All posts by David Balzer

Genesis 4-5: From Bad to Worse

The latest news out of Iraq is that things might have turned a corner. At least that’s what an expert from the US said. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking. But wouldn’t it be lovely if it was true?

There’s been less news coming out of there recently because there’s been less . Less . Less Iraqis blowing each other up.

And Kevin Rudd’s just been elected after promising a controlled withdrawal of Australia’s troops. Maybe it’s a sign that a stable government, and a reasonably peaceful country may not be too far away.

But then again, we’ve had those hopes BEFORE haven’t we? And things just seem to kick off again, with another round of , and ly skirmishes.

After all, there’s still all the factions. And the centuries of hostility that can’t be forgotten overnight. And there’s a long way to go in terms of new constitution, and police force, and army, and a just and open judicial system and government.

But things seem to be looking up.

And things are pretty much the same – as we come to Gen 4. There’s the same SENSE OF HOPE. Yes – Adam and Eve sinned. And yes, they’ve been banished from the garden. And yes, there’s lots of negative consequences for life in the wide world. But God’s still blessed them with life, and family, and a job to do.

And he’s also given them a PROMISE. There in Ch 3 v15. That one of Eve’s offspring will crush the head of the serpent. Will destroy the poisonous influence that’s ruined their paradise.

And so, when we find out in Ch 4 v1 that Eve’s PREGNANT, we can’t help wondering – is THIS the one? The one to fix things up. Will things turn out alright because of him?

ARE THINGS LOOKING UP?

And so Cain is born. And before long, his brother Abel.

From Bad to Worse

But our hopes are dashed almost as soon as they’re raised. The past problems bubble to the surface again. Just like Iraq. Because not only are things NOT looking up, but they’re about to go FROM BAD TO WORSE.

And there’s not even anyone else to blame. This time, it’s not SATAN who’s the cause of the problem. It’s humans themselves. In particular, their evil desires.

IN Ch 4, sin comes just as ly as in Ch 3. And the attitudes and consequences are just getting worse and worse. Like cancer that’s got into the lymph system and is just taking hold all over the body. ing and growing and destroying as it does.

It’s the next generation on from Adam and Eve. We have no real idea how many years have passed. And Cain and Abel are trying to build a life outside the garden. Struggling against the unresponsive ground.

They’re farmers. Abel looked after the animals. Cain’s thing was crops. Both of them recognize God’s care, and want to give him thanks. And so, v3

3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.

Two different offerings. Both brought what they had. But for some reason we’re not told, look at what happens next.

The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

One offering he ACCEPTED, the other he DIDN’T.

Why? People come up with all sorts of reasons. It might have been because Abel offered the BEST of his crops, while Cain just offered the first thing that came to hand. It might have been because Cain’s heart wasn’t right with God.

But for WHATEVER reason, God chose one, and rejected the other. More specifically, God chose THE YOUNGER, and rejected the OLDER. Something he continually does all the way through the Bible.

I think the best answer is that WE JUST DON’T KNOW. God is completely free to choose whoever he wants. His election ALWAYS works like that.

Don’t forget both Cain and Abel are offering their sacrifices OUTSIDE THE GARDEN. Out of fellowship with God. Neither DESERVED God’s acceptance of their sacrifice.

Yet, in his MERCY, God chooses to accept ONE. That’s the REAL puzzle – why would God choose EITHER of them?

Why has God chosen YOU, but not someone else close to you? GRACE!

Why is it you can offer your bodies as living sacrifices to God – even though you’re sinful and are always messing it up – yet God still reckons they’re HOLY AND PLEASING TO HIM? GRACE!

I can’t understand it. But I praise God for it anyway!

And Cain can’t get his head around it, either. Abel’s the younger brother. But God choose HIM. And so, Cain spits the dummy. Throws a tanty! And so God warns him, he’s skating on thin ice. V6.

6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

The choice is there. Choose good, or choose evil. You can’t blame SATAN. You can’t blame the world. Circumstances. The decision rests on YOUR SHOULDERS.

You can’t influence what life BRINGS you. All you can do is choose how you RESPOND to it.

God puts it like this. Sin is crouching like a lion at your door. Just waiting for you to open it a , so it can force its way in. But it’s up to you to master it.

You can’t give in A LITTLE BIT to sin. Savouring it. Contemplating it. There’s no dabbling. It desires to HAVE you – control you – dominate you.

Keep the door well-shut. Master sin. Resist temptation.

But Cain’s not interested in God’s warnings. He lures Abel out in to a field. And, out of jealousy and rage, kills him.

Things have gone from bad to worse.

  1. It was BAD in the garden. Eve sinned. But it’s WORSE here. There’s no snake to lead Cain astray. He’s got an independent streak. He thinks “I can mess things up perfectly well on his own thank-you very much! I don’t need anyone to help.”
  2. After the act, Adam and Eve HIDE from God, but Cain stays out in the open for God to find him. He’s BRAZEN.
  3. Adam and Eve OWN UP straight away. But Cain LIES. And even ANSWERS GOD BACK. V9. “I don’t know where he is. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
  4. Even the PUNISHMENT seems to be worse. In Ch 3, just the snake and the ground are cursed. But now CAIN HIMSELF is cursed.
  5. And speaking of the ground. Look at v11. God declares that the ground won’t yield ANY crops. It opened its mouth to receive Abel’s . And now the ground itself goes on strike.
  6. And when God declares his curse on Cain, rather than humbly accepting it like Adam and Eve, he COMPLAINS. V13. “It’s more than I can bear.” Destined to be a restless wanderer, with people trying to kill him.

One generation on from the first sin, and things are so much worse. They couldn’t possibly get worse.. could they?

Oh yes, they could!

From Worse to Worst

Because verses 17-24 describe Cain’s line. Enoch and so on. Down to Lamech. In lots of ways, Lamech’s family has it all going for them. Farmers, musicians, metal-workers. Building and growing human culture. Subduing and creating like God intended.

But civilization doesn’t mean they’re more civilized. More moral. Look at what Lamech does. V23. A boy wounds him. And so, Lamech kills him. Punishment MUCH worse than the crime.

His SIN may not be worse than Cain’s. But his ATTITUDE is. He BOASTS about it. Rejoices in it. Writes a song about it. His ancestor Cain was a bad man. But not HALF as bad as LAMECH!

A pitiful picture of humanity made in God’s image. On the one hand, achieving success in lots of ways. But deeply wicked and corrupt as well.

Sounds a lot like Western culture doesn’t it. So clever when it comes to technology. Every day we invent new ways to harm each other, and fill our minds with rubbish and wickedness. Clever new weapons. Clever new morning after abortion pills. Clever new ways of stealing information and money. We use our God-given mandate to create and subdue/ to find new ways of DOING EVIL.

Cain’s line has gone from Worse to Worst. How much longer can God put up with it? We’ll find out soon enough!

The beginnings of a rescue plan

But in the midst of all these black clouds, there’s also A SILVER LINING. There’s GRACE in the midst of judgment. The beginnings of a rescue plan.

It began back with Adam and Eve. God had pronounced his guilty verdict on them. They were about to be kicked out of the Garden. But look what God does – flip back to Ch 3 v21.

21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

Like a parent who sends his child to their room for misbehaving, then brings their dinner up to them. Grace in the midst of judgment. The LORD God sacrifices an animal, to meet the needs of his people. He makes clothes for them – warm animal skins – much better than leaves. Because he’s merciful.

And then again, over in Ch 4. God’s just pronounced judgment on Cain. And when Cain complains about the severity of the punishment, God responds with GRACE and PROTECTION. V15

15 But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD PUT A MARK on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.

We don’t know what sort of mark it was. But it was there to PROTECT Cain. Yes, he was living under God’s curse. But God was still showing the compassion to care for him.

But we see grace of A DIFFERENT SORT there at the end of Ch 4. Eve had given birth to Cain and Abel. One brought an ACCEPTABLE offering and one an UNACCEPTABLE one. But Abel was gone. And so God provides Eve with A REPLACEMENT. ANOTHER son (v25) called SETH. Who’s very name means GRANTED, or GIFT.

And it seems like HE TOO will be acceptable to God. Because the chapter concludes (v26)

At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.

One genealogy of Cain. Showing the CURSED line. Then, as we move into Ch 5, we learn about the BLESSED line. The line of Seth, Abel’s replacement.

As we follow it down, we read about long life – in other words, God’s blessing. We read of FRUITFULNESS – of many sons and daughters. We even read of Enoch, down in v24, who WALKED WITH GOD. The way mankind was designed. And so, because of that, he didn’t die, God took him away.

And as we keep scanning down the page, we finally come to a familiar name. V29. Noah. Which means something like COMFORT. Because his father said

“He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.”

Perhaps NOAH will be the one to crush the serpent’s head. The Saviour. The one to rid the world of the influence of evil.

Are things finally looking up?

Two family lines. Sinfulness/ and grace. Judgment/ and mercy. Cain’s line ends in Lamech. The very WORST sort of sinner.

While Seth’s line ends in Noah. Perhaps the one to bring COMFORT. But more on that next time.

Where Sin Increased, Grace Super-Increased!

So where does that leave us?

The pattern seems clear/ that the effects of sin are INCREASING as we go down the family tree. From father to son. Like a pebble thrown into a pond, the ripples wider and wider. In ever increasing circles. One generation outdoing the other in terms of their attitude to sin. Their brazen-ness and pride. Their deceitfulness and trickery.

And so/ it’s valid to ask/ What sort of messages are we sending OUR children by the way we do things? The things we say. The attitudes we hold. Our priorities. Our actions. The things we DON’T do.

Your children are WATCHING you. Learning. Soaking it all up like sponges.

What would they think about SIN from watching you? What would they value by looking at how you spend your money and time? What would they think about the importance of praying, or reading the Bible together? What would they think about the value of MARRIAGE from listening in on the things you say?

And what about CHURCH? What do you children learn from you about the importance of meeting together? Is it something you’re committed to? Or is it something that gets pushed out of your Sunday at the first opportunity?

Your kids grow up to live out those same attitudes. Is that what you want?

Will YOUR children live up to this pattern of going from bad to worse? Or will you heed God’s warning? Sin is crouching at your door. It desire to have you. But you must master it. And your family is DEPENDING on you!

It’s ONE of the reasons we got our children BAPTISED. Because following Jesus is the most important thing for Caron and me. And we wanted the kids to grow up KNOWING that. That’s what we want for them above ANYTHING ELSE.

I’ve heard people say that they want to leave it until the kids are older so they can decide for themselves. But I wonder what sort of message that sends. “Do mum and dad think this stuff is important, or not? Is it any more significant than whether I choose ballet or footy? Long pants or shorts?” They’re the sorts of things they let me choose. Is THAT how important it is?

Doug grew up in a Christian family. And they had regular family devotions. For a while, as a ager, he’d rather be doing anything else. And so the kids would muck up. But his parents would KEEP PERSEVERING. Because their relationship with God was the most important thing in his life. And they wanted to pass that on to their kids.

And, by God’s grace, they HAVE! Praise God!

As a ager, I loved going on Christian holiday camps. Bushwalking or surfing. It didn’t matter much. But every holidays I’d be off somewhere. And Dad would never say NO. It’s only recently I’ve realized that it must have stretched the budget pretty severely to pay for it. But Dad’s priority was for me to know Jesus. And he’d do whatever he could for me to follow the family line.

What family line will YOU follow? Cain’s or Seth’s? The line of blessing and obedience? Or the line of curse and disobedience?

But there’s something else I think we can learn from this passage.

Perhaps you’re recognizing more of CAIN in yourself than you’d like. Perhaps your attitude and response to temptation has been to ignore God. To be jealous. To get angry. To get even. Perhaps even to boast.

And it seems like you’re living with consequences that are too much for you to bear. Your life is painted with colours every bit as black as that of Cain’s.

Perhaps YOUR FAMILY is even showing the signs of the stain of sin. Or maybe, you’re at the END of a family-line that’s living out the curses of disobedience.

Then let me encourage you. No picture is too black. No sin is too big for God. No sinner has traveled too far from God for him to show grace to.

You might think you’re the EXPERT at sinning. That Cain and Lamech have NOTHING on you. But God’s the expert on showing MERCY. On forgiving.

No matter how big the sin. No matter how rotten the life. How deep the hole. God can bring forgiveness and healing and restoration.

An animal sacrificed to warm and comfort Adam and Eve.

A mark of protection on the wanderer Cain.

And for you, he’s provided ANOTHER sacrifice to cover YOU. To protect you from his wrath. Jesus, the perfect Lamb. Offered in our place. He satisfies God’s JUSTICE, so that God can show us MERCY.

The end of Romans 5 talks about SIN INCREASING. The more law was added, the bigger the law-breaking became. But, in v20, it says this. A principle for life.

But where sin increased, GRACE INCREASED ALL THE MORE, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in , so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sin might be huge. But grace is ALWAYS big enough to cover it. Whenever sin ABOUNDED. Grace increased to SUPER-ABOUND.

Through Jesus, God offers us righteousness and eternal life. Grace that reigns. That turns bad to good. Not bad to worse.

Genesis 3: The Devil Made Me Do It

Wood_MannWhat do you think are the MOST IMPORTANT EVENTS IN HUMAN HISTORY? Events that have affected more people than any other?

Perhaps the invention of THE PRINTING PRESS. It made books and education widely available. Including easy access to the Bible for people worldwide.

Or the invention of the steam engine. That brought the industrial revolution, and manufacturing and modern agriculture, to the world.

Or perhaps THE DISCOVERY OF PENICILLIN, which has saved millions of lives in only 100 years.

Or the invention of TRANSISTOR, which in 60 years has revolutionized technology in every area of life.

That’s four off the top of my head.

But let me suggest that the story of Adam and Eve and the snake. The story of the first sin. TOPS THEM ALL. It’s NUMBER TWO on MY Top 10. The SECOND MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENT in human history.

The life of every person since has been dramatically affected. For the worse. Their environment, their relationships, their choices, their futures. The SECOND MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENT in human history. Let me prove it to you.

Remember how Chapter 2 finishes? With Adam and Eve both naked, and they felt no shame. It’s a picture of innocence and purity. Of complete openness and honesty. Without guilt or embarrassment. Mankind in harmony with God, with creation, and with each other.

But it’s not going to last. Chapter 3 changes EVERYTHING. And it begins with the introduction of A NEW PLAYER in the drama. The serpent. Made by God, but crafty. And intent on working AGAINST God. In Revelation, we’re told it’s SATAN HIMSELF.

Temptation

And he begins his temptation simply by ASKING A QUESTION. Nothing too obvious. A subtle undermining of God’s word. V1. “Did God REALLY say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  It’s the first step. A little doubt in Eve’s mind. Can she really trust God’s word?

And it’s really no different from the way he works TODAY. Just a simple mocking question. It might come from your workmate or neighbour or husband, but it’s Satan who’s blinded their eyes.

“You don’t believe the Bible, do you?” “Do you really think praying DOES something?” “Are you saying all the other religions are wrong?” “Why bother giving up Sundays to be in church?”

Don’t let Satan fool YOU the way he fools the WOMAN. For some reason, her answer doesn’t get it quite right. Maybe she didn’t listen when Adam EXPLAINED it. Or maybe Adam didn’t pass it on correctly. But she adds ANOTHER condition to the command. Making it STRICTER than it actually was. V3. God DID say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, AND YOU MUST NOT TOUCH IT, or you will die.'”  God hadn’t actually said anything about TOUCHING the fruit – just EATING it.

Perhaps the snake picks up on that. He sees an opportunity. The NEXT part of his strategy isn’t a question, but A STATEMENT. Firstly, A DIRECT CONTRADICTION of God’s command. V4

4 “You will NOT surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.

And then he follows that up with a statement that casts doubt on GOD’S MOTIVES. V5

5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

In other words, God’s a SPOILSPORT. He just wants to stop you having fun. From living life the way YOU want. It’s the sort of thing we say to ourselves when we’re tempted. “God doesn’t know best. I know best. I’m sure I’ll be happier… if I lose my temper, or get even.  I’m sure life will be better if I… cheat on my tax return, or my spouse, or chase after success. Or move churches. Or keep my money for myself.” “God’s rules are to stop me being happy. He’s just MEAN.”

When we do that we’re doing nothing more than doubting God’s WORD, and doubting his MOTIVES. Just like the snake intended.

And as the woman thinks about what the snake has said about God. And as she looks at the fruit. At how ENTICING it is. She gives in. And eats it. And then she gives some to Adam, who eats it too. And so they doubt God’s ORDER. They turn his world upside-down.

His design was for animals to be ruled by mankind, who in turn would be ruled by God. But in listening to the animal, she’s turning things on their head. Now, ANIMALS set the agenda, mankind follows along, and attempts to remove God from his throne.

And God’s design was for man to be the LEADER, and the wife to be the HELPER. But Adam and Eve turn that on his head. It’s Eve who’s LEADING, and Adam who’s FOLLOWING. Adam SHOULD have said NO. He SHOULD have told EVE not to eat the fruit. But what does he do instead? Gives in meekly, and takes a big bite.

But he doesn’t just GIVE IN. He doesn’t step in and speak up when the snake’s weaving his magic. Notice there at the end of v6. “She also gave some to her husband, WHO WAS WITH HER, and he ate it.” Adam was STANDING RIGHT THERE as the snake was having the conversation with Eve. And SAYS NOTHING. He just GOES WITH THE FLOW.

How many husbands and fathers TODAY don’t say anything? Just sit in the background, unnoticed? How many husbands and fathers just sit back and refuse to rock the boat. Refuse to take the spiritual lead in their family?  Who don’t pull out the Bible? Who don’t suggest the family pray about something? Who won’t challenge poor choices, or sinful behaviour? Or rebuke or correct? All for the sake of an easy life.  We think it’s being flexible and laid-back. Keeping the peace. But often it’s just SELFISHNESS, rather than SERVICE. It’s not God’s design!

And, husbands, (and that includes me too) whenever you refuse to be the leader God WANTS you to be, you’re simply showing Adam’s your father. Like father, like son.

The humans are revolting

Adam and Eve eat the fruit. They rebel against God’s good rule. Which is the essence of eating from the tree of the KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL. It’s refusing to allow GOD to decide what’s right and wrong. He says NO to eating the fruit. They said YES. It’s insisting on making your OWN choices about right and wrong. It’s really the definition of SIN. The attitude that insists on making your OWN choices, rather that listen to God. It’s the root cause. The sin that leads to all OTHER sins.

And it’s the same choice EVERY HUMAN SINCE has made. The choice to be their own boss. To REBEL. To make their own morality. Their own good and evil.

It’s summarized well in the second box of the Two Ways to Live outline. Perhaps you know it..

  1. We all reject the ruler – God – by trying to run our life our own way without him. But we fail to rule ourselves or society or the world.

 

Romans chapter 3, verses 10-12 “There is no-one righteous, not even one; there is no-one who understands, no-one who seeks God. All have turned away”.

 

 

We want to be independent. We think we know better. But we only mess things up MORE. And our world suffers the effects. Whether it be environmental disasters, species extinction, third world poverty, the greenhouse effect, depletion of fossil fuels, world wars – things on a WORLD-WIDE scale. Or just the everyday divorces, fights, broken families, robberies, rapes, murders and race riots. Our world bears the scars of our rebellious independence against God.

And for Eve and Adam, the results are felt too. IMMEDIATELY. It’s there in v7. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

The fruit DOES open their eyes – just like the snake said it would. And they see the SHAMEFUL ENORMITY of what they’ve done. It’s the FIRST part of paradise that’s ruined. Their relationship with EACH OTHER. Shame and guilt and fear and secrets/ replace openness and purity and innocence.

And immediately the SECOND part’s ruined too. Because GOD comes walking through the Garden, enjoying his creation and his creatures. But the same shame and guilt they felt with EACH OTHER, Eve and Adam now feel towards GOD. And they HIDE from him because they’re scared. At which point it becomes obvious what they’ve done. And God begins to question them.

Shifting the blame

And so the FIRST sin is quickly followed by the SECOND. Shifting the blame. Refusing to accept responsibility. Like a hot potato, they pass the blame from one to another. Look at V12. God addresses the man – the one he’s put in charge. The one who’s accountable. But he answers

The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

First up, he tries to blame God. YOU PUT her here! It’s YOUR FAULT. Then he tries to blame the woman. She GAVE it to me. At which point the WOMAN tries to pass the blame on. “The SERPENT deceived me, and I ate.”

And aren’t we STILL good at doing that? Refusing to accept responsibility for our behaviour? “Sure! I lost my temper. But he MADE me do it!” “It’s okay to cheat on my marriage, my needs weren’t being met!” “It’s ok to speed, I won’t hurt anyone” “Watching this stuff is ok, nobody’s getting hurt”

Judgment

But passing the blame won’t work on God. He can see straight through the excuses. Theirs AND ours. And he issues his decree. Judgment for all. CURSES for the creation. And PUNISHMENT for his people. The snake is cursed. Forever at war with the woman and her offspring. And at the end of v15, the declaration that the offspring of the woman will crush the serpent’s head.

For Eve, there’ll be FRUSTRATION. The incredible JOY of children will now be tempered and soured by terrible PAIN IN CHILDBIRTH.

And the intimacy and love and connection of marriage will now be spoiled by the frustration of conflict. Strong feelings of desire for her husband. But at the same time, he’ll often fail to LIVE UP to those feelings. He’ll abuse his position. And take advantage of it.

There’s a SECOND idea behind that phrase “Your desire will be for your husband” It’s to do with desiring his POSITION. As HEAD of the relationship. The woman will fail to be content with where God’s placed her in submission. And will kick against the constraints, and try to exert HER AUTHORITY. To STAND UP for herself. And, often, the husband will be just as bad. Rather than offering LOVING, SERVANT leadership, he RULES. With harshness and selfishness. A battle of WILLS.  A picture of many marriages today.

Wives, are any of the issues you’re having in your marriage to do with THAT sinful attitude in YOU? Refusing to offer your husband the submission God’s DESIGNED?

That’s woman.

MAN’S judgment is FRUSTRATION OF HIS OWN. Work, which has such potential to be rewarding and fruitful and satisfying. Will now be back-breaking, and painful. Nothing will come easily.

A picture of the relationship many men have with work today. It promises to give them identity and purpose. To give them the tools to really enjoy life. Influence and power and disposable income, and the freedom of choices.

And yet, so often, work CONSUMES men. Instead of working to LIVE. They LIVE to WORK. They don’t start out that way. At the start, it’s simply a means to an end. A means to earn the dollars to be comfortable.

But it’s a trap. Because it ends up ruling men. Controlling them. Higher and higher salary means more and more responsibility and expectation. Greater and greater demands. And they never have the time, or the desire, to spend the money they’ve earned.

And for many, they end up with no one to share it with either. They spend their work life grasping and grasping for something MORE – more power, more influence, more responsibility, more success- and in the process they lose grip on the things that REALLY matter.

There’s very few men who get to the end of their life. And, on their death bed, wish they’d spent more time on work.

It’s a story that’s been retold thousands of times around the world. And down through the ages. The frustration of work – that promises so much, then delivers nothing much at all.

What’s YOUR attitude to WORK? Are you comfortable with its priority? How is it impacting your health? And your stress? And your family? And your spiritual health? And your church?

And the final part of God’s judgment. v23. Adam and Eve banished from the Garden. From the perfect relationship WITH CREATION.

And banned from eating from the tree of LIFE. And so condemned to the slow decay of death. The gradual winding down, slowing down, wearing out. Ending in death. The end of joy and work and friendships. The very things God MADE us for.

These are the effects of the fall we live with every day. And that’s what makes it the SECOND MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENT IN HUMAN HISTORY. It’s destroyed our relationship with each other, with creation, and with God himself.

The No. 1 Event  Rom 5:12-21

But perhaps you’re thinking, what about the MOST significant event? What’s more important that Adam’s SIN? Romans 5 gives us the answer. It compares the top 2. Follow along with me. Over in the New Testament. V12 starts with the claims of the “number two”.

Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because ALL SINNED-

When Adam and Eve sinned, DEATH came into the world. Not just PHYSICAL death, but SPIRITUAL DEATH – separation from God, a broken relationship. A refusal to allow God to rule over you.

And Adam and Eve passed down that basic orientation to EVERY ONE OF THEIR OFFSPRING. It’s the DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN. If Adam and Eve were spiritually dead, then they could only produce CHILDREN who were spiritually dead.

We are all born with an IN-BUILT INCLINATION to do our own thing. It’s our NATURE. Born with the mark of Adam’s sin, like a large black birthmark, staining our soul.

And so we ALL sin. We all choose OUR way, instead of God’s way. Whether we’re basically GOOD, or basically BAD. It’s what WE’VE CHOSEN. That’s SIN! Every human. Without exception. That’s A PRETTY SIGNIFICANT EVENT.

Adam’s sin has affected EVERYTHING. Affected US, and the WORLD WE LIVE IN. And so, when something happens that makes us groan. That makes us realise that people are fallen and sinful. And that the world is fallen and corrupt.

(Perhaps someone steals from you. Or abuses you. Or abandons you. When sickness strikes, or unemployment. When your marriage strikes trouble. And you realise it’s not the way you’d imagined it.

Perhaps even when you recognise something rotten in YOURSELF. You respond to a situation, in anger or impatience or humiliation or envy, in a way that shames and embarrasses you.)

By all means, despair and weep and pray. But DON’T BE SURPRISED. It’s the way the world is at the moment. It’s what it means to be living in a fallen world

People WILL let you down. And YOU will let OTHERS down. There will be times when life just KICKS YOU in the GUTS.

That’s the world we live in. Every human being/ born spiritually dead. Alienated from God.

Well – that’s not ENTIRELY true. Because there is ONE human, born of a human mother. But with GOD HIMSELF as his father. And HE was born spiritually alive. And he never sinned. Jesus Christ. The only human being who ever fully measured up to being made in God’s IMAGE. Perfectly reflecting God’s character and behaviour.

And the NUMBER ONE MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENT IN HUMAN HISTORY is his life and death and resurrection. Because it’s how God UNDOES the effects of the fall. It’s how we can move from DEATH to LIFE. From GUILT to INNOCENCE. From CONDEMNATION to FORGIVENESS. From ENEMIES to FRIENDS.

NOTHING COULD BE MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN THAT. Look at how Romans 5 proves the point. V15. For if the many DIED by the trespass of the ONE man (that’s ADAM), how much more did God’s GRACE and the GIFT THAT CAME by the grace of the ONE MAN, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!

Adam brought DEATH to everyone. But Jesus brought GRACE and a GIFT. What’s the gift? V16. The judgment followed one sin and brought CONDEMNATION, but the GIFT followed many trespasses and brought JUSTIFICATION.

Justification. Being put right with God. Having our guilt wiped away. The GUILT that comes from being HUMAN/ can be washed away by the work of Jesus.

But that’s not all. Look at V17. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, DEATH reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness REIGN IN LIFE through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Not just a restored relationship. But VICTORIOUS life INTO ETERNITY – that’s what comes to those who are right with God. And it all comes about because of the NUMBER ONE MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENT IN HUMAN HISTORY. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. God’s only son. The only PERFECT human. Who pays our debt, who restores our life. Who overturns the decay and destruction that first sin began. Or, at least, he CAN for those who trust his work for them.

But that’s not all! One day, he’ll RESTORE our world. And bring in his new heavens and new earth. Of which the Garden of Eden will be nothing but a dull shadow. A pale and weak imitation.

Revelation 21 gives us a picture of it. Of our eternal home. And the point I want you to notice is how all the effects of the fall – the breakdown in relationships – are REVERSED. Man and God, man and man. Perfectly united. What Adam MESSES UP, Jesus FIXES. Rev 21 v1.

21:1 Then I saw a NEW heaven and a new earth, for the FIRST heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be NO MORE death or mourning or crying or pain, for the OLD ORDER OF THINGS HAS PASSED AWAY.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am MAKING EVERYTHING NEW!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

We ARE living in a fallen world. But Jesus, the TRUE image of God, is working on a NEW world. That’s the big idea of the Bible. And it’s a big idea WORTH BUILDING YOUR LIFE ON!

 

Gen 2:4-25: The Way Things Were Meant To Be

I want you to stop for a moment, close your eyes, and picture yourself in the middle of your PERFECT DAY. It might be REAL – something you’ve done before, or do quite regularly. Or perhaps it’s a day you’ve only IMAGINED.

But whatever it is, it’s the sort of day that makes you stop in the middle of it, take a deep breath and sigh, “Ah, THIS is the life. THIS is what I was MADE FOR”?

Has everyone got something in their minds?

Open your eyes. Put up your hand if your day involved being somewhere in God’s creation (perhaps the beach, or perhaps the mountains, or the bush).

Now, put up your hand if you were sharing your day with someone else.

Hand up if you were on your own. Interesting!

I hope you’re not too disappointed, but I need to drag you away from your perfect day. Back to Doonside. Back to Gen 2. Ands it’s ALSO a picture of life as good as it gets. A picture of things the way they were meant to be.

It’s a DIFFERENT picture from Gen 1. Not contradictory. But a more INTIMATE and CLOSE-UP picture.

Think about video games. Some video games show a view FROM THE TOP. Looking down on the action. You might be looking down over the whole country as you plot strategies, move armies around, reinforce cities. Like AGE OF EMPIRES.

Other video games show a SIDE-ON VIEW. You might manoeuvre your character from left to right of screen. Jumping over crocodiles, hopping onto platforms, bouncing up to reach jewels.

And then there are games where YOU see what the character SEES. You’re right in among the action. You’re looking through the windscreen of the racing car as it screams down the mountain.

Or you’re looking through the night goggles of the commando as he moves through the building, your weapons peeking out of the corner of your field of vision, ready to blast anyone who comes across your path.

And it gives a very different experience of a game, depending what your VIEW is.

And it’s the same sort of contrast we see here as we move from Gen 1 to Gen 2. A CHANGE OF VIEW.

Gen 1 was a view from the top. The BIG PICTURE. Looking out across the whole universe. A view from GOD’S level.

But here in Gen 2, we’ve moved to the close-up view. From the wide-screen to the small-screen. The telescope to the microscope.

The INTIMATE view. Focussing on ONE MAN. Focussing on ONE GARDEN. Same game. Just a different view point.

It’s the same sort of thing you see whenever you read a magazine article, or watch a show like “A Current Affair”. They might be describing something broad and theoretical, something that affects the whole country. Like rising petrol prices, or obesity in children, or preservatives in food, or tax cuts.

But they’ll always have a human-interest story. How all of this THEORY affects REAL PEOPLE. Real families. How the large scale things affect people on the small scale. (Show eg)

And that’s what we’ve got here in Gen 2.

What’s in a name?

You can see this change of focus even in the NAME used for God. All through Ch 1, he’s GOD – Elohim. The title, or general-purpose name for ANY god. But from Ch 2 v4, he’s THE LORD God, That’s the English translation for Yahweh Elohim. A NAME and a title. The PERSONAL God. Who REVEALS himself in his name. Makes himself known to his creature.

It’s a change you can see in the sorts of things God DOES in this chapter. In Ch 1, it’s mostly about God SPEAKING.

But here in Ch 2, God’s GETTING HIS HANDS DIRTY. Taking a hands-on approach. Skim through the chapter with me.

He makes, not so much by HIS WORD, but (v7) by FORMING, or MOLDING. By BREATHING. V8. By PLANTING. By PLACING. V9, he SPROUTS trees. V19 FORMING again.

Or v21. He PUTS TO SLEEP, he TAKES A RIB, he CLOSES IT UP. V22. He BUILDS a woman. And BRINGS her to Adam.

All very HUMAN sorts of things to do. God is getting up close and personal.

(pause) And you can see a hint of it in the change of order in v4. The FIRST half says the account of the HEAVENS and the EARTH. But the SECOND half of the verse says when the LORD God made the EARTH and the heavens.

It might only be a change for the sake of variety. But it seems to be showing a CHANGE in FOCUS. It’s the EARTH that’s the priority in this part of the story. And in particular, it’s focussed on A MAN AND A GARDEN.

From God and his WORLD. To MAN and his GARDEN.

So let’s have a look at that Garden. And we’ll consider it under three headings. Man and God. Man and the Garden. And Man and Woman.

Man and God

First – the man and God. Have a look at v7. God doesn’t just MAKE man. He MOLDS man out of the dirt. He scoops it up from the ground, and sculpts a man out of it.

And then he breathes the breath, or Spirit, of life into him. Not just PHYSICALLY alive, but SPIRITUALLY alive. Something he doesn’t do for any of the animals.

And so, there’s two aspects to human beings.. There’s FLESH and there’s SPIRIT. BOTH are good. We can’t ignore one and include the other. There’s an earthiness as well as a spirituality about Biblical Christianity. A joy and a participation in the good things of THIS WORLD. Like and food and wine and work.

As well as a faith in the things we can’t see. And a longing for the better things of THE WORLD TO COME.

But even in the world to come. We don’t leave behind a physical body. We get a new RESURRECTED body. We’re not floating spirits. 1 Cor 15 talks about it like a SEED germinating into a PLANT. There’s a continuity between the new and the old, but also some big changes. We won’t leave behind a physical body. Human beings are flesh and spirit.

Some Christians in the history of the church have tried to drive a wedge between the two. And say only the Spirit is good, while the flesh is BAD. And so marriage and and food and physical appetites are all evil desires that need to be killed.

Or that THIS WORLD is bad. And so, they step away from the world. And just focus on the spiritual. Monasteries for meditation. But that’s not Christianity the way God made us. We’re spirit AND body. Both are good.

The opposite position comes from the secular scientists. Who say that man is nothing more than chemicals. We’re ONLY body. There’s no Spirit.

We’re WORTH less than $1 because that’s what our INGREDIENTS cost. There is nothing inherently precious about human life.

But we are VALUABLE because God has breathed his breath into us. We are living BEINGS. Eternal souls. Aware of who we are. Aware of and eternity. Aware of God. Aware that WHO WE ARE / is more than our physical bodies.

All things that the animals can’t do.

But there’s more we can learn about our relationship with our creator. He’s a God who hasn’t just MADE us, but who’s COMMUNICATED with us. That’s there in v16. Who’s INTIMATE and INVOLVED.

And as we think about what God actually communicates, we see a THIRD point about our relationship with God. He’s given us freedom and provision. But it’s freedom within boundaries.

He’s made us. We’re totally dependant on him. He’s given us all we need. But he’s also made us with the freedom to make our own independent choices. “You are FREE to eat from ANY TREE in the garden. All sorts of trees. All of them good to eat and good to look at. It’s your choice.”

But at the same time, there are LIMITS. One tree Adam COULDN’T eat from.

And, as we find out soon enough, being made with the ability to CHOOSE will have huge consequences for the world.

Man and the garden.

That’s man and God. What about man and the garden?

The first thing to notice is that the garden is SEPARATED from the rest of the world. V8 seems to imply that God made the man somewhere else, then took him and placed him in the garden.

It’s the idea of a walled garden, perhaps for the king. And if we can make anything of geography, a garden on A MOUNTAIN. Because it’s the source of the four rivers that flow down and water the world. It’s so lush and succulent and life-giving, it can provide life for the whole world.

And, just like a king’s walled garden, it’s full of the VERY BEST PLANTS. Great to eat from, and beautiful to look at.

And, in particular, there’s two trees given SPECIAL mention. That’s v9. Both in the centre of the garden. One is the tree of life. The other, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

One the man CAN eat from. In fact, the assumption is that HE DOES, because there’s NO yet.

But the OTHER is FORBIDDEN. I think it represents the desire TO CHOOSE WHAT’S RIGHT AND WRONG. To want to be morally independent. But more on THAT tree next week.

And then down in v15, the man is given WORK. The king appoints a royal gardener to tend his royal garden. Caring, nurturing, growing. Even NAMING – showing authority. But also, in a limited way, CREATING, like His Creator.

The whole picture is of life as good as it gets. Of things the way they were meant to be.

Man and Woman

But for all the GOOD things in this garden. There’s one thing that’s NOT good. But have a look at v18. Up until now God’s been saying It’s GOOD. But not here.

18 The LORD God said, “It is NOT good for the man TO BE ALONE. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

We’re made for relationships. Made to communicate. To share. To work together.

How many of you imagined your best day as one you enjoyed ON YOUR OWN? Many of us like time to ourselves, but I’m not sure we’d ALWAYS like to be on our own!

Because if it’s with the right person, a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled. You see something beautiful, or something funny. And you can’t wait to tell someone. And so, your favourite day probably includes someone to SHARE it WITH.

It’s not good for man to be alone.

And so God starts working through the options. One by one the animals parade through. All shapes and sizes. Noisy and quiet. Friendly and shy. Strong and weak. Large and small.

But NOT ONE is… SUITABLE. God needs a helper who COMPLEMENTS the man. Who fills up in the areas he’s lacking. Who COMPLETES him. And animals just won’t do it.

So God decides to start from scratch. Look at v21. He takes a rib from the man, and makes A WOMAN from the rib. The only creature not to be made from the dust of the ground. And he brought her to Adam.

Matthew Henry is often quoted here. Not sure if he’s right about why God used A RIB. But it’s a nice thought. “Not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved”

But let’s let Adam take up the story. V23. He slowly comes to after his sleep. His rib’s a bit sore. He gives it a rub. He opens his eyes. And there in front of him is the most beautiful creature he’s ever seen. Suddenly he forgets all about his ribs.

“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

The RSV translation puts it a bit better. The NOW word becomes “THIS, AT LAST, is flesh of my flesh!”

Finally! He’s been through THE REST. But now he’s seen THE BEST.

The ORIGINAL perfect match. Taken from man – ish – so she’s called ishah.

There’s SIMILARITY, DIVERSITY, and UNITY. She’s made FROM man – so she’s SIMILAR. But she’s made to be a SUITABLE HELPER. Someone who makes up for man’s shortcomings. Who fills in his gaps. So there’s DIVERSITY.

But there’s also UNITY. Because the writer concludes. V24. What this FIRST marriage means for every OTHER marriage.

24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be UNITED TO HIS WIFE, and they will become ONE FLESH.

Man and wife become ONE. A partnership. So close, they can finish each other’s sentences. It’s a unity that’s illustrated in the ual relationship. Two become one. One flesh.

It’s the way things were meant to be. Because v25 tells us the were and felt no shame. Shame comes from secrets. Shame comes from sin and guilt.

It’s a picture of a relationship that’s perfectly open and intimate and comfortable.

And so, the chapter closes. Everything in its place. Every relationship in perfect balance. Man and God. Man and the garden. Man and Woman.

It’s a balance that doesn’t last too long. In fact the very next SENTENCE shows that dark storm clouds are building over the idyllic garden.

But before we get to Ch 3, there’s a few lessons for us here as we think about marriage.

Firstly, if you’re single. This chapter says “It’s a good thing to WANT to get married”. Marriage is CERTAINLY a blessing. It’s NOT good for people to be alone. God took steps to bring a partner to Adam. And so it’s right for you to do the same.

But, let me say THIS. Even though marriage is good, it’s not THAT good, and Christian singleness that BAD, that it’s worth short-cutting God’s intentions. Settling for second-best. Like marrying a non-Christian.

Or perhaps God actually WANTS you to remain SINGLE. Have you seriously CONSIDERED that? It’s what he wanted for the Apostle Paul. He talks about some of the ADVANTAGES of being single in 1 Cor 7.

But that’s not for EVERYONE. In fact, it’s not for MOST people. There are GOOD REASONS to want to get married.

But it’s a good question to be asking – How would I feel if God’s will for me was SINGLENESS? Would I be accepting and content? Or would I be bitter and despairing?

But there’s one other thing I want to say to single people. And I don’t want to say this in a condescending way. But God’s given you a wonderful gift in church families. Sensitive Christian friends, from a range of different areas, can go a long way toward meeting the emotional needs of singles.

Good single relationships are better than a bad marriage relationship.

Secondly, if you’re a PARENT of someone who’s married. This passage says Let them LEAVE. So they can CLEAVE to their spouse. Let them BUILD that one-flesh relationship.

Don’t be a busybody. Your child has a new allegiance now. The husband-wife bond is STRONGER than the parent-child one. It’s the way God’s designed it. Even though you think you know better, don’t go against GOD!

Third, If you’re a married WITHOUT kids. (Perhaps you’re not READY for kids. Or perhaps you can’t HAVE children). Sometimes parents with children can make you feel like second-class citizens .

BUT GEN 2 SAYS THAT YOU, AS A HUSBAND AND WIFE, ARE A COMPLETE FAMILY. EVEN WITHOUT KIDS.

Four. If you’re a family with children. The Husband-wife bond is stronger than parent and child. It’s only your spouse you are one flesh with.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that while the kids are young you can sacrifice your own relationship to focus on them.

The husband-wife relationship is the hub of the family. The core. The most important aspect.

This is more likely a word to MOTHERS. Don’t put the kids before your husband. You might think it’s about looking after is THEM. But often, it’s really about YOU. Your hurts, your feelings of inadequacies, your emotional needs.

Because as years go by, a marriage relationship becomes hard work. And perhaps it’s just easier to throw your attention into your children.

But this won’t help THEM in the long run. A strong family needs a strong husband-wife relationship. Kids feel secure when they know mum and dad love each other and enjoy each other.

(pause) We MIGHT be living in marriages on this side of the fall. And NONE of them are perfect. They ALL take hard work. But it’s STILL God’s design. And he’s there to help us as we work at building open, respectful, constructive, serving marriages.

And in Jesus he’s given us the ULTIMATE PICTURE Of what marriage looks like. IN Eph 5 v22 we read that wives are to submit to their husbands as they submit to the Lord.

And husbands are to love their wives JUST AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER.

That’s our . Our example. Our goal. As we take those verses SERIOUSLY, God can do miracles in our marriages. And they CAN GROW to look like that first, perfect marriage.

The way things were meant to be – again (Rev 22:1-5)

One final thought. If you find yourself getting discouraged about how far away from Paradise YOUR life seems. How distant from the way things were meant to be. Then be encouraged by the HOPE we have.

Life today ISN’T the way things were meant to be. But one day, life will be TRANSFORMED. It’ll be RETURNED to the way it was meant to be. In fact, even BETTER than Eden.

Rev 21 and 22 describe eternity. Rather than a garden, we’ve got a CITY. But it’s a city that’s led on Eden. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

Close your eyes, and imagine THIS perfect day. When you sit back and think, “Ah, THIS is the life. THIS is what I was made for!”

22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the HEALING of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any CURSE. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Genesis 1:1-2:3 And God said…

In the beginning there was only Nun, the primal ocean of chaos. From these waters came Ra, the sun god, who gave birth to Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture. Tefnut gave birth to Geb, the earth god and Nut, the sky goddess. And so the physical universe was created.

Against Ra’s orders, Geb and Nut married. Ra was incensed and decreed Nut could not give birth in any month of any year. Thuth, the god of learning, decided to help her and, gambling with the moon for extra light, was able to add five extra days to the 360-day calendar. On those five days Nut gave birth to Osiris  the lord of the afterlife, Horus, Set the god of chaos, Isis the goddess of magic, and Nephthys, who seduced her brother, Osiris to produce Anubis, the jackal god of embalming. Men were created from Ra’s tears. Different nations from different tears. When they rebelled and were ungrateful, Ra, and a council of gods, decided to destroy them. Ra created Sekhmet, the lion-headed goddess of war, to do the job. She was very efficient and slaughtered all but a few humans, when Ra relented and tricked her into stopping.

So went the creation stories of the gods of Egypt.

These were the pictures and myths that filled the heads of God’s people, Israel, as they lived and laboured in Egypt. That informed them about how the world was. And who they were as they played a part in it.

They were stories of chaos and rage and selfishness. Of tricks and war and anger. Of MANY gods, rather than ONE God. Gods who were born, and who represented the sun and moon and oceans and river and land, rather than a God who MADE the world. Gods who made mistakes. And who made decisions without purpose or wisdom or planning. Who were callous and brutal and vindictive.

And so life for humans was about trying to please all these gods. Of trying to trick them, or force them, into giving you a good harvest, or a safe birth, or success at war, or protection from drought or flood. Never sure whether you were sacrificing to the RIGHT god, or whether another more powerful god might come along and change the plan. They were the creation myths that might have been influencing Israel way back then.

But we’ve got creation myths that are just as significant. Manipulating US to think and act in certain ways. Telling us what our purpose is, and the purpose of the world. Telling us what the world is like. And where it’s headed. The universe began with a big bang. And it’ll end with a giant implosion out of which a new universe might form. There is no end and no beginning – just a continuous cycle. There is no progression. The world isn’t headed anywhere. And it’s all just the result of CHANCE, and physics. Matter – planets, stars – and Energy. Even life itself. Give it long enough, and atoms become molecules which become amino acids which become proteins which become DNA which become life. Unicellular organisms which become multicellular organisms which become self-aware, thinking life-forms.

There is no purpose. No design. No plan. There is no right and wrong. The fittest survive. The rest die. Which means your PURPOSE in life is to survive, find the best genetic material in a partner, reproduce, and pass on your genes to the next generation.

The notions of self-perception, of a soul, of beauty and love, of compassion and trust, of loyalty and honesty, are nothing more than chemical reactions in your brain. Right and wrong, good and evil all depend on your point of view. Everyone’s sense of morality, and basic human rights, is, somehow, nothing more than an evolutionary adaptation that makes us better able to survive.

When you die, that’s THE END. It’s all just part of the cycle. Your body is eaten by worms, and feeds the next generation. Your energy spread out into the Universe, gradually increasing its entropy, as the Universe slowly runs down.

They’re the creation myths OUR godless society is bombarding you with. The media and our schools. Our universities. Science and TV and newspapers.

And so we need to hear some TRUTH. And ISRAEL needed to hear some truth. Truth about God, and the Universe, and about us. What God is like. What his WORLD is like. And about what part we play in it. Truth that answers the BIG QUESTIONS. Why am I here? What is ETERNITY about? Who is God? How can I know him?

And that’s exactly what we get when we turn to Genesis 1. Answers to questions about the GOD WHO MADE THE WORLD. The WORLD God made. And the MAN God made.

The God Who Made the World

Firstly, the God who made the world. It’s right there in the very first sentence of the Bible. “In the beginning, God WAS.” The subject of this book. The subject of the whole Universe. GOD HIMSELF.

He’s a God who’s ETERNAL. Who always WAS. He had no beginning. Unlike all the false gods of the nations. God IS. The only being who exists OUTSIDE time and space.

But he didn’t STAY outside of time and space. He ENTERED it. He CREATED it. Time and matter and energy. All came into existence at the command of his word. He SPOKE the Universe into being. Out of nothing.

Now, at this point, I want us to stop and have a think about THE STYLE OF LITERATURE we’ve got in Genesis 1. I don’t want to get too technical. But you don’t have to look too deeply to realize that there’s something unusual about it. The main thing we notice is its STRUCTURE. If it’s not poetry, it’s pretty close. Perhaps it’s like song lyrics. Or a RAP.

There are regular sections, each one begins the same – “And God said”. Each one ENDS the same “And there was evening and there was morning, the …first day”. There’s a RHYTHM to the whole chapter.

It’s one thing to NOTICE it, it’s ANOTHER to work out its PURPOSE. What’s the POINT of the PATTERN?

Here’s what I think. The rhythm and pattern in THE STORY reflect THE RHYTHM AND PATTERN in God’s world. The design and order.

And the rhythm and pattern of the story/ reflect something of GOD HIMSELF. When God creates, there’s nothing random or confused or half-baked about it. It’s considered, and intricately-planned. He brings wisdom and detail and harmony to his work of creating.

What’s more, God ENJOYS what he made. From day three onward, he looks at all he’s made, and every day declares it GOOD!

This is a God who’s COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from the pagan gods of the nations. Or even from what the world today says about God. He’s ONE God. Not many. There’s no confusion about WHICH god.

And he’s ETERNAL. And infinitely powerful. He’s wise and ordered. He isn’t fickle, or changing. He’s always faithful to what he says, and to who he is.

And he ENJOYS what he’s made, so it means the physical world is GOOD. Which is quite different from lots of religions, where the goal is to become more and more spiritual, and ultimately to LEAVE the physical world.

And since God enjoys his creation, including people, it seems there’s the possibility for us to actually PLEASE him. Rather than constantly living in fear of wrath, of being nothing more than a splinter in God’s finger, or a grain of dust in his eye. It seems God might actually be able to be KNOWN. Which must have been revolutionary for the Egyptians of Israel’s time. But more on that in weeks to come.

The World God Made

That’s the God who made the world. What about the WORLD GOD MADE? The big picture is that the world BEGAN in DISORDER. And FINISHED in ORDER. V2 tells us that the earth was FORMLESS AND EMPTY. Shapeless and bare. Imagine it as the blank canvas.

And then God begins, firstly, to work on the SHAPE. Day 1. He speaks, and light and dark come into being. One he calls day and the other night. Day 1 ends. Evening and morning.

Day 2. God speaks again. And sky and water are separated. The waters above from the waters below. And day 2 ends. Evening and morning.

Day 3. More work on tracing out the FORM. Adding SHAPE. He speaks and the land separates from the water. Mountains rise out of the oceans.

And God declares it GOOD. But he’s far from finished.

He speaks/ and plants rise out of the soil. Great forests, and fields of grass. Bushes and shrubs and fruit-trees. And finally, the formless has form. The shapeless has taken shape. The canvas has been covered – a wash of colour and outline, silhouette and shadow.

And God declares it GOOD. Day 3 ends. Evening and morning.

He’s halfway there. Next, God comes back to each aspect of his creation to fill in the details. There’s form and shape. But it’s still empty. Now it’s time to fill up the barrenness. Time to get out the fine brushes.

Day 4. He speaks/ and the sun, moon and stars blaze across the sky filling the day and night. And God declares it good. Day 4 ends. Evening and morning.

Day 5. He speaks and the oceans and skies teem with life. What was empty’s now full. Fresh water and salt water. Mammals and fish. Squids and crabs. Seed-eating birds and birds of prey. Huge whales, and tiny honey-eaters. Vacant becomes full to overflowing. And God declares it good. Day 5 ends. Evening and morning.

Day 6. The painting’s nearly finished. God moves onto the land. There’s soil and trees, mountains and valleys, deserts and forests. But they’re BLANK.

So God speaks and the land produces animals. Running and jumping and waddling and crawling animals. Digging and climbing and wriggling animals. Animals that hunt and chase and animals that hide, and are chased. Animals that wander, and animals that set up homes. Animals that live in herds or communities, others who live alone. And God saw that it was good.

A WORLD of order and design/ from THE GOD of order and design. A world of variety and colour and complexity. But a world where each part fits together perfectly – just the way it was designed. Everything in perfect balance and harmony.

From the enormous patterns of the Milky Way – the swirls and splashes of stars and constellations across millions of light years. To the tiny, unique designs of a snowflake.

From the balance of mass and gravitational attraction that keeps the earth orbiting just the right distance from the sun/ so that water stays liquid, and makes life possible.

To the balance of mass and energy and charge that keeps atoms stable. That keeps negative electrons orbiting a positive nucleus without ever collapsing into it, making matter possible.

From the macro to the micro, there’s precision and detail and careful planning.

The Man God Made

But God isn’t finished yet. He’s got one last piece of creating to do. The pinnacle of his creation. A creature like himself. Bearing his likeness. Who can care and cultivate and rule his creation UNDER him. Who can enjoy his creation WITH him.

And so he makes MAN. V26. 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So 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 said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Mankind – the only creature with A TOUCH OF DIVINITY. Made in God’s likeness. Made to recognize him, to comprehend eternity. To appreciate and enjoy his creation like God himself.

But also, with a TASK like God’s. Made for a purpose. To look after the creation. To care for it. To rule. To USE it. More on THAT next time.

And now, the last piece of the picture’s in place. God stands back from his painting, holds up his thumb. Sizes it all up. And declares “VERY good!”

It’s a picture of PERFECTION. Of God and his people and his world in complete harmony and unity and relationship. A picture that’s summed up in the first box in the TWO WAYS to LIVE presentation.

  1. God is the loving ruler of the world. He made the world. He made us rulers of the world under him.

In that one paragraph/ is the answer to the BIG questions of life. Who is God? Who am I? And why am I here? And so, we realize we have PURPOSE. The world was designed and created for a reason. We are significant and precious in God’s sight. There’s an explanation for why we feel love and justice and loyalty and loneliness and beauty. Why there’s a universal feeling of the “rightness” of all human beings having certain RIGHTS. Because we’re made in God’s image – like no other creature. Made for RELATIONSHIPS. Made for GOD. And we have a job to be getting on with. We were made for DOMINION. To care and nurture and rule and use and enjoy God’s world.

And then…

And yet for all its beauty and perfection, that’s not all there is to God’s world. For all man’s purpose and identity and significance, he’s made for SOMETHING MORE. For all creation’s completeness and complexity, it’s not THE GOAL.

Because there’s still ONE MORE DAY. Creation’s finished, but that’s not the end. Look at Ch 2 v1.

2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he … RESTED from all his work. 3 And God BLESSED the seventh day and MADE IT HOLY, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

The pattern doesn’t finish at SIX. But SEVEN. The culmination of creation is not man. Or even the complete creation-package, with man as God’s second-in-command. Even though it’s all VERY good.

The finale of God’s work is REST. That’s the target. Holy rest. Rest that’s set apart from the rest of the active work of creating. It’s rest that shows creation’s COMPLETE. Nothing more to add. Nothing half-baked, or half-finished. And it’s rest that is more than just STOPPING. But an active REJOICING in the creation. For God to step back, hold up his thumb to the finished painting, and just ENJOY it all.

And, as we read through Scripture, we see that God’s rest is a PATTERN for OUR resting. One day in seven to PAUSE. To REST. And to enjoy the creation, and to enjoy the One who created it. To participate in the God’s rest. Did you notice there’s something MISSING from the Day 7? It’s there for every other day. There’s no final close of Day 7. No “Evening and morning – the seventh day”.

Because DAY 7 CONTINUES. WE’RE LIVING IN DAY 7. And God calls us to participate in his rest. By enjoying him, and enjoying his creation.

But I think there’s at least one other thing we can say about God’s rest. It’s also rest that points to SOMETHING ELSE. Creation is there in the first six days. But God’s goal is something BEYOND the six days. Something BEYOND creation.

Because as Scripture unfolds, we learn something ELSE about this rest. God’s planned ANOTHER rest. Rest BEYOND his creation.

Hebrews 4 promises God’s ETERNAL rest – something in front of all God’s people. Something that none of us have fully entered yet. Something to look forward to. Something to persevere for.

4:1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.

And down to v9 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest,

That says it’s a rest that BEGINS NOW. As we grow in our relationship with our Creator. Connected again by his Son, Jesus. As we learn to trust him. And enjoy him. And obey him. And rely on him.

But it’s a rest we’ll only FULLY realize in eternity. When God’s NEW creation will begin. A PERFECT, COMPLETE, ULTIMATE, INTIMATE, ETERNAL, UNCORRUPTIBLE creation.

And that’s comfort for the frustration we feel when we recognize that OUR world bears little resemblance to God’s PERFECT world.

When we see the pain and suffering and death and frustration. And wonder where God is in all of that. And even as we recognize those things IN OURSELVES.

Because, as perfect as it was in the beginning. This world is not all there is. And so we hope for ANOTHER world.

But as we wait. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus. He’s the KEY to real rest. The one who leads us into God’s true rest. In Matthew 11:28 he says

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Let’s make every effort to be entering that rest. To be rejoicing in our Saviour, in our Creator, and in his creation. To be living as people with purpose and joy and love. People who know who we are. And why. And where we’re headed.