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 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”?
Did your day involve being somewhere in God’s creation (perhaps the beach, or perhaps the mountains, or the bush)? And were you were sharing your day with someone else? Or were you on your own?
I hope you’re not too disappointed, but I need to drag you away from your perfect day.
Back to Genesis 2. And it’s ALSO a picture of life as good as it gets. A picture of things the way they were meant to be. And it’s ALSO about enjoying God’s creation. And sharing it with someone else.
A Change of viewpoint
It’s a DIFFERENT picture from Genesis 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.
And then there are games where YOU see what the CHARACTER sees. You’re right in the middle of the action. You’re looking through the windscreen of the racing car as it screams down the mountain. Or through the night goggles of the commando as he moves through the building, 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 difference as we move from Genesis 1 to Genesis 2. A CHANGE OF VIEW. Genesis 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 Genesis 2, we’ve moved to the close-up view. To the HORIZONTAL view. From the wide-screen to the small-screen.
The INTIMATE view. Focussing on ONE MAN. Focussing on ONE GARDEN. Same game. Just a different view point.
It’s the same way journalists cover a story. Perhaps a newspaper or magazine article, or 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. And they give you information about the facts and figures and policies. That’s the Genesis 1 coverage. But they’ll also zoom in on 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. And that’s what we’ve got here in Genesis 2.
You can see this change of focus even in the NAME used for God. All through Chapter 1, he’s GOD – Elohim. The title, or general-purpose name for ANY god. But from Chapter 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 Chapter 1, it’s mostly about God SPEAKING. From OUTSIDE his creation.
But here in Chapter 2, God’s GETTING HIS HANDS DIRTY. Taking a hands-on approach. He’s IN his creation. Look 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.
Chapter one taught us that God is SEPARATE and DIFFERENT from his creation. He’s powerful and holy, controlling and creating simply by his word. He’s TRANSCENDENT. And chapter two teaches that God is ALSO, at the SAME TIME, close and personal, active and involved with his creation. He’s IMMANENT. It’s a curious combination. Hard to understand. In fact, the whole Bible addresses the question. Of how a transcendent and pure God can be immanent and personal to us. It’s a puzzle that’s solved when the two axes intersect in Jesus, the GOD-MAN, Transcendent, eternal God becomes frail, immanent MAN.
But that’s still off in the future. Here in Ch 2, we see God up close and personal with A MAN.
Man and God
Have a look at v7. God doesn’t just MAKE man. There’s TWO STEPS. FIRST, he MOLDS man out of the dirt. He scoops it up from the ground, and sculpts a man out of it. (Which is how he makes the animals too, v19)
And then, SECOND, 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.
That means human beings are both FLESH and SPIRIT. BOTH are good. We can’t ignore one, and include the other. There’s an EARTHINESS as well as a SPIRITUALITY about life. True life is about joy and participation in the good things of THIS WORLD. Like food and wine and work and sex. And fishing and the swimming and riding a horse. But life’s ALSO about a faith in the things we CAN’T see. And a longing for the better things of THE WORLD TO COME.
Some Christians in the history of the church have separated the two. And said only the Spirit is good, while the flesh is BAD. And so they teach that marriage and sex and food and physical appetites are all evil, and 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. Or they become HERMITS. Or live in communes. But that’s not human life the way God made us. We’re spirit AND body. Both are good.
Then there’s the humanists and rationalists. They get it wrong too. They say we’re ONLY physical. That humans are nothing more than chemicals. We’re ONLY body. There’s no Spirit. No God. We’re WORTH less than $1 because that’s what our INGREDIENTS cost. There is nothing inherently precious about human life.
But Genesis 2 says humans are VALUABLE because God has breathed his breath into us. That means we’re living BEINGS. Eternal souls. Self-aware. Aware of death and eternity. Aware of God. Aware that WHO WE ARE / is more than our physical bodies. All things 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.
He doesn’t just MAKE us and LEAVE US. He’s not the watchmaker who makes the world, winds it up, and then abandons it. He GUIDES us. And his guidance is about giving us RULES and boundaries, but also the dignity of FREEDOM WITHIN BOUNDARIES.
He’s made us. We’re totally dependent on him. He’s given us all we need. But he’s also made us free 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. (Freedom within boundaries). 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 suggests God made the man somewhere else, then took him and placed him in the garden.
It’s the idea of a walled garden, like a king’s ROYAL garden. 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 SPECIAL trees. 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 DEATH yet. But the OTHER is FORBIDDEN. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 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’s given WORK. God the king appoints a royal gardener to tend his royal garden. Caring, nurturing, growing. Even NAMING, which shows AUTHORITY. But also, in a limited way, CREATING, like His Creator. In Chapter 1 only GOD names things. But, here, he delegates that authority to MAN. 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.
Many of you imagined your best day as one you enjoyed ON YOUR OWN. We 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 want to tell someone. And so, your favourite day probably includes someone to SHARE it WITH. Someone gets a nice meal in a restaurant, and the first thing they do. Is INSTAGRAM it! Share the picture with all their friends! A pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled. It’s not good for man to be alone.
And so God starts working through the options (v19). One by one the animals parade through. All shapes and sizes. Noisy and quiet. Friendly and shy. Strong and weak. Large and small. Some are good for ONE thing, some for ANOTHER. But NOT ONE is… SUITABLE. God needs a helper who COMPLEMENTS the man. The word for “suitable for him” is a composite word in Hebrew that literally means “like opposite him.” In other words, similar, but different. Someone who fills up in the areas he’s lacking. Because he can’t do the job of looking after the garden on his own. And animals just can’t do it.
So God decides to start from the beginning. 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 allow Adam take up the story. V23. He slowly wakes up. 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 better. “THIS, AT LAST, is flesh of my flesh!” Finally! He’s been through THE REST. But now he’s seen THE BEST. A 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. But not a helper who’s a junior assistant. It’s a word used in the Bible of GOD – he’s the HELPER of ISRAEL. So this women is someone who makes up for man’s shortcomings. Who fills in his gaps. So there’s DIVERSITY. And that, TOGETHER, they can do what the man CAN’T do on his OWN. 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. It’s a unity illustrated in the sexual relationship. Two become one. One flesh.
It’s the way things were meant to be. Because v25 tells us the couple were naked 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 Chapter 3, there’s a few lessons for us here as we think about marriage. A few practical implications. 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 add 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 the wrong person. Life BEGINS with God, and he’s designed it with HIM AT THE CENTRE. So it’s never going to work out well when you IGNORE his design. 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.
And those of us who are married need to RECOGNISE that about church, and about our single brothers and sisters. Make sure they’re included. Go out of your way to remember and notice them. As a general rule, activities and friendships are much more important to single people than for you, with your spouse and family to support you.
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. SUPPORT them, without being A BUSYBODY. Offer your advice only when it’s ASKED FOR. 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 couple 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 GENESIS 2 SAYS THAT YOU, AS A HUSBAND AND WIFE, ARE A COMPLETE FAMILY. EVEN WITHOUT KIDS.
Four. If you’re a family with children. This teaches that the husband-wife bond is stronger than parent and child. It’s only YOUR SPOUSE you’re one flesh with. Parents, 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 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.
The way things were meant to be – again (Rev 22:1-5)
Well, that was THEN. The paradise of the first PERFECT marriage. But let’s be honest, marriages TODAY are often far from paradise. But rather than get discouraged, here’s one final encouragement. Be encouraged by the HOPE we have. The reality is, marriages, and life in general, 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.
Revelation 21 and 22 describe eternity. Rather than a garden, we’ve got a CITY. But it’s a city that’s modelled on Eden. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. And the thing about a city is you’re never alone. It’s always about relationships. ESPECIALLY with God who’ll be completely IMMANENT and WITH us. The way it was in the beginning.
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.