In the Beginning, Part 2
WELCOME Well, if you're visiting River City this morning, we want to extend a warm welcome to you, thank you for joining us today, whether you're just visiting with family or a friend, or you're considering making River City your home church, or maybe you're just wanting to give church another try. Regardless why you're here, we're glad you are and we hope you not only hear a message of hope, but that you experience the grace of God through our interactions with you today. SERIES GOAL/PURPOSE Today we continue our look into the Story of God, where we are taking a large flyover of all of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, with the intention of seeing the Bible not as a collection of stories, poems, songs, and genealogies, that we must somehow figure out how to fit into our own personal story, but as One unified story that all of our stories are absorbed into, with one singular purpose; one finish line, if you will. FINISH LINE And the finish line of the Story of God is that the whole earth, every tribe, nation, language, race will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as waters cover the sea. That one day, every single person alive will be fully immersed in understanding the glory of the Lord, because he himself will be living with us, present with us. That's the end of the story, that's where all of this is headed, and so this morning we open the book to the first page to peek again at the beginning. So, if you have a Bible with you this morning, or you read through an app on your phone, I invite you to turn to Genesis 2
"I ONLY BRING THAT UP TO TRY TO IMPRESS YOU"
Now remember as we come to Genesis again, who is our author?
Moses is our author, and he's writing this sandwiched between Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and the various gods of Egypt, and the Promised Land and the various gods and worship practices of the people there. And here in the desert in the middle, Moses is wanting to show the Israelites what this God that has delivered them from slavery is like.
So Genesis 1:1-2:3 is about God's relationship to creation. Chapter 1 showed us that God, or in Hebrew, Elohim, is the mighty one. The Creator. He can create things that didn't exist before with just a word. He presides over it as the one true King, the mighty one who holds it all together with the power of his might, where massive galaxies full of billions of stars are almost footnotes.
Then we get into chapter 2 and the first couple verses of Genesis 2 are picking up where chapter 1 left off, and speak about the rest that God took at the end of creating everything. Now what's fascinating here is that God has stopped creating, but he hasn't stopped working. Jesus would say in John 5:17, when people got upset with him because he was healing people on the Sabbath day, the day of rest, he said, "my Father is always working, and I am working also." He doesn't pause every 7 days to take a break, even though he's commanded us to. We are designed to need sleep to refresh us every night, he does not. We will learn later on in the story of God that there is an even greater rest that sleep cannot accomplish that we are invited to enter into.
And then strangely, verse 4 now seems to start the whole story all over again: "Now these are the records of the heavens and earth, concerning their creation." But there is something very, very unique about this new creation account that opens the floodgates again for us.
At the time the LORD God made the earth and the heavens...up until now, all through the beginning of Genesis, Moses is calling God, "Elohim", the mighty one. The high king. The all powerful one. Now, Moses adds something to the story. A different name for God. Look in your Bibles in verse 4. What is it? We
translate it in our English Bibles as "the LORD", but this name in Hebrew is Yahweh or Jehovah. It is his personal name, wrapped into his relationship to humanity. We translate it LORD, with all capital letters, so every time you read that you should think personal God, relationship establishing God.
The Israelites reading this already know him by this name. In Exodus 3:15, God said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel: 'The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is my. Name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations."
Moses is reminding them of God's personal name to make a point: The God who led the people out of Egypt, calling this nation to himself, personally involved in their story, revealing himself to them by his name, this is the same God who created the heavens and the earth! Yahweh Elohim. The Revealed Mighty One. If Chapter 1 is the language of a king, God declaring, creation responding, He calls it good, then Chapter 2 is the language of a craftsman. The Lord God forming, planting, causing, taking, placing, responding, and rejoicing. And for the rest of chapter 2, it is this galaxy-forming, sun-creating, time and space making God, that is personal and near and intimately involved in creation, specifically in the culmination of his creation, which happens in 2:7, where God forms the man out of the dust, in his own image.
Now, Yahweh Elohim, the Lord God, is now personally involved in his creation, no longer just speaking and things come to be, but shaping, forming and breathing the breath of life. The most intimate exchange of creation. God's breath breathed into man and the man becomes a living being.
Puritan pastor and commentator, Matthew Henry: We are miniature worlds, a mixture of heaven and earth. Our body made out of the earth, and filled with the breath of heaven. God made the sky, then filled it. Made the land, then filled it. Made the water, then filled it. Made humans, and filled them. In him we live, and move, and have our being.
This next section, from 2:4-2:17 is about God's relationship to humans. And in chapter 1, we read that he created humans, both male and female, in his image.
I want to park here for a second again. We talked about this last week, but this thing of being made in the image of God can be a confusing idea. What does it mean to be made in God's image? Well, we gather by the example I used last week, that a statue, or an image, or representation of a king is someone who works, talks, and acts like the king would.
Some people think it means we share characteristic with God, like our ability to reason, our ability to love, the fact that we are creative, etc. But what happens if someone in your family is born with, or experiences a brain injury, and are unable to be creative or reasonable? Are they any less in the image? What happens if someone takes on Alzheimer's, or Parkinson's disease and toward the end of their life, they don't know who you are much less how to sacrificially love you: are they any less in the image of God than you? The reason some people gave to justify owning slaves was they said they were less in the image of God, due to factors like lack of education or skin color.
That's why when we come to the place and significant of human life, we can't throw around human characteristics as what makes us valuable or significant. That's why we said last week, you're value doesn't come from what you're able to contribute. Sometimes Jodi and I both need reminded that if we/you were in a hospital room, straightjacketed to a bed, or in a month-long coma, God would not love us any less, nor would we be any less the image of God for that month then we were the month before or after when we are active and participating in creation.
Your significance does not stem from your family, your property, your business, your income, your creativity, your ability to have kids or not, your ability to work or not, your ability to lead a Bible study or not, your ability to navigate life perfectly or not -- even though, in all of those things we are imaging God to the world.
Our significance as humans comes from the fact that God made us for a purpose -- that the whole earth would be filled with his glory as we represent, and participate with, him in creation. PERIOD. That's what it means to be made in God's image. It's not just something we do when we're at church -- this is something that takes over every area of our lives; the way we view our work, the way we view our words; the way we view our world.
God plants a garden, and puts the man there, verse 8, and in Gen 2:9 this garden is full of goodness. Can you imagine this place? I know when we hear garden we think little truck patch or something you can handle with a decent rototiller and a couple spades. This is more like a national park. The LORD God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food. Do you see how personal Yahweh is? He knows what you think is beautiful. He knows what you think is delicious. And he provides it for us! This God is so personal that he knows what you think is beautiful and your favorite fruit.
The trees are pleasing in appearance. It's full of goodness and promise! It's beautiful, artistic, majestic, it looks amazing! The trees are good for food, they are producing, they are growing. And at the end of verse 9, he points out two trees that are named: The tree of life is there in the middle as well as the tree of knowing tov and ra.
(Tov) = Good; Good in English can mean moral goodness, it's cosmically right, or good food (enjoyable, pleasurable)
(Ra) = bad, unpleasant, harmful, disastrous (not enjoyable, un-pleasurable); Evil in English is connected to moral evil - loads in too much cosmic wickedness
Deuteronomy 1:39 - knowing tov and ra is a way of talking about a mature human
1 Kings 3 - I'm too young to know tov and ra
Isaiah 7 - The child will.... before he knows tov and ra
The humans have been given great responsibility, but they are depicted as being in their moral infancy. They must have a knowledge of good and bad. That's the wisdom we need as part of ruling. We need to know when it's good to pick the apples and when it's bad. We need to know when tearing something down is good and when building something would be good, or bad.
Knowing good and bad, tov and ra aren't bad things -- but what is evil, and what unleashes hell here on earth, is when we begin to define tov and ra for ourselves instead of allowing God to define them for us. Because sometimes what we think is good for someone or something is actually harmful. Sometimes what we think is bad for someone or something is actually good. We don't know because we haven't created the world! We don't know how things are supposed to work.
This is like God handing them matches and saying start a fire. But it's going to take wisdom. Wisdom knows a fire in your house can be good or bad. In the fireplace, in the winter, it can be a beautiful thing. In the living room or on the sofa, it can be deadly.
V 15 - The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden to work it and watch over it. And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die."
Because he is the mighty one who created the world and saw it was good, we need God to make the decision between good and bad for us. The tree is the alternative to hanging out with God and trusting him to give them wisdom. Tree in midst of garden, even if you're eating from the tree of life, right beside you is the alternative. The tree represents two ways of learning. Will they choose God's definition of good and bad, or determine it for themselves.
Isn't this true of our experience today? Even when we're eating the tree of life, we're feeding ourselves on the word of God in the morning, our to-do list is right there in our head. Even when we're in church, hearing the word preached, right beside us is the alternative encouraging us to think about lunch or what shirt he's wearing or if those are new shoes over there or not, or a quick check of Facebook.
God says, "It is not good for the man to be alone." (I think he saw the way the man kept his dorm room or eating habits or something.) "I will make a helper corresponding to him."
Ezer - indispensable salvation. The one who is provided to be savior, rescuer, helper of the man - life, multiplication. God is the only other ezer in scripture.
In Ps 121:2 the psalmist writes, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” David writes (Ps 124:8) that “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”