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First Things

August 25th, 2014

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:25

The creation story ends with human life, male and female, created, brought into intimacy with God and into community with one another. The order of this account is beautiful and peaceful as well. Because we are made in God’s image, we human have godly ambitions, and though sin has marred us we still have within us a desire to know what we are made for, how we were made to function. We are not able to cope with the sheer idea of purpose - raw, formless, unattached to any means to function. We need some forms, institutions, concrete matters to see our duties clearly. And these God simply and beautifully supplies in this second chapter of Genesis.

This is not all that is said in the Bible about duty, but the simplicity of these first matters is beautiful in and of itself. Life in today’s world is too fast, too complicated, and too overwhelming for us, and within each of us there is the longing for something more simple, plain, concrete, clear, and this chapter provides it. It puts first things first - and I do mean “things” and not just ideas, concrete matters of life.

A job to do: We are bored without some purpose to give our time and energies to. We need rest but we need work more. God placed Adam in the garden to tend it and take care of it. The oldest profession is not prostitution but farming, or gardening. This is not just to sit and harvest without thought, to lazily pick the fruit that plants bear on their own. Rather it is to be actively engaged in helping and supervising the natural life of the plants. We also in our lives today need jobs to do, specific forms of work, and in this work to take pleasure.

Ecclesiastes 3:22 says, “So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot.” Work does not demean us, rather it gives us dignity and significance. To find a job that God has led us to, that He has provided for us, that He has gifted us to do, that lays not just within our abilities but also within our interests and even our passions is a precious thing. Even more so if we can see that this job, this specific work benefits others, blesses the creation of God, helps provide needed commodities to those around us - food, life, enjoyment, education, health, protection, etc.

A family to enjoy: The initial marriage was one of love and support. The absence of shame refers not only to their physical condition, but to their conversation and life together. It never entered Adam nor Eve’s heads at first that the other would say anything unkind, that there would be any basis of rejection, that Adam would complain that Eve had let herself get a bit flabby, or that Eve would find a basis of rejection for Adam. In their love was acceptance, peace, harmony, and mutual support for what God had given them to do.

The sheer harmony of everything God created is seen in these early chapters, and we are wise if we take this lesson to heart. In this world our lives can so easily spin out of control, overly busy, distracted, harassed, pressured, and worn out. We need to return to these simpler days of our race.

A question we might ask is whether God intended Adam only to work and Eve to tend to the family matters. But the answer of the text is that Eve was Adam’s helper in all that he did - and this role was not a belittling of womanhood, rather simply the statement that she shared Adam’s work and purpose. And, despite the biological differences between the sexes, Adam also was concerned with what happened at home. They were a team together and derived support and strength from one another.

God to worship: The early forms of worship were different from our forms today. Since the advent of sin now we worship God through the sacrifice, through the promise of the Redeemer and our Redemption before Christ, and in the observance and celebration of His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection since He has come.

The early days of human life, however, were not like ours and their worship took the form of simple relationship. Though we now approach God through Christ our Savior, the outcome of the grace we receive today is similar to what Adam and Eve enjoyed in the days of innocence - intimacy with God.

So we may add prayer to this list of forms - work, marriage and family, prayer - that are given to us. In prayer we affirm our need of God and our trust that He cares for us. In our fallen-ness we have complicated prayer because of our senses of guilt and shame, our fears and worries, and prayer for us lifts our spirits as we pour out our hearts to God. But still the beautiful simplicity of the form of prayer, the celebration of relationship and the expression of intimacy with God, reveal to us the first things of life.

I will stop here, though perhaps we could add schedule for the week also seems to have been instituted by God, though there is some question about that, whether it came here or later on under the Mosaic Covenant. Too often our schedules terrorize us, and here in Genesis 2 there is no command to observe or not observe the Sabbath. No starting times or quitting times; it is all in harmonious balance.

So let me invite you to return to the simpler things of life - see yourself as God’s special creation and let these early forms help you in your balancing your life. Work. Family. Prayer. There is a sacredness about all three of these.

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The Living Soul of Man

August 22nd, 2014

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Genesis 2:7

The psalmist asked God, “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4), and this is the question we seek to answer in this study.

In some ways human life is just as all other life - the word translated “soul” in the King James - “man became a living soul” (nephesh in Hebrew) - was used also for the animals that God created (Gen. 1:20-24 and 2:19). And in Genesis 2:19 even the animals are called “living creatures” or “living souls.” Our body chemistry is similar to the animals - our senses, our nutritional needs, the gestation cycle of infants, the general human life span, etc. - all of these are not very different from the rest of creation.

The secret to understanding the significance and purpose of human life is found in the original intention of God - that we would be made in His image and would be given responsibility to subdue and rule over the earth, and to multiply and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). In this image we also have the remarkable ability to communicate with our Creator, to know Him, to have a relationship with Him. This also is one of the purposes for which God made us - not just to work and procreate, but to know Him. When God breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life, Adam was animated to fulfill the purposes for which He had been created. From the moment of his creation and while still in his innocence Adam was divinely enabled to do these things - to know his Creator, to rule over creation, and to multiply.

That the main purpose of humanity is to know God there can be no question, as this is repeatedly the emphasis of Scripture. The divinely inspired psalmist wrote: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). Christ said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Adam’s and Eve’s (or Eve’s and then Adam’s) temptation was to substitute something for God - to replace knowing Him with trying to satiate the unsatiable lusts of the human soul, to elevate ourselves in His place (pride), to try and unseat the One above all, and even if it was to only unseat Him in their hearts, it was rebellion against God all the same - spiritual high treason.

The Apostle Paul, as the Spirit enabled him, understood and wrote about the nature of Adam being passed down to us, as we are his offspring. In 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, he compared Adam, “the man of dust,” with Christ, “the second man.” Just as we in our natural bodies have inherited biologically the physical nature of Adam - from dust we came and to dust we return - in Christ we who believe have received His image. God has not left us unredeemed. He did not turn His back on us in utter rejection, and in Christ reverses the Adamic curse.

Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

We have not only inherited from Adam our biological nature; we have also inherited from him our spiritual nature. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” These words of Paul are sometimes considered the most difficult theology of the entire New Testament, but I believe the meaning of Paul (or more appropriately of the Spirit) is clear enough, and we can understand them easily if we will let the words stand in their simplicity. He means to say that it is common knowledge that all men and women sin, that this character flaw is found in the entire race. Some sin without having ever known the teachings of God’s Word or the standards of God’s Law, but those who have been properly taught still sin in that they do not obey it perfectly. And it is all because every last human being is descended from Adam and his spiritual nature, along with his biological nature, is passed along to us.

But in Christ is our redemption possible, and we who believe have the promise of bearing His glorious image after death - “we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He truly is” (1 John 3:2). And we have the promise of bearing His spiritual image while we live - “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29).

Another trait of human life as it was created and revealed in the original plan of God - we have the capacity to learn and grow and change, and in this we are different from God - this is the limits of bearing His image. God is forever and always the same - from eternity to eternity - “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). We have the promise of fullness of knowledge in heaven - “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor 13:12). - but here on earth we learn and grow. To fulfill the purposes of our existence require that we be redeemed by Christ, that we are brought back into fellowship with Him in a salvation or conversion experience. But from that point on we grow. We grow in our relationship with God. We grow in understanding and fulfilling our obligations toward the creation. We grow in understanding and in fulfilling our obligations to one another as well, to pass on blessings to the next generations.

Why is God mindful of humanity? Why does He care about you? Because He has not given up His original hopes and plans for creation. He desires that you know Him, and this is possible through Jesus Christ. He desires that you grow in this knowledge and in this relationship, and that you bless those around you, even the created order itself. And the amazing and plain truth is that our hearts know these matters, that no human being is truly fulfilled until they have given themselves to these purposes. We are made to make a difference, and in Christ we can do exactly that.

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