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After reading about creation week, the story picks up in the garden of Eden.

It makes sense to me why no one knows exactly where this garden was (or is). Just because we don’t have some coordinates for it doesn’t mean that it never existed. As a matter of fact, it seems that a physical place on this physical planet where human beings were in actual, physical communion with God, in perfection, would forever be unreachable.

Of course there is a common belief about the general area. Like it was for sure in the Middle East. The Bible tells us that it was in the ‘east’, and how a river flowed from it and then broke off into four other rivers. It would seem that we should be able to trace these rivers back to a point of origin, but Martin Luther made the observation that the pathways of said rivers, and all other topography, would have been obliterated by Noah’s flood. As it stands now, only two of the rivers can be identified with any type of certainty.

It is safe to say that the exact location of Eden will remain a mystery until the time when all mysteries will be revealed.
The author sees fit to pack a ton of information into this second chapter. [And of course it doesn’t stop there. We have thousands of years crammed into the Bible. Hello, the entire creation of the world is comprised of thirty-one verses! It’s no wonder that we get so much going on in so few words. All the more reason to tread carefully, right?].

Genesis 2 closes up the creation week, gives another name for Elohim, introduces mankind, moves man into the garden, sets man up with his ‘house’ rules, puts man to work, and then introduces him to womankind.

But before we can move on from creation week, I need to make a special announcement, and so here it is: the first chapter of Genesis is a set-up for the second chapter, and the second chapter goes in and expands on certain parts of the first chapter.
I point this out because people like to try and say that what the Bible talks about in Genesis 2 doesn’t match up with Genesis 1 and so there are loopholes in the Bible. Well, I’m telling you right now that there aren’t loopholes, and there isn’t even any room for speculation.  The words that were chosen were chosen for a reason, and we must read them as they were meant to be read.

Since verses 1-3 of chapter 2 finish up creation week, and we’ve already talked about that, we will pick up in verse 4.

Let’s begin.

“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” Genesis 2:4

This verse gave me a hard time, which gave me a hard time with the verses that followed, and I will tell you why.
I didn’t even realize that verse 4 was the problem because I was spinning around and around verses 5-7. I was spinning around and around verses 5-7 because my brain was automatically skipping over verse 4, and I had no idea it was all because of one word.

Generations.

My brain didn’t like this word. I was thinking about it in the context of family trees and since that didn’t apply to what I was reading, because man and woman had barely been created and all, I was subconsciously looking for the answer elsewhere.

This is a no-no.

What resulted from me ignoring verse 4 was me spending a really long time trying to figure out what was going on with verses 5-7, and by long time I mean a long time. Like a couple hours. On just two verses. Two verses that are basically simple when the verse in front of them is understood.

So by and by I began to take my time, and went back and deliberated each character, and I was praying for guidance and clarity, and my eyes came to rest on that word: generations.

Ah, there you are, my elusive troublemaker.

Once I had identified the hang-up I was able to do what I do best: finding out what it meant.

By looking at several other translations, and using my lexicon, I came to understand that ‘generations’ meant ‘geneology’ in the broad spectrum of ‘an account of history’ and not in the more narrow one of grandfathers, fathers, and sons. I have found that it is really helpful to gain traction when I have options. At the risk of sounding patronizing, allow me to explain: the different translations of the Bible choose different words based on how closely, or how easily, they resemble the original words. We are talking about ancient languages, here, so some of us may want the most closely resembled translation, or some of us may want the easiest. There isn’t anything wrong with either. I read the English Standard Version, which is considered to be “essentially literal”, so that the reader can have the most original feel. There are those of us who don’t want to learn Hebrew and Greek, but we also don’t want to overlook anything due to simplicity. For me, the more complicated the better. This is what draws me into the Word, while it is the same thing that could discourage others (for these people, the more simple translations would be better for sure).

Look at it like Shakespeare. Some of us, like myself, love Shakespeare because we like how each word blossoms as we read it, and only by reading each word and seeing them all together do we find a beautiful bouquet.

Take this renowned quote from Romeo and Juliet: “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?”

When I read that my brain wants to embark on the journey of discovering what it means. I enjoy the play on words as Shakespeare continues to explore the metaphor of light, referring to Juliet as the sun rising in the east, and how everyone else is the moon, jealous that their light does not shine as brightly. To me, it’s just genius. It causes me to know in a way that is outside of my every day.

Then there are those of us who like the abridged versions, the ones who like to just go to the flower shop and buy the bouquet, forget about each word blooming in the mind. Because, really, all Shakespeare is saying is: “Shh! A light has come on in the window.” But a lot of people don’t feel connected to his words because the prose gets in the way.

Once again, one way isn’t better than the other. We are both getting the story; we both wind up with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, and that’s what really matters.

But I digress.

So right at the beginning of chapter 2 the author is telling us that he has just finished giving an account of creation.

I know it shouldn’t have been that hard for me, but it was.

Did you notice what else the author said?

He said, “…LORD God…”

Up until this point God has been known as Elohim: the one true God, the Creator.  Suddenly there is this concept of LORD, which is YHWH in Hebrew. Without getting too complicated, let me give you a quick rundown. The ancient Jews considered the name of God to be so reverent that they would not pronounce it out loud, so they removed the vowels from the spelling. Clearly, YHWH cannot be pronounced. Biblical scholars have studied these four consonants and decided that the name was probably meant to be Yahweh, and in keeping with the Jewish tradition the English translations of the Bible use LORD.

The point is to recognize that LORD, in all caps, is the name that Elohim goes by in reference to His relationship with mankind. It is God’s covenant name. LORD, Yahweh, means “the existing One”. It is the name when we see I AM, like when Moses asked Who was in the burning bush and God said, “I AM Who I AM.” He is promising that He is Who He has always been, and will always be, forever and ever and ever and ever.

Why promise that?

We’re getting to that part.

God introduces Himself to the cosmos as Elohim so that not a single atom or molecule has any doubt as to why they are a piece of whatever they are a piece of, and Who put them there. With YHWH, LORD, He is properly introducing Himself again.

I know that it seems overly complicated, but do you see?

He is introducing Himself to us.

The earth calls Him Elohim, we call Him Yahweh, so that we need never doubt His existence, we need never think we are alone. It brings us back to why we, humans, were created, and that is for community with God.

We don’t see this name before humanity was created, and that’s because there was no one to say it to.  It might not seem like it because the phrase comes up eleven times in chapter 2 alone, but the title is used very rarely, and almost always in the Old Testament. Each time it is used it always reflects a special relationship between God and man.  Immediately after the creation of humans there is an exclusive and delicious covenant between mankind and our Maker, Who is still the same- LORD God.
The covenant was in the actual name being used: we treat God like He is God, and He will treat us like He is God. This is a win/win scenario every time.

“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up- for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground- 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 2:5-7

Remember how I said that I was having a hard with verses 5-7 because I wasn’t understanding verse 4? There just seemed to be no reason for these vastly differing concepts to be used together.

Eventually I had to take out the entire portion in between the dashes and read it like this:

“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground…”

Any clearer yet? I didn’t think so. But it’s definitely a lot less complicated sounding.

But this is a perfect example of needing to check other translations. The punctation from verses 5-7 was really killing me. Look at how the NIV puts it:

“Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth, and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

There. Now that makes quite a bit more sense.

You wouldn’t think that I would get so hung up on it. But I do! I just have to know.

Orginally I thought there was a lot of craziness going on. I forgot my original creed of reading what was written, and began to think that there was a lot skipping back and forth. Once I recognized that we were looking at an ‘account’, a narrative, I was able to take each piece and evalaute them and then put them back together.

Allow me to demonstrate:
-“Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up,”
-At this point no new vegetative growth had taken place. On day 3 of creation, God had called the plants to sprout up out of the ground, and He had equipped them with seeds, but there had yet to be actual germination of those seeds that resulted in little baby plants. In a nutshell, all of the plants were fully grown and there were no new ones starting to grow yet. I’ve also heard it speculated that the author is eluding to the time when Adam will later be cursed to eat “the plants of the field”, as opposed to the fruits of the trees already provided in the garden. I don’t think it hurts to acknowledge the presence of metaphor here.
-“for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth”
-For whatever reason, God did not send rain until He destroyed the earth by flood in the days of Noah.
-“and there was no one to work the ground,”
– God wanted Adam to work the ground. He wanted Adam to nurture the garden, and plant seeds, and grow more plants, and take care of them. He wanted Adam to experience the joy of creating and making and working in a perfect environment. Don’t be mistaken, people. Work is good for us. It keeps us focused, and what better way for Adam to worship God than to be working on what God had made? What more of a reminder that he was created, that everything he touched and worked on was created, by a powerful and everlasting Creator?
-“but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.”
-God still took care of His earth. Yes, He wanted Adam to work the ground, and yes, He made plants first, and no, there was no rain, which is what causes plants to grow regardless of who plants them, even so, God provided a mist that went over the plants to hydrate them from the ground up. And I think that’s really cool.
-THEN God reached down, molded the earth, and breathed life into the human and he became a living being.  Wow.

“And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed… The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:8 and 15

What I never realized before I did this study was that God created the man, breathed life into him, and then planted the garden of Eden. It was like he was giving Adam a present. I imagine that Adam got to watch the process of God making “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (vs.9). He watched God scoop out that amazing river which went through the garden, and not only that but he was with God. God’s own Spirit had breathed life into him. They were connected not only in perfection but in their similarity, which came from man being created in God’s image, from man breathing the breath of the Spirit. Both the Hebrew and the Greek words for Spirit mean ‘breath’. Coincidence? I think not.

I think our English translation loses the uniqueness of what has happened with the word ‘put’.  In verse 8 ‘put’ is a simple verb.  God put man in the garden, as in He picked him up from wherever He had created him and set him down in the garden.  Then there is a description of the garden and the rivers coming out of it. Then, in verse 15, the word for ‘put’ is a sacred one. It is the same one that was used in reference for when God put His people in the Promised Land, a secure place where they could rest (Deut. 12:10). It is the same word used when Moses commands for manna to be put in the ark of the covenant in order to always remember God’s faithfulness (Ex. 16:33-34).  We can establish that man was put in the garden to rest in the safety of God’s presence, where he could fellowship with his Creator.

Wow. Just, wow.

I mean, I feel like I see this giant smile on God’s face as He walks with Adam through the garden, “Here is your garden, my friend. I made you this place so that you could call it home, so that you could take care of it, so that you could have a small taste of the satisfaction I have experienced in making all of this happen…”

I originally assumed that taking care of the garden would look a lot like eating fruit and petting puppies. After all, if the world was perfect, surely actual work wouldn’t be a part of it! Thankfully, I came to realize that the first couple of chapters in Genesis talk about seeds and planting so much because mankind was actually supposed to plant the seeds. God made all things good, and hard work is good for us. It was part of the original plan! I mean, how rewarding is hard work? How much more do we appreciate something that we have built or cared for with our own hands?

Also, you know what, to all of you who are afraid of Heaven because it sounds boring to the max, if work was part of the perfect world than I’m sure it will be part of our time in Heaven, which will also be perfect. I think this is because the original word for ‘working’ the garden is the same one as ‘serving’. It is worship to the ultimate Creator to tend to His creation, to nurture it. God gave the man an actual way to express his love and gratitude to God, to fully appreciate all of the wonders of creation, and this was by serving the garden. Acts of service are such a good way to feel close to God, and it’s no surprise that the devil uses selfishness to keep us from identifying with our Creator.

‘Keeping’ the garden is the same word for ‘keeping’ house. Just because God gave Adam the garden for free didn’t mean that he got to throw his banana peels wherever he wanted. He was compelled to respect his home, which was an act of respect to the One Who had given him his home. I’m not sure who’s currently taking the credit, but Adam was probably the first person to start a compost pile. Especially since he was supposed to take care of the plants. Everyone knows that compost is the best thing to take care of plants with.

Imagine that God was giving Adam a grand tour of the garden. Imagine that He and Adam were walking through the garden, and God may have been pointing out some spots where He thought some roses might look nice, and He may have been explaining the merits of composting, when they would eventually come upon the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Dun dun dun.

Now, these trees are briefly introduced in verse 9, but the author comes back to them in verse 17, after saying how God put Adam in the garden to work it and keep it. God is giving Adam his ‘house’ rules. One of those ‘house’ rules is that Adam can’t eat from the second tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17).

Let’s take a minute to talk about this.

In a perfect world, why would God make rules? Why would He ruin everything and give Adam a commandment? Some people like to say that God actually created sin when He did that. That it would have never crossed Adam’s mind because Adam was perfect, but God just had to plant the seed, and planting the seed was as good as done. It was like God made an apple pie with the forbidden fruit in it and offered Adam a piece, and after Adam commented on how good it was he noticed that God was just standing there, shaking His head. “What?” Adam asked, “Something on my face?” “Dude,” God said back, “How can you be so gullible? You just ate the forbidden fruit, man.” And then God walked away and all of mankind was damned to hell.
If that’s really what you think happened, I’m going to have to tell you to stop being so naiive.

God doesn’t make mistakes.

You want to know why there were two trees, and why Adam was commanded to not eat one of them?

It was because he was created in God’s image. Imago Dei: “in the image of God”. Being in the image of God means we have free will. We would not be in the image of God if we did not have free will. We’ll talk about this more in the next chapter. For now, keep that in mind. And look at what happened like this:

As they came upon these two trees, God would put His arm around Adam’s shoulder and smile softly. “Here is the tree of life, my friend. Every tree in this garden is yours, except for the tree of life. This one is mine. I love this tree, and I’m going to share it with you. You can eat from all of your trees, but you can eat from mine, too. Now, Adam, about this other tree, I have something I need to tell you. This one is mine, too, but this one I’m not going to share. Because I am God, I know everything, and I am capable of knowing everything. There are things that I, because I am God, should be the only One to know. Adam, when I made you I had to make you capable of knowing everything, too, because I want to share the good things with you. The good things are so good, Adam; just look around! You wouldn’t know they were good, though, if you weren’t like me. You have to be able to know. Do you understand what I’m saying? I’m asking you to leave it at that. Know the good things with me, my friend. Leave the rest to me. Because if you know the rest, you will die. If you know the rest, we won’t be able to be like this anymore. Everything as you know it will cease to be. Everything is hanging on that, and I know it is a big risk to take, but I want to take it because I want to share Myself with you. I want to share all of this with you. I want to take care of it all, and keep making it wonderful and amazing. If you eat from this other tree, though, this tree of the knowledge of good and evil, I won’t be able to take care of things anymore. It will be up to you, and you won’t be able to do it, Adam. You won’t be able to do it because you won’t be able to give life like I can. All of this hinges on Me, Adam. It exists because of Me. If you eat from this other tree, you will take life from all of this, and that is why I don’t want you to have it. Stick to the tree of life, and we can enjoy all of this forever. Forever, Adam.”

It seems a crime to just carry on after such a scene as this, but we must. We must. Not to worry, we will get back to this in the next chapter, because that’s what happens in Genesis anyway.

All of this is still day six, people. You may have never noticed this before, but it’s true. God made the animals on day six, then He made man, then He planted the garden of Eden and put man into it, they had their talk, then God brought the animals to Adam to be named and then He created the woman.

People like to use the part about Adam naming the animals to say that the Bible contradicts itself. Mainly, people just like to use anything they can to say that the Bible is a load of crap. Studying these supposed contradictions has caused me to learn how cohesive and timeless it actually is.

Let’s take a closer look at what I’m talking about.

“And God made the beasts of the earth…Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image…’” Genesis 1:25&26

“Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them…” Genesis 2:19

I once heard an entire sermon preached on this assumption that Genesis 2 doesn’t line up with the creation account of Genesis 1, and the point of the sermon was to say that the Bible contradicts itself, so don’t focus on the doctrine of the Bible, instead focus on the need to make people feel loved.  I understand that the strongest point this pastor was trying to make was that Bible-beating doesn’t do any good, and I would agree with that.  However, discrediting the Word of God discredits the need for the Word, which is the need for Christ, Who is love (1 John 4:8).  Without a faith in the Bible we will not be able to love the way that we need to.

Not to mention, there is no actual contradiction.

Readers like to take the passages of the Bible at face value. This simply isn’t the way the Bible was meant to be read. You cannot read the Bible and absorb what it says just by reading it. You can’t read, “Who, what, when, where, why, and how.” It has gotten to be kind of a trendy thing to talk about ‘unpacking’ scripture, but that’s a pretty good way of putting it. There are stories inside of the words, and there is a point to each story, and the time it was written, by whom it was written, and to whom, all really play a part.

We need to read what was written, which means we need to learn what was written.

I know I’ve said that enough by now.

When it says in chapter 1 that animals were created before man, and in chapter 2 that God made the animals and then brought them to the man (who was presumably created first in order to have something brought to him) we have to go back to what we know about the Bible.  First, chronology to the authors of the Bible is never really a priority, and that is typical for Eastern ancient literature in general.  This is not my personal opinion but a historical fact, so if you are miffed by this we will have a hard time moving through the rest of the Bible. Second, English is a translation, which means it is our responsibility to be familiar with the original if we need to.

When verse 19 says that God formed the beasts of the earth and then brought them to man it is merely a reiteration.  The actual tense of the verb ‘formed’ (some translations say ‘had formed’) is pluperfect, which is the past of the past.  Pluperfect is the same thing as past perfect in modern day English, and of course that doesn’t really make any sense to us because we never really thought that the myriad of tenses we learned in middle-school were ever going to be that important. But when looking at historical translations these are seriously a big deal. We see pluperfect tenses all throughout these beginning chapters of the Bible, and it’s the same thing as adding ‘had’.  Basically: it refers to something that occurred earlier than the time being mentioned.  God HAD formed the beasts of the earth, and THEN He brought them to man to be named.

Enough said.

One of my favorite authors is Donald Miller, who wrote Blue Like Jazz.  I really, really love this man’s words.  I read and reread his books and the margins of the pages are covered in arrows, stars, parentheses, brackets, underlinings, and an outpouring of my own reactions.  For the most part I agree wholeheartedly with everything Don (can I call you Don?) says.  He makes sense of things that are hard to make sense of.  BUT, when it came to this topic about Adam naming the animals, I had to disagree.  He was speculating that it must have taken Adam a hundred years to wander the earth, finding the animals in their habitats so that he could name them, and that as he went from place to place and saw these pairs of animals he began to know that he was a solitary creature, and so when God made Eve he was capable of being thankful for her.

In all of this, Don was making the point about how often we get so sidetracked in studying the Bible that we forget to read the Bible.

True.

But when we read the Bible we need to read what it actually says.

“Now…the LORD God… brought [the animals] to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name…But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man.” Genesis 2:19-22

It says God created the animals, and then God brought the animals to Adam to be named, and then God made woman. Since we know that both man and woman were made on day six, we know that Adam had to have named the animals on day six too.

Basically, it didn’t take Adam a hundred years to name the animals. Adam didn’t climb mountains and cross deserts, becoming old and tough as leather, growing out a heinous beard and staining his teeth from chewing on black walnuts as he wandered.
Verse 19 specifically says that God brought the animals to Adam to be named. There is no indication that there was any effort involved, and I think that’s so cool.  I think Adam was probably feeling pretty awesome, seeing all of these strange and wondrous creatures, getting to meet them and then name them. And since a horse is a horse is a horse, and there was no such thing as breeds back then, it probably only took a few hours max.

Also, Adam had no needs.  He was living with God!  He may have recognized that there was no creature like himself, but he didn’t know what it was like to long for someone.  We know what it feels like to be separated from somebody, but Adam had no idea what that felt like.

Adam very well could have been curious about being the only one of his kind. I’m sure he probably asked God if there was anyone else like him. But I think it was impossible for Adam to feel an emptiness without Eve, same as I won’t need anyone other than God when I get to Heaven.  That may be hard to wrap our minds around, but I really believe that I will know my husband in Heaven, and he will know me, but the expectations of our relationship will be completely overcome by our reverence and worship for God.  We will cease to be married because our purpose in Heaven will not be to nurture one another but to be in the Father’s presence.  That’s really something serious.  It’s terrifying, and exhilerating, and kind of makes me want to throw up, but I accept it’s not something I can fully understand because I’m not there yet.

Also, God didn’t “forget” to make Eve.  The story in Genesis reflects a process that the reader can digest, since we will never know what Adam and Eve experienced (i.e. the perfection of living in Eden in communion with the LORD God).  I do think that it wasn’t a mistake that Eve was created after Adam saw that there was no one else like him.  I’m sure when he opened his eyes and saw her, recognizing her pieces and parts, he was thrilled.  As a matter of fact, the very first words we hear out of Adam are poetry:

“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Genesis 2:23

Donald Miller goes on and on in his books about how we can feel the Bible when we are willing for it to talk to us.  How the Bible is so much better when we feel it. And I love that, because it’s so true. When Don says that he points out that evolution makes no sense because there is no explanation for love. This is probably my favorite thing that I have ever read in all of his books. Because it’s so true. Man was made by God, woman was made from a piece of man, and so the two are meant to be one, same as we are meant to be one with God. Same as He gave us free will when He made, because He made us in His image. He also gave us love, because that is also part of Who He is. God putting that love in us is perhaps our greatest testament to the Word of God.

I think that’s a perfect way to wrap up this second chapter.

Throughout the Bible we see the same story being told over and over again.

Perhaps this is because history just repeats itself.  The same events are being recorded, only with ever more modern themes.  I think this points to the blatant fact that human beings are inherently the same.  We have the same instincts, the same natural inclinations, and we are always trying to fight them and each other.  Even in this age of elevated thinking and heightened awareness (uber, if you will), we still see countries trying to dominate one another, and people groups trying to stamp out their competitors.  People still buy and sell their own kind, for various purposes, We are still doing unthinkable things for unthinkable reasons.

The process behind Noah’s flood really isn’t that hard to digest.

We just think it is because it will never happen again.

We get to boast and brag and complain about a flood that wiped out human kind because we have the promise, from God Himself, that it will never happen again.

[If you are interested in the actual science behind the flood account, I can point you in the direction of an amazing organization called Answers in Genesis.  You will find any and all answers to absolutely every question you could have, especially when it comes to science and apologetics relating to the accounts throughout Genesis, particularly the first few chapters.  It’s truly fascinating material. answersingenesis.com]

Right now, though, I’m going to talk about the spiritual side.

Regardless of our religious affiliation or background the majority of us probably know the story of Noah.  God tells Noah to build an ark, the animals go in two by two, the floods go up and the rains come down, and everyone but Noah and his family die.  We sing the cute song with the hand motions, and we see the terrifying images of people clinging to rocks.  It’s kind of weird that we smile and laugh and dance with our children about it: it really is the stuff of nightmares.  I think it’s easy to sing the song.  But this was the real deal, and I don’t think Noah and his family were lounging on cushions discussing their new world resolutions as the great deluge raged about them.  They probably really wanted to save people.  Like really, really bad.  I think only the absolute worst kind of person wouldn’t want to start hauling the lost people up onto the boat.  Which is exactly why it wasn’t the worst kind of person being saved.  I think Noah and his family probably had nightmares for a long time.  After the earth begins to recover we find Noah passed out drunk, and I really don’t blame him.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

What if the story of Noah isn’t about why God sent the flood, but why He chose to save Noah?

After all, Noah wasn’t just someone that got the lucky end of ‘eeny meeny miny mo’.

The author of Genesis is so incredibly specific about the way he/she writes.  This person used parallels, narratives, and wordplays constantly.  The average person would immediately become bored if I even tried to lay it out and make the comparisons.  We can rest assured, though, that the author is very deliberate in what they choose to say, and how they choose to say it.

We go immediately from Adam and Eve, on through the geneology, and on to the introduction of Noah.  “Lamech…fathered a son, and called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands’.” (Genesis 5:29).

This is just plain astonishing.

The Old Testament is full of names that reflect the person’s character, long before the character would even be revealed.  The process for this is a mystery and a wonder, but I don’t think it was ever coincidental.  From this simple verse I get the feeling that Noah’s father was a believing man, and that he had a glimpse from the Holy Spirit of the part his son would play in the making of history.  He must have been the one to teach his son Noah the ways of God, since nobody else believed anymore.  I’m not saying that he was of the strongest character, since the following verse shows that Lamech had other sons and daughters, but it doesn’t say anything about their character.  As a matter of fact, they must have been very wicked indeed because they were not chosen to be saved with Noah.  We don’t see Noah being supported by any of his family, and that is truly a tragedy.

Thank goodness for Noah.  The story is really about him, and why he was so special.

The Bible is chock full of God being faithful to His blessings.  It’s easy to think of God as punishing people, but the very first thing He did was bless the earth, and bless human beings, and He continues to bless them even after terrible things happen.

As people we deal with emotions and reactions that God doesn’t have trouble with.  We think of building a project, the project doesn’t work, so we get frustrated and throw it out.  Thankfully, God is not the ‘giving up’ kind of God.  Aborting what He had made (i.e. torching the earth and sucking the life from Adam and Eve) would have gone so completely against His nature.  He saw what He had made, and He knew that it was good.  He would nurture it and provide a way, always.  Mankind was made in His image; the entire earth has His thumbprint all over it.   For all of those reasons it didn’t make sense for Eve to be the one to give birth to Jesus and have the great sacrifice be made during that time.  Adam and Eve had lived in actual physical communion with God.  They chose a different way.  Jesus came exactly when it was appropriate for Him to come, and thousands of years later we still talk about Him, and He still changes lives.

There isn’t always an answer that puts to rest some really deep questions.  We will never know the depth of God or His reasons behind things, until He actually tells us.  I like to think of those blessings, though, the ones He wants to keep on giving and giving.  Since I’m by nature a control freak this helps me submit to the Bigger Picture.

The problem with the world in Noah’s time, though, is that everyone was wicked.   Everyone.  And the word ‘wicked’ isn’t just some favorite Bible-ism.  It means ‘morally bad’.  Everyone at that time was morally bad.  We all know what happens when people have no morals.  Here is where we see that infamous term Nephilim, who verse 4 of chapter 6 calls “the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown”.  The Bible doesn’t really elaborate on what this could mean, but the explanation from Matthew Henry makes the most sense to me: “The wickedness of a people is great indeed, when noted sinners are men renowned among them.”  As a matter of fact, there was no hope for God’s plan of redemption since everyone was so corrupt.

Except for Noah.  The Bible calls Noah a righteous man.  It says that he walked with God.  The last person we hear about walking with God was Enoch, towards the end of chapter 5.  Twice in two verses it says he walked with God.  In fact, he must have walked with God right up into Heaven, because one day he literally disappeared and verse 24 says that God took him.  Enoch is the perfect example for anyone seeking life: walk with God.

We know where walking with God got Noah.  It got him onto the ark.

“And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.” Genesis 6:6

It’s hard for people to read this part, and I think many try to use awkward passages like this as a scapegoat for choosing not to believe the Bible is true.  It would surely be against God’s character to regret something because He never makes mistakes.  Therefore, we must remove the possibility that God got it wrong the first time, and wanted to send the Flood so that He could have a do-over.

Instead, let’s look at the things we already know: the author of Genesis constantly uses wordplays, it was his/her style of writing.  Also, God is an emotional God.  Not in the unstable way of us humans, but He feels things deeply and beautifully and this is how we find ourselves so drawn to Him.  We have to allow that humans wrote the Bible, and therefore the Bible describes God’s actions and emotions in terms of human actions and emotions.  God’s holiness must regret what sin had done to those created in His image.  He had an amazing plan for the earth, and for living in communion with all of His creation.  His heart was surely broken.

God had told the serpent that the woman would bear a seed (a child) that would crush the serpent’s head.  Jesus was going to come and be the ultimate sacrifice.  That was impossible with the way things were going.  You have to remember:  every single person was corrupt.  Maybe this is seriously hard to believe, but I don’t think it really is.  People were still pretty primitive back in those days, and not in a caveman kind of way, but people back then had nothing.  Literally nothing.  They had nature, and everything else had to be thought out, imagined, and created by them.  They didn’t have options, they didn’t have supplies, they didn’t have history to consult, they didn’t have the time to learn what we already know.  Already in the second generation, the second generation of all human beings of all time, there was murder.  It only got worse from there.  God even gave men a 120 year grace period to get their act together, which they didn’t do (Genesis 6:3).  God couldn’t let the earth remain cursed.  He had already made His promise.  So He had to make it possible for the promise to be fulfilled.  It doesn’t matter what we as human beings try to do, God will always make a way to keep His promises.

Which is why the story of the Flood isn’t about God destroying the earth but about God saving Noah.  As a matter of fact, we don’t see a whole lot about the actual flood, and we don’t get any further insight into the other humans except that they were continually evil.

But not Noah.

Noah walked with God.

As we saw with the example of Enoch, walking with God literally means life.

It said that Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. It doesn’t even say that he was perfect, it just says that he was blameless in his generation.  He was righteous because he chose to be righteous in a time of complete delinquency, and this saved him and his family.  It doesn’t even say that his wife and his sons and their wives were all that great, but apparently they got grandfathered in on Noah’s good marks.  In just a few short verses we read four times that Noah did what the Lord had commanded.  This was to include building the ark, storing food, and setting aside the animals.  Building that ark is what developed Noah’s trust in God.  He would surely need it for what was to come.  Without that trust he could not have been so patient.

I don’t think there has ever been another person as patient as Noah.  He didn’t even have sons until he was 500 years old!  It was another 100 years before the Flood came, do some math and calculating it could have taken up to 75 years (maximum) to build the ark.  Remember the part about people not having access to supplies?  It’s not really a surprise that it would take decades to build such a massive structure, and then supply it with enough provisions.  Noah and his family sit in the ark, all sealed up, for 7 days before the rain even comes, and the bad weather continued for 40 days.  Weather so bad that the tectonic plates shifted, earthquakes were going nuts, volcanoes were exploding, the heavens were pouring down rain (which no one had ever seen before) and the animals were probably going berserk.  I can’t even imagine.  The floodwaters didn’t even begin to recede for 5 months, and it took two more months before the ark came to rest on top of a mountain.  But wait, there’s more!  It was another three months (we are looking ten months by now) before they could see more mountaintops, and then Noah spent some time sending out birds to check and see if the land was dry.  After a whole year of being on the ark Noah takes off the top of the ark (had they literally been sheltered this entire time?) and sees the land.  But it was almost two more months before the earth was considered ‘dried out’.  Even then, Noah waits for God’s command to leave the ark.

Noah is legitimately a saint.  Once things quieted down could you even imagine how annoying your family would have become?  I wonder if this is when dogs became man’s best friend?  At any rate, I hope this family was able to discover the hidden treasure of the parrot, or how much fun monkeys are.  This is probably when chess was invented, or even monopoly, which is why nobody really likes to play that game, especially not families.

This is where the part about epic repetition comes in: we get a condensed version of the creation story (it happens again with Abraham, and with the nation Israel).  God calls out Noah and his family, and all of the living creatures.  He then blessed all of nature and every living thing.  Just like in the beginning He tells them to be fruitful and multiply.

The first thing that Noah does when he comes out of the ark is make a sacrifice to God.  He starts off right.  He knows that God has spared him and his family, and he wants to honor God.  And then God blesses Noah.  Just like in the beginning he tells Noah’s family to be fruitful and multiply.  He tells them that they have dominion over the entire earth, just like Adam and Eve did.  He warns them, too, that the responsibility is not to be taken lightly: it is their right, as beings created in His image, to rule the earth as they were intended to, but to be aware that they will give a reckoning for their actions.  How many of us know that responsibility should not be taken lightly?

The rainbow isn’t God’s sobriety coin.  We aren’t supposed to look at it and think, “Man, it’s been so long since God lost it and flooded the earth.”  I can’t stress enough how in control God was and is and always will be.  We cannot think of Him in terms of our own reactions and feelings.  He didn’t throw a temper tantrum, or lose it on His kids like we tend to do.  He is God.  The One True Sovereign Being.  Remember, He gave mankind 120 years to try and turn things around.  This isn’t just chump change of time.  And He wanted to redeem the earth because He loved it and knew that it was good.  He didn’t want to turn His back on it.  So He waited, as a patient God is willing to do, and then He took action, as a just God is willing to do.  If He had turned His back on the earth I imagine mankind would have killed themselves off long ago, and I wouldn’t even be sitting at this computer trying to convince you.  It really is so obvious that the story of Noah is about redemption.  It’s about God keeping His promises.

The rainbow is another symbol that God has given us.  He loves to give us symbols, as reassurance to us because, let’s be honest, humans need a lot of reassurance  (“Do you love me?”  “What do you like about me?”  “Will you ever betray me?”).  God’s heart is for us, and so He works with us, and not against us.  Just like the tree was a real tree, but an actual symbol of free will, so the rainbow is a real rainbow but it is the symbol of God’s promise.  He doesn’t need it like we need the Serenity Prayer.  It’s not his count-to-ten, or mantra (“I will not destroy the earth ever again, I will not destroy the earth ever again, I will not destroy the earth ever again”).  It’s not the tattoo that says, “I got this right after that really bad time in my life so that I never make those mistakes again.”  In case you haven’t understood me by now: the rainbow isn’t for God, it’s for us.

I wear my wedding ring to show the world that I am committed to my husband.  People can look at my hand and know that I am married, and they will then know that they cannot ask me on a date, or try to hook me up with their friends.  Okay, so that really does happen, but the purpose of the wedding ring is still the same, regardless of whether or not others respect it.  Or even if I do.

Just as God established that covenant with all the flesh of the earth, covering it with the umbrella of the rainbow, He also wants to establish a covenant with each individual piece of flesh, if you will.  The animals don’t have free will, they don’t have souls, they are adornment of this earth, but mankind was made in God’s image.  We are meant to be in covenant with Him.  I have found that by sacrificing my own life to His plan, even though it will never compare to the sacrifice and trust that was required of Noah, that I too can be provided for and spared the ultimate death that will inevitably separate us all unless we choose a different way.

Before we explore further, I want to take a minute to reflect on a couple of very important verses. They are so important that they basically set the tone for the entire rest of history. It’s really true.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’”. Genesis 2:16-17

What do you see? What stands out to you? Usually the only thing people want to see about these couple of verses is that God says not to do something. Let’s mature that approach and try to see what is really being said.

Well, for starters, we see ‘LORD God’ again. The God Who is with you is the true God. God has just given man dominion over the earth, but the author wants us to remember that God is sovereign.

We read about the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I wish there was something witty I could nickname these two because typing out and referring to both is more tiresome than you might suppose. There isn’t anything clever, though, and perhaps that would be offensive to a lot of people anyway; they might consider that it would ‘cheapen’ the story, and we couldn’t have that. While these trees were actual physical objects, growing up out of the earth and spreading their branches and casting shadows, like any good old tree will do, they are, most essentially, symbols.

Return to the romance of the Bible with me for a moment.

I have been learning a lot lately about how the Bible has been broken down to formulas and blacks and whites, when the one who actually wrote it wasn’t even that type of person. God didn’t use formulas for creating His amazing masterpiece of the world: I can’t even begin to list His ingenuities and intricacies. Jesus Christ didn’t speak or teach or live in blacks and whites. He told stories. He drew people out of themselves and into Himself. You could actually get really sappy thinking about how wonderfully romantic it all is.

The Bible is God’s way of speaking to us and through us, and I think we forget about that because we are reading the bullet points for our lives, making notes, and referencing the dos and don’ts so that we can think we are better than Adam and Eve.

I’m not supposed to read these two passages like this:
“And then, Rebecca, the Lord God commanded these people, under penalty of death (I say again, death!), to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They could eat from the tree of life, and all of the other trees, but most certainly not the other. He would have commanded the same thing of you, if you had been Eve, and so what are the trees that you should not be eating of, Rebecca? I can think of a few. You eat them under penalty of death and you are bad at life.”
The story of Adam and Eve isn’t a subliminal message, it’s just a story. It is history, and we should be aware of history. For sure to offer us guidance and guidelines, too, but, for crying out loud, the whole entire Bible is about REDEMPTION and not about how Adam and Eve weren’t supposed to eat from one stinking tree but they ruined everything for all time because they were idiots and so then there had to be murder and 10 plagues and lots of famines and the Romans took over anything and lambs were getting their throats slit all over the place, dogs are eating their vomit, and everybody has to buy a plot of land years in advance so people don’t have to max out their credit cards on your behalf when you die.”

I LOVE, love love love, that the Bible is a book about knowing God and being known by Him and that it’s NOT a textbook. This idea lends perfectly to the concept of the trees being symbols.

Life is all about choices. Red shirt or blue shirt. Chocolate cake or a jog. Grand Canyon or Disneyland. God’s plan or my plan.

Let’s hone in on the very first words that God speaks in Chapter 2 verse 16, “You are free…”.

Enter free will.

Technically free will was ingrained in mankind when we were created, but this is where we are seeing it for the first time. Free will. What is it? The dictionary says that it is the ability to act at one’s own discretion. According to the Bible, we could say that free will is the ability to make choices that may or may not align with God’s will. We were created in His image, and in our innermost beings we understand what His will is, both by the helping power of the Holy Spirit, and by the guiding light of the scriptures. We must decide if we want to align ourselves to that, to reach for the outstretched hand of the Spirit or to ignore it, to shine the truth into our lives or cover it up. Perhaps most beautifully, I heard it said that we cannot make someone fall in love with us. No matter how much we may reach out to them, we cannot make them feel the same way in return. And what a glorious, amazing, wonderful thing it is when they actually come to love us in a genuine and real way.

I have always wished that I could give a better response to the dogged approach that humankind never asked to be created. I kind of just have to accept that nothing I can think of will appease someone who marches under this banner. I don’t really want to appease someone like that, anyway. These are the type of people that like to be disgruntled about something, even if they are trying to negate their own existence. I didn’t ask to be created either, and neither did my husband, and neither did my children, but I am so glad that we were. In these people my joy is complete, and in my heart I know that God feels that way about all of us, about humankind. I was reading a book the other day and the author was talking about this idea that his friend had, and idea that was actually pretty revolutionary in its simplicity. It goes like this: if God is really so powerful, so perfect, so amazing and majestic as He says He is, than the most loving and merciful thing He could possibly do would be to create a people that could also share in it.

Chew on that a minute, why don’t ya.

Please do not be mistaken. God did not put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to be a temptation. Adam and Eve knew that they had free will. It isn’t about just the tree. The choice is always there. God isn’t a beating-around-the-bush kind of guy. He is direct, and He should be. Free will is a reality, and it needed to be addressed. He stood more chance of Adam and Eve wandering off and finding some other way to get into trouble than if He hadn’t said, “Life is made up of choices. I’ve designed it to be beautiful, please choose my way.” We don’t just cross our fingers and hope that our kids never hear about drugs. Not at all. We say, “Drugs are out there. People will try to make you do them. It might be fun to start with, but they can get you into a lot of trouble. They can ruin your life. Your life can be so easy if you just say no to drugs. I will do everything in my power to help you, but eventually the choice will be up to you, and I hope you are strong enough to make the best one.”

At least, I hope that’s what we’re saying.

We need to stop being mad at Adam and Eve.

They knew that Satan was out there. Seriously. Satan and his cronies weren’t some kind of huge secret. Adam and Eve knew about the angels, and therefore they also knew about some angels who lost their minds and were separated from God and Heaven and became the devil and the demons. They knew that being separated from God was the worst thing that could possibly happen. God told Adam and Eve to guard the garden. He didn’t say guard the garden and then walk off. He said guard the garden because He had a reason to. It’s not like God just wasn’t going to not create anything because Satan was out there. That would have given Satan all the power; that would have made him the beauty thief that he so desperately loves to be. Satan can’t stand anything beautiful. He used to be beautiful, and in trying to become more beautiful he became the most hideous. God knew that Satan would be after the garden, and He warned Adam and Eve. He actually warned them!
Someone, somewhere in time, would have committed the first sin. It would have been you. It would have been me. We have all given in at some point, even when we knew it wasn’t right. And not just a society’s-standards wasn’t right, but a deep, in-the-pit-of-our-gut wasn’t right. We see God knowing what is good over and over and over. God knows what is good. We can enjoy this good by trusting Him and obeying Him. This isn’t as bad as it sounds. It’s really not.

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.”

Obeying God doesn’t mean we can’t do something: it means we can do SO MUCH. Instead of focusing on one tree it’s not a good idea to eat from, let’s focus on the entire garden that we are free to take part in. An entire garden! Who cares about one tree when we have an entire garden?! But we do, don’t we? Somehow, we always seem to care about the one tree. I would like to challenge you to stop it. Just stop it. When you feel that rising up inside of you, that ‘what if’ and that ‘but but but’, just stop it. Just say, “Stop it.” Because the story isn’t over yet.

When we decide that God doesn’t know what is good we must decide what is good on our own, and that actually doesn’t work, because only God knows what is good. From the beginning He made only what is good. Not okay, not bad, not average, but good. It was all ALREADY good. And then came humankind, with free will. Would they say, “Yes, this is good. It is good for me.” Or would they say, “Wait, I want something else.” The creation of woman is the absolute pique of God’s goodness, and Him bestowing that on us. Same as God made man for Himself, He made woman for man. If Adam were alone there would be no one to share with. And sharing is a joy. That’s what this is about, people! Not taking! It’s about sharing!
God is eternal, and He was willing to share that with us. When man decides what is good for himself he sacrifices that longevity. In every sense of the word. Even though God said that if they were to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would surely die, it didn’t mean that they would drop dead in an instant. It meant that they would move into their own autonomy, which would be outside of God’s original plan, which included eternity. Death, decay, destruction, those were the alternative. Man didn’t really know that, but they were willing to take the chance.

It seems that we are always willing to take the chance.

My favorite author said that God created Adam and Eve with minds that could be so easily deceived because they were innocent. In one second he is saying that the two fell for a trick, and also that they committed a betrayal against their Creator. I guess this is all true in its most basic form. But Adam and Eve weren’t gullible. Imagine this scene: I tell a 2 year old that I will give him a million dollars if he gives me his piece of candy. I actually don’t have a million dollars, I just want his piece of candy. He doesn’t know that. So he gives me the piece of candy, and I run away laughing and yell, “Suckaaaa!” while he starts to cry. This is NOT what happened with Adam and Eve. They weren’t simple and pathetic. They were given the ability to make their own choices, which meant that they were sharp, and mentally sound. They had been warned and well-equipped. They were strong, inside and out. They just made the wrong choice. They allowed themselves to be deceived. After all, they were created in God’s image, so they already had all knowledge.

We have to think back to the simple thing the author of Genesis doesn’t draw attention to: Satan wants to be God. This is his obsession. This very moment he wants to be God, and he actually thinks that he stands a fighting chance. Still! He wanted the key to the earth, so he made it sound like Adam and Eve would get something when they ate the fruit, even though he was really just stealing from them. Adam and Eve already had everything, so it boils down to the really heart-breaking truth that they allowed themselves to be conned.

This is basically the worst thing I can possibly imagine. I have grown up being separated from God. I know what it feels like, and I don’t like it, but I have never known anything else. I have heard people blind from birth say that they don’t mind being blind so much because they have never known anything else. Being blinded after seeing is something totally different. Adam and Eve must have been so completely terrified and horrified when the presence of God went from them. We went from God being in us and through us, like light beaming through a window, and then the curtains are drawn. Sin doesn’t mean we are all born serial killers, it means we are born in the dark, and we can’t function properly because we were designed to operate in the light. We can’t behave appropriately in the dark because we need the light to see, and to act how we were designed to act. Eating the fruit, betraying God, must have been the coldest, loneliest, scariest choice that ever was.

I am so thankful that God sent His Son for us. He didn’t want to give up on an eternity with us. He made us to share time with, and He wants us. We just have to choose if we want Him. I do, and I choose Him, and there is not a single day that I regret it. Of course I am constantly practicing my free will, but I am so grateful for the Son, who made it possible that I can still enjoy fellowship and spend eternity in Heaven with my Creator.

Why do we always act like God is crazy? We are made in His image. These feelings that you and I feel, longing, love, connection, friendship, joy… They are all His feelings. Let’s stop acting like God doesn’t know what it’s like to feel anything. The pain of Adam and Eve choosing the fruit is the pain of your spouse wanting a divorce, it is the pain of your child saying, “I hate you”, it is the pain of a friend choosing a different friend. In any age or stage of life, we can always know the heart of God because His heart is in us. Let’s stop acting like He is some grandiose, egotistical bullying manipulator. That’s the serpent. Anger, jealousy, shame…those feelings didn’t come until after that original sin. That is the ‘knowledge’ that Adam and Eve thought would be so cool. Those feelings exist because of the fallen angel, who actually was grandiose, who was the introduction of egotistical, who has bullied and manipulated all the days since his exile. Let’s start looking at how things really are. These aren’t just CGI-inflated, PG-13 rated, imaginative tales. They are real flesh-and-blood chronicles. When you take the time to open your mind, to break them down, you can really start to see that, and apply it to your own life.

If you are anything like me, you probably get embarrassed when you think about Adam and Eve being naked, but not just that, they weren’t embarrassed! They weren’t even trying to hide from each other. They weren’t trying to play it cool, posted up behind some bushes. They weren’t even exasperated, like, “Man, I’m still naked?” The disturbing part is that they could have been hanging out at Starbucks, totally and completely naked, and when they stood up you could have seen the chair marks where you normally can’t see anything, and they would have been acting like nothing was out of sorts. This is a really important bit of foreshadowing, because later, after sin had entered the world, Adam and Eve were suddenly ashamed to be naked. This wasn’t the Emperor’s New Clothes here, where they thought they were prancing around in a cute sundress and a comfy pair of shorts and breezy v-neck, only to realize to the screech of a baboon that they weren’t. It’s not like a naked dream, the kind where everything starts to fade in and realize you are sitting on a toilet in somebody’s living room and have to act like you actually aren’t. What happened was that these people realized they were naked under God’s judgement. They realized that their good wasn’t actually good at all. The fruit didn’t open their eyes to goodness and enjoyment after all. The coveted knowledge that was to make them like God actually caused them to see that they weren’t even like each other, and they didn’t like it.

They actually took off the glory of God, and this is what left them feeling so exposed. This is why it is right to wear clothes. It is a symbol of how we have taken off God’s glory, and how we can no longer be in our original state. Our bodies must be covered until that time we can trade in these jeans and band shirts for a robe of splendor and righteousness. Only a husband and wife are meant to know the entirety of eachothers bodies because the marriage relationship is a symbol of the relationships God has with us. This is why I get really annoyed when people want to take liberties with their bodies. They want to obey the rules of wearing clothes, but not really. They want to show as much as they can. Let me tell you what, there are a lot of natural things our bodies were designed to do, but because of how man took off the glory of God and traded it in for the knowledge of things like shame and insecurity we must remain covered and modest regardless of our personal beliefs about breast-feeding and bikinis, for starters. I, for one, am SO glad toilets aren’t just like garbage cans, set up where the most traffic goes by, with easy access.

Here is where where my favorite author got it so right. Adam and Eve got all of their security from God shining through them. He gave them their identity, and when He was around they were naked but not ashamed. As soon as they committed that betrayal the light inside of them died, and they became insecure. They had sold their identity. They didn’t know who they were anymore.

They wanted to hide.

It seems that no matter how hard we try, we can never hide from the truth.

They tried blaming each other. They tried blaming God.

I think people tend to imagine God getting very angry, and hurling apples at Adam and Eve. Heck, hurling fireballs We tend to feel sorry for Adam and Eve because we know what shame feels like, and that guilt causes us to imagine a scene of violence and horror. We think that Adam and Eve ran skittering for the gates, with God screaming after them like the Beast screaming after Belle when he finds her in the forbidden West wing: “Get out! Get out! Geeeeet ooooouuuuttt!”

I wonder what we would imagine if things hadn’t become so visual in our society.

Would we be able to see what is actually written?

Of course God knows what has happened, but He is kind enough to help these foolish humans through the process. Adam and Eve have hidden. Normally, they would be in communion with God. “Where are you?” God calls out. He knows where they are, of course, but He is drawing them out. He asks them what happened. The spectacular part is that He listens, and He already has a plan. Before He even says anything to Adam and Eve, God curses the serpent. He says that the offspring of the woman will crush his head, and from that day on the serpent, the devil, is against the woman. He is trying to kill every baby, trying to demolish that offspring before it can demolish him. However, we know what happens: Jesus came as a baby, and through His death He conquers death, and the serpent is defeated. After Jesus dies on the cross He literally descends into hell and takes back the key to the earth. But Adam and Eve don’t know that yet, and neither does the serpent. It is all just beginning for them. Again.

Everything has changed.

Childbearing was at the center of Adam’s and Eve’s blessings (“be fruitful and multiply”). After the fall, the betrayal, childbearing becomes the means of restoring the blessing- bringing about the offspring that will crush the serpent’s head. Each pang of childbirth is not only a reminder of their foolishness, and how it is always better to choose God’s way, it is also a reminder of the hope to come.

Marriage was the first gift, and it too has changed. Since man and woman are now used to making their own choices, for their own gain, this will be at odds with the sacrificial design of marriage. Man and woman will struggle with one another, each one trying to assert their place in the relationship, whereas before they didn’t have to worry about such dynamics.
Before the fall, Adam and Eve were “free to eat”. After they ate of the fruit, however, eating would no longer be free. They wanted their own way, which meant that God could no longer divinely provide for them. They had cursed themselves into providing for themselves all the days of their lives. And it would not be easy. The luscious earth that had blossomed under the hand of its Creator would have to be coaxed to fruition under the unskilled hand of the man.

It wasn’t that God took His staff and pointed it at the man and woman, laughing as they began to foam at the mouth. He didn’t grow bigger with heaving clouds boiling behind Him, green mist coming out of His mouth. He got down on their level. He made them clothes. Even in the folly of their own choices He was helping them get established. He said, “I’m going to make a way.”

And He did.

First things first, Adam and Eve had to get out of the garden.

God couldn’t take the chance of them eating from the tree of life. If they did they would live forever in their fallen state. God was not okay with that. He needed to provide another way; He needed to offer another choice. There is always a choice. Verse 23 of chapter 3 says that God ‘sent’ them out of the garden. In verse 24 it says that He ‘drove’ them out. Maybe they went peacefully. Maybe they grabbed onto a tree and refused to let go, and needed to be escorted off the premises. I wouldn’t want to leave Eden either, and all that it represented. Either way, it was for their own good. And to seal the deal, to protect the unreliable humans, the tree was guarded by a high-ranking angel, and a flaming sword to boot. It was mercy and love at work; tough love, maybe, but I won’t let my son drink poison just because it breaks my heart when he cries. One day he will understand that poison means death, but until then he is just going to have to take my word for it.

Let’s go back to the beginning, when God knew what was good. Let’s take His Word for it, too.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

I’m so glad that this is how the Bible starts. It is the perfect introduction: there is a Creator, and He is God. He is Elohim. He is not just ‘a god’, but the God, and to Him be the honor and glory and power: for being the Creator, for creating the earth with us in mind, and then for creating us.

The origin of the world was so deliberate.

This beginning is not the beginning of time, but the beginning of a time period.  Time has always existed because God has, and time would cease to exist if God ceased to exist.  There was eternity, and then there was the beginning.  Since the ancient Hebrew language is complex and elusive, we have two options: “the beginning” refers to a separate period of time before everything else began, OR it was the actual beginning and everything happened as it says in English.

In a way, I like the thought of the beginning being the time before time.

Before you cry “heretic!” and ready the stake, I’m not suggesting that this was millions of years. I say this because nothing is happening; there is no life. Think of it as a prelude to prove a point. Otherwise why would the author mention the beginning at all? This particular author is incredibly deliberate with the words that he uses (I say “he” because it is supposed that Moses wrote the book of Genesis. So lower your swords and sawed-offs, all ye feminists). Seriously though, think of all the other parts in the book of Genesis where we are left basically cursing the Bible: “that is all they are gonna tell us?”. For instance, there are seven verses that walk us through the fall of man. That’s it. Seven verses. There is basically nothing to the narrative about Noah building the ark. We skip over vast amounts of time in Abraham’s life, even though he is the father of all the nations. But just because the Bible is mysterious and elusive doesn’t mean that it is unknowable. It’s not about what the author of Genesis doesn’t say, it’s about what he does say. What he chooses to tell us is what matters. To me, the pause here seems to say that the heavens and the earth were created in the beginning, but if God hadn’t done what He did next (made them inhabitable, and full of His creation), there would be no story.

How many of us know that God loves a good story?

“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2

If you’re still with me, join me as we step outside of everything that this verse could mean, and let’s actually explore what it does mean. In the harshness of its simplicity, like the most arid of landscapes, the beauty and complexity is breathtaking. We think that we see only desert, or tundra, but instead we behold an entire ecosystem.

There are no words in this second verse that suggest chaos. There is certainly no imagery of boiling particles and natural disaster.  What we read is the presence of the earth, but it was formless and void, or empty.  We know that the earth is not actually formless, and it certainly isn’t empty, so we take what the phrases mean in Hebrew and we find that the first half of this verse is trying to tell us that the earth was a wasteland. In essence, it was uninhabitable.

Intrigued?  Because this is intriguing.

In keeping with the theme from the first verse, that we must read what the author has written, we know that there must be a purpose for pointing out that the earth was in this condition.  The Bible could have just started on Day One of Creation week, but we have a chance here to really take a moment and appreciate what this ancient, archaic writer is trying to tell us.

You see, God set up the universe BUT He had not yet made it good.  The first chapter of the Bible repeatedly shows that God knows what is good for humankind, and that He will be the one to provide it.  It was part of the design, since the beginning.
What else was part of the design? The Spirit of God. In verse one we are introduced to God. In verse two we are introduced to the second part of the trinity, the Spirit. Ruach- wind, breath… You must breathe it out even to say it. While Elohim is the mighty hand, Ruach is His living breath. And so there the Spirit was, hovering over the face of the waters, waiting for the Hand to mold the earth so that He could breathe upon it.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good.  And He separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light day, and the darkness He called night.  And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Genesis 1: 3-5

This passage brings up one of the very first debates on the validity of the Word of God: Did this mean that there was light before there was the sun?  After all, there is no mention of the sun, moon, and stars until their creation on the 4th day.  Some say that the correct interpretation of the word “heavens” implies “sun, moon, and stars”. Their reasoning is that you can’t have the heavens without the heavenly bodies., but that the heavenly bodies were ‘formless and void’, they were not yet useful because God had to make them good, which He does on Day Four. My problem with this idea is that if they weren’t made good until Day 4 they couldn’t possibly operate as they were meant to. Also, whatever happened to reading what the author has deliberately written? The author says that we have night and day on Day One, and the sun, moon, and stars don’t show up until Day Four. So I’m going to go with the author on this one.

But what does this mean?

Here we have Elohim, the one true God, who already pulled the earth together out of nothing. Creating light without the sun would not be impossible for Him, or even hard.  With all my heart I believe that He was introducing Himself as the light of the world. After all, when we get to Heaven the glory of His presence will be the only light that we will need to see by (Rev. 21-23). And when I look at this passage closely I begin to see something else, and I kind of think I’m looking at the first introduction to the third part of the trinity, the Son. In the New Testament, Jesus tells His disciples that He is the light of the world (John 8:12). Just like looking at the real sun, though, I start to squint. I have to look away, because my eyes cannot handle what I am seeing. I can never actually see what I am trying to look at. Are we being introduced to the Son, or is God just setting up the day? It doesn’t really matter, does it? Because we have what the author tells us, and that is good enough because it is actually good, and God said so.

Before moving on, I can’t pass up this opportunity to share my favorite description of this ‘light’. It was written by Donald Miller in his book Through Painted Deserts (if you stick around long enough, I assure you that you will see me hearken to Mr. Miller often). He writes: “God makes a cosmos out of this nothingness…And into this being, into this existence, God first creates light. This light is not to be confused with the sun and moon and stars, as they are not created until later. He simply creates light, a nonsubstance that is…Light, then, becomes a fitting metaphor for a nonbeing who is… How fitting then, for God to create an existence…outside of time, infinite in its power and thrust: here is something you can experience but cannot understand. Throughout the remainder of the Bible, then, God calls Himself light.”

Need I (or Donald Miller, rather) say more?

When God calls the light and darkness to their jobs He is simultaneously creating the day. And by day I mean that He establishes evening and morning, and He calls it the first day.  After introducing Himself, after setting up the cosmos, before He does anything else, God establishes a framework for time.  It gives me some serious chills to think about how deliberate this Elohim was, and still is, and will be forever and ever and ever. If you take nothing else away from that, understand that God specifically chose to set up a system that the creatures of the earth would operate by.

Since we are reading what the author has written, and since the author is telling us that there was evening and morning and that they were the first day, we have no reason whatsoever to believe that this first day was different than any of the other ones we find ourselves waking up to and putting to bed.  What is all of this idiocy going around about days being longer at the beginning of the earth? It’s just really a terrible way to think, that’s what, and it’s foolish to boot. Doesn’t it seem so much more difficult to believe that the days were actually longer? I mean, why? It just doesn’t make any sense. If the days had been longer then, the earth’s rotations would have been off, making life impossible, and the entire Creation story would have never been written.

It turns out that the author really wants us to know by the word he uses for ‘day’ (yowm) that he is talking about a twenty-four hour period. He uses the same word that every other author of the Bible uses when talking about any other day in the Bible. From this simple thing called a day comes the passing of days, the seasons, and the progress of life on this earth. It really is just that simple.

Now God can continue, because nothing else He intends to put on the earth would survive without the structure of the day.  A simple 24-hour-period: the foundation of all of history.  This is why it is all so beautiful.  And to top it all off, He wraps up that first day by calling it good. He doesn’t say it because it is good by default, since He is God and He made it, but because it is beneficial to humanity.

Things are fairly self-explanatory from this point for a bit. (But just a bit.)

On the second day God makes the sky and the clouds.

On the third day He gathered the waters together so that dry land could appear. He called them ‘earth’ and ‘seas’.  A curious thing thing happened next. God told the earth to “sprout vegetation” (Gen. 1:11). I say this is curious because up until this point God is saying “let there be” and then there is. Why switch it up all of a sudden?  You know how I keep saying that the Creator is so deliberate? When He is assigning the vegetation to grow up out of the earth, and when He is assigning the earth to nourish the vegetation, He is establishing the system that is currently in place.  It started the way it was meant to perform.  Nothing changed with the passing of time.  It was meant to be a certain way, and it was made that certain way.  And all of those trees and plants were given seeds of their own kind, and we see that even the plants were meant to produce their own kind.  God called all of this good.

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. And God made the two great lights- the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night- and the stars…” Genesis 1: 14-16

At the risk of sounding redundant, I turn again to the subject of the heavenly bodies. I do it because the Bible does it, and therefore it is profitable and useful for teaching (2 Tim. 3:16). As a brief review, we already established that God Himself is standing in as light for the world (perhaps even His Son, but that is neither here nor there). The day has been established, and the framework for time has been set up. Now it is day four and God wants to designate that job to a creation. Why not just keep standing in as the light? Then all of creation would have no choice but to recognize God as Elohim, the one true Creator God. I think that’s the point. First of all, the sun and moon and stars are absolutely gorgeous, and we know God loves to make beautiful things (have you seen a weeping cherry tree? a blue bird? the Nemo fish? Niagara falls, for crying out loud?). Second of all, it is up to man to recognize that God is Elohim, and he won’t really be able to if God is standing in as light; he will kind of have no choice.

Prepare to be amazed, people.

See that part of verse 14, that talks about the separating lights to be for signs and seasons? The part that everyone just always skims over, including myself? That word used for ‘signs’ (‘owth), it means a sign like a distinguishing mark. It means that the sign represents some sort of proof. This is the exact same word used later on when God puts the mark on Cain’s head, so that no one will kill him (Gen. 4:15). It is used liberally throughout the rest of the New Testament as the token of the Covenant between God and all the flesh of the earth (i.e. the rainbow after the flood, the miracles done by Moses in Egypt, the blood of the Passover, etc.). The more appropriate, but indirect, translation of the word for ‘seasons’ (mo’wed) is ‘appointed time’. Meaning, it is sacred. This is the term used for when Sarah was going to have her baby (Gen. 21:2). It is the same term used for when feasts and holidays were to be celebrated by the Israelites, and it is the word used to describe whenever something pertains to the Tabernacle (i.e. offering sacrifices). They are both used over and over later on in the New Testament in the prophecies.

Okay, so I don’t actually know what any of this means. But it means something. I know it means something because it is written and meant to be read, and I think it’s just too big, too wonderful, too sacred for my puny, a’cursed brain to comprehend.
What I’m trying to say is that God didn’t just throw the sun and moon up into the sky like we throw up Christmas lights. The author puts that part about the signs and seasons in there first because we need to understand that God is the Creator of all things, of the day and of the night, of time itself. He is the only One Who can separate the light and dark, the day and night, and His sun and moon are proof of that.

One thing I know for a fact: it was good (Gen. 1:18b).

On the fifth day God filled the waters up with the sea creatures, and He filled the skies with birds.  He assigned them to each other, and He blessed them to be able to multiply and fill the earth with their beauty for all of time.  He called all of this good. It must have been such a glorious thing to watch the skies full of colorful plumage, and the seas roiling with the types of things only the sea can host.

On day six God created the rest of the living creatures.  Earlier, the author specified that the vegetation was supposed to come up out of the ground, as we know it does to this day.  Vegetation was produced from the land, but the living creatures were made directly by God.  The author wants us to recognize that the life of living beings originates from God, and is meant to be distinguished from the rest of the physical world.  And they were good.

The creation of the animals brings us to the second half of day six.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image…” Genesis 1:26a

After the creepy crawlies and rolly pollies God takes a different approach. Instead of saying “let there be” He says “let Us make.”  Not only that, instead of being created “according to its own kind” humans were made “in [God’s] image”.  Not only were they like themselves, they were also like their Creator.  What a bold move on the part of the Creator, to imbibe His characteristics upon a creation.  Now that’s what I call sharing.

“And God blessed them…” Genesis 1:28a

No sooner did God create humans than He blessed them.  He simply couldn’t wait to do it.  He tells them to be fruitful and multiply, and this wasn’t said as a command, but as a blessing.  He goes on to give man dominion over everything on the face of the earth, and to reproduce and populate the whole earth, and to enjoy every part and piece of His entire creation.  Not only that, but He says that He has provided food for every kind of living being, in the plants that He took time to create earlier, and so nothing about existing and reproducing has to be hard.  Having dominion over the earth isn’t supposed to be work- God has already taken care of it.  Not only was all of this good, but it was very good, and the sixth day was over.

God rested on day seven as an example to us.  We were created in His likeness, and from then on what He does we also are supposed to replicate.  Resting is a service given by God to be given back to Him, where we take a break from all of the reproducing and having dominion and enjoying all of the vegetation, to be still and remember what He has done.  Why was man supposed to rest if nothing was even difficult or hard? I kind of see it as an act of service that keeps us check, if you will. This is another one of those ‘signs’ we were talking about earlier (‘owth). This is to keep us focused on how everything we have is a privilege given to us by a sovereign God. To keep us focused on Elohim. We need to remember that He has done everything.  And He did it all for us.  The day of rest, which is typically Sunday for Christians, is not meant to be a performance, an empty display, lip service…we are meant to treat this day as HOLY (Gen. 2:3).  We are meant to reflect on how alike we are to God, and to recognize the goodness that surrounds us.  Taking part in this rest is a willingness to be in His likeness, and it shows our faithfulness to Him.  The rest that He took then, and subsequently gave to us, will also be given in the future to those that are faithful (Ps. 95:11, Heb. 3:11).

Thank God for that.