Today, as promised, we are studying the garden of Eden. I can't think of anything that has been more mythologized than Eden. As recently as the 1980's, Eden was finding new interperetations. In Star Trek Six, Eden was the shared planet of origin for humans, klingons and romulo-vulcans. Nations which will not accept the authority of God still have the knowledge of Eden ingrained in their culture. The Chinese symbol for East resembles a man working in a garden. Why? Because the garden of Eden was east of China. Some have made up their own history about it. The mormoms believe that it was in what is now the American southeast.
But for all of the mythos surrounding Eden we do know that it was a real place. It was in the middle east, at the north end of the Persian gulf. Possibly IN the Persian gulf. Bear in mind that this was the beginning of the human race, back before the continents had separated, and the gulf was likely dry.
Now we have a lot happening in this one chapter, so instead of examining everything in one big lump, let's take it bit by bit, a little like we do in Bible study.
Verse 1- The Heavens and the Earth were completed in all their vast array. Now there are some who take this extremely literally, believing that God never created anbything again after that. They believe that before a creature is conceived, it exists as a fully formed miniature within its father's seed. We now know that this is not true, but there is still some merit to this view. God is able to predict the outcome of everything with absolute certainty. While He may not have formed you or me directly from the dirt, but He was able to set up the conception of each and every one of us through the creation of our ancestors. In this way, He can be considered the creator not just of the universe, but of everything that has arisen within it.
Verse 2,3- God rested from all the work that He had done. Did He need to rest? I don't think so. The act of creation wasn't taxing for Him. It's not like He ran low on power and had to recharge. He doesn't sleep and didn't need a break. So why did He rest? I believe it was for pure pleasure. He had just created the world and saw that it was very good. Now I know that when I create something, I like to enjoy it. When I plant a tree, build a flower bed or set up a water feature in my garden, I really like to pause for a while and enjoy my handiwork. I believe that God simply wanted to pause and enjoy what He had made.
And why did He hallow the sabbath day? I believe there were two reasons. The first is in Jesus' statement "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath". in Mark 2:27. Despite the fact that we are made in God's image, we're not always very smart. God knew that if He didn't insist, we might spend every waking hour working, or worse, require others to.
The other purpose is revealed in what Jesus said next.
"28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."
God told us to honor the sabbath day and keep it holy. Not simply to avoid work, because that's not always possible, but also to remember that it is the Lord's day. Our lives can get so hectic that at times that we forget to dedicate time to God. Now in our church, it just so happens that we DO worship on THE sabbath. Most other Christian churches, with the obvious exception of the adventists, worship on Sunday. Is this wrong? If I were an Old Testament Hebrew, I might have said yes, but God has shown for the past two millenia that He's not really concerned about WHEN we observe our sabbath, as long as we dedicate a day to Him. This is very telling about God's character because it shows that a legalistic adherence to the rules is not what He wants. He wants US. It is our love that He desires, not merely our obedience.
Verses 4-6- Before there was life on Earth, God had already set in motion the cycles that would support it. There was no rain at the time. Our planet had a canopy of water which served a number of functions, including stabilizing the temperature, minimizing violent winds, preventing dehydration, increasing air pressure to optimum levels for organic life, and blocking harmful radiation from the sun and other celestial bodies. Under these conditions, humans could and often did live close to a thousand years. But because there was no rain, God had to make sure there was a source of water for the plants. and so He had streams coming up out of the Earth itself powered by what are later called "fountains of the deep". There were pressurized aquifers which had incredible levels of power. When they were ruptured in the days of Noah, they exploded with the force thousands of times more powerful than atomic warheads. It is awesome that God not only created these fountains, but ordered these incredible forces so that they would support life instead of destroying it. This alone demonstrates that God is more powerful than any force on Earth.
Verse 7- God made the first human out of dirt and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Thus man became a living soul. For many people I have had intellectual discourse with, this means that no other creature has a soul. But that is not what it says. Some will tell you that we can assume from the omission that no other animal was given a soul. If they had, the bible would say so. By that logic, we would have to assume that women don't have souls. After all, God did not form Eve from dirt and breathe loife into Eve's nostrils. He cloned her from Adam. We know that this is a foolish assumption. Why assume that if animals have souls the bible would tell us? The bible was not written for beasts. (For clarification, you can have all the fur you want, but if you can speak intelligently, you're not a beast.) After all, a beast is not capable of sin. He doesn't understand right from wrong. He doesn't need salvation, and like the angels, he can't really understand it anyway. And so the fact that God records the creation of Adam and that He gave Adam a soul bears witness to us not only that God gave us life, but that we need Him. It is not the fact that Adam has a soul, but that God told us about it.
Verse 8- Why did God form the garden of Eden? The primary purpose of creation was a gift for His Son, Jesus. He would inherrit the entire thing. The stars, the planets and all the life forms, from whales and dinosaurs all the way down to the smallest virus. Yet Jesus would not inherrit the garden of Eden. God knew that it would be destroyed long before He turned the universe over to His Son. And there is no plan to restore the garden either.
It would appear that the garden of Eden was purely for the benefit of His creatures, including Adam and Eve. In a sense, it was a cradle. It was a haven of safety and order where mankind and all with them would be nurtured until it was time for them to go out and tame the wilderness. Now who knows how long it might have continued had Adam and Eve not disobeyed God? But while it existed, it was a testament to God's love and caring for those He had created.
Verse 9,17- Why did God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden? As i said in a previous sermon, good without evil is undefined. What God wanted from Adam and Eve was their love. But love is not love if it is not voluntary. For their love to be real, there had to be an alternative. There had to be a way for them to reject God. And to this day, and as long as there are new people being born, God will always allow us the freedom to choose. Unlike allah, He never forces anyone to follow Him. Our love is always voluntary. And while i want you to understand that I am not saying that sin is good, God has used it from the beginning to make us more aware of Him, using evil as a background against which His pure goodness is sharply contrasted.
Verses 16,19,20- Adam had an honored position. He was to take care of everything that God had created. This was work. Work is one way in which we are created in God's image. He works, and He meant us to work as well. We should not think of work as a punishment or something to be overcome, but an opportunity to participate in God's divine nature. There also existed a special relationship between Adam and all the animals. Adam was, in essence, king over the animals. This also bears witness to God's caring nature. If He didn't care about the animals, would He have given them a king? Would He have given any thought to what to call them?
Verses 18,21-24 I have always found it fascinating that while God created mankind to worship Him (see the end of Ecclesiastes) He did not consider Himself sufficient company for a single human. It is hard to imagine God being insufficient for anything, but God decided that Adam needed a physical companion. Now this does not necessarily mean a sexual companion. After all, they tried every other species in the garden first. What Adam needed most was a helper and a friend. What this says to me is that while God is deserving of all praise, and He knows it, He doesn't have an ego. He is willing to admit when someone or something else is needed, and though this is counterintuitive, it does not diminish His glory one iota. Instead, it makes Him all the more glorious to us by demonstrating His love and providence.
Verses 25- Personally, I never saw the need for clothes. Most of you already know this by the fact that I normally wear only my own fur coat. There are those who say that nakedness is a sin, and for most folks, it is. Not because it is inherrently wrong, but because humans have made it necessary. But in the garden of Eden, clothes weren't necessary. God didn't insist that adam put some shorts on when they took their walks together. Now later in the bible, he told the Hebrews that there were certain people whose nakedness they were not to uncover. Is it because there was something wrong with their bodies? No, it was because the perversity of mankind had made it necessary. In the garden of Eden, everything God made was good, including Adam and Eve. There was no reason for them to wear clothing because everything God had made was perfect. The fact that Adam and Eve were running around naked bears witness to the fact that God is a good creator. A perfect and flawless creator, incapable of making anything bad. The fact that most people require clothing today is a testimony to just how far we have fallen away from God's intended purpose for us. (Please note that I am not advocating human nudism. God didn't make clothes necessary, but humans did.)
We've covered a lot of topics today. If I've done as I intended, I've left you with a lot to think about. But most of all, I hope that I have left you with a clear understanding of how much your creator loves you. I ask you to meditate on this during the week to come. Our next topic- the fall of mankind.
Today's Reading: Genesis 2
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.
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens--
5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground,
6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground--
7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.
9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.
11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold.
12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.)
13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.
14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;
17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh.
22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, ' for she was taken out of man."
24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.