Genesis; The book of Beginnings & Story of the Fall
Santa Monica Pier is where the western part of the continental United States meets the Pacific Ocean. It is the start of the western portion of Route 66, heading east. The first book of the Bible and the first book of the Old Testament records the beginning of the world, the beginning of sin, the beginning of God's plan and his relationship and covenant with His people.
Genesis 1:3 "And God said, 'Let there be light;' and there was light."
The word 'let' implies a gentleness not forceful or commanding. God spoke and everything came into being just at the sound of His voice. Obedient to His design. He is Lord over the inanimate as well as the animate. God ordered the universe from what had been dark chaos. The Bible tells us God created over a period of "days." There was even order to the process and the implication of time passing. A great clock of eternity had begun. When a day of the creation process ends, the same phrase is repeated. "And there was evening and there was morning, one day." In the original Hebew text, the author of Genesis, Moses, uses the word 'yom.' Elsewhere in the Bible, this world is used to describe an actual 24 hour period of a single day. Why should we suppose Genesis is different? Ken Ham in "The Answers Book, Volume One" explains that God was setting an example of what our life was to look like. We operate in a calendar of seven days, with one day of the week being designated for rest. If you scoff at the thought of the complexity of creation being accomplished in a mere six days, remember the words of Martin Luther who said "if you cannot understand how this could have been done, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you." I wouldn't want to follow a God that I could figure out all the time. That makes me more important than I am or my god very small. We are not equal with God. Creation is just one of the mysteries in building our relationship with Him that we touched on in previous posts. Does it matter how we interpret the Bible? I believe it does. If we allow ourselves to be loose in the translation of how it reads, it opens divine word to be corrupted by mortal man.
With a notebook that you have handy, make a list for yourself of what God created each day in creation. Personalize this list. What is your favorite? Are you a fan of sunsets? Mark when God specifically created those. Do you have a cherished pet, like a dog or cat? Note when they came into being. Re-read the verses and take a moment to picture what is being described and write down what tugs at your heart in each scene. Like the Santa Monica Pier, our first stop on Route 66, our beginning has many attractions. The Aquarium. A landmark Ferris wheel. A boardwalk stretching out over the water. Pause and use all the senses. When you think of God's creation on each day, what would you see? What would you hear? What would it smell like?
Another phrase is found at the end of each creation day. "And it was good." God's creation was perfect and could not be improved upon. Ponder a moment not only the order of everything but the complexity and variety. For example, God made the creatures of the air; their wing capabilities and their joints. The red-breasted robin is similar to but different than the black and yellow bumblebee, the soaring bald eagle, the spotted butterfly and the stealthy dragonfly! Spotted wings, rainbow of color, wings with teardrop shapes, wings that are a bit more square and so on.
Man was created a bit differently than any other item or creature of creation so far. There is a pause from God speaking "Let there be . . ." in Genesis 1:26. "Then God said 'let us make man in our image, after our likeness and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." From the beginning, God created us unique. We are His Magnum Opus. The apple of His eye. First of all, in verse 26, we read a plural pronoun. "Us" and "Our" is used as God is talking. Who else is he speaking of? Who else is present? Traditionally, this is thought to be the first reference of a Christian belief of a triune God, that is One God with three parts, not three separate beings.
Eternity has no beginning and no end, and the triune God existed together before He spoke the world into being. This is mystery #2 about our God. There is nothing in our realm to get our finite head around a god having three parts. Many have tried to explain this, see if one tugs on your reasoning. An egg as three parts, with three purposes that can be separated. The shell, the whites and the yolk. If you put each part in three separate bowls, would you say you have three eggs? No, it's one egg, three parts. Another word picture is one of water. It can take three forms. Liquid, Steam and Ice. Molecularly, it is the made of the same elements but have different forms in different environments. This example is a little more puzzling because the three forms of water can't exist simultaneously like the egg example. Finally, humans are made up of body, spirit and soul. What is the difference? The Physical, the Passions and the Eternal. We aren't three people, but there are three distinct parts that make us unique to the world.
As we read on in Genesis, we see that God creates man in his own image in verse 27. "Male and female, he created them." It is interesting to note that we are modeled after God Himself. We are set higher than the animals and even instructed to tend to them. They are not created after God's image, so what do we have that is unique? This has many arguable answers, but here is a few notions. We have a soul. A reasoning brain to puzzle out emotions, preferences, decisions. We are not driven by instinct but by free will. We have a realization outside ourselves. We recognize our reflection in the mirror. We have a sense of time. Personality, plans, dreams, goals. God's plan for his creation is spelled out at the end of the first chapter of Genesis even before He explains how humans were created!
Genesis 2:7 "And God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being." This creation was too special to just call into being with words like everything else before it. God intimately took time to hold this bit of creation in His hand and breathed his own air into man's lungs.
We have all heard the old adage that "ignorance is bliss." This can be true. With knowledge comes responsibility. God wanted complete trust from man, but to do so, He had to provide something that was off limits. If you are a parent, think about limitations you give your children. Why? Some things could be harmful. Like a stove, it is a tool for adults but children who do not understand how it operates or its purpose could get seriously burned. God placed a Tree of Life in the midst of the garden (Gen. 2:9) and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His prohibition of this tree for man was given for man's protection. It was man's responsibility from then on to obey God's decision. God generously gives man every other tree of the garden and sets the limits.
It is interesting to note that God is described in Genesis 2:4 differently than at the close of chapter one, verse 31. Here is is listed as 'God.' But at the beginning of chapter two, right before he creates man, He is 'Lord God.' To the Jewish nation, this is now "Covenant God." He is connecting Himself in an intimate way with this piece of creation like he had not done with anything else he spoke into being.
God then paraded all the animals in front of Adam, the first man to be named. This is for two reasons. When we have a pet, we name the pet. The pet belongs to us. In naming the animals, God is giving man dominion over the other creatures. Ownership, ours to maintain and care for and to take pleasure in. They exist for us. In doing all this naming, Adam realizes a very interesting distinction. All the animals are in pairs. The lions seem similar, but one has a magestic hairy mane and the other is a little more plain. The birds are paired together, one being beautifully colored, and the other in hues of brown. Adam is noticing that in all creation, there is nothing that looks like him. God agrees with man and for the first time declares something as 'not good.' "It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him." Genesis 2:18
Woman is created with the same intimacy as Adam, but differently. God puts Adam to sleep and fashions woman from a rib he took from man's side. When he awakes, Adam immediately recognizes Eve as like him and names her. Like the animals, God has deemed that in a pair, one leads in their partnership like a dance. Adam names Eve, so he is to be the family leader. Chapter two ends with "and they were naked and not ashamed."
If this were a movie, this is when the grand music would play, people would clap at such a great story. But like all classics, there is a twist in the plot that shows up immediately in chapter three.
In chapter three of Genesis, Satan enters in the form of a serpent to tempt Eve into eating what God has specifically forbidden in chapter two. Whoa. Where did this guy come from? Who is Satan and why is he (excuse the pun) hell-bent on bringing people into sin? To get our answers, we need to jump ahead a bit in the Old Testament to the book of Ezekiel 28:1-17. Here is the snapshot, although I recommend you reading the entire passage for yourself.
- Verse 2 "Because your heart is proud and you have said 'I am a god' . . ."
- Verse 8 "They shall thrust you in the Pit and you shall die the death of the slain . . ."
- Verse 12 "You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty . . ."
- Verse 13 "You were in Eden . . "
- Verse 15 "You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until iniquity was found in you . . ."
- Verse 16 "You were filled with violence and you sinned so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God. . . ."
- Verse 17 "Your heart was proud because of your beauty, you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor . . ."
Now let's turn to Isaiah 14:12-15 and compare this with what Ezekiel wrote. Isaiah reads, "How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn. How you are cut down to the ground you who laid the nations low. You said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven above the stars of God I will set my throne on high, I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High. But you are brough down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit."
Satan was a created being by God. He was created blameless and exquisite. The Bible tells us he was full of beauty and wisdom and like humans, was given free will. We know this because apparently, Satan got full of himself quite quickly and aspired to overthrow God from His throne. There was a lot of assertions of "I will...." in that verse. He was quick to boast and God severely punished him for it. He was thrown in the Pit, also known as hell.
Revelation 12:4 tells us that Satan coaxed a third of the angels to join him in his revolt against God. The received the same punishment. These angels are now known as demons. When he was an angel, Satan was known as Lucifer. It is interesting to note, that although angels are also created beings with an obvious free will such as ourselves, they have no redemption as we do. God would sent Jesus to become the price for our sin and allow us to have a restored relationship with God and eternal life with Him in heaven. Not so for the heavenly beings. Their sentence was immediate and eternal.
From that moment on, Satan in his pride fanned a hatred toward God and all that He holds dear. Since we are made in God's image, we have and will always be public enemy number one to Satan. We are in his crosshairs and he takes great joy in not only creating problems for us, but wanting to steal God's Word and ultimately keep us out of heaven. There is a real spiritual war being raged and will continue until the end of time when God wins. A great novel on this perspective of spiritual warefare is Frank Peretti's "This Present Darkness."
Adam and Eve in the Garden, Confronted by the Serpent
Let's rejoin Eve in the garden of Eden. There she is enjoying all of the provisions of God in a world that up until this point is sin-free and perfect. She enjoys relationship with God and her husband and knows no fear. Enter Satan, fallen angel, full of pride, anger and hatred. He was probably seething watching this graceful creature that God so dearly loved. Satan is a liar and Eve's temptation begins innocently enough. Satan asks her a simple question.
Genesis 3:1 "Did God say 'you shall not eat of any tree in the garden?'" Hmmmm. Satan called God by his name prior to the covenant title used in 2:4 of "Lord, God." Already downplaying the intimacy between God and man in his jealousy.
This is what God actually said in Genesis 2:16-17 "And God commanded the man saying, 'You may freely eat of every tree of the gardn but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die." Hmmmm. God commands the man who is to tend to the woman. Satan ignores the man and goes directly to the woman with his question.
Eve's answer differs from that a bit. She replies to the serpent in Genesis 3:3 "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but God said you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die." Satan causes her to re-think the parameters which God set for them in the garden. Instead of seeing them as loving boundaries like a parent would for the hot stove, she began to see the forbidden fruit as something she was being denied unjustly. She had forgotten about every other good and perfect trees she could have her fill of and instead obsessed about the one tree she could not have. She dug herself in deeper when she acted without consulting her husband. Do not misunderstand. She did not need Adam's permission, per se, but they were created as a team. She was tempted by the beauty of the fruit. Where was her husband? Why didn't she think to even have a conversation with him about it before acting independently? Adam was to protect his wife and give counsel to her but instead he allowed her to take the lead and together stepped outside God's will and took a bite of the forbidden fruit.
How Satan must have enjoyed his moment of victory in this little battle. The Bible tells us, like Satan, when Adam and Eve sinned, their sentence was immediate. Genesis 3:7 reads "Then the eyes of both were opened and they knew that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons." Didn't take them long to realize what a big mistake they had made. Where was Satan? Suddenly hidden from the picture, having done damage to God's perfect creation. What changed? At first Adam and Eve were created unashamed and now they were. Not two verses later, our compassionate God seeks them out asking "Where are you?" in verse 9 of chapter 3.
Now, did God really not know where Adam and Eve were? Did he lose them? Psalm 139:12 tells us that "even darkness is not dark to thee." No, God's question was rhetorical. God is omnipotent meaning He knows everything so he wasn't stumped. It was God's way of asking Adam, "Do you realize what you have done? Do you realize you have separated yourself from Me?" The broken relationship between God and man was man's doing. This incident is known as "original sin." From this moment on, sin is in the world and everything changes.
First, God addresses the serpent. So, Satan is nearby watching the unraveling of the bond between perfect God and the apple of His eye. Verse 15 reads "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He shall buise your head and you shall bruise His heel." The natural recoil most of us feel when we see a slithering snake is recorded here. It is a promise of things to come. The offspring of the woman who will crush the serpent's head is Jesus who will stop Satan's ability to feed on us with his redemptive work on the cross. The serpent 'will strike His heel' meaning he will have his day when Jesus is crucified and it will be a painful journey, but not fatal. God is allowing Satan to wreak havoc on the earth, but Satan will be unable to stop God from delivering the believers. More on that later.
Next, God deals with Adam and Eve. Because of His Sovereign nature, God cannot abide with sinfulness. Adam and Eve's disobedience earned banishment from the perfect Garden of Eden. At the end of chapter three in verse 21, we read God lovingly clothes them properly. "and the Lord God (there's that covenant title again) made for Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them." Skins? Not leaves. Something had to die to produce the skin. It is the first recorded sacrifice made for attonement of sin and foreshadows the coming of Christ who will one day be the Lamb of God. Think also what part of the body they were covering. The genitals are from which the future generations come. Not the eyes or feet or head, they need not be covered. They were aware of their nakedness or sinfulness not only for themselves, but for those to come.
God sends Adam and Eve from the garden actually for their protection. Until redemption can be made through Jesus, it was dangerous to have them near the tree of life, for if they ate of that in their sinful state, they would be damned forever. God already has it in His mind to send Jesus, but He has a few lessons for man to learn first. The world changed from beautiful and balanced to difficult and violent. They would have to work hard to produce that which God was already freely giving them. The ground would become hard to plow and full of weeds. Their relationship with each other would take work to be harmonious. The weather would no longer be perfect but turn angry with storms. The animals would begin to prey on each other and man needed to protect himself from both the elements and wild beasts he had once lived peacefully among.
God's character and purpose have not changed. He still desires for relationship with His people and will begin the training of their hearts and generations are born. Next: Israel and the Twelve Tribes.
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