2:18b).

Genesis 2:18 “…God said…“I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

Though animals can bring both comfort and companionship, the true relationship man lacked deep inside was intentionally designed to be something MORE. It included a helper SUITABLE (neh-ghed) for him. The term means “conspicuous” or “obvious” for his needs (2:18b).

Don’t get distracted by the word “helper” (Hebrew: ay’-zer). Clear in the text is the notion that God made for man a woman as a helpmate, someone who would help him fulfill God’s assignment for his life. Yet, we can make a terrible error here. Does “helper” imply that the woman was made strictly as a servant to the man? Not at all!

Helper is not synonymous with assistant, servant, minion, or subordinate.

Indeed, the Hebrew word “helper” is often used for God as a helper of man (cp. Ex. 18:4). The term doesn’t presume lesser value in and of itself, as it may denote in the English. Rather, it focuses on the end result – assistance to the one needing help.

God helps man, but He is not man’s servant – His desire is for the man’s success and so aid is offered.

The term “helper” is unrelated to any claim of worth or value – the idea is entirely separate. To be clear, one cannot argue from this term that woman was simply created to serve man – rather she was created to complement man on his mission before God and help him succeed to that end. Her purpose is obviously tied to his – but not in any way that makes her less valued by God. She offers man much needed assistance without which man would fall short of his Creator’s desire.

Furthermore, the Hebrew word translated “suitable,” kenegdow, carries much more meaning than simply “fit” or “appropriate.” This word also means “opposite or contrasting.” This implies that the two beings were designed to work and fit together perfectly, not just physically, but in all ways.

In many ways, the strengths of each compensated for the weaknesses of the other.

It was “not good” for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18), but, together, Adam and Eve became something far stronger and more able than either of them could have been alone. Adam lost a bit of tissue from his side, but he gained so much more!

We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk. – Thomas Moore

There were times in the history of the church (and of the West) where even Jesus followers became sloppy with our Holy Writ and adopted prejudices and attitudes that are not actually defensible from the Word at all. In some instances, we held women back from things like a vote for elected officers, etc. that are well outside of the reasoning of Scripture. You cannot find a place in the Bible where it defends inequality in access to education or personal development. In the Word, there is no question that God made women equally intelligent and quite able to cast a vote with discernment equal to men. Any argument to the contrary seems hostile, not simply to our culture, but to the text of God’s Word.

At the same time, we must face the fact that we live in a highly feminized environment, with some cultural ideals that have been openly developed as HOSTILE to God’s Word. We can easily see that some of the highest values of God’s Word (the inherent dignity of human life, the wondrous and exalted place of motherhood, etc.) stand in direct conflict with some of the loudest voices in our culture. Be careful here.

God called women “suitable helpers” and DID distinguish between the man and the woman in terms of spiritual culpability – but NOT in terms of worth. In the Law, specifically in Numbers 30, a woman was restricted from making a DIRECT VOW before the Lord. That wasn’t because she was undiscerning – it was because she was created FROM MAN, in an indirect creative work of God. Paul made that argument in the 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2. That is a difficult to understand argument, and it deserves time (perhaps later) to dissect. At the same time, I would be remiss if I didn’t openly point out that God’s Word is structured around two creations – man and woman – equal in value by different in how they approach and serve God. I have no interest in holding anyone back from serving as they choose – provided it fits inside what the Scripture expressly allows.

A third important truth: man isn’t the first to recognize his needs. (2:19-20).

Look at the end of the short sentence in Genesis 2:20.

Genesis 2:20 “… but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.

In the story, God clearly knew the need man had of a companion and helper, but He desired that man feel that need as well. This is one simple example of how God may bring us through a times of LACK to help us understand our own needs – even the ones He is filling (or longing to fill) in our lives. That lack is not a punishment; it is a school (Gen. 2:19). God knows your needs before you do, but may bring you through a series of circumstances simply to help YOU see your needs (2:18-25). Adam needed a helper – God knew it (2:18) but Adam had to discover it (2:20). Only after Adam felt the loneliness, did God take care of it. Perhaps the reason this detail is included is to help us understand something of the nature of the man that needed the assistance of the woman.

Is it possible this account was included to remind men they need to be open to another set of eyes on “what they need?” I suspect that is the case.

Men, listen to this simple truth: You need a better perspective than you can provide yourself. In the home, you need a wife who can tell you what you didn’t see. At work, you need a team mate to make sure you are learning to perceive what is happening around you. We don’t have all the tools in our toolbox because we were made for relationship.

By the way, don’t fuss about lack. Lack can help you learn to see more clearly. A periodic sense of profound weakness can produce a life of intense strength. Constant fullness and elated bliss isn’t healthy. One writer put it this way:

Never have I seen so many young, privileged, people trying so hard to be happy. There are countless articles written about it, blogs named for it, workshops attending to it. Who ever said we’re supposed to be happy all the time, anyway? We’re not. And the pressure to do so might be what’s making us unhappy to begin with. It’s OK if you’re not completely content with your life twenty-four hours a day. Can you imagine what a boring person you’d be if you were? Going through … storms, feeling uninspired, hating the way you look and having guilt over not accomplishing enough are just some of the things that make you interesting, relatable and human. ..This is not to say that people shouldn’t strive to better their positions in life, however it seems like so many of us are no longer content with a regular amount of happy, yet dead-set on being maniacally jubilant, all of the time. -Kelly Rheel (blogger).

Fourth, it is also important to note that man named things to symbolically show his responsibility for them (2:20).

Don’t skip the detail in verse 20:

Genesis 2:20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.

Giving a name was more than authoring a dictionary; it was about taking the assigned responsibility over the environment. One cannot manage what one does not distinguish and name. For some people, they can’t eat an animal after they named it. They feel a sense of betrayal.

Adam needed to wade out into his job and take responsibility for what God designed him to accomplish. He needed to take on life and own the work before him. The only way you truly fail at life is if you retreat from participation in your calling. Don’t miss that he was busy FOLLOWING GOD’S DIRECTION before God entrusted a mate to him.

Let me say this: Don’t expect God to take one of His best and most precious creations and drop them into your life BEFORE you are willing to show Him you desire to obey His direction!

The second part of the narrative examines the actual creation story of woman:

We have seen the first part of the story – that man had true needs and God was about to fulfill them. Now comes the FUN PART if you have discovered (as I have) a happy marriage…

First, God deliberately and intentionally designed woman without consultation from man (2:21).

Consider the words of Genesis 2:21:

Genesis 2:21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.

Take a look at the fact that woman was formed while man was in “a deep sleep” (tar-day-maw’) which is a term for “deeply sedated” or even “comatose.” Her “formation” (baw-naw’) was the term for “constructed” and is sometimes used for building, but also used for the term of what happens inside the womb as a baby is formed. It can even be used of God “building up a house” by adding children to the family.

• You may never have considered the difference between how God made man and how He made woman. Remember that Genesis 2 revealed that God “formed Adam out of the dust of the ground.” The Hebrew term “yawtsar” meant “to mold or shape as in a potter shaping clay.” The word is one that denotes the making of a pot by a potter – the shaping of a substance for USEFULNESS.

• In the case of the woman, the term “bawnaw” denoted she was “fashioned” not simply “shaped.” That term was used of a complex structure, such as a temple, palace or perhaps a “work of art” would have been. Most scholars would agree the terminology implied that the woman was meant as both a companion, and an aesthetic work, a design for pleasant appearance.

It may also be worth noting that she was not only designed to be aesthetically pleasing (which became obvious by Adam’s response to her), but to be more aesthetically sensitive – it seems she was designed to CARE about appearance more. Consider this:

Researchers note nearly one of ten men are color blind (actually 8%), but a mere one out of two hundred women share that malady. Some think this implies God built into women a greater capacity to be aesthetically sensitive, though with the Fall it is hard to know for sure.

Now consider how the enemy took advantage of the way God made man and woman.

• In the case of the woman, she could (if led away) become overly concerned with appearance to the point that it distracts her away from helping the man complete the God-given mission. She could get caught up in how she catches his eye, rather than how she helps his heart.

• In the case of man, he could (if led away) become obsessed with her beauty to the detriment of his own mission. He could care more about capturing her affections than following God’s will.

It isn’t difficult to imagine either of those issues, but they are part of the twisting of God’s original design of each. That is part of the reason God took the time to explain the creation of each.

Second, woman was formed out of the tissue of man (2:22).

Keep reading, and the technical side of her creation is exposed.

Genesis 2:22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.

The word for “rib” (tsay-law’) is actually a term that can refer to the side of a structure, or the side wall of a terrace. It simply refers to the location from which the tissue was extracted by God, but not necessarily the technical piece of bone itself. In effect, the text simply reveals that man was used as the “starter tissue” to form woman. She was not taken directly from the ground, but was taken from already living tissue that came from man after he was already a living being. That fact will have important implications later in the Bible.

God explained that He used the man’s tissue to form the woman in order to show they were actually parts of the same created being, two halves of a whole. The female was created distinct from the male but both were completed in each other. In that way, the note on “one flesh” makes even greater literal sense. We use the term physically and spiritually, but it essentially means “putting the whole back together.”

There is a sense of completion that happens in the bonding of a good marriage. There is also a severe tearing that occurs in the breakup of a marriage. This isn’t simply a contract or a case of inane familiarity (i.e. “we are used to each other after this many years”). Anyone who lost their spouse to death can tell you it affects you on so many levels, you feel torn in half. It isn’t your imagination; it really is a tearing from one into two.

Third, woman was brought by God to the man (2:22).

Keep reading, and we will get to the relational part – where Adam first saw Eve.

Genesis 2:22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.

Fortunately, the scene was a page before sin when the term “awkward” set in. God didn’t let Adam figure out an approach or “pick up” line. Considering his inexperience with females, anyone who ever observed a Jr. High dance will tell you it was good that God didn’t let him actually approach her to meet, or they might still be standing opposite the punch bowl in the garden looking at each other like cows in a field, deathly afraid to speak to each other.

No, this meeting took place when they were still unafraid of each other. The awkwardness didn’t come until the breaking of man’s self-image – and that came at the Fall in Genesis 3.

Fourth, when man awoke, he knew she came from him (2:23).

Genesis 2:23 revealed Adam KNEW where she came from in the beginning (and it wasn’t from Venus!).

Genesis 2:23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”

Here is the absolute first of a long series of “boy-meets-girl” movies. Adam said she is “bone” from me (eh’tsem), which refers to the frame, the limb or the strength of a man. The term (baw-sar) is the term “flesh” and literally means the “meat on the bone” (i.e. muscle, etc.) of her frame. He exclaimed that she was “taken” (law-kakh’) “extracted” from man. This isn’t incidental; it reveals that every part of her was taken from his design and from his tissue, but carefully constructed into a new related form.

Look carefully at the man’s exclamation: “She is from me, and I will name her as something additional to me.” He was called “man” (ish) while he called her “woman” (isha).

Adam’s first reaction, “She is one being with me”, is later strengthened in verse 24 by the phrase “and they will become one flesh.” It is as if he recognized from the beginning the single word that makes marriage successful: the word “ours.”

Look closely at the words “She shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” In them is the Biblical principle of headship, which was developed more in the New Testament. In the Bible, the man held ultimate culpability for the nature and character of the home, and was charged with the responsibility with exercising unique leadership as he followed God’s direction and purpose.

The third part of the narrative included a God breathed note dropped into the narrative about the nuclear family and its formation:

Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

First, a man’s commitment to permanent responsibility was the basis of the family structure.

Because woman was taken from man, brought to man and named by man – man was to take responsibility for the woman BEFORE they became the basic biological components to the foundational social structure – the nuclear family. The terms “father” and “mother” are used, as is a reference to biological reproduction in becoming “one flesh.”

The foundation of any marriage is a commitment to permanence. The man LEAVES home (and establishes his own desire to take self-responsibility, then CLEAVES to his wife. The Hebrew term “dabag” means, “to adhere as in glue.” Remember, this was written long before the glue of a “sticky note.” This was a word of intentional permanent bonding.

Second, a man and woman were made to engage life together without the need to cover who they truly are.

Genesis 2:25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

The final words of the text speak clearly of openness and transparency between a man and his wife. Secrets kill a marriage; communication establishes it. Retreat and silence make a marriage shrivel; sharing together deepens the foundation.

We live in a culture where people share a meal reading the words from a screen and caring little for the person with which they are having the meal. Marriage isn’t just about longevity. People can endure torture for a long time – but that isn’t the measure of the experience. Honestly, the breakdown of communication with your spouse IS the breakdown of your marriage. The inability of a couple to love past surface differences and allow each to share without constant fear of judgment is the undoing of a marriage.

Can you see it?

The enemy exploited the unique design for man and woman to use their own purposes against them.

God didn’t build the world on nations. He didn’t build it on political parties or even types of government. God built the basic fabric of our society on a home. He built it on two people – a man and a woman – completing the mission God gave them.

I close with an observation about never underestimating a woman…

A police officer jumps into his squad car and calls the station.
“I have an interesting case here,” he says. “A woman shot her husband for stepping on the floor she just mopped.”
“Have you arrested her?” asks the sergeant.
“No, not yet. The floor’s still wet.” (Smile!)

Boot Camp: “What Went Wrong?” (Genesis 2:4-4:26, Part One)

Mary met Joe at a Bible study group on campus. After a few dates, they could clearly see the Lord meant for them to spend their lives serving Him together. Joe had the desire to be a businessman that would serve Jesus and create wealth that would fund ministry operated by other friends he saw God calling. Mary wanted to serve Jesus as a housewife with an in-home cottage industry business. She was smart, motivated and dynamic. The short story is they graduated, she with her Bachelor’s degree and he with an Associate’s degree. They got married and she started her business and her family. Joe went back to school to get further education and get his business career started. In the middle of the next year, both of their lives changed. The baby that was forming in Mary was in distress and had to be delivered early. The complications were many, and the baby, little Jolene, was born with a series of severe physical limitations. The couple was stunned. They were prepared to serve God in many ways, but this changed both of their plans. What went wrong? Why would God sideline both of these dear ones and move them to a place of struggle like this?

Tom loved two things in life: his family and fishing. Anyone who knows anything about their family knows this: fishing is more important than perhaps any activity beyond work and worship. Tom and his wife are vibrant in their faith. Their children are active in their children and youth programming at their church. Yet, no one could miss that all of them were very familiar with time on the lake. Every child could worm a hook, net a catch and know the variety of fish caught. They “force adopted” their father’s love. All this was true until the day his son started to pull the boat forward too quickly before his youngest daughter was aware of the move and properly braced herself. She fell backward against the side of the boat and tumbled off into the water as the boat sped away. It was only a matter of seconds before Tom took control, slowed the boat and jumped into the water. The blow to the little girl’s head in the fall and her subsequent toss into the water took her little fragile life from her. Those few minutes changed everything for the family. Tom couldn’t bring himself to look at the boat again, much less go fishing. His son couldn’t forgive himself for the mishap. The family began to fall apart. All sat with their own loss, their own pain, and their own wonder: “What went wrong?”

Why doesn’t God stop these kinds of bad things from happening?

Such “why” stories may be hard to listen to, but they are not difficult to imagine. In preparation of this Bible lesson, I found myself selecting from a long list of stories where the outcome didn’t seem to match the situation. In case after case, it seemed like people were doing good things, only to have a crisis rise in spite of their situation.

When such stories hit our radar, we respond in a number of ways. Some of us just HURT with a “there but by the grace of God go I” kind of mentality. Others seek to find a weakness in the preparation of the people, the medical practices, or someone else to BLAME. We feel an instinctive indignation in the unfair nature of the situation, and we seek to “right it” by drawing from our own mental library of experiences. Here is what we all know inside: You can do everything right and things may not turn out in a way that is either comfortable or desired. Here is where understanding the next part of God’s Word helps us. The truth that saturates the ground of the Genesis 2:4-4:26 is this:

Key Principle: The design of God came with the possibility of trouble – but that was NOT a flaw.

Life has been broken by sin, but that isn’t the ONLY reason things went wrong. The world is operating under a “patch” after sin entered, but there is MORE to the reason for life trouble than the sin issue. The possibility for trouble began with our very design.

When you ask Jesus followers the “Why?” question, they inevitably turn to Satan’s fall and the subsequent “Fall of Man” passages. That doesn’t answer the whole problem. The underlying question is this: Why would a perfect God design a society that could embrace evil? Sin isn’t the only factor in what went wrong. Part of our understanding of trouble should be found in the equation of our design.

You see, God answered the question about evil and why it exists. It is found in several parts over the earliest chapters of the Bible.

To get to the answer, remember where we have been. The opening prologue of Genesis reminded us of some important truths:

• God created all that is, and He did it for His own purposes. The world is His, and so am I.

• God ascribed intrinsic value to each of us. The value we possess is not based on our ability to accomplish things, but simply because He placed that value upon us. Whether I can do much or little, I am His creation – and that alone makes me valuable. That is true of the elderly, the physically limited and the unborn. If God created it, the intrinsic value is there.

• God assigned purposes to us. They are the true purposes of our existence. Any siren call to change the path of those stated purposes should be identified as the call to mutiny, not a call to freedom.

• God liked what He made when it was as He made it.

The whole first account had only one real actor – He was the Creator. Man had a “walk-on role” in the story, and more explanation was due.

The first “scroll” of life stories found in Genesis 2:4-4:26 can be easily divided into four primary stories:

1) The Creation and assignment of man (2:4-17)
2) The Creation and assignment of woman (2:18-25)
3) The Fall of Mankind and the curses (3)
4) The Beginning of Murder (4)

This is the account of the heavens and earth and what went wrong!

Since God liked things the way they were made, it is obvious something went wrong. The obvious question is this: “What happened?” That is what the four stories reveal…Look for a moment at the first account. Let’s look closely at the first of the four stories of this scroll: man’s creation and purpose (2:4-17).

Fitting the stories together

Take a look at the statement in Genesis 2:4. Some see the statement of Genesis 2:4 as a summary of what went BEFORE in 1:1-2:3. Other scholars believe it sets apart the account of what happened with the creation of man, woman, the garden and the introduction of evil. Genesis 2 recorded:

Genesis 2:4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven.

There are good reasons why you may maintain either view. What is important is this: there is a clear purpose for the narrative. God wanted to explain what happened to His perfect creation.

The Timing of Man’s Creation

The account opened with a word about timing…

Genesis 2:5 Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.

Verses five and six set the story back into the narrative of the sixth day in Genesis 1:26-31. The record wasn’t of a new event, but rather a “zoom in” on the details of that day for the purpose of setting up the story of what went wrong.

Apparently, the earth’s continents were set in place (though not as they are now extant post-flood), but the “ground cover crops and vegetation” hadn’t yet grown. That note helps us to understand two things:

• First, that in the beginning, God used dew as His primary watering method for the earth. Rain came later in the story as we shall see.

• Second, the management of the land was directly linked to the purpose of man (more about that later).

The crucial point is that man was created before the rains were operational as the sprinkler system on the earth. God seeded the landscape and set it to incrementally grow by dewfall and internal design (each plant, etc.). God then turned His attention to creating man to manage the earth’s natural order.

The Creation of Man

Read on, and the account explains man’s creation moment:

Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.

Contrary to other explanations of the origin of human life, the Bible claims we are actual “earthlings” in the sense that we literally were formed from the chemicals and minerals of the ground. The link in the Hebrew language is even more obvious: Man (adam) is created from the ground (admah). Man was not eternally a being – he has a beginning point. He was created in the temporal, frail and physical world. He was intentionally formed (he didn’t come to be from another species). At the same time, man was given a very special gift. God breathed into that formed pile of clay and minerals and gave it “life” – using the word for breath “nawfach” – the word for blowing air into a fire to stoke it, and the word “chaim” for life (part of the essence of God Himself). This included sentience, self-awareness, determinative will and moral conscience.

Stop and consider that man was made by the intention of God and with an essential life component that came from God. In this, our faith has taught us a basic primer of the DIGNITY of human life. We are NOT MAMMALS, nor are we an incidental part of the CIRCLE OF LIFE. We are unique and exceptional on the planet. Every attempt to make us part of the animal kingdom by a random “natural selection” multi-millennial change demeans the uniqueness of man and robs him of his exceptional quality.

To speak to the point: What we are teaching in today’s science classes will end up as tomorrow’s nursing home health care and end of life policies.

I am not trying to be some fussy cleric teaching you to resist modernity and the scientific explanation of things, out of some plea to hang on to perceived power over your heart. I am simply making the argument there is a cost for buying into lies that make people no different than the animal kingdom, and those lies will change public health policy. They will demean human life. They will accept the premise that when a life is lost, though it is sad, there is little consequence. It is a natural part of life on our planet.

One of our own young women faced a choice about a treatment for an illness in her body that would have certainly resulted in the loss of her unborn child. If I understood the situation correctly, the doctor seemed to have precious little understanding of why “terminating the pregnancy” was even a problem. “The couple could always have another child later,” the doctor reminded.

When we lose the sense that every life is exceptional because of God’s assigned value, we lose a sense of who we are as humans created in God’s image.

The Placement of Man

As you keep reading, God not only MADE man, He POSITIONED man to be able to give Him an assignment. This was integral to the man’s self-understanding and his sense of accomplishment. The beginning point was the simple note of “where” man was placed – in an environment that required arrangement, management, and care. The text recorded:

Genesis 2:8 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.

First, it doesn’t claim the “whole earth” was a garden – only that a garden existed on the earth in that location. Even before the advent of weeds, the work involved in the garden wasn’t some kind of penalty. Man was created with a purpose. He was made to work and accomplish. He was made to work the environment around him and organize it. He was made to care about the things around him – not haplessly use them for momentary purposes. Keep reading:

Genesis 2:9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Some get out of the story at this point. They were fine with the notion of creation, but the sound of a tree of life or of knowledge seems like a bridge too far. My advice: slow down! Look at what the account is attempting to explain. God made the world in a way that it would meet our needs and bring us great pleasure – even by looking at it. The point of the passage was not to offer you a genus of a tree that bore knowledge. The tree didn’t make you have life or knowledge – God did. He ascribed what everything was FOR, and He made clear what would result from eating a fruit. If God said Vitamin D would make your bones and teeth strong, and the fruit of the “tree of life” would regenerate cells in your body – what is the real difference? One sounds plausible and the other fictional simply because you are familiar with the former and have never experienced the latter.

Let me ask you: Can a God Who can fling one quintillion stars into position make a tree to offer a fruit that, when eaten, will regenerate tissue?

If He cannot, then the account is simply false. If He can, then the account may offer a simple account of what God did long ago. What if God made a tree whose fruit could help you grow dramatically the neural pathways of your mind? Would you call that a “tree of knowledge” because of its results?

Remember also, the world that Adam saw was not the same one you are looking at today. Most of us believe the earth began with a single body of land (a pangaean continent). Since the original design, there have been at least two cataclysms – the arrival of sin and its penalties – as well as a reorganization of a massive flood event that has changed places and appearances significantly. If you read the next part and think you can use it for exploration purposes, you have forgotten the cataclysm that separate that world from the one you are in now:

Genesis 2:10 Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

We don’t know where the places mentioned here are because they aren’t there anymore. The rivers that have their names are not where the originals were. The continents have moved, broken and changed. The fact that Tigris and Euphrates exist NOW in the Persian Gulf at the places mentioned in the text are a simple anachronism. What we should understand is there was a lush garden environment around man sown with a balance of good soil and temperate weather ideal for growing the plants that were already replicating themselves.

One other important factor about this place was that it was a place where God met man in the cool of the day (cp. Genesis 3:8). This little stretch of physical “Paradise” was the place where God came and walked with man and where man gained knowledge of his purpose. It was a sacred place, a HOLY place, a meeting place fit for the King of the Ages to walk with His subjects.

Before we continue with the explanation of man’s assignment, go back and look in the first chapter at what we were already told in the summary statement of the sixth-day creative activities. This will add texture to our understanding:

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

The account offers three details:

First, God made man in His own likeness. The term “tselem” that is translated “likeness” is a word for “shadow, shape or form.” What does it mean? It is hard to know the whole depth of the term, but it minimally includes in the context the idea of purposeful labor as satisfying. God liked creating and administrating the world and man was given this “sameness.” Put another way, you are most like your Heavenly Father when you are working to tend an organized and disciplined life. There is satisfaction and pleasure in purposeful labor that leads to some accomplishment. The enemy celebrates leisure and sloth, but little would be gained if we make those our chief ambitions.

Second, God commissioned man to rule over the earth’s created beings. In addition to organization, man was given some control over things in his environment, and that sense of control was meant to be a pleasant feature. This too was something that seems part of the “sameness” men were given by God.

Third, God created two varieties of humankind – male and female. They were created distinctively one from the other with differing design and different purposes.

Go back now to the second chapter:

Genesis 2:15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

In addition to ORGANIZATION and LEADERSHIP (RULING) found in Genesis 1, two new words were introduced into the dialogue in this chapter that describes man’s assigned purpose, the words “cultivate” and “keep” the meeting place Paradise.

The term “cultivate” is from the word “obed” which is used throughout the Hebrew Bible to denote “service” or “labor.” It is used of slaves and their productive labor and even used of worshipers before God. The simple term means WORK. Even in Paradise, work for God in an assigned task is what gave man’s life one of his main senses of purpose.

Economist Todd Buchholz, in his book Rush: Why You Need and Love The Rat Race, sampled 27,000 American workers between 1972 and 2006 and determined that 86% of the people were satisfied with their jobs. He wrote: A life of stasis or murmuring mantras, of staring endlessly at the surf with a pina colada will confound and frustrate your frontal lobe.” He argued that there was no real evidence that in “simpler” times people were happier. They lived shorter and more arduous lives. He further posited that since dopamine is released in response to taking risks, we were designed to try things. He went so far as to state that based on the scientific metrics he studied, it appears that activity and external stimulation, not quiet contemplation, sync us with the world and produce a longer term sense of happiness. Competition and risk produce necessary innovations for progress. That creativity seems to be inborn.

I cannot tell if the details of Buchholz’s findings are reliable, but I can tell you his general conclusion was already stated in Genesis 2. Men were created with the desire to organize, create and master the world around them. Strangely, the desire to do this work in harmony with the Creator is now found in the most unlikely place. This is the basis of PRAYER – working as a servant while requesting supplies from the Owner to keep your world running well.

Next, God added something else:

Genesis 2:16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

In the warning God gave to man, he separated man from all other creation. Here, God treated man as a moral agent, able to decide to follow commands or warned about consequences for not doing so. This act demonstrated that God desired a LOVE RESPONSE from man, even if doing so placed the story of history at risk.

Here is the first answer to the WHY question we looked at earlier.

This is a mere beginning, but it is so foundational, so very important, that I am unwilling to rush past the rich and powerful truths embedded in verse 16 and 17.

Why doesn’t God stop evil from happening?

The first answer (and there will be several others as these chapters unfold) is found in what God said to man about his own CHOICE to follow or to mutiny. We must recognize that as a moral agent, man was inherently given a choice to follow God.

Let me explain…

When asked, Jesus said the greatest commandments of God were two – to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves (cp. Mt. 22). He claimed all the Law and Prophets hung on these two commands. In essence, Jesus said the supreme ethic God gave us is the ethic of love. It is the peak of all intellectual and emotional order. It is the organizing principle of all other parts of God’s story of history. It is this love that installs value and worth on each person we encounter. God loves His creation, so it has value. Between us, love is a prime cause that makes us desire to protect another.

The problem is that you simply cannot have love without weaving into the story the freedom of the will to choose to turn away from love. You can force compliance without the will – but that isn’t operating LOVE as the supreme ethic. Your computer can be wired to respond to the command, but it doesn’t LOVE you. It obeys. It is predictable when functioning properly. It is loveless.

Here is the truth: You can only love by choice. Freedom is indispensable to love.

The essence of God’s desire is relationship – with us and between us. Jesus said love drives the story. Therefore, we cannot rightly follow God without both loving God and receiving God’s love.

The problem is that our choice to follow presupposes the choice to reject, to mutiny, and to commit acts of selfish evil.

If God’s chief goal for us is to love both Him and our neighbor, our freedom to choose either to do so or to do the opposite is a necessary component of that command. Love will flow no other way.

Without choice, true love is crushed.

If we demand God put a stop to all evil, we demand Him to stop the premise upon which human history is built. He has planned the story with intricacy to show Who He is, and He has designed a stunningly complex world to make His identity clear. God is love. He chooses to love.

If God blocks all evil and thwarts all choices that don’t honor Him, how can we learn to love? Can His goals for us ever be realized? Is not the Maker the One Who sets the goals and principles of the story? If you want a world in which there is no evil, you are demanding a world in which there is no choice. It would be a coin with only one side. It would be a meaningless contest in which there were joyful winners, but no chance of losing. It isn’t only impossible – it is absurd.

As the absence of light is darkness, so the absence of choice is compulsion.

If God is good, why is there evil?

Ironically, the choice to ask the question is also part of love. We only know it is a problem because we can choose between good and evil. We ask because we are free to ask.

Simply put: with choice, there is love. Sadly, there is also the possibility of evil.

The design of God came with the possibility of trouble – but that was NOT a flaw.

In the coming lessons, we will see the choice to mutiny destroys man and his environment. At the same time, one day, we will also love reign supreme.

Some years ago, Dr. Ravi Zacharias spoke about this. He said:

We think we know so much. The story is told in Near Eastern folklore of this man who lost his horse when the animal ran away. His neighbor heard about the horse and came to him and said, “Oh my, bad luck isn’t it?” The man replied, “What do I know of luck?” A few days later, the horse came back with twenty other wild horses and the neighbor saw them all in the corral. He said to the man, “Oh my! What good luck! The horse has brought many others to you! Our man said, “What do I know of these things?” The man sent his young son out to feed the horses and one of them kicked his son’s leg, breaking the leg. The neighbor heard about the injury and came to the man and said, “Oh my! What bad luck for it appears your son has been injured!” Our man said, “What do I know of these things?” The next day an evil hoard of thugs entered the village taking every available youth to go to their gang army. They spotted the young son but left him behind because his leg was broken. The neighbor came over to say, “What good luck, your son has been saved!” In one little series of episodes, it becomes obvious that we don’t know what lies ahead and what it all means. (I shortened and paraphrased as faithfully as possible his original story).

Dear one, let me plead with you… instead of indicting God because  evil and trouble are in your life, why not wait until you stand before Him one day, face to face, and you will find out the reasons why He did what He did to show the heinousness of evil and see the majesty of His unmatched love?

God made the choice clear: follow the Creator or turn and live to serve self. One He defined as GOOD, the other He said was EVIL. The stakes are life itself. What is YOUR choice?

Boot Camp: “Back to the Beginning” (Genesis 1:1-2:3)

As a grandfather, I have been delighted to rediscover childhood, in some small way, as I watch one infant and one toddler learn the basics of navigating life. Some time back as a dad, I was busy so much of the time, I missed out on things that others see – but I am trying to see with more tender eyes these days. Here is something I have observed that most of you already know, but it helped me to see: Children learn by playing with things. Train tracks that don’t fit together won’t keep the train running. Big blocks on the top of my pile with small ones on the bottom make a collapsed mess. I even recall when I was a child, learning that “Lincoln Logs” make a great looking house (because someone else cut and notched all the wood and I only had to take each ready cut piece from the box). Those house building projects taught me that if I wasn’t careful about how I built, I would end up with a nice house that was missing a door to enter or exit! It would look great, but not one would have been able to use it. That is where childhood imagination kicked in, and I gave my little imaginary home dwellers the power to walk through walls like “Casper the Friendly Ghost.”

It is surprising in how many venues children can learn. They soak up everything! Even playing with food can teach children. Moms make airplane landings in the mouth with a spoonful of strained spinach, selling the child that “this is delicious” and children learn what blatant manipulation looks like! Even so, we have to admit that some food is fun to play with. Oatmeal on a highchair tray is itching to become “dried oat art.” Spaghetti with sauce is just begging to become a new artistic swirl imitating paint on the kitchen wall!

When I think about food, here is what I learned: You can’t build anything on a “Jello” foundation! It seems firm, but it really isn’t! Between the slimy nature of it and its unreliable stability when placed under pressure, I have concluded that no secure buildings will ever have “Jello” foundations.

I guess the bottom line of building is this: everything stable must be fixed to a firm foundation.

I have been observing all around me people who seem to be living lives built on metaphoric “Jello.” Some are kind couples who love each other until they fight and cannot stay married – then it’s over. Their vows were obviously cast in a Jello mold. Others express belief in certain life principles until those same ideals cost them too much money.

For instance, I was talking the other day to a ministry leader distraught because two senior citizens in his congregation who expressed they knew and loved Jesus were found to be living together outside of marriage because their pension and retirement would be cut if they actually married again. They apparently believed in integrity, unless it was to a corporation or unless it would cost significant income with their retirement – in which case such integrity was simply too costly. I call that a jello foundation.

If you think about it, Jesus taught that stable foundations are essential and available. In His opening message recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus made the point in the close of that rousing message on “becoming a disciple” that:

Matthew 7:24: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.

His point was that storms will certainly come in life, and deliberate actions taken because of attentiveness to His Word were what would provide a secure, immovable foundation to get a follower through the storm.

Don’t skip past the two steps involved in a secure foundation.

The first step is KNOWING the Word of Jesus. Without an understanding of what the Lord said, He argued that we face the world without security. I want to make that very plain, because Jesus did. The world is filled with storms, and it simply isn’t a safe place in its fallen state. Because I have God’s Word, I can know both the Designer and the design. Because God explained what happened in the Fall of man, I can understand why things fall apart in a world built by a good God. Knowing is the first necessary step.

The second step is BEHAVING in each of the operations of life (i.e. relationships and responsibilities) in deliberate response to the Words of Jesus. It isn’t just about what we KNOW, it is about what we CHANGE because of what we know. I know how to eat right, but my waist line often reflects knowledge without behavior. That is what Jesus meant when He said:

Matthew 7:26 “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”

In these lessons, I want to follow the truth all the way back to the foundation given by God.

These lessons aren’t designed to be steeped in academics, but rather a renewal of stabilizing principles from the text of God’s Word.

I want to be sure our foundation and behaviors are a deliberate response to the truths Jesus made clear. Consider the words from “The Message” Paraphrase of Proverbs 22:3:

A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks; a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered.”

Doesn’t that have the echo of the same idea “and great was the fall of that house” as Jesus reminded?

As you open your Bible to the very first page in Genesis 1, I want you to consider the truth upon which the entire Word of God rests…

Key Principle: A strong foundation for life is set upon two powerful underpinnings: knowing the truth and living based on the truth.

Let’s ask some simple questions to the text at the beginning. What are the foundational truths that can root me deeply and bring stability? What truths enable me to be a dependable person deeply rooted in a stability the world around me cannot understand?

Foundations are usually the beginning of any work. They are not ONLY there, but some important ones are found at the beginning of God’s Word.

As we look at the opening page of the Bible, remember that many of us believe that Genesis was put into its final Hebrew form as a “prologue’ and ten scrolls that each began with the phrase “alle toledot” or “This is the story of” (cp. 2:4; 5:1; 6:9, etc). The older King James designation was “These are the generations of” and the newer translations – “this is the account of – “. In any case, the idea is the same. There is an introduction followed by what appear to me to be ten stories or accounts that are critical to my understanding of the world. Some of the accounts are quite short and pointed, but others are an entire mini-series set for prime time television.

Today I want to look more carefully at the opening introduction to the Bible, and make sure we know how the story began, and what God gave us in the record of the ‘first pour’ of the foundation of His Word. With that is mind, look at the opening words of the Word, a primer of history revealed to Moses at Sinai. Expect this message to address “simple things” because it is foundational. Begin with the Bible’s opening:

The Prologue: The Story of the Seven Days

In the intimate prologue of God’s recorded creation event, there are three details that carry the story.

First, there is the “WHO.” One cannot escape the beginning general note about the intentional Creation of the physical world by God Himself.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

“In the beginning” forces us to conclude any word of something before what we see now is entirely speculative and beyond the story God has explained to us about the cosmic origins. The starting place in the story of man and his world was God’s creation. The beginning was in God. For this reason, wisdom begins with knowing Him. We will never be wise chasing design without acknowledging the Designer.

Second, the ownership of all things is rooted in their making. God made us. He deliberately and purposefully crafted our world and our persons. Therefore, because He was our origin, He alone can ultimately determine my purpose and my destiny. There is an emphatic assertion from the opening line that no one competes as the owner of the planet. This is my Father’s world. Let there be no mistake. No council can overrule Him on why things are the way they are, or dismiss that His record is clear and concise.

Let’s say it this way: The opening line of the Bible offers this simple and straightforward word, that truth is found in the One Who created. Every other choice to explain origin, no matter how sophisticated in appearance, is a dressed up form of rebellion against God, and against the grain of how it all really happened.

God offered man (later in the story) opportunities to innovate with created things in order to improve conditions of our lives on the planet, but creation of something from nothing is beyond the purview of the created. God creates. God owns. In God’s explanation are the knowable facts of our origins.

A culture which cannot accept the opening line of the Bible is one rooted in rebellion. It can form models and even operate great technological advances – but ultimately the truth is found in the opening line that stares back and exclaims: “I am God, I created, it is all Mine.” This is not a fact we can “come half way” and “explain away” for popular acceptance. Either there is a Designer and therefore an Owner, or there is not. The Bible falls clearly on one side of that argument. It is the foundation of morality, mission and mankind’s destiny.

Second, there is a brief mention of the “HOW.” The fact that Creation was done in specific stages and sequences.

Genesis 1:2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

In the record there was a time when the organization of the world was not as we see it today. God could have created with absolutely finished villages and street cars and a world full of developed and modern people – but that is not the record. Creation occurred in an intentional and developmental way. He described creation’s steps. What were they?

It began with matter created but not in its final organized design as we know it. Note the terms ‘earth was formless and void” or the Hebrew “תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ” (tohu v’ bohu). The words mean literally “chaos or confusion” (in the sense of disordered) and “empty of meaning” (in the sense of devoid of recognizable purpose).

The Bible clearly stated that God put matter together, but didn’t immediately assign its order and purpose – that was a second stage. Don’t miss that. The creation entitled the Creator to assign purpose.

God created everything with a purpose and God alone can assign that purpose. Your body was created by Him, and its limitations and its proper uses are determined by Him. Biology is not bigotry – it is control. That is why the world rejects the very science they vaunt when it expresses controls on their desires.

Another important facet of creation that is made clear here is apart from God’s assignments, things devolve into chaos. Whether we are referring to the boundaries God placed on separation of species or of social constructs – the world was designed to function under assigned rules. Defy gravity and you will pay a price. Re-write biology and family function and you will as well.

Freedom doesn’t come from throwing off design. Each initial sense of freedom will eventually show the Pandora’s box of trouble it unleashes when accessed.

Suzie was shy and couldn’t speak to men. She was 27 and had a successful career. She wanted a husband and children to match her dreams. The problem was that her shyness caused her to freeze in social situations. She couldn’t talk, and she couldn’t show her shiny personality that was hidden. Someone told her that alcohol would help her “loosen up” and the bottle would offer confidence that she didn’t feel inside. She decided to dive in. What she didn’t know was the party girl she became solved ONE problem, but unleashed a series of other problems that she couldn’t control. The unintended consequences destroyed the dreams they were supposed to fulfill. I don’t have to describe how. It is a well known story that most all of us have seen in life.

Third, (beyond the “Who” and “how” of Creation) there is the revelation of “WHAT.” Moses reminded us what God designed and how His design fits together.

Look closely at the rest of the verses in chapter one. Note the following:

First, notice the words that mark the “days” in the first chapter:

• Verse 5: “first day.”
• Verse 8: “second day.”
• Verse 13: “third day.”
• Verse 19: “fourth day.”
• Verse 23: “fifth day.”
• Verse 31: “sixth day.”

Next, note how each new day began. In verse three God said: “Let there be light.” God inspected it in verse four and named the light and darkness in verse five. In verse six God said: “Let there be separations – land from sea and in verse seven he separated atmosphere from the vacuum of space above, forming an envelope around the earth. He named the separations in verse eight. Each day began the same way – with the SPEECH of God. That is a point that is repeated and should be carefully considered.

Genesis 1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

Genesis 1:6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the [expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

Genesis 1:9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

Genesis 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

Genesis 1:20 Then God said, “Let the waters [teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

Genesis 1:24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

The point is clear: God is the initiator and communicator, and what caused each part of Creation was logical, rational and deliberate thought. He is not hapless not haphazard. He is purposeful and intentional about what He does.

Many in our day seem to think that God is powerful enough to create with intention and purpose, but somehow unable to publish and maintain an accurate and careful record of what He did. They will argue that “Moses made the Creation story” as if God could place one quintillion stars in the Heavens but failed the supreme challenge of passing information to a secretary to write down the Holy Writ.

Third, notice God’s control in the world. When God spoke – what He commanded was EXACTLY what took place. Look at the words “It was so.” The world was created to LISTEN to God’s voice. After the Fall, we have gotten SO used to the mistaken idea that God’s Words aren’t really as significant as the words of our peers and the feelings of our heart about things. Do you recall that Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “As in Heaven, so on earth” as an expression of how WE should think about God’s commands?

Take a moment and look at what the text claims He created:

• Light and darkness – long before heavenly bodies gave them. He can create the effect before the cause.

• Land from sea – the very shape of the continents is in His hands.

• Atmosphere from the vacuum of space – after generations of technology to simply travel into space, it is worth recalling God made both and keeps the atmospheric envelope around the earth. No amount of human ingenuity could possible pull that off.

• God planted the garden of the world with each species and kind of plant. He parked in the heavens planets, stars, sun and galaxy. He tossed into the sea scores of creatures, designed with unique features and adaptability – because the Fall of mankind was coming and things were about to get marred. When the seas were teeming with life, He turned His kind attention to the mud and earth, and built His own zoo.

• Every creature on the earth came from His hand. Every fish in the sea reflects an incalculable complexity and houses within its organs the image stamp of a Creator.

Now, stop and look at God’s evaluation of what He created.

Make note in your Bible in 1:10, 1:12, 1:18, 1:25, 1:31 – “It was GOOD.” God was satisfied with His design, and had no one to please beside Himself.
We need to remember that when God makes something, He knows what He wants and why. That truth is important!

Every shred of Biblical evidence available in the revealed truth of the Living God makes clear this truth: You are not a mistake. You are not surplus DNA on the planet. You are a formed child with a specific purpose by a Creative God. Simple songs of old reveal that in the Psalms:

Psalm 119:73 “Your hands made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.”

Psalm 139:14 “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”

Look at the end of the prologue (Genesis 1:1 to 2:3), because God’s evaluation is crystal clear:

Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

God was satisfied. There was no need for more or less. He could set aside the creative work and enjoy the fruit of that labor. He created what He created the way He chose to create it, for His own purposes.

Now, consider that those simple truths are the foundational basis of surrender to Him and they are the very points at the heart of our rebellious contention against Him.

If God created all and God purposed all – my life ISN’T about ascribing purpose to things or “making” them valuable – it is about finding my purpose in HIM.

If He is the absolute ruler and owner, and I am His – made by Him for the purpose He made me – ANY other proposed purpose is a false one. Every time I ignore or reject His Word, I am in rebellion… plain and simple.

If the world was designed by God to follow God– our futile attempts to pull off life without attention to His Word will bring collapse in the storm. That was Jesus’ simple teaching in Matthew 7. Storms will crush the stability of your home, and pummel your life.

Yet, that is not what the world says…

Our world celebrates rebels. Look up the word REBEL online. We name sports cars, sports teams, powerful trucks, slick motorbikes and advanced cameras after the idea. In our modern world, rebel evokes untamed exploration, clever innovation, engaging excitement and risky edginess. God’s Word expresses it differently!

According to God:

• Rebellion caused every emotional and relational pain you have ever experienced. Rebellion is the fruit of feeding on selfishness.

• It isn’t exciting, unless you count excitement as violent destruction.

• It isn’t edgy – unless you count slipping from a high place and plummeting below.

• It isn’t exploration – it is violation. It is not simply “going where no one has gone before” but rather “trespassing where entrance has been forbidden.”

We must acknowledge the glorification of rebellion as a means to gain a sense of freedom is one of the greatest hoaxes of our day, sponsored by the Deceiver himself.

When I rebel, I will pay. Sadly, often someone who is innocent in my rebellion also pays. It may not happen today, but God says it will happen. I cannot ignore my need for a Savior and a covering!

When you recognize your rebellion, remember: God didn’t leave us to fix the problem on our own!

R. G. Lee, that great Baptist preacher once wrote:

There never was another Who caused all creation to be ransacked in pursuit of words appropriate to convey to human hearts and minds His glorious pre-eminence.

There never was another Who was a human child and also a divine Son; Who was wounded by Satan and Who, at the same time crushed Satan; Who was appointed the Savior of men, yet was crucified by men; Who was Judge of men; yet was led as a felon from one tribunal to another.

There never was another Who died and was buried and yet lived; Who saved others and Himself could not save; Who had no sin in Him, yet all sin on Him; Who was the King of Glory, yet wore no crown but a crown of thorns; Who, in the glory He had with God before the world was, had the angelic hails of heaven and yet, on earth, gave Himself to the murderous nails of men!

There never was another Who was the Prince of life, yet died on Calvary; Who was as old as His heavenly Father and ages older than His earthly mother.

There never was another Who was the victim of a Roman cross and victor at a Jewish grave.

There never was another Who poured all seas, all lakes, all rivers out of the crystal chalices of eternity, yet on a cross said with a mouth hot like a parched desert that cries for rain, ‘I thirst’”.

All of this was written to describe the Lord Jesus Christ. God has given Him a name far above every name. We speak today of the Righteous, Risen, Reigning Christ!”

If you don’t know Him, you need Him. If you do, you need to listen to Him. Why?

A strong foundation for life is set upon two powerful underpinnings: knowing the truth and living based on the truth.

Don’t forget: His very NAME is “Truth”. Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.”

Genesis 44-50 Taking Responsibility – The Joseph Factor

There are five specific “downstream pulls” of current against which we must pull if we are to make it upstream to the destination God has called us. The five currents are:

  • past experiences,

  • present life circumstances,

  • people in our lives,

  • personality (our own sinful nature) and

  • principalities (spiritual warfare).

I began really examining these as a result of a little man that God brought into my life, my son named Aaron. From his first moments outside the womb he was hit with the reality that life was less than comfortable (broken collar bone). As he grows, he will find life appears at times to grow, year by year, in harshness.

Everyone I know sets out on the journey with high ideals, but few skills and little understanding of how to conquer the obstacles before them.

It is an awesome responsibility to be one of the primary molders of a life. The challenge, in view of the downstream pulls is awesome:

He will learn his first words of life in our living room.

Take his first steps into our arms.

As a dad, I’ll have the unique opportunity to teach him what it means to do an honest day’s work, catch a ball, be a man.

I’ll have responsibilities in teaching my little boy what values I cherish, truths I hold dear.

My own dad is a quiet man, but with his life he has spoken volumes. I know from him that consistency is the primary vehicle I can use to mold Aaron. The only way for my little boy to understand life is for Dottie and I to model it in front of him. We will try to protect him from the harshness of life, but it will eventually be futile and even foolish!

Sooner or later he must learn to confront challenges. As much as we hate the thought, he may well have to face tragedy in his little life ahead. Unless he is equipped for it, he will be a defeated person.

Some Christians never really realize the pull of the current against them. Some think their relationship with Christ guarantees an exemption from the pain and difficulties of life. Yet we all live in a fallen world, and our emotions are subject to the same pain as our lost neighbor. We must proceed realizing that!

How do I move upstream against the flow? What makes one person thrive and move ahead while others around him flounder in blame and self defeat, when both have a desire to walk in their new life in Christ? Last week we began to examine this:

1. Every Christian needs to understand the reality of the current against them and honestly confront their past experiences, present circumstances, people’s affect on them, effect of their sinful desires. Failure to do so will bring defeat followed by surprise over defeat! We must not just cling to heaven while earth slides beneath us!

2. Every believer needs to draw near to God’s presence in worship and adoration, drawing strength from sharing God’s powerful presence, THAT IS WORSHIP.

GROWING GOOD FRUIT IN MY LIFE REQUIRES CAREFUL AND RESPONSIBLE MANAGEMENT OF MY HEART.

Joseph was a man who I believe that Scripture uses to give us (by example) at least five specific “paddles” to move upstream with.

Read Genesis 44:1-13, 16,  45:1-5; 50:19-20 and tell story.

Let’s walk with this man Joseph for awhile. He keeps being pushed down by the current, yet he ends upstream. I want to know why! I want to know how! Let’s journey through some principles by looking into some SNAPSHOTS out of the album of his life:

I. First, I note that he was given the ability to respond to his situation (Gen 39:1-4) “served” Mr. Potiphar.

*What made my dad wake up at 5:30 AM, read his Bible, drink his coffee and head off for a job he hated, while my grandfather worked as little as possible, and drank away his paycheck?

*RESPONSE ABILITY means I have the ability to buck the natural and instinctive path!

*In my family we ate from one large pot of the meal. If you were complacent about what was “for dinner” that night, my brothers would gladly “take off your hands” your portion. Important lesson in life: “Take what you are given, or you may find you have nothing at all.”

*You cannot change the menu of life by complaining about the selection, nor by wishing for tastier portions. You must take what you are given and spice it with positive responses.

II. Next, I note he held himself responsible for his choices, rather than wasting energy on the blame game (Gen 39:20-21). “Lord with Joseph” equals “Joseph with Lord”!

*God gets blamed for so much by evangelical believers. I wish I had a nickle for all the people that use “God’s will” to cover their irresponsible nature. I remember the college friend who “God lead” to drop out mid semester. They next semester “God lead” them back. Then “God lead” them to drop again. Finally some of us began asking God to make up his mind!

III. Third, I note that he emphasized responsibility over rights consistently throughout his lifetime (Gen. 39:22-23), regardless of circumstance. “Committed to Joseph”

We live in the unprecedented KNOW AND HAVE YOUR RIGHTS age. Watching Daytime TV, you may see 1-800-SUE-THEM, or some form of it. Some believers hold onto “rights” to hold grudges, bitterness from the past. The thought of letting someone “off the hook” is unthinkable! Remaining a victim is a unique way of manipulating circumstances to make someone else responsible for their inability to move upstream.

IV. Fourth, I see him as one who lived proactively rather than simply reactively: he turned passive introspection into constructive activity (Gen 40:6-8).

Proactive means positive choices based on values, rather than circumstances or emotional feelings: Whenever I was really down, like a caring and loving mother, my mom would hand me a broom and “let” me sweep the garage!

V. Finally, he recognized limits to his responsibility, and saw God’s hand at work in circumstances beyond his control (Gen 45:5; 50:19-20).

We must identify the areas we are accountable for in our lives, and the part that is simply beyond our control. Taking responsibility for someone else’s reactions will drive us crazy, while not taking full responsibility for ours will pull us downstream into defeat cycles. Unless we come to grips with the limits of our responsibility, we will burn our energies and end up neglecting our true responsibilities!

Application:

In my life I must:

1. Know that my response is my responsibility.

2. Hold myself accountable for response rather then blame someone for the circumstances surrounding my response.

3. Emphasize responsibility not my rights.

4. Do what is best regardless of circumstances or feelings.

5. Recognize the limit of my responsibility and leave the rest with God.

Genesis 28:10-32:3 The Story of Jacob's Three Stones

Overview: Like a great race, the journey of the patriarch Jacob from Canaan to Haran and back is marked by three stones:

1. The first stone (28:18), like a starting line of a great race. This stone in our reading is covered with oil and stood up at Luz to mark the place where God gave to Jacob the dream of the stairway.

The scene begins with Jacob, hot off the desert sands, 50 miles into the 400 mile trail to find a wife and to flee the anger of Esau. Tired of running, and with little to show for himself, he places a stone headrest below him and falls asleep. His slumber is disturbed that night by an incredible, life changing event. GOD MEETS JACOB THERE. In his sleep, Jacob’s eyes are spiritually opened wider than ever before. He is able to see the traffic filled stairway extending from Heaven to earth. In that place he hears the unmistakable voice of the God of His Fathers. The promise given to him includes:

  1. The land is yours, and you will have a seed that will inherit it.
  2. Your seed will be as the dust of the earth, and though scattered, they will have an inheritance.
  3. All the nations will be lifted by the presence of your scattered seed.
  4. Wherever you go, I will be with you, and I will bring you back home!

Jacob awoke a different man. The God of His Father and Grandfather had become the God of Promise to HIM. Awestruck that God had met with him, he began his journey with a PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, not just the faraway stories of adventures of His forefathers of the past. He took the headrest stone, stood it on end, and anointed it with the oil of consecration. He promised God that if this were truly a revelation of Himself to Jacob, Jacob was committed to follow Him!

2. The second stone (29:10), like a lap marker of a great race, as a huge well cap that Jacob removed to gather the water for Laban’s flocks.

Returning to our story, Jacob arose from place of consecration and continued on His journey with a new sense of purpose. He was no longer just fleeing a past, he was pursuing a revealed future. Filled with anticipation and hope, but with little in his hands, Jacob came upon a well near to his uncle Laban’s home. Joy filled him anew when the young Rachel came to get water from the well. Jacob presented himself, and kissed her. He rolled the stone that kept the well closed and dark, protecting the water’s purety in darkness. This stone was also anointed, this time with the sweat of the man who was strong enough to give even an angel a workout in a wrestling match twenty years later!   

This stone would represent the whole central portion of our narrative, because the whole section is anointed with the sweat and hardwork of Jacob. He worked seven years to gain his wife Rachel, only to be tricked into lying with Leah. Rachel would be then given for another seven years of work. All told, Jacob will spend 20 years with his uncle, and go thru no less than ten failed salary arrangements with this fickle boss.

As if the struggle with Laban wasn’t tough enough, Jacob will be further subjected to manipulation inside the tent of his own wives, who will bargain and manipulate for sex, just to compete for his affections in their children.

Leah’s eyes weren’t very good, but her womb was producive: she bore 1) Reuben: Look, a son! 2)Simeon: Hearing 3) Levi: attached 4)Judah: Praise! in a short succession.

Rachel would not be outdone: She gave Bilhah to Jacob to bear 5)Dan: justice  6)Naphtali: wrestling (alias, I beat my sister!)

Leah matched with Zilpah 7)Gad: fortune 8 ) Asher: happy

Rachel even swapped her spot in bed for mandrakes (an aphrodisiac), but Leah got the babies: 9)Issachar- reward! 10) Zebulun: dwelling

Rachel finally bore her own baby: 11) Joseph: may the Lord add. And later will die giving birth to the last of the sons: 12) Benoni (son of sorrow), changed by his Father to Benyamin (son of right hand).

Jacob’s house now full, and Laban- having son’s of his own and cancelling the adoption inheritance to Jacob, caused Jacob to want to move on. Laban saw the great blessing that was his because of Jacob, and negotiated a way to keep him there. The end of all the hard work was that Jacob grew to be a wealthy man, and Laban also prospered. The time came for them to part, and Jacob left in the night with all of his goods. Rachel, unfortunately, took also the teraphim of Laban- the guarantee of inheritance and blessing that once belonged to her husband, but was lost after her father had sons of his own.

3. The third and final stone (31:46), like a finish line of the race, brings us to the final scene of the Parashah (portion). It is no longer a single stone of a nomad with little but his strength and dreams, it is now the pile of stones of a successful and wealthy Patriarch of a family. It will not be anointed with oil, but with crumbs from the table of a meal covenant between Jacob and his father in law, Laban. It is a place of reconciliation that prepares Jacob for the great reconciliation with his brother, yet to come.

When Laban caught up to Jacob, Rachel, Leah, eleven sons and a caravan full of camels, flocks, herds and servants, he was angry, but controlled. God told him to watch his tongue. He searched for his inheritance pledge symbol, the teraphim, but Rachel was sitting on them, so he couldn’t find them. After a time, a settlement between them, filled with conditions and contracts that would please any lawyer, Laban and Jacob found themselves eating a meal covenant together, sitting atop a heap of stones.

Genesis 17:1-16 The Recipe for God's Blessing

People everywhere seem to be needy and unfulfilled. Is there a formula for fulfillment and blessing in the Bible? The answer is YES!

Consider Abraham’s story. With the birth of Ishmael, God again waited at least another thirteen years to move in and fulfill His promises to Abraham! We glimpse into the story of Abraham at age 99, as God moves powerfully one more time, changing his name and setting in motion the long-awaited promise.

Key Principle: Abraham’s open heart led to solid belief and obedient steps. Those steps led him to fulfillment of his deepest longings and desires.

  1. The Platform of Blessing – a surrendered life: The blessing of God followed two events – the trust in God’s Word by Abram and the daily living by God’s standard in his life! El Shaddai called Abram and told him to appear for Divine inspection (17:1) so that God could bestow His promised blessing of children (17:2).
  2. The Prerequisite for Blessing – a prepared heart: “When the heart is right, the feet are swift!” Without the need to prepare himself further, Abram came immediately into God’s presence in worship (17:3a)!
  3. The Precision of Blessing – a fulfilling promise: God saw Abram’s heart, and met his needs with Divine power. God’s blessings are specifically tailored, and follow six important principles (17:3a-8):
  • I chose you out of the many (17:4). They are Deliberate: God encourages by letting His follower know that they are not a random accident, but a choice of love.
  • I will use you to affect millions (17:4b) and they will know you by your new name (17:5-6). They are Impacting: God affirms how profound an obedient believer affects his whole world!
  • I will maintain the covenant through the generations after you are gone (17:7). They are Intimate: God reaches into the life of a follower to fulfill their deepest longings!
  • I will meet your physical needs and be a guardian to your children (17:8). They build Confidence: God secures the heart of his follower concerning their deepest worries!
  • I will set the requirements for following me (17:9-14). They are Prescribed: God sets the standards of obedience in His follower’s lives for each generation!
  • I will change the identity of your partner (17:15) and bless her because of your faith (17:16). They are Overflowing: God blesses the people around us because of our right response to His love and His Word!

What was the formula? An open heart that leads to firm trust and obedient steps equals blessing!

Genesis 16:1-16 Helping Out God

Introduction: God made promises four times to Abraham, and then delayed in fulfilling them. Anxious to have her husband experience all that God had promised, Sarah steps in – and Abraham accepts her plan. Abraham had a full knowledge of the promises of God – the question was not WHAT, but WHEN! Abraham saw the faithfulness of God to him – the question was not WHO, but HOW!

Key Principle: When we seek to “help out” God by performing FOR Him, and not BY, THROUGH and IN Him, we create a terrible mess out of His great promises!

Seven Observations on Overcoming Failure:

  1. Some are caused by our nature overcoming our walk with God: Sarah tried to fulfill God’s promise (16:1). Following our natural desires to fulfill a role that God should fulfill will bring us pain, not fulfillment!
  2. Some are caused by “mis-focusing” our efforts: Abraham was passive in the leadership of his home. (16:2). A failure to fulfill the role God currently has given you, will further delay God’s blessing on your future roles and promises!
  3. All failures are enhanced by flesh performance: Neither Abraham nor Sarah consulted God in their plan (16:3-4). A believer can do what “feels right” or will “seem to work” and create greater pain and trouble!
  4. Failures cannot be overcome without identifying the real underlying problem: Neither Abraham nor Sarah detected the true problem when troubles materialize (16:5-6). The underlying deception must be rooted out to truly solve the problem!
  5. Many (not just ME!) suffer from my failures: Hagar ended up stripped of her dignity, despised and on the run (16:7-8). Wrong assumptions and poor choices lead to victimization in those who were not a part of our problem – until we dragged them in.
  6. God is not afraid of stepping in to failure scenarios: The angel directed Hagar’s return (16:9). The beginning of blessing is submission to God’s Word!
  7. God does see the inequities, and is able to put something great together even in the midst of pain: Hagar received promises that encouraged her (16:10-16). God builds up, even standing with us in the dump of all the destruction we have experienced on our way to Him!

Bill Borden (of the famous dairy family) left his fortune to be a missionary in China. He left the note: “No retreat, no return, no regrets.” Victory is being where God tells you to be, doing what God tells you to do. There is no greater call.