Worship God on His terms

Do you remember the TV show The Incredible Hulk? The main character was a scientist named Dr. David Banner. Banner was basically a very friendly man. But whenever he got angry, his eyes would turn green and he would be transformed into this big, green, hulking monster (played by former professional bodybuilder, Lou Ferrigno). If you were a person in need, he would save you. But God help you if you were the one he was mad at because he would pick you up and throw you to the other side of the room like you were a rag doll. Dr. Banner didn’t like what anger did to him. In fact, the whole show is built around Dr. Banner’s desire to find a cure so this won’t happen to him anymore.

 

The lesson that I learn from The Incredible Hulk is: If you don’t learn to deal with your temper, it will turn you into a monster of a person. It can change you into someone you don’t want to be. This is what happened to Cain in Genesis 4. He had a bad temper to start with, but he didn’t deal with it. Eventually, it turned him into this other person…an evil person. However, Cain’s problem was not an anger problem; his problem was a worship problem! The expression of inappropriate anger was a sin that was symptomatic of a greater problem. In Genesis 4:1-26, we will learn from the account of Cain how to worship God on His terms.

 

  1. The birth of the two sons(4:1-2). Our account begins with these words: “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain” (4:1a). After the fall, Adam and Eve began a family. Eve gave birth to “Cain” whose name means, “acquire, get, or possess.” His Hebrew name is Cain; his English name would be “Got.” Eve responded to Cain’s birth by saying, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD” (4:1b). The literal rendering of Eve’s reply is, “I have gotten a son, the Lord.” Some Bible students interpret this to mean that Eve believes she has begotten the Savior (cf. 3:15). This is possible, of course. Perhaps more likely, Eve understood from the prophecy of 3:15 that one of her offspring would bring about her redemption.

 

Regardless, in this statement there is an implicit declaration of faith and gratitude (cf. 3:20). Eve acknowledges that God has enabled her to bear a child, a child through whom her deliverance may soon come. In 4:2a, Moses records, “Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel” (4:2a). Unlike Cain’s name, Abel’s name is not explained by Eve. However, the Hebrew word “Abel” is the word “vanity” or “breath,” appearing throughout Ecclesiastes. Traditionally understood, his name reflects on the temporary nature of his existence. It is important to notice the terms “brother” and “Abel” each appear seven times, stressing the relationship between the two men. In these opening verses, Moses is trying to prepare us for what is to come.

[After giving a brief account of the birth of the two sons, the narrative focuses on the worship of these two brothers. The primary purpose of this account is to reveal what kind of worship is pleasing to God.]

 

  1. The worship of the two brothers(4:2b-5). In 4:2b, Moses writes“And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” Abel is a shepherd and Cain is a farmer. Both of these vocations are noble; one is not better than the other. This leads into an exercise in worship in 4:3-5a: “So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit9 of the ground. Abel, on his part also10 brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.” Both brothers bring offerings to the Lord suitable to their vocations (4:3). Yet, God regarded Abel and his offering and not Cain and his offering (4:4b). Some insist that the reason for this is Abel offered a blood sacrifice while Cain did not. However, there does not appear to be anything wrong with Cain offering fruit as opposed to animal sacrifice.

 

Later in Israel’s history, grain offerings and harvest offerings are legitimate expressions of worship that God accepts and even commands. So if it is not a failure to bring a blood sacrifice, why does God reject Cain and his offering?

The New Testament authors inform us that God regarded Abel because he had faith (Heb 11:4) while Cain did not (Jude 11-13 and 1 John 3:11-12). Therefore, it seems clear that Abel was in relationship with God and Cain was separated from God. A very important principle is this: “God always inspects the giver and the worshipper before He inspects the gift, service, or worship.” This means it is critical that you are in relationship with God before you seek to worship or serve Him. Otherwise, your worship is unacceptable.

 

There is also an interesting clue in the Genesis account that tells us about Cain and Abel and their offerings. In 4:4, Moses records that Abel offers “the firstlings of his flock” (cf. Exod 34:19; Deut 12:6; 14:23) and the “fat portions” (cf. Num 18:17) for his offering. The word that is translated “fat portions” means “choicest, best part, or abundance.” Abel gave what cost him most—the firstborn! On the other hand, Cain merely offers “the fruit,” not the first fruit, of the ground (4:3). Abel brought the best parts of his flocks and Cain was not so particular. Abel went out of his way to worship God by giving his best. Cain merely discharged a duty. One of the key themes throughout Scripture is God seeks worship that is perfect and costly (Lev 22:20-222 Sam 24:24). He will not be satisfied with second best (Mal 1:6-14Rom 12:1).

 

The Butterball Company set up a Thanksgiving hotline to answer questions about cooking turkeys. One woman asked if she could use a turkey that had been in the bottom of her freezer for 23 years. The Butterball expert—how’s that for a job title—told her it would probably be safe if the freezer had been below zero the entire time. But the expert warned her that even if the turkey was safe to eat, the flavor would likely have deteriorated and wouldn’t be worth eating. The woman said, “That’s what I thought. We’ll give the turkey to our church.” While this is an amusing story, it does hit a bit close to home for some Christians. Sin first shows itself in what you give God.

 

Motives matter to God. God is not impressed with those who do the right thing for the wrong reason. This truth is taught throughout the Bible. In Matthew 15:8, Jesus looks at the Pharisees and quotes Isaiah, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me” (see also Micah 6:7-8). Sometimes people can have very bad motives for doing good things. There is a story about a man who was riding in a New York City taxi. He noticed the cab driver slowed down to avoid hitting a pedestrian. Trying to compliment the driver’s action, he said, “I noticed you slowed down for that fellow.” The driver responded, “Yeah, if you hit them, you have got to fill out a report.” I would stay out of the way of that cab if I were walking in New York.

 

What are our motives for serving the Lord? Every so often we need to do a motive checkup and ask ourselves: Why am I nice to other people? Why do I put money in the offering plate? Why do I serve in Kids’ Church?

[Whatever the cause of God’s rejection of Cain’s offering; the narrative itself focuses our attention on Cain’s response. It is there that the narrative seeks to make its point.]

 

  1. The response of the oldest brother(4:5b-8). When Cain learned that God had “no regard” for his offering, “[he] became very angry and his countenance fell” (4:5b). Cain became angry with God! Rather than being concerned about remedying the situation and pleasing God, he became very angry. We must stop here and ask these questions of ourselves: How do we respond when God says no?

When God convicts us and deals with the sin in our lives, how do we respond? Do we seek to make things right? Do we come before the Lord in worship and confession with a humble and contrite heart?

Or do we pout and get ticked off? The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, said it best, “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa 66:2b).

 

Do you have a problem with your temper? One lady said, “I occasionally lose my temper, but it’s over quickly.” Her pastor replied, “So is an atom bomb explosion, but think of the damage it causes. So is a cyclone, but think of the destruction it leaves. So is a bullet fired, but think of the death it can cause.” We must not assume that unrighteous anger is ever justified or appropriate.

In customary fashion, in 4:6, the Lord pursues Cain with three consecutive questions: “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?” God was not pleased with Cain or his offering. These first two questions demonstrate that He was even more displeased by Cain’s response. Yet, many of us have been told by other well-meaning Christians that it is perfectly acceptable to get mad at God. We like to justify our anger by saying, “He’s a big God. He has broad shoulders. He can handle my cussing and complaining.” Well, sure He can, but is this the appropriate response to the almighty Creator of heaven and earth? I don’t think so. He is a sovereign God that is to be feared. He wants us to trust Him, even when things don’t make sense. Unfortunately, many Christians have a small view of God that allows them to have temper tantrums with Him.

In 4:7, the Lord says, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” This clearly implies that Cain knew what was right. He knew the quality of offering to bring and chose not to bring it. He knew his heart was not right, but he chose not to address it. Yet, this verse also shows God’s grace, for Cain was still invited to bring the correct offering. God warned Cain and He wanted Cain to “do well,” but Cain hardened his heart. Sin is like a wild animal ready to pounce and devour its victim. What a graphic picture the Lord paints! What a reminder that we do indeed have a choice whether or not to sin. Flip Wilson was wrong when he said, “The Devil made me do it.” On the contrary, when we sin, we sin because of our refusal to rely on God’s power to “master it.

 

Unfortunately, instead of heeding God’s warning, Cain ignored God’s words and allowed himself to be mastered by sin. This resulted in the very first murder. Moses writes of the tragic event in 4:8: “Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” In his anger, Cain took the life of another human being…and his victim was his very own brother. The use of “rise up” is most appropriate, since the “rising up” of Cain to kill his brother is a direct consequence of the “falling” of his countenance, when Abel’s offering was accepted but his was not. Under the Mosaic Law, the fact that a killing took place in a field, out of the range of help, was proof of premeditation (cf. Deut 22:25-27). We cringe at such a horrible act and think, “I could never do something like that.” But if we were honest, many of us would have to confess our own lists of people we’ve assassinated with our words or attitudes.

 

A lesson we learn from the murder of Abel is that anger and jealousy can be very destructive. It is certainly not Abel’s fault that Cain’s sacrifice is not pleasing to God. But when God accepts Abel’s offering and rejects Cain’s, Cain directs his anger, jealousy, and hatred toward his brother. The history of crime shows that when given the opportunity, hatred often leads to murder. That is what Jesus was pointing to in Matthew 5 where He says hating your brother is really the same as murder.

 

You may be angry today. It might have been something, which happened this morning. Or maybe something happened years ago. Perhaps a neighbor or someone in the church cheated you out of some money or took advantage of you in some way, and you still have a bitter attitude. Whatever type the anger is, you need to get control of it and get rid of it. Ephesians 4:27 says if you don’t control your anger, you give the Devil a foothold (lit. “a place”) in your life. That is what Cain did. Uncontrolled anger and jealousy resulted in Abel’s death and destroyed Cain’s life too. Don’t let it happen in your life. Acknowledge that the attitude is wrong, confess it to the Lord, and ask His help in overcoming this destructive attitude.

 

  1. The pursuit of a gracious God(4:9-16). In 4:9, Cain foolishly thought he could hide his sin from God. He’s following in his father’s footsteps (3:8). Yet, God seeks Cain just like He sought Adam and Eve. God is a seeker. After Cain’s treacherous sin, the Lord does the unthinkable—he dialogues with Cain. He speaks with grace, not wrath. The Lord says to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain responds by saying, “I do not know.” Cain begins on a sinful note by lying to God. Puny old Cain tells an omniscient God that he doesn’t know where his brother Abel is. Come on! The fact that Cain can dispassionately deny what he has done and show a total lack of care and concern for his brother closely parallels man’s total lack of regard for woman in 3:12, where man icily refers to his companion as “the woman” and places all the blame on her, thereby revealing a complete absence of the intimacy and companionship that earlier had characterized their relationship.

 

To make matters worse, Cain goes on to utter the infamous old adage, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” This was a tragic mistake on Cain’s part. Now, if I was God, I would have smoked Cain right where he stood! But not the Lord! Instead, He asks Cain a follow-up question that is the same question He asked Eve (3:13): “What have you done?” Wouldn’t you just hate to be Cain right now? The Lord then stops asking questions and says, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground” (4:10). This is a key sentence. The words “to me” demonstrate how seriously God takes first-degree murder. When another person kills a baby, a child, or an adult made in the image of God (1:26; 9:6), the blood of the victim cries out to God! Sin cannot be covered up from God. It can be hidden from people, but not from God. Secret sin on earth is open scandal in heaven!

 

As a consequence of Cain’s act of deliberate sin, God curses him (4:11-12), just like He cursed the serpent (3:14) and the ground (3:17-19). Woe! Moses records these tragic words: “Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” This is the first instance in Scripture where a human is “cursed.” The ultimate penalty for a Hebrew is not death, but exile, a loss of roots.

 

In 4:13-14, “Cain said to the LORD, ‘My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.’” Cain’s complaint is peppered with the use of seven personal pronouns. All Cain cared about was himself. There was no fear or reverence for God, no regret for the loss of innocent life, no sorrow for sin, and no thought for his parents who had lost one son tragically through murder and would be losing another through rebellion. There was only a preoccupation with himself. The killer fears being killed. He who turned on one of his relatives now must watch out for any of his relatives.

 

In 4:15, the Lord speaks again to Cain, “‘Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.” God continues to demonstrate His grace and compassion—even to Cain! The Lord gave Cain a sign before judgment was carried out. Isn’t this just like the Lord?

 

The Lord’s program always seems to be mercy before judgment. How fortunate we are that this is the case. If it weren’t, we would have been snuffed out a long time ago! No matter what you’ve done, God wants a relationship with you. There is no sin that you have ever committed that is too big for God. He will accept you IF you accept His Son’s sacrifice for your sin. We do not know what the “sign” was. Some have supposed it was a mark of some kind on Cain himself (e.g., a tattoo), others a special hairstyle. One of the ancient rabbis argued that the sign was a dog that accompanied Cain on his wanderings. The dog assured Cain of God’s protection and frightened attackers. Others think it is some sign in the external world, such as an intensified fear of killing another human being. To that end, God places a mark on Cain before he expels him. This will protect Cain from recrimination. Here again is mercy before judgment.

In 4:16, we read these sad words: “Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” One question that is asked is: Did Cain repent? Probably not. The New Testament Scriptures uniformly speak of Cain in the negative with phrases like “the way of Cain” (Jude 11) and one “who was of the evil one and slew his brother” (1 John 3:12). His life is contrasted with “righteous Abel” (Matt 23:35). Nevertheless, we do not know what ultimately happened to him. He may have responded to God. Cain was not beyond God’s grace and neither are you.

[It is important to note that Adam’s sin (3:6-7) progresses to murder between brother and brother (4:1-16), and then to the decay of society (4:17-26).]

  1. The tale of two men(4:17-26). In 4:17, we have a well-known proof text used by skeptics. The verse reads: “Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son.” Of course, the obvious question is: Where did Cain get his wife? The answer is quite simple: Cain married his sister (or possibly a niece). The Bible says Adam “had other sons and daughters” (5:4). In fact, since Adam lived 930 years (5:5), he had plenty of time for plenty of children! Cain could have married one of his many sisters, or even a niece, if he married after his brothers or sisters had grown daughters. Regardless, one of his brothers would have married a sister. Marriages between close relatives were at first unavoidable if the whole human race came from a single pair. Marriage between siblings and close relatives was not prohibited until the Mosaic Law, instituted thousands of years later (Lev 18:6-18). There were no genetic imperfections at the beginning of the human race. God created genetically perfect Adam (1:27). Genetic defects resulted from the fall and only occurred gradually, over long periods of time.

 

In 4:18-19, we read about a man by the name of “Lamech” who becomes the first bigamist. Bigamy was common in the ancient Near East, but it was never God’s desire (cf. 2:24; Matt 19:4-5). God permitted it, however, as He did many other customs of which He disapproved (e.g., divorce, marrying concubines, polygamy, etc.); but He was not pleased with this violation of the marriage covenant.

 

In 4:20-24, we see that Cain prospered even though he rebelled against God. Cain’s prosperity led the way in producing cities, music, weapons, and agricultural implements—in short, civilization. Even among ungodly people God allows development and progress. It is part of His kindness to the entire human race. This is another indication of God’s grace. Cain’s descendants took the lead in building cities, developing music, advancing agriculture, creating weapons, and spreading civilization.

 

In 4:23-24, Lamech said to his wives, ‘“Adah and Zillah, listen to my voice, you wives of Lamech, give heed to my speech, for I have killed a man for wounding me; and a boy for striking me; if Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.’” Lamech, who is Cain’s great-great-great-grandson, writes a piece of poetry, but what an ugly piece of poetry it is! It is a song.

 

One can easily see that its lines are parallel and poetical. Lamech is singing a song. But what is he singing about? He is singing about polygamy, murder, and revenge. This is a “sword song” in which Lamech wears violence as a badge of honor. God allows the makers of musical instruments to arise, but they misuse their very culture to promote violence. This is how men and women use their culture. God allows family life, music, and technology but how does man use His blessings? He perverts them! Music is wonderful. Yet, music can be used for wicked purposes also.

 

Do you realize the influence of the media on you and your children? Think about many of the songs that are popular today. They are full of violence, sex, and self. What about the impact of television? Did you know that the average American family watches 6.5 hours of TV daily? One way of making sense of this astronomical figure is to consider this: The average child spends 900 hours a year in school but 1,500 hours a year watching TV.

[Just when things seem to be beyond hope, the Lord shows forth His hand of sovereignty and promise.]

In 4:25-26, Moses writes, “Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, ‘God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.’ To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD.” Obviously, 4:25-26 should not be understood as a sequel to 4:17-24. Cain’s genealogy does not extend six generations before Adam fathers a child again. Cain’s sons prospered and founded the new world after the fall. Yet, they were not to be included in the lineage of the Messianic “seed” (cf. 3:15). The author turns another page with the birth of “another offspring in place of Abel” (4:25). This strategic birth reveals that the “seed” would continue through the line of Seth. Seth’s name, from the Hebrew verb translated “granted” and meaning “to set or place,” expresses Eve’s faith that God would continue to provide seed despite death.

 

After the birth of Enosh (Seth’s son), it is noted that “then men began to call upon the name of the LORD.” The phrase “call upon the name of the Lord” usually refers to proclamation rather than prayer in the Pentateuch. Here it probably refers to the beginning of public worship of Yahweh. This is the inauguration of true worship (cf. 12:8; 13:4; 16:13; 21:33; 26:25). “Enosh” means “weakness” and in his weakness he turns to God with petition and praises (Ps 149:6). Man will not pray until he recognizes his human weakness and inability and is utterly dependent upon God. So Cain’s firstborn and successors pioneer civilization, while Seth’s firstborn and successors pioneer worship.

 

Will you humble yourself, acknowledge your own weakness, and turn to the Lord for His strength? As Paul writes in the New Testament, “…the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25).

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Don’t play hide and seek with God!

In 2004, a 22-year-old man robbed a Chevron station and then led Poulsbo, Washington police on a high-speed chase. After cleaning out the cash register, the robber and a passenger took off in a red Honda and soon cops from four towns were in pursuit. The caravan zoomed at speeds up to 100 mph through the winding roads of western Puget Sound, where twists and turns can leave even locals disoriented. After a while the fugitives managed to lose their pursuers in the darkness but they had no idea where they were. That’s when the robber pulled his Honda into a Chevron station to ask for directions to Seattle—unaware that it was the very same establishment he’d just robbed. Police caught up to the Honda soon afterward.

 

Sometimes, playing hide-and-seek doesn’t work out so well. Have you ever played hide-and-seek with God? Have you ever sinned and then tried to run away from Him in shame? If so, you’ve probably realized that no matter how good you are at hiding, you can’t hide from God. Fortunately, God doesn’t play hide-and-seek, He plays “seek and hide.” He is the great pursuer that always tracks down His man or woman. Today, if you’re feeling far away from God, I have a word of hope for you. It is found in Genesis 3:8-24.

[In 3:1-7, we learned how to win over sin by overcoming temptation. Now in 3:8-24, we will learn how to recover from sin by confessing our sins and learning from discipline. How can I recover from sin? In this narrative, we will be able to see two clear prescriptions.]

 

  1. Confess your sin without blaming God or others(3:8-13). In 3:8, Moses records: “They [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” “The sound of the Lord God” represents the grace of God reaching out to man in a crisis situation. The “cool” of the day can be translated, literally, the “wind” or “spirit” of the day. In the Bible, the wind/spirit is the symbol of God’s presence (see 1:2). God came to Adam and Eve in this wind. He began to seek them; yet our text records that they “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” A more complete transformation could not be imagined. The trust of innocence is replaced by the fear of guilt. The trees that God created for man to look at and enjoy (2:9) are now his hiding place to prevent God seeing him.

 

In the midst of this game of hide and seek, God calls out to the man because he is the one in authority, the one first created (1 Cor 11:3). He is responsible for where they are and why. The Lord says, “Where are you?” (3:9). The Lord’s question carries the force of “why” are you there. God asked, “What’s the problem? What’s going on?” Of course, the Lord knows, but is demanding that man give an account of his actions. He wants Adam to take personal responsibility for his actions. This is all grace. Even in Adam’s sin, God lovingly woos Adam back to Himself. He is seeking a confession.

 

In 3:10, Adam answers the “why” question with these words: “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” As soon as Adam heard God’s presence, he remembered about spiritual life and relationship with God. He now realized that the attempt to cover up his disorientation to Eve had been in vain. He realized that it was the loss of spiritual life that was the cause of his disorientation to Eve and that there was nothing he could do about either. That’s why he still viewed himself as naked, even after covering up. And that’s why he was afraid. It was “spiritual” nakedness that was the real issue. The only solution he could devise was denial and avoidance. He hid himself, but of course it didn’t work. Because the human race is naked, there is no end to their attempts to avoid the truth of God’s grace. Denial and substitution has been the evidence of man’s nakedness all throughout history.

 

In 3:11, God answers Adam in the form of another question. He says, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” God is being specific to make certain they understand exactly what happened. Eating from the tree of which God commanded Adam not to eat was the only way he could become alienated from God and Eve. God is making it perfectly clear that the failure was in not obeying the Word of God. Yet, bear in mind, God took the initiative in seeking out the sinners to re-establish a relationship with them. Evidence of God’s love is His unwillingness to abandon those He loves, even when they failed to do His will. He is a compassionate and gracious God.

Adam responded to God’s question by saying, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (3:12). Remember Adam’s ecstasy when he first laid eyes on Eve? “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (2:23a). Now he turns on her like a wild banshee! What infamous treachery! Here, Adam implies that a good God would not have given him Eve. He makes excuses for himself and plays the blame game.

 

A woman was walking along the beach when she stumbled upon a Genie’s lamp. She picked it up, rubbed it, and a Genie appeared. The amazed woman asked if she got three wishes. The Genie said, “No. Due to inflation, constant downsizing, and fierce global competition, I can only grant you one wish. So, what’ll it be?” The woman didn’t hesitate. She said, “I want peace in the Middle East. See this map? I want these countries to stop fighting with each other.” The Genie looked at the map and exclaimed, “Lady, these countries have been at war for thousands of years. I’m good but not THAT good! Make another wish.” The woman thought for a minute and said, “Well, I’ve never been able to find the right man. You know, one that’s considerate and fun, likes to cook and helps with the housecleaning, is romantic, gets along with my family, doesn’t watch sports all the time, and is faithful. That’s what I wish for—a perfect husband.” The Genie let out a long sigh and said, “Let me see that map again.”

 

After hearing Adam’s response, the Lord God moves on to the woman and asks, “What is this you have done?” (3:13a). “And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’”(3:13b). The Lord’s question has the sense, “What in the world have you done?” or “Do you realize what you’ve done?” Instead of taking responsibility for her actions, the woman blamed the serpent. Can you see the progression? Adam blamed the woman, and then blamed God for having given her to him. Eve blamed the serpent. This is typical of human nature. The sinner blames everyone but himself. It’s been said, “To error is human; to blame it on others and upon God is more human.”

 

Adam and Eve are guilty of “passing the buck” and blaming others. Mankind has been guilty of this behavior ever since. We sometimes blame God for placing us in circumstances that we regard as too much for us. Some students cheat, rationalizing that God is to blame for giving them a difficult professor and a busy schedule. Some thieves steal, blaming God and life for their stealing. “God, you know my weaknesses, but there it was. Why did you allow it?” Consider the adulterous man who blames God for the ingredients that led to his sin—his depression, his poor self-image, that woman, his loneliness. Mankind loves to find someone or something to blame for their behavior (e.g., spouse, parents, siblings, children, co-workers, the boss, the weather, the neighbor’s dog).

 

Yet, if you’re going to “pass the blame,” why not pass it on to Jesus? The Bible tells us that the Second Adam took all the sins of the world upon Himself and died to cover the penalty for sin (Rom 5:17). Have you stopped passing the buck? Have you humbled yourself before God and others and said the guilt for your sin is yours alone? And then, have you passed it on to Jesus? When you come to the realization that you have sinned and there is a penalty for your sin, if God is drawing you to Himself, you will also recognize your need of a Savior. The moment you trust in Christ, you enter into a relationship with God that can never be lost. What hope! What blessing!

[Whether you are a pre-Christian or a Christian, you can recover from sin by confessing your sin to your loving Father. The second prescription for recovering from sin is to…]

  1. Trust in God’s care as you face the consequences(3:14-24). The consequences of sin are detailed in 3:14-19. First, God deals with the serpent. Then He deals with the woman, and finally, the man. God’s judgment on each trespasser (the snake, the woman, and the man) involved both a life function and a relationship. In each case the punishment corresponded to the nature of the crime.

 

In 3:14, Moses writes, “The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life.’” The snake had been “crafty” (‘arum), but now it was “cursed” (‘arur). In the Bible, to “curse” means to invoke God’s judgment on someone, usually for some particular offense. It is the opposite of “bless.” The text says the snake had to move on its belly. Some commentators take this literally and conclude that the snake had legs before God cursed it. Others take it figuratively, as a reference to the resultant despised condition of the snake. I opt for the latter. I believe snakes did not originally walk upright on their feet. This was just a way of saying that the serpent’s downfall would be certain. This is confirmed by the phrase “and dust you will eat all the days of your life.” In the Bible, this describes humiliation and total defeat. To boil this down, recognize that even Indiana Jones feared snakes. Since the fall of man, snakes continue to keep the revolting image of Satan before our eyes. While God cursed all animals and the whole creation because of the fall (Rom 8:20), He made the snake the most despicable of all the animals for its part in the fall.

 

In 3:15, we have one of the most important verses in the entire Bible: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” The word “enmity” means “hostility and antagonism.” There would be antagonism between the Serpent and human beings (3:15a). This obviously exists between snakes and people, but God’s intention in this verse seems to include the person behind the snake (Satan) even more than the snake itself.

 

The “seed” of the Serpent refers to natural humanity whom he has led into rebellion against God. The “seed” of the woman refers to her descendants. Eve’s descendants were the Jewish people. However, the “seed” of the woman in 3:15 also refers to one particular individual, not a whole group of people. It is referring to the Messiah, who would come forth from the Jewish people. The moment the Serpent delivers a blow to the heel of the Messiah is the same moment in which his head is crushed (cf. Gal 3:16, 19; Heb 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8; Rev 19:1-5). The Bible connects the death of Jesus Christ with the defeat of the Devil (John 12:21-33). Satan would strike His heel, but the wound would mean that the Son would strike a deathblow to Satan. Jesus suffered a terrible but temporary injury (John 12:31; Col 2:15). Satan only crippled Christ. Christ would deal Satan the fatal blow. The forces of Satan did not realize that the plan of God would actually be promoted and fulfilled by the death of Christ. God’s curse upon Satan meant that His own Son would one day become a curse for us. Grace is rooted in Christ’s victory. This first judgment on sin is tinged with hope, something that recurs throughout Scripture (cf. 6:5-8), as God’s mercy outweighs His wrath (cf. Exod 20:5-6).

 

Now in 3:16, God turns His attention toward the woman. He says to the woman, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” God speaks to Eve about her role as mother (3:16a) and as wife (3:16b). Biblically speaking, these are the two points where a woman experiences her highest fulfillment. And at these two points there will be pain and servitude The “pain in childbirth” refers to the whole process from conception to birth. This includes anxiety about whether she will be able to conceive a child, anxiety that comes with all the physical discomfort of the pregnancy, anxiety concerning the health of the child in the womb, and anxiety about whether she and the baby will survive the birth process.

 

God also speaks of the woman’s “desire” for her husband. Desire is a source of conflict between husbands and wives, just as sin desires to dominate and control (4:7). This is the first battle of the sexes. Each strives for control and neither lives in the best interest of the other (Phil 2:3-4). The woman’s role and the man’s role both become perverted. The woman tends to want to subtly control the man. The man tends to dominate and tyrannize. Partners become competitors. It has been this way ever since the fall.

 

Wives, in what ways do you attempt to usurp your husband’s authority? Do you nag? Are you critical? Are you cynical? Do you use your emotions to dominate him and get your way? While this behavior is one of the consequences of the fall, you are not to use this verse as an excuse to justify your behavior. Rather, you are called to recognize that your husband is your spiritual head, therefore, you must exhibit a “gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pet 3:4).

 

In 3:17-19, God directs His final words to Adam. The judgment on Adam is given last because, as the one who sinned without being deceived, having all the facts, he bears the greater responsibility. The Lord says, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” God’s punishment or discipline fits the crime. A form of the word “eating” is used no less than five times in response to Adam’s sin of eating.33 It is also worth noting that, in each of these three verses, God says to Adam, “You will eat.” The food produced by the man would sustain the lives produced by the woman, and it would sustain their lives as well. Even in His discipline, God manifests grace.

God speaks to Adam about his role as a worker. Here is where the male experiences his highest fulfillment. And for him, too, there will be pain. Romans 8:20 explains that creation is subject to vanity. This is the law of entropy. The second law of thermodynamics demonstrates that there is an innate tendency towards decay and disorder in the universe. We are currently experiencing this consequence of the curse.

 

In these three verses, man’s natural or original relationship to the ground—to rule over it—is reversed; instead of submitting to him, it resists and eventually swallows him (2:7; Rom 8:20-22). In the Old Testament, in particular, the ecology of the earth is partly dependent on human morality. Sin always puts a wedge between things or people in Genesis 3. It puts a wedge between God and humans, between man and woman, between man and himself, and now between man and the soil. These are the consequences we must face.

 

In 3:20-21, “Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” Adam expressed confidence in God’s promise about the “seed of the woman,” as he calls his wife “Eve,” which means “the mother of all living” or “she who gives life.” I do not think this name means merely that the whole human race will descend from her. That may be true, but that is not the point of the name. Surely, it is an expression of faith in the promise of Genesis 3:15. Adam believes that somehow, through Eve’s seed, life will come to the human race. Here is hope in the midst of judgment.

 

Previously, Adam and Eve “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (3:7). That was their attempt to solve the immediate consequences of their sin. God provided special clothing for them instead of their fig leaves. He used “garments of skin” and clothed them. So with the sentence given, God does for the couple what they cannot do for themselves. They cannot deal with their shame. But God can, will, and does God’s provision of clothes is a way of expressing the fact that, when we believe, He clothes us with garments of salvation (2 Cor 5:21).

 

In 3:22-24, the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever—therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” The author uses irony to demonstrate that when the human race, who had been created like God (1:26), sought to “be like God” (3:5-7), they found themselves, after the fall, no longer with God. Their happiness does not consist of being like God so much as it does their being with God. The goal must always be, to be “with God.” There is nothing better than enjoying the presence of God (cf. Ps 16:11).

 

The phrase “like one of us” probably means like heavenly beings (God and the angels; cf. 1:26). Cherubim, in the Old Testament, surround and symbolize God’s presence. They are similar to God’s bodyguards. Moses pictured them here defending the Tree of Life with a flaming sword. The cherubim at Eden kept man from eating the fruit from the Tree of Life. This was critical because the Tree of Life perpetuated physical life in the perfect environment of the garden. When man acquired a sin nature in the physical body, he started the process of physical deterioration, which would lead ultimately to physical death. If he were to eat of the Tree of Life at this time, it would perpetuate his physical life forever with the presence of the sin nature. And even though man is now back in relationship with God, through faith in the promise of a coming savior, perpetuation of physical life with the sin nature, would perpetuate soul distortion and deny access to the fullness of fellowship with God. Therefore, God forbade man to eat from the Tree of Life and removed him from its presence.

 

The cherubim also guarded man from the Tree of Life to remind him that his legacy was death, caused by sin. And if he considered the cherubim his enemies, it was only because he had forgotten that his own worst enemy was himself. As the late cartoonist Walt Kelly used to express it through one of his characters in the comic strip Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

So how can we go on? This passage provides several applications:

  1. Humble yourself and take responsibility for your sin (3:8-13).
  2. Prepare for the pain of discipline (3:14-19).
  3. Live by faith in spite of your failure (3:20).
  4. Trust in God’s ability to remove the shame (3:21).

Trust in God’s loving protection against unseen consequences from sin (3:22-24).

 

Parallels in Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22

 

Genesis Revelation
In the beginning (1:1) I am. . .the Beginning and the End (21:6)
God created the heavens and the earth (1:1) I saw a new heaven and a new earth (21:1)
Let there be light (1:3) God gives it light (21:23)
The darkness He called “night” (1:5) There will be no night there (21:25)
The gathered waters He called “seas” (1:10) There was no longer any sea (21:1)
God made the two great lights (1:16) Does not need the sun/moon (21:23)
He also made the stars (1:16) The Morning Star (22:16)
Subdue [the earth]. Rule over (1:28) And they will reign forever (22:5)
God blessed the 7th day (2:2-3) 7 angels, 7 bowls, 7 last plagues (21:9)
[God] made it holy (2:3) The Holy City (21:2, 10; 22:19)
Tree of Life (2:9)

He must not take from the Tree of Life (3:22-23)

Tree of Life (22:2)

God will take away His share in the Tree of Life (22:19)

A river watering the garden (2:10) River of the Water of Life (22:1)

The free gift of the Water of Life (22:17)

There is gold (the gold of that land is good) (2:11-12) A measuring rod of gold (21:15)

The city was. . .pure gold (21:18)

The street. . .was pure gold (21:21)

The bdellium stone (pearls) (2:12) Pearls, each gate made of a single pearl (21:21)
Onyx (2:12) Sardonyx (21:20)
You will surely die (2:17)

Or you will die (3:3)

No more death (21:4)
A man will. . .be united to his wife (2:23-25) The bride of the wife of the Lamb (21:9-10)
The serpent. . .was crafty (3:1) The Devil, who deceived them (20:10)
Shown a garden into which sin entered (3:6-7) Shown a city into which sin will never enter (21:27)
The Lord God. . .was walking in the garden (3:8) Nations will walk by His light (21:24)
Walk of God with man interrupted (3:8-10) Walk of God with man resumed (21:3)
I was ashamed [naked] (3:10) Anyone who does what is shameful (21:27)
Initial triumph of the Serpent (3:13) Ultimate triumph of the Lamb (20:10; 22:3)
Cursed. . .cursed (3:14, 17) No longer. . .any curse (22:3)
Eve’s offspring (3:15) The Offspring of David (22:16)
I will greatly multiply your pain (3:16-17) No more. . .pain (21:4)
The Lord God made garments of skins and clothed them (3:21) Blessed are those who wash their robes (22:14)
God banished him (3:23) They will see His face (22:4)
He drove the man out of the garden (3:24) I saw the Holy City (21:2)
Cherubim. . .to guard the way (3:24) With 12 angels at the gates (21:12)
A flaming sword (3:24) Fiery lake of burning sulfur (21:8)

 

The Significance of the Parallels in Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22

  1. Immutability:While we are prone to change, God does not change (Mal 3:6a). Even when we are faithless, He remains forever faithful (2 Tim 2:12). In His first dealings with mankind, He provided the sacrifice to meet the needs of the fallen Adam and Eve (i.e., animal skins, see Gen 3:21). In later events, He provided the sacrifice for the needs of His people (i.e., the Lamb, see 1 Pet 1:18-19).
  2. Restoration:The world as we now know it is not what God intended. Rather, our world is a result of man’s fall (Gen 3:1-24; Rom 5:12-21). Yet, Revelation 20-22promises us that God’s original plan for mankind will one day be fulfilled.
  3. Progress:The new heavens and the new earth are actually an improvement over the garden of Eden in that there is no sea, no night, no sun, or moon, etc. (Rev 21:1, 23-27).
  4. Triumph:God’s purposes are never thwarted by anyone or anything (Rom 9:6-29). Although things may have looked bleak in Genesis 3, Revelation 20-22proves that God ultimately and forcefully triumphs over the Serpent. Eventually, the big three (sin, suffering, and death) will be forever dealt with. This is one of the reasons the book of Revelation is so crucial. Without it, we would be left hanging. But fortunately, God relieves our apprehension and shares with us His glorious future.
  5. Beginning and End:In Revelation 21:6, God says, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Any comparison of these two passages corroborates that He is the controller of all things from eternity to eternity. As Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last” (Rev 1:17). We can relax in our great God’s sovereignty.
  6. Unity of God’s Plan:Genesis 3:15points out the plan that God has to defeat Satan through the offspring of the woman. Revelation points to the consummation of that plan in the finished work of the Lamb (5:6-14). Thus, if God has a plan from the beginning and is able to actually carry it out at the end of history, then He must be in control of human history. And He must be who He claims to be!
  7. Unity of Scripture:By these extensive parallels (both similar and contrasting), we see that there is very close literary connection between two biblical books, written centuries apart, by different human authors, who were recording the words of a greater, overseeing author, God. Only God Himself could have orchestrated this unity of the Scriptures.

 

When temptation comes…

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Now I would venture to say that in your mind there is the image of an egg…right? Why? There is nothing in the nursery rhyme that mentions an egg. The one who wrote it probably did not have an egg in mind. Someone probably picked it up from the old New England Primer. Many of those in colonial days learned their grammar from that very familiar book. I also want to suggest that the child picked up his idea from the couplets used in that primer for the letters A and X. In the primer it reads, “In Adam’s fall we sinned all; Xerxes the Great did fall and so must you and I.” In a subtle fashion, that little couplet teaches not only the letters A and X, but also a very significant spiritual truth. That is, in the fall we sinned all.

 

You see the one who wrote that little nursery rhyme was not talking about an egg that fell, but a man. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men (the soldiers of all the kings throughout history) could not repair what had been lost when this man fell. Of course, it was Adam who fell. He sat on a great wall of love and fellowship from which he had a great fall. And no one, from king to servant, could possibly put him together again. His name was not Humpty Dumpty, of course. It was Adam.

 

Genesis 3:1-7 records the account of Adam’s sin. By studying this passage, we will learn how sin entered the world and how we can overcome our sin. Let’s first set the scene: At the end of Genesis 2, life is perfect. Adam and Eve are naked in a lush and plush garden enjoying fellowship with the Lord and each other (2:25). Then something happens that forever changed the world.

 

  1. The Serpent’s Scheme(3:1): Our story begins with the following description: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made” (3:1a). Mankind’s first temptation comes through the mouth of “the serpent.” The creature here is a literal serpent that Satan embodied to carry out this temptation. The Hebrew word for “serpent” carries the idea of bright and shiny. This describes its general appearance as beautiful and pleasant to be around. The serpent made a good pet and was probably constantly around Adam and Eve. In fact, it is also probable, that for this reason, Satan chose to use the serpent as his disguise to deceive Eve.

 

The serpent is called “more crafty than any beast of the field.” The Hebrew word for “crafty” (arum) sounds like the word for “naked” (arumim, 2:25). While Adam and Eve were naked in innocence, the Serpent was crafty in deception. The word “crafty” is not primarily a negative term in the Bible. Rather, it often suggests wisdom. The description of the Serpent as “crafty” is in direct contrast to the foolishness exhibited by the first man and woman. In man’s quest to be wise like God (3:6), man made a most foolish decision. Instead of enjoying all that was “very good” (1:31) man went after that which was clearly forbidden (2:16-17).

 

In 3:1b, the Serpent speaks to the woman and asks the first question recorded in Scripture: “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?’” This is not an innocent conversation starter. The Serpent reduces God’s command to a question. Satan is so subtle. He does not directly deny God’s Word, but introduces the assumption that God’s Word is subject to our judgment. Notice how Satan spins the question. He does not say, “Why would God keep you from eating the fruit of one tree?” It was couched in more deceptive words as he implies that God, who has forbidden one tree, has forbidden them all. However, the issue was one tree, not “any [every] tree of the garden.” The Devil’s words were misleading, and that is the way temptation always comes.

 

Satan focused Eve’s attention on God’s one prohibition. He suggested that God did not really want what was best for Adam and Eve but rather was withholding something from them that was essentially good. He hinted that God’s line of protection was actually a line that He drew because He was selfish. The Serpent wants God’s Word to appear harsh and restrictive. Satan is cleverly attempting to plant a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind concerning God’s Word and God’s goodness.

I have a few rules in my family. Don’t play with our knives. The blades are razor sharp and you can easily cut yourself. Don’t run around in the kitchen. Our kitchen island has sharp corners and you can crack your head open. I have these rules because I am a killjoy that wants to rob my kids of good clean fun, right? No, I have certain rules because I want to preserve my kid’s lives. God has the same intentions for us when He makes rules that prohibit us from doing certain things.

Do you believe God is holding something back from you? Is He preventing you from attaining something that is rightfully yours? Satan does not wish us to ponder the grace of God, but to grudgingly meditate upon His denials. We are to understand that denials (doing without, prohibitions) come from the hand of a good and loving God: “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11). When temptation comes, stop to think before you take and eat.

Instead of rebuking the Serpent for its craftiness and calling Adam in for spiritual assistance, Eve listens. Eve’s first mistake was to listen to teaching that did not come from either God or Adam. Her second mistake was to listen to teaching that was contrary to God’s previous instructions. Eve placed herself in a vulnerable position by accepting dialog with the Serpent.

 

One of the questions you may have is: why did the Serpent talk to the woman? Why didn’t he talk to Adam or both of them as a couple? I believe Satan attempted to put a wedge between husband and wife to conquer by dividing, thus to capture their minds and cause them to act in disobedience to God’s Word. That’s why God puts such a high premium on the oneness of husband and wife and why, as husbands and wives, we need to encourage one another and build up one another. The minute Satan’s wedge is in, we are candidates to be chewed up by Satan and spit out in little pieces.

 

  1. The Woman’s Response(3:2-3). Instead of shunning the Serpent, Eve obliged him by carrying on a conversation. Rather than running from this one who dared to mock God’s character, she stays to debate. This is never wise. The Devil is not reasonable so there is no point in trying to reason with him. Not to mention, it is always dangerous to flirt with temptation. The moment Eve detected the Serpent insinuating something suspicious about God’s goodness, she should have kicked dirt in his face and made tracks. But instead, she stayed to argue. There are many Christians today that think they can counter the Devil. So they talk trash to him, stomp him under their feet, and make light of his power. How very stupid! Satan laughs at us and could eat us for breakfast if he wanted. We must always remember to have a healthy degree of respect for Satan. He is powerful. We are no match for him apart from Christ’s power working in and through us. (you are not the violinist in the Devil Went Down to Georgia).

 

Let’s take a close look at Eve’s reply in 3:2-3: “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” In her reply to the Serpent, Eve attempts to defend God’s honor but in the process distorts His Word. First, while God said, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely” (2:16), Eve said, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat” (3:2). Eve omitted “any” and “freely,” the two words that emphasized the generosity of God (cf. Rom 8:32). Eve subtracts from God’s Word.

 

Likewise, Eve had a distorted impression of the severity of God in prohibiting the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She expressed God’s instruction in these words: “You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die” (3:3). But God had said, “But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (2:17). Eve magnified God’s strictness—“Just touch the tree, and zap you’re dead!” Her comment suggested that God is so harsh that an inadvertent slip would bring death. Here, Eve adds to God’s Word (see Prov 30:5-6).

 

While exaggerating the prohibition to the point where even touching the tree was evil, Eve had unconsciously downplayed the judgment of God by omitting the word “surely,” and by failing to report that death would come on the day of the offense. In other words, Eve emphasized God’s severity, but underestimated the fact that judgment would be executed surely and soon. Satan’s first attack on the woman was that of a religious seeker, in an effort to create doubts about the goodness of God and to fix her attention on what was forbidden as opposed to all that was freely given. In this final example, Eve softens God’s Word.

 

Original Command (Genesis 2:16-17) Eve’s Reply (Genesis 3:2-3)
“From any tree of the garden you may eat freely.” “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat.”
“But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” “But from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”

 

Satan’s scheme was quite diabolical. Had he begun to challenge the rule of God or Eve’s faith in Him, her choice would have been an easy one. But Satan erroneously stated God’s command with a question so as to appear that he was misinformed and needed to be corrected. Few of us can avoid the temptation of telling another that they are wrong. And so, wonder of wonders, Eve has begun to walk the path of disobedience while supposing that she was defending God to the Serpent.

 

  1. The Serpent’s Kill(3:4-5). In 3:1b, Satan operated as a sly ole dog, but now in 3:4-5 Satan unleashes his beastly self. Moses records, “The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (3:4-5). In the first question (3:1b), Satan tiptoed up to Eve on her blindside, but now he steamrolls over her on the broadside with a bald-faced lie. The Hebrew places the word lo (“not”) in front of God’s declaration: “Not—you shall surely die!” Take that God! It’s the Serpent’s word versus God’s Word—an absurd juxtaposition.

It’s crucial to understand the “Father of Lies” (John 8:44) is so saturated with lies that he even attempts to make God out to be a liar!

 

Satan’s strategy began rather innocently by introducing and encouraging doubt. His strategy quickly culminates in a blatant denial of God’s Word (cf. 2:17). In denying it he imputed motives to God that were not consistent with God’s character. God’s true motive was the welfare of man, but the Serpent implied it was God’s welfare at man’s expense. This added suggestion seemed consistent with what the Serpent had already implied about God’s motives in 3:1. Having entertained a doubt concerning God’s Word, Eve was ready to accept a denial of His Word.

As 3:4 reveals, the first thing Satan wants to deny is the doctrine of God’s judgment. He denies the penalty for sin. He says in effect, “You won’t reap what you sow.” Here is the lie that has allured the human race from the beginning: There is no punishment for disobedience. But the Bible again and again makes it clear that no one can get away with sin (Gal 6:7-8). Disobedience brings death (Rom 6:23). It is imperative that we recognize there are consequences for sinful actions. To imply or suggest otherwise is to undermine God’s holiness, justice, and wrath (Hab 1:13).

 

To make this direct contradiction of God’s Word seems reasonable; Satan invents a false motive for God. God, he says, has really invented a nonexistent penalty to keep you in your place. He is afraid you will rise to His level. If you knew as much as God knows, you would become a threat to Him. Eve’s response is fatal. She divorces her God-given reason from God’s Word and relies on her own limited experience.

 

This constitutes the great sin of man: to live independently of God. That is the root of sin. As Burger King says, “Have it your way.” I read that among the unbelieving population, Frank Sinatra’s song, My Way is in first place as a funeral favorite. The chorus is frightening: “But best of all I did it my way.” But the truth is, My Way is the dirge of death, marking the imploding of autonomous self. But what a deadly magnetism it carries.

 

It is interesting to note that what the Serpent said about Eve’s being as God was a half-truth. Adam and Eve did not die immediately, and their eyes were opened. Ironically, she was already as God, having been made in His image (1:26). She did become like God in that she obtained a greater knowledge of good and evil by eating of the tree. However, she became less like God because she was no longer innocent of sin. Her relationship with God suffered. Though she remained like God she could no longer be with Him. The consequent separation from God is the essence of death (2:17). The first doctrine Satan denied in Scripture was that sin results in death (separation from God), or we could say, the doctrine that God will not punish sin. This is still the truth he tries hardest to get people to disbelieve.

Also interesting to note is that the Serpent only speaks twice (3:1b, 4-5). That’s all the talk that was needed to plunge man downward into the spiral of sin. The success of the Serpent can be attributed to his cunning ability to question the goodness of God. The central theme of Genesis 1-2: God will provide the “good” for human beings if they will only trust Him and obey Him, is challenged by the Serpent. He cleverly suggests that God is indeed keeping “good” from His creation. The Serpent’s claim directly contradicted the main point of Genesis 1 and 2, namely, that God would provide what is good for man.

[Again, Eve should have run buck-naked, streaking through the garden, but she stays to tease temptation.]

  1. The Man and Woman’s Sin(3:6-7). In 3:6a: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate.” In 3:1-5, the Serpent initiated the first two steps. But in 3:6, he let Eve’s natural desires carry her into his trap. This is why we can’t follow Flip Wilson and claim, “The Devil made me do it!” James countered this argument 2,000 years ago when he wrote, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (Jas 1:14).

Eve’s basic needs and desires fell into three categories that share parallels with 1 John 2:15-17. First, physical: “good for food.” This parallels “the lust of the flesh”: the desire to do something contrary to God’s will (i.e., “eat the tasty fruit”). “It will feel good.” The desire for food was a part of what drew Eve into sin. The body exercises a pull on us and sin can use various physical appetites. There are various desires of the body, the desire for ease, laziness, appetite, greed for physical pleasure, sexuality. All of these are channels down which we may be drawn into sin.

 

Second, emotional: “delight to the eyes.” This parallels “the lust of the eyes”: the desire to have something apart from God’s will (i.e., possess the beautiful fruit). “It looks good.” The power of eyesight has an amazing ability to stimulate the desire for sin. It is stronger in this than any other of the body’s senses. Seeing it will heighten our appetite for something. There is an added desire that comes by looking—enticements that come through the imagination, stirred by something seen. If sinless Eve could be pulled down, how much more those who are born sinful.

Lastly, intellectual: “desirable to make one wise.” This parallels “the boastful pride of life”: the desire to be something apart from God’s will (i.e., as wise as God). “It will make me better.” “I need something I don’t have to be happy.” Here is the essence of covetousness.

 

Human Need Genesis 3:6 Temptations 1 John 2:15-17 Parallel
Physical “Good for food” The lust of the flesh
Emotional “Delight to the eyes” The lust of the eyes
Intellectual “Desirable to make one wise” The boastful pride of life

 

The next phrase is absolutely devastating: “and she [Eve] gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (3:6b). Not only did Eve sin, but in her distorted thinking and her false sense of accomplishment, she also gave the fruit to her husband. When Eve brought the fruit to Adam, she was acting contrary to the “helper” principle (cf. 2:18). Instead of benefiting and aiding Adam, she is contributing to his downfall. She is actually inviting him and pressuring him to accept that which is contrary to divine viewpoint.

 

What sin have you invited a loved one to talk you into committing? Disobedience of God’s Word almost always affects someone else. Most tragically, it affects those we love the most. Eve’s disobedience affected her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, and every descendant since. The problem of sin doesn’t stop with the choice. Choosing to sin leads to consequences.

 

The word “with” is what is so devastating about this verse. Adam was with Eve while this tempting dialogue with the Serpent was going on. Sadly, Adam did not say a word and then he sinned willfully by eating of the fruit. Make no doubt about it; although the woman was deceived, the man was not (see 1 Tim 2:13-14). Adam passively watched everything. He sinned willfully, eyes wide-open, without hesitation. His sin was freighted with sinful, self-interest. He had watched Eve take the fruit, and nothing happened to her. He sinned willfully, assuming there would be no consequences. Everything was upside-down. Eve followed the snake, Adam followed Eve, and no one followed God.

 

It is analogous to Karen (my wife) and I sitting in our family room watching the Super Bowl. All of a sudden the doorbell rings. Karen gets up to answer it while I keep on watching the Super Bowl. I can overhear her letting in a vacuum cleaner salesman and listening with increasing interest to his sales pitch. I do not want to stop watching the game, so I let the conversation continue, even to Karen signing a contract. If she were then to come into the room and say to me, “Here, you have to sign this, too,” it will come as no shock if I sign it without protest. By default, I have allowed my wife to make a decision and I have chosen to go along with it.

 

In this biblical account, the man chooses to obey his wife rather than God (cf. 3:17). Adam sees and hears her in a fallen condition, spiritually dead and different, and having all the facts, he must decide to embrace her or to embrace God. With all the facts, Adam rejected his relationship with God and embraced Eve. He said no to the Creator of all his blessings, and said, “Yes,” to a created one. He turned down the divine design of Gen 1:28 and turned it over to Satan.

 

Husbands and fathers, if you don’t lead your family, Satan will. Ladies, please don’t take this personal; this is not intended to cause offense. It is a statement of biblical truth. God has set up the home so that the man leads. If the man doesn’t lead, pray that He will but don’t assume his role.

Our passage closes in 3:7 with these tragic words: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.” For the first time in Scripture, the word “then” is portrayed in a negative sense. The moment Adam and Eve sinned, they received the knowledge of good and evil. As a result, they “knew that they were naked.” Up until this point, their sexual organs were like their hands, feet, and mouth. Their nakedness was beautiful. But when sin entered the world, nakedness became shameful outside of the marriage relationship (cf. 2:25).

Having committed the sin themselves, and now living with its immediate consequences, they attempt to alleviate the problem themselves. Rather than driving them back to God, their guilt leads them into a self-atoning, self-protecting procedure: they must cover themselves. This is the tendency of mankind when it comes to a relationship with God. Yet, the Bible makes it clear that man can only have a relationship with God through simple faith. God has orchestrated this plan so that no man can boast before Him (Eph 2:8-9). Today, will you stop trusting in yourself and believe in Jesus Christ as your substitute for sin?

Creation’s crown – mankind

Christian psychologist James Michaelson once counseled a woman who felt lonely and abandoned. As she explained how she felt, he couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying, because a Scripture kept running through his mind: “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Ps 100:3). This verse had no apparent connection with her problem, but he couldn’t quit thinking about it. After she finished talking, she sat in silence waiting for a response. Dr. Michaelson didn’t know what to say other than quote the verse, although he realized it might sound foolish since it seemed unrelated to her dilemma. “I think God wants you to know something,” Dr. Michaelson said. “‘It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.’ Does that mean anything to you?” The woman immediately broke down and cried.
After composing herself, she explained what it meant. “I didn’t tell you this, but my mother got pregnant with me before she was married. All my life I believed that I was a mistake—an unplanned accident—and that God didn’t create me. When you quoted that verse, I pictured in my mind God forming me in my mother’s womb. Now I know that God created me and that I’m not a mistake. I’ll never be the same again! Thank you, Dr. Michaelson. I’ll never forget this day as long as I live!” God knew this woman needed to know she was His marvelous creation and not an accident. Her perspective changed dramatically once she understood that God had crafted her in the womb (see Ps 139:13-16).

Many of us haven’t fully grasped the significance of God’s creative work. We may understand certain truths at an intellectual level, but they have not been fully assimilated into our hearts and lives. That’s why, throughout the Bible, God deliberately answers the questions of life like, “Where did we come from?” “Where are we going?” “How will we get there?” God wants us to know who we are and who He wants us to become. If we heed the wisdom and example found in Genesis 1:26-2:3 we will be confronted with two challenges that will enable us to rediscover these truths.

1. Keep up the image (1:26-31). In 1:1, Moses recorded the creation of the universe. In 1:2-25, he made quick work of 5½ days of God’s preparation of the land. But now on the sixth day the narrative slows down and the story becomes unhurried and gives greater detail. In 1:26, Moses writes, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” After creating the universe and putting everything in its proper place, God deliberates with the Godhead. The plural pronouns “Us” and “Our” are a reference to a plurality of God, hence a hint of the Trinity. God’s deliberation shows that He has decided to create man differently from any of the other creatures—in His image and likeness. This phrase means several things; I will just share three.

First, to be created in God’s image means that a relationship of close fellowship can exist between God and man that is unlike the relationship of God with the rest of His creation. Our greatest claim to nobility is our created capacity to know God, to be in personal relationship with Him, to love Him, and to worship Him. Indeed, we are most truly human when we are in fellowship with our Creator. If you’re feeling empty and unfulfilled, it could be that your relationship with God is unhealthy. Wholeness comes when we are in a love relationship with God.

Second, to be created in God’s image means that we reflect God in our personality and communication. This is why we have value, dignity, and worth. I will venture to say that we who name the name of Christ are going to have to stand up and be counted in the days to come. Abortion, euthanasia, and bioethics, to name just a few, are going to demand ethical and moral standards. The bedrock principle upon which such decisions must be made is the fact that all men are created in God’s image. In this light, I can now see why our Lord could sum up the whole of the Old Testament in two commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-40).

The attitude of the future seems to be to love only those “neighbors” who are the contributors to society, only those who may be considered assets. How different is the value system of our Lord, who said, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matt 25:40). In my estimation, here is where we Christians are going to be put to the test. Some are strongly suggesting that those who our Lord called “the least” are precisely those who should be eliminated from society. May God help us to see that man’s dignity is that which is divinely determined.

Third, to be created in God’s image and likeness means we need to be in community with others. The Bible is all about community: from the Garden of Eden to the City at the end. One of the greatest fallacies of individualistic Western Christianity is that a person can be just as faithful to God by himself as he can in connection with a body of believers. Phooey! Jesus did not say, by this shall everyone know that you are My disciples, if you pray and read your Bible every day by yourself. While these are disciplines not to be neglected, He said, “By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Verse 26 further explains because human beings are created in God’s image they are His representatives on earth and should “rule” over all the earth” (cf. Ps 8:4-8). Rule implies lordship but not exploitation. Man, as God’s representative, must rule His subjects, as God does, for their own good. While legitimizing human use of the world’s resources, God gives no license for our abuse of His creation. As the divine image bearer, man is to subdue and rule over the remainder of God’s created order. This is not a license to rape and destroy everything in the environment. Even here he who would be lord of all must be servant of all.

As God prepares to make mankind, he declares he will make creatures like himself and give them rule over his creation (v. 26). He then executes his plan: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (v. 27). The text does not define the image of God in mankind, but it does offer several hints.
Adam and Eve are God’s image. God created them holy (Eph. 4:24) and with the ability to obey him in knowledge (Col. 3:9–10), to use language, and to be creative. Bearing God’s image means possessing personhood, which involves unique souls and relationships with God and others. Moses hints at this by showing that two genders were a part of God’s plan from the beginning (Gen. 1:27). God gives significance to both men and women by creating them in his image, and both image him in his world.
Image-bearing also includes fulfilling the roles God assigns. Adam and Eve are to represent God by exercising dominion over his creation (vv. 26, 28). In addition, because Adam and Eve are the first parents of all humans, only one race of image-bearers exists, as Paul underscores: God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). Consequently, mankind’s various ethnic groups come from one family, ruling out any racism.
Theology for Life—May God help us to treat people of both genders and all races with the respect and dignity that accords with their creation in God’s image.

Verse 27 is the first poem in the Bible. The shift to poetry highlights God’s creation of humanity as God’s image bearers. Moses writes, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Lest we should miss the point, the word “created” is repeated three times over in reference to the man and woman. God wants us to understand He created us; we were not the result of random chance.

In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson marvels at what makes up human life: No one really knows, but there may be as many as a million types of protein in the human body, and each one is a little miracle. By all the laws of probability proteins shouldn’t exist. To make a protein you need to assemble amino acids…in a particular order, in much the same way that you assemble letters in a particular order to spell a word. [For example, to make collagen,] you need to arrange 1,055 amino acids in precisely the right sequence. The chances of a 1,055-sequence molecule like collagen spontaneously self-assembling are, frankly, nil. It just isn’t going to happen. To grasp what a long shot its existence is, visualize a standard Las Vegas slot machine but broadened greatly—to about ninety feet, to be precise—to accommodate 1,055 spinning wheels instead of the usual three or four, and with twenty symbols on each wheel (one for each common amino acid). How long would you have to pull the handle before all 1,055 symbols came up in the right order? Effectively forever. Even if you reduced the number of spinning wheels to two hundred, which is actually a more typical number of amino acids for a protein, the odds against all two hundred coming up in a prescribed sequence are 1 in 10260 (that is 1 followed by 260 zeros). That in itself is a larger number than all the atoms in the universe, yet we are talking about several hundred thousand types of protein, perhaps a million, each unique and each, as far as we know, vital to the maintenance of a sound and happy you. God has created you creatively and perfectly.

Have you ever noticed the pockmarks, or dimples, covering the surface of a golf ball? They make the ball look imperfect. So, what’s their purpose? An aeronautical engineer who designs golf balls says that a perfectly smooth ball would travel only 130 yards off the tee. But the same ball with the right kind of dimples will fly twice that far. These apparent “flaws” minimize the ball’s air resistance and allow it to travel much further.
Most of us can quickly name the physical characteristics we wish we had been born without. It’s difficult to imagine that these “imperfections” are there for a purpose and are part of God’s master design. Yet, when the psalmist wrote of God’s creative marvel in the womb, he said to the Lord, “You formed my inward parts (Ps 139:13) and “Your eyes saw my unformed substance” (139:16, ESV). Then he said, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (139:14, ESV). If we could accept our bodily “imperfections” as part of God’s master plan for us, what a difference it would make in our outlook on life. The “dimples” we dislike may enable us to bring the greatest glory to our wise and loving Creator, who knows how to get the best out of our lives.

Carre Otis was among the world’s top super models for 17 years, beginning her career at the age of 14. To prepare for each photo shoot, she routinely binged and purged, took laxatives and diet pills, and exercised intensely. Being extremely thin made possible a modeling career that earned her $20,000 a day. Cocaine helped her to diet, and she used heroine later on in her career. She married actor Mickey Rourke, but they soon divorced. This destructive lifestyle led to a mental and emotional breakdown.
After treatment at a mental institution, she emerged committed to changing her life. She began eating normally and abstaining from all drugs and alcohol. She gained 30 pounds, went from a size 2 to a size 12, and is now successful as a “plus size” model. Several years ago, on her 32ndbirthday, a friend invited her on a humanitarian mission to distribute clothes and toys to kids living in orphanages in Nepal. For the first time she saw what starvation really was. Looking back on her experience, she explained to reporter Cynthia McFadden: “It wasn’t about somebody being concerned that they were going to fit into a size, and that’s why they weren’t eating. It was because there wasn’t food to be had. There was no money to get food…I thought, you know what? This is how the rest of the world lives. If somebody asked me, ‘When did you feel the most beautiful?’ I would say when I was traveling through the Himalayas in dirty clothes, dirty hair, hadn’t had a shower in a week, and was giving kids clothes. That’s when I felt like the most beautiful woman, and the woman I’ve always aspired to be.”

God has a great love for us. He wants us to know and experience this. The primary reason we don’t is we are unsatisfied with who we are and as a result we attempt to earn other people’s approval for how we look, what we do, or what we will become. Yet, the Lord wants you and me to know that He loves us and He has created us special.
After creating man, “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (1:28). The importance of this blessing cannot be overlooked. Throughout the remainder of the book of Genesis and the Pentateuch, the “blessing” remains a central theme. According to the creation account, the chief purpose of God in creating man is to bless him.

“Blessing” denotes all that fosters human fertility and assists in achieving dominion. Interpreters have generally recognized the commands to “be fruitful and multiply” as commands to Adam and Eve (and later to Noah, 9:1) as the heads of the human race, not simply as individuals. That is, God has not charged every human being with begetting children. This seems clear from the fact that God has made many men and women incapable of reproducing. Consequently, one should not appeal to this command as a support for the theory that God wants all people to bear as many children as they possibly can. This verse is a “cultural mandate,” not an individual mandate.

I would also add that the blessing here must be understood as a privilege rather than an obligation. This means that those countries that regulate the number of children a couple may have cannot be accused of countermanding biblical dictates. Likewise, those couples who choose not to have children are not in violation of this Scripture.

With that said, it is important for us to recognize that children are a blessing not a burden. The psalmist says it well, “Children are a gift of the Lord” (Ps 127:3). So, being parents of children (even many children) is a joy that one will not regret.

Moses states that Adam is supposed to subdue the earth. The word translated “subdue”(kabash) means “bring under bondage.” The word doesn’t mean “destroy” or “ruin.” It means “act as managers who have the authority to run everything as God planned.” The concepts of “subdue” and “rule” remind us that we are responsible to care for creation.

In 1:29-30, Moses records, “Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food’; and it was so.” God provided food for mankind in the form of seed-bearing plants and fruit trees (1:29). According to 1:29-30, both people and animals were apparently vegetarian before the flood. It was not until after the fall, and perhaps after the flood, that meat was given as food for man (cf. 9:3-4). Genesis, however, is not primarily interested in whether people were originally vegetarian but in the fact that God provided them with food.

Chapter 1 closes with these words: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (1:31). The definite article (“the”) is used only with the sixth and seventh day, perhaps to signify the climax of the narrative on these two important days. God evaluates only this day’s work as “very good.” These two facts indicate the climactic nature of the sixth day.
[We are responsible to God to keep up the image but we are also responsible to…]
2. Take a break (2:1-3). Moses writes, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” It is likely that the author intended the reader to understand the account of the seventh day in light of the “image of God” theme of the sixth day. If the purpose of pointing to the “likeness” between man and his Creator was to call on the reader to be more like God (e.g., Lev 11:45), then it is significant that the account of the seventh day stresses the very thing that the writer elsewhere so ardently calls on the reader to do: “rest” on the seventh day (cf. Exod 20:8-11).

The author sets the seventh day apart from the first six not only by stating specifically that God “sanctified” it. We’ve all heard the song “Oh Holy Night.” Well, this is “Oh holy, day”! On this day God did not “speak” nor did He “work,” as He had on the previous days. God “blessed” and “sanctified” the seventh day, but He did not “work” on that day. This theme is repeated three times in these three verses. The author is making the emphatic point that since we have been made in the “image of God,” we must also prioritize the rest of God. We are expected to copy our Creator. Indeed, the context implies that a weekly day of rest is as necessary for human survival as sex (1:27-28) or food (1:29). This is an emphasis that seems to have been forgotten today, even amongst Christians.

We function at peak performance when we take one day off a week to rest and replenish. If we violate this design, we are abusing our bodies and soul, and little by little we diminish our effectiveness. So important was this principle for living that God modeled it Himself by taking the seventh day for rest. Did God do this because He was tired? Does divinity perspire? I don’t think so. God did not come to nightfall on the sixth day and say, “Thank Me it’s Friday.”

God is reinforcing a pattern that is essential for healthy, productive living. He is suggesting that it’s an act of God to take a day off. We must not attempt to be more spiritual than God. If He chose to take a day off, so should we.
But if you’re like me, this will be very difficult for you. As I was wrestling with this concept this week, I began to think about my financial giving. Ever since I was a small boy, I’ve sought to honor the Lord with whatever money He has blessed me. I’ve never thought about holding back a portion of my income from the Lord. One of the reasons being, I am absolutely convinced that I can’t out give God. I believe that He will supply all of my needs as I honor Him in my giving. What quickly dawned on me is, I don’t really believe that if I take a day off a week that God will meet all of my needs (Phil 4:19). It seems to me that there is just too much to accomplish. If I take a day off for the purpose of rest and worship, I will never catch up. Things won’t get done. I won’t be as productive as I could be. This kind of thinking lacks faith and dishonors God. I must come to the place where I become convinced that God will multiply my time as He does my finances.

So when should we take our day of rest? For years folks have quibbled over what day we should take off. In America, we have a two-day weekend because we couldn’t agree on the Jewish or Christian Sabbath. Yet, the biblical model is to work six days a week and take one day off. What day should you take off? In Romans 14:5-6a, Paul makes it clear that your day off can be any day that works for you. In Mark 2:27, Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” So take whatever day you want to take off and do whatever is restful or worshipful for you. If you enjoy gardening, celebrate your Creator God. If you like to exercise, work out to the glory of God. Just ensure you take some time off during the hectic workweek. The truth is: You and I will remember the sacred moments over the productive. Activities like playing with your kids, reading as a family, watching a family movie, talking with your spouse, and taking a drive will stand the test of time.

I know this admonition is especially difficult for the self-employed or stay-at-home moms. You are always burning the candle at both ends. There are always things to do that are often out of your control. You may not always be able to carve out an entire day of rest. That is why you must recognize that rest is not just in a day; rest is in a Person. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:28-29).

A minister was concerned when two of his three sons began to stutter. He made an appointment for them to see a speech therapist (who was also a psychologist), and later had an appointment himself. “That psychologist literally cursed me,” the minister said. “He told me I was responsible for that speech defect, and that I was ruining my boys’ lives. ‘When did you last take your family on a vacation?’ he asked me. “Well, it had been a long, long time. I was too busy to take time with my family. I remember I used to say that the Devil never takes a vacation, so why should I? And I never stopped to think that the Devil wasn’t to be my example.”

The “glory days”

3. “The Glory Days” (Genesis 1:1-25)
Do you remember the movie Back to the Future? In the movie an old professor designed a car that could be set for a certain date. By driving at a certain speed the professor could break the time barrier and arrive at that date. Although the driver of the car could be living in 1997, he could set the date for 1950 or 2020, drive the right speed, and arrive at that date. The idea was that 1950 or 2020 or 1997 or any date all occurred simultaneously if the time barrier were broken. But God has not just broken the time barrier; He lives without one because He is eternal. He is also outside of space and time. Admittedly, it is mind-bogglingly difficult to understand a God like this.

As we continue our study through the creation account, it is important to recognize the truth of God’s words expressed in Isaiah 55:8-9: ‘“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” Unless we can first agree with the above assessment, we will struggle through the first two chapters of Genesis. Yet, this is not God’s intent. Rather, we are to pursue the God of creation as He reveals Himself in Genesis.

As we enter back into the fray of Genesis 1, we need to remember a few important truths. (1) Genesis doesn’t tell us everything we want to know; it tells us everything we need to know. Moses, the author of Genesis, selectively chooses what we need to know about who God is and what He has done. We will try to answer questions that are of particular interest to the author. (2) The book of Genesis is a part of the Pentateuch, which means one book in five parts. The Pentateuch encompasses Genesis-Deuteronomy. All five books nicely fit together as a single book. The wise reader will look for similar and dissimilar threads woven throughout the book. (3) The book of Genesis is 3,500 years old. This means it has been working effectively to change people’s lives for a long time. It continues to change lives today.

Before we look at 1:3-25, it is worth summarizing 1:1-2. I understand Genesis 1:1 to teach that God created the entire universe during a period of time referred to as “in the beginning.” Genesis 1:1 tells us, in very clear and straightforward terms, that time and history had a beginning. At some point in the past, God created creation. God made creation for our good and for His glory. This creation reaches its conclusion in Revelation 21:1, with a new earth (cf. Isa 65:17). Genesis 1:2 then narrows the scope from the universe to the earth or more specifically the land of Eden. Verse 2 tells us that the land was uninhabitable for mankind. While God could have instantaneously created the land as it is, for whatever reason, He did not choose to do so. Now in 1:3-25, we will discover how God prepared the land for the first man and woman (see Isaiah 45:18).

If you’re wondering how I made the jump from the “earth” to the “land,” let me explain. We must be careful not to fill up ancient words with modern meanings. When we hear the word “earth” in our scientific age, we generally think of the big jewel we are on which orbits around the sun. But the term did not generally suggest such a meaning to those in the pre-space-age time when Genesis was written, for they did not generally know of the “global” dimensions of the planet. Thus, the term “earth,” (eretz) in Genesis, does not usually refer to the entire planet, but to a specific section of land.

It is also worth noting that Genesis 2 shows that the focus of Genesis 1 is “the land.” It was a common literary strategy of the Hebrews to give a general description of an event followed by a more specific account of that same event. In this case, Genesis 1 gives a general overview of God’s work, and Genesis 2 gives a more specific look at that same work. This seems evident even from a quick reading of the chapters. So it seems that both chapters are about the same events viewed from different perspectives. Since the setting of chapter two is clearly a localized section of land, and not the entire planet, it follows that the six days of chapter one concern a localized segment of land and not the entire planet or universe.

Before closely examining this passage, it is worth seeing the forest from the trees. Therefore, let me suggest three elements that stand out. First, the single most obvious point of Genesis 1is that God is the subject of all these verses. Everything else is an object. Objects are acted upon. Light, air, water, dry land, vegetation, sun, moon, stars, fish, birds, and land animals—all are objects in a creative process where God alone is subject. In these verses we are told that God “saw” (1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), “separated” (1:4, 7), “called” (1:5, 8, 10), “made” (1:7, 16, 25), “placed” (1:17), “created” (1:21, 27), and explained to the man and woman what He had done (1:28-30). Moreover, before that, God spoke (1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20), as a result of which everything else unfolded.

Second, note the two adjectives in 1:2, “formless” and “void.” The six days are divided into two triads, one referring to the first adjective, how the earth received its form, and the other to the second, how the fullness came to be. So days 1-3 remedy the situation of “formlessness,” and days 4-6 deal with the state of “void.”

Mark the symmetry here with each part commencing with light.
Summary: In three days God made the uninhabitable land productive, and in three more days He filled the uninhabited land with life.
Third, Moses’ description of the six creative days follows a particular pattern as this chart indicates.
Now that we have set the overarching context and clues, we are ready to contemplate the six days of preparation. First, “God said, ‘Let there be…and it was so.’” God does not “make” on every day, but He does “speak” on every day. Ten times God speaks! When I speak it is not nearly as effective. When I say it’s time for bed that is not always translated into my children all tucked in quietly. When I’m driving a bucket of golf balls and say this drive is going 200 yards, it doesn’t always wind up there. But when God spoke, things happened. This has always been the case down throughout history, which is really His-story. This is a powerful reminder that everything that God says can be trusted, including John 6:47.
Second, “God saw that it was good.” Everything that God made that was beneficial for humans, He called “good.” God loved His work.
Third, “God called.” God named the things He created. The act of giving a name meant the exercise of a sovereign right (cf. 41:45; 2 Kgs 24:17; Dan 1:17).
Lastly, “There was evening and there was morning, ___ day.” It is possible that the order of evening-morning in “And there was evening, and there was morning, one day” (cf. Gen 1:8, 13, 19, 23, 31) reflects the Hebrew concept of the day beginning with sunset and ending with the following sunset. Regardless, this informs us that He prepared and ordered the land of Eden over a six-day period.
Day 1 (1:3-5): “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God 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, one day.”

Since the sun, moon, and stars were included in the phrase “heavens and the earth” (1:1), 1:3 describes the appearance of the sun through the darkness. The division between “the day” and “the night” leaves little room for an interpretation of the “light” in 1:3 as other than that of the sun. God brought forth the sun, moon, and stars on the first day and assigned them their specific functions on the fourth day (cf. 1:14-18). God began His work on Sunday with a sunrise, the same day that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. God loved you so much that He prepared a place for you.

Day 2 (1:6-8): “Then God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.” God’s work involves making divisions and distinctions. God showed His power again by putting limits on the waters of the earth (cf. Job 38:8-11). The “expanse” is a reference to the sky (cf. 1:8; 7:11-12; 2 Kgs 7:2; Ps 104:3; 148:4-6; Prov 8:28). The water above is a reference to clouds; the water below is a reference to the water of the earth. Moses states that God “made this.” The word “make” (asa, 1:7) is not the same word as “create” (bara). Two examples should suffice. Last week, Lori made whole wheat muffins. She created (bara) these muffins. But they were not suitable for her family. So she prepared (asa) the muffins by spreading butter and strawberry jam on them. Another example: Lori and I had the house we live in built (bara). But before we moved in, we furnished it (asa) so that it would be habitable. On a humorous note, it is worth noting that nothing is called “good” on Monday. Nothing was made for human life on that day.

Day 3 (1:9-13): “Then God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them’; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.” On the third day we see God carrying out two distinct acts: He prepares “the land and the seas,” and He furnishes the land with fruit trees. Unlike the work of the second day, both acts are called “good.” They are “good” because both were accomplished for mankind’s benefit. Both acts were related to the preparation of the Promised Land. In a second work of separation, land is separated from seas, just as in 1:6 waters were separated from waters. Vegetation is created immediately—“Let the land produce vegetation.” The productive power of the earth is a God-given gift. God controls the boundaries of the seas. Even more important for mankind was the provision, on the third day, of dry land, on which he could live, and plants to sustain life (cf. 1:29–30). The distinct varieties of plants (1:11–12) bear witness to God’s organizing power.

Day 4 (1:14-19): “Then 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 for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.” On the fourth day the lights that God had created were given a purpose, namely, “to separate the day from the night” and “to mark seasons and days and years.” These heavenly bodies were to serve as signs for seasons and days and years (1:14). How did we have days without the sun? How do you have animals and plants living without sunlight? God is explaining His creation in these verses. Don’t worship these things; I’ve made them! Worship Me!
Pagan contemporaries of Genesis regarded these bodies as gods in their own right. To avoid any suspicion that the sun and moon were anything but created by God, Genesis calls them just lights. They were appointed to regulate the fundamental rhythms of human life by defining day and night and the seasons of the year. In astrology people use stars and planets for guidance, but the Bible says they merely display the handiwork of God (Ps 19:1). What folly to follow astrological charts of the Babylonians or worship the sun god in Egypt; rather, one should trust the One who made these objects in the heavens. However, many humans repeatedly reject the Creator to worship the creation (Rom 1:25). G.K. Chesterton said, “It is most often supposed that when people stop believing in God, they believe in nothing. Alas, it is worse than that. When they stop believing in God, they believe in anything.”

The Bible also indicates several symbolic purposes for the creation of the celestial bodies.
(1) To demonstrate God’s faithfulness. God’s promises for the survival and future glory of the nation of Israel are based upon the faithful witness in the sky (Ps 89:33-37; Jer 31:35-36).

(2) To demonstrate God’s power. God sustains the stars, calls them all by name, and has created them all (Ps 8:3-4; 147:4-5; Isa 40:25-26).

(3) To demonstrate God’s coming judgment. The prophet Joel spoke of a day when there would be signs in the heavens (Joel 2:30-31). The sun would be turned into darkness and the moon into blood “before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” The Gospels also speak of a coming day of judgment when “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matt 24:29; cf. Luke 21:25-28). These unusual events in the sun, moon, and stars point to God’s coming judgment.

(4) To demonstrate God’s purpose. Verse 14 speaks of the sun, moon, and stars being designed by God “for seasons.” The Hebrew word is used over 200 times in the Bible, and over half of these usages occur in the context of a gathering for worship. The word “seasons” points to celebration, feasts, and worship. In fact, the religious calendar of the Jewish people is based upon the visual changes of the moon. The seasons in 1:14 are designed to fulfill God’s purpose for His people; He wants us to worship Him.
Day 5 (1:20-23): “Then God said, ‘Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.’ God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.” On the fifth day God populated the land with many kinds of living creatures (birds and fish). The word “created” (bara) is used to draw our attention back to 1:1. This serves to remind us that “in the beginning” God had created these creatures with which He is now populating the land.

Each new step in the account is marked by the use of bara: the universe (1:1), the living creatures (1:21), and man (1:26). The primary interest of the author is to show the creation of all living creatures in three distinct groups: on the fifth day, sea creatures and sky creatures, and on the sixth day, land creatures. This is the first time God “blesses” in the Bible. The word is used over 80 times in Genesis where it usually speaks of fertility. The earth is alive. He is a great God that blesses. God brought up out of the water the Promised Land (the Middle East). God is preparing the land as a gift for people.

Day 6 (1:24-25): “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind’; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.” The “living creatures” are divided into three groups: “cattle, creeping things, and beasts of the earth.” God brings forth these creatures for man’s benefit.

First, we should be thankful for God’s creation. Most Christians express gratitude for God’s gift of salvation—and rightly so. But throughout the Scriptures there is a greater emphasis on expressing gratitude and worship for God’s creation. A great example of this is found in Revelation 4: God is to be praised just for being (4:8). Then He is to be praised for being the Creator (4:11). Before we can praise God for being our Savior, we must recognize that He is, first and foremost, our great Creator God. This causes us to see how big God really is.

Second, we should delight in God’s creation. God calls His creation good. There is beauty in creation. God is a great artist. God Himself enjoys the goodness of His creation (Ps 104; Prov 3:19; 8:22). If pagans worship nature in idolatry, we should worship God for it. God’s creation is amazingly diverse and is completely overwhelming to man. Why? Only a tiny fraction of all the species on earth (animals, plants, insects) have been discovered and named. Biologists have cataloged a total of between 1.5 million and 1.8 million species. Estimates of the true number of living species range, according to the method employed, from 3.6 million to more than 100 million. What is more astonishing is that scientists estimate that more than 95 percent of all the species that have ever existed are extinct! Two amazing examples of God’s infinite creativity: In one 2.5-acre area of Brazil’s rain forest, there are 425 kinds of trees. In one small corner of Peru’s Manu National Park, there are 1,300 butterfly species. We should delight in this. We should be awed by God’s beauty as revealed in creation.

Finally, we should demonstrate a responsibility toward creation. The world is becoming dirty and ugly. The air is being turned into smog. The rivers are polluted. Toxic chemicals fill the soil. The oceans have become garbage dumps, trash is piling up on the edges of our cities, and oil spills pollute our beaches. All the while many Christians laugh at environmentalists. We must change our actions and attitudes. Maybe you feel like you don’t have the time to spend upholding the environment. Can you encourage someone who is involved? Are there little things you can do like be informed? Can you do your part?

How can we boil down this beautiful section of Scripture? By worshipping the God of creation and preparation.

In the beginning – God, the creative genius

The purpose of our journey through Genesis is to acquaint ourselves with the roots of our faith, giving us a solid base on which interact with God. Perhaps it has been awhile since you frequented the pages of the first book of the Bible. Here is a simple test to see if you need to familiarize yourself with the truths of Genesis. I want to share with you the “Top Ten Ways to Know You Need to Study Genesis”:
1. Your pastor announces a new sermon series from Genesis and you check the Table of Contents to see if it’s in your Bible.
2. You think Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had a few hits during the sixties.
3. You open to Genesis and a WWII War Bond falls out.
4. Your favorite Old Testament patriarch is Hercules.
5. A small family of woodchucks has taken up residence in the Book.
6. You become frustrated because Charlton Heston isn’t listed in your Bible’s concordance.
7. You catch your kids looking at pictures in their Bibles of the garden of Eden and you demand, “Who gave you this trash?”
8. You think the Tower of Babel is in Paris, France.
9. You keep falling for it every time your pastor says, “Please turn to the book of Melchizedek, ch. 14.”
10. The kids are asking you too many questions about your unusual bedtime Bible story: “Noah the Shepherd Boy and His Ark of Many Colors.”
I want to begin our much-needed study of the book of Genesis by summarizing the book and noting some unique and interesting facts about the book itself. Moses wrote the book of Genesis. Chronologically speaking, it is interesting to note that the first three chapters of Genesis cover over a third of the Bible’s history! God has packed a lot of time into three chapters of the Bible. Genesis can be easily divided into two main sections. The first section, chapters 1-11, has to do with the physical universe and with creation, but in the last part, chapters 12-50, God begins to personally deal with man and with His chosen people. God was more interested in Abraham than He was in the entire created universe. What that tells me is that God is more interested in you and attaches more value to you than He does to the entire physical universe. God emphasizes the value of His human creation over the physical universe throughout the book of Genesis.
Let me illustrate this further by way of the four Gospels in the New Testament. Of the 89 chapters that are in the four Gospel accounts, only four chapters cover the first 30 years of Jesus’ life while 85 chapters cover the last three years of His life. (Twenty-seven of those chapters cover the final eight days of His life.) Where does that indicate that the Spirit of God is placing the emphasis? I am sure you will agree that the emphasis is on the last part, the last eight days covered by the 27 chapters. And what is that last part all about? It’s about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:1-19). That is the most important part of the Gospel record. God has given the Gospels that you might believe that Christ died for your sins and that He was raised from the dead to give you eternal life (John 20:30-31). That is essential. That is the all-important truth that God wants to emphasize. In the same way, the all-important truth of Genesis is that the God of the universe loves and values you more than anything else.

On Christmas Day 1968, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the dark side of the moon and headed for home. Suddenly, over the horizon of the moon rose the blue and white earth, garlanded by the glistening light of the sun against the black void of space. Those sophisticated men, trained in science and technology, did not utter Einstein’s name. They did not even go to the poets, the lyricists, or the dramatists. Only one thing could capture the awe-inspiring thrill of this magnificent observation. Billions heard the voice from outer space as the astronaut read it: “In the beginning God”—the only concept worthy enough to describe that unspeakable awe, unutterable in any other way. “In the beginning God created”—the invasive, the inescapable sense of the infinite and the eternal.

There is no other way to approach the book of Genesis but to recognize that our God is awesome. Carefully read these words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (1:1). There are two purposes in this opening statement: (1) to identify God as the Creator and (2) to explain the origin of the world. The origin does not imply that absolutely nothing existed or had happened before this. The separate creation of angels and other heavenly beings is already assumed (see 1:26).

The first three words in our English Bible (“In the beginning”) translate a single Hebrew word bereshit. This word does not necessarily connote a brief period of time. This means the Bible never intended for us to pinpoint the age of the universe. We cannot say for certain when God created the universe or how long He took to create it. He may have taken billions of years or He may have taken six 24-hour days. The biblical text does not satisfy our raging curiosity. It simply says, “In the beginning God…”

This is an important acknowledgement. The debate of the age of the earth has brought disunity into the Christian community. Those that hold to a young earth criticize old earth Christians. Those that hold to an old earth criticize young earth Christians as having little upstairs. Yet, when all of the crossfire concludes, we must humble ourselves and acknowledge that this is a non-essential issue. When we state or imply otherwise, we are grieving the Lord.
My friend believed that God created the universe but he believed the scientific evidence clearly points to an old earth. I agree with this assessment. So I began to explain to him that there are several views proposed by conservative, biblical scholars. Unfortunately, in his college and graduate training, he had been told that to be a Christian you had to subscribe to a literal 24-hour view of creation. I told him that nothing could be further from the truth.
Now, I don’t want to suggest that this is what typically happens. It is not. My point is this: The Christian community has been guilty of making the age of the universe a stickler issue. As a result, we turn many people off and we turn many people with a scientific background away from faith in Christ. We really have to pick and choose our battles as Christians. To be fair to the Bible, we have a responsibility to teach the clear tenets of Scripture (e.g., sin, hell, Christ as the only way to God). These are difficult enough; let’s not further complicate matters. The issue is not when the universe was created; the issue is who created the universe.
Fortunately, the Bible tells us. The next keyword is the word “God,” a rendering from the Hebrew word Elohim, which shows that the Creator is the beginning of all things. The word Elohim occurs 32 times in Genesis 1. The point that is being made is that God existed before all things. There is no attempt in Genesis to prove His existence, because His existence is assumed to be true. From a biblical perspective, only a fool says that there is no God (Ps 14:1). So, the Bible just begins talking about God.

It is worth noting that the word Elohim is a plural word. Even in the first sentence of the Bible, God lets us know that He is plural even as He is singular. Later, in 1:26, He shows this in the creation of man because He says, “Let us make man in Our own image” (emphasis added). But then in the very next verse He says, “God created man in His own image” (emphasis added). The text moves freely from singular to plural. Why? Because our God is made up of three Persons.

The Bible says that God “created.” The Bible only uses the word “create” with God as the subject. It never has any man or woman as a subject. It never says any person “created” anything. Nowadays we often speak of people being “creative.” It is all right to speak that way but we ought to notice that the Bible specially reserves the word “create” for things only God can do. This verse and many others clearly teach that God made all things out of nothing. An artist creates a picture, but he uses acrylics or oils. An engineer constructs a building, but it is made of glass, steel, or concrete. Just think of what that tells us about the power, wisdom, and glory of God. What an awesome creator God!

One day a scientist approached God and said, “God, we don’t need You anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing. We can now do what You did in the beginning.” “Oh, is that so?” replies God. “Yes,” says the scientist, “We can take dirt and form it into a human likeness, and breathe life into it, thus, creating man.” “Well, that’s very interesting,” God said. “Show Me.” So the scientist reaches down, grabs a handful of dirt, and starts to mold the soil into the shape of a man. “No, no,” interrupts God, “get your own dirt!”
God created the earth, the universe, and everything that exists. This fact is certain. Several years ago a scientist wrote an article entitled, Seven Reasons Why I Believe in God. He argued his case as follows:
1. Consider the rotation of the earth. Our globe spins on its axis at the rate of one thousand miles an hour. If it were just a hundred miles an hour, our days and nights would be ten times as long. The vegetation would freeze in the long night or it would burn in the long day; and there could be no life.
2. Consider the heat of the sun. Twelve thousand degrees at surface temperature, and we’re just far enough away to be blessed by that terrific heat. If the sun gave off half its radiation, we would freeze to death. If it gave off one half more, we would all be crispy critters.
3. Consider the twenty-three degree slant of the earth. If it were different than that, the vapors from the oceans would ice over the continents. There could be no life.
4. Consider the moon. If the moon were fifty thousand miles away rather than its present distance, twice each day giant tides would inundate every bit of land mass on this earth.
5. Consider the crust of the earth. Just a little bit thicker and there could be no life because there would be no oxygen.
6. Consider the thinness of the atmosphere. If our atmosphere was just a little thinner, the millions of meteors now burning themselves out in space would plummet this earth into oblivion.
7. Finally, the fact that man is capable of grasping the idea of the existence of God is in itself sufficient evidence.
He concluded by saying, “These are reasons why I believe in God.”

The last four words in this verse, “the heavens and the earth” describe the entire universe. The Hebrew language has no word for “universe,” so instead the author used the phrase “heavens and earth.” This figure of speech, called a merism, refers to EVERYTHING (the sun, moon, stars, plants, rocks, rivers, mountains, and everything else). God created absolutely everything!

Genesis 1:1 offers several repudiations of views opposing biblical faith. For example, it repudiates atheism, because Genesis assumes the existence of God. Furthermore, Genesis sets forth a personal God, as well as a universe that was created by God.
Second, Genesis repudiates agnosticism, because in reality God does reveal Himself, as well as what He has done.
Third, Genesis refutes pantheism, because God is transcendent to what He creates.
Fourth, Genesis repudiates polytheism, as the Scriptures make clear that only one God created all things.
Fifth, Genesis repudiates materialism, because there was a clear distinction between God and His material creation. Matter did have a beginning; matter is not eternal.
Sixth, Genesis repudiates naturalism. We know that nature, itself, has its own origins.
Seventh, Genesis repudiates dualism, as God was certainly alone when He created. Eighth, Genesis rejects humanism. It is God, and not man, who is the ultimate reality.
Ninth, Genesis repudiates evolutionism, because God did create all things.

Now back to our text. In 1:2, Moses writes, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” First, we must note that the word “earth” (eretz) can be translated either “earth” or “land.” In this context, the translation “land” is preferred. When we hear the word “earth” in our scientific age, we generally think of the big jewel we are on which orbits around the sun. But the term did not generally suggest such a meaning to those in the pre-space-age time when Genesis was written, for they did not generally know of the “global” dimensions of the planet. Thus, the term “earth,” (eretz) in Genesis, does not usually refer to the entire planet, but to a specific section of land.

Second, the phrase “formless and void” is a Hebrew figure of speech that uses two independent words connected by “and” to express a single concept. For example, “nice and warm” means “nicely warm.” The word “formless” means undeveloped, like a blank chalkboard. The word “void” means that the land had no people on it (cf. Isa 45:18). Thus, the phrase means the land was yet unfashioned and uninhabited. To summarize: 1:1 explains the origin of the universe and 1:2 pictures the land before God prepared it for human beings. Light is needful for man. Ground is needed instead of seas. There has to be a provision of rain. The sky has to come into being. Vegetation has to be created for people. The sun and the moon are for people to tell time. The animals are for humankind.

How did this shaping of creation for the human race take place? “The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” God used the Holy Spirit to prepare the world for the human race. Since this is the first reference to the Holy Spirit in the Bible, it gives us an idea what He will always do. The Holy Spirit is the One that gives life, the One who gives form and direction to our lives.
It is interesting that salvation also follows a similar pattern to what we find here. When God first comes to us He finds our lives empty and without shape or purpose. Then He speaks into our lives. His Spirit moves upon us. This is what Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 4:6: “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” God’s ways of working in creation and salvation are similar. Salvation is His restoration of creation, using a similar pattern. God comes to us in our emptiness. He finds our darkness, emptiness, and hopelessness. His creative Word brings life to us. Again, Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17, ESV).

The implications of this are great. First, if God is the Creator of all things out of nothing, then He owns all things and all people absolutely (Ps 24:1; 89:11; 95:5). God owns all things absolutely. We may think of ourselves as owners only in relation to other people. That is, they have no right to take certain things from us without compensation. But in relation to God we own nothing, absolutely nothing, and He has every right to dispose of all our so-called possessions and us exactly as He pleases. This means that with regard to our possessions we are stewards or trustees of God’s estate, and with regard to ourselves we are slaves of the Almighty. It is very wrong to think that a tithe of our income belongs to God and 90% belongs to us. It is all God’s, absolutely, and we have no right to dispense it in any way but what pleases its Owner. The doctrine of creation implies that we should ask of every expenditure: Am I, by this purchase, achieving the purposes of my Creator?

Not only does God own our possessions, He also owns us absolutely. We are the clay and He is the potter, and He may do with us exactly as He pleases (Ps 29:16; 45:9). As Paul states in Romans 9:20-21: “The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay…?” The answer is, yes, the potter has absolute right over the clay. Take your spiritual temperature here. If this is sweet to you and you readily submit to God’s ownership, it is the mark of grace and maturity in your life. But if this is offensive to you and you resent the thought of God having an absolute right to do with you as He pleases, it is a mark of the flesh and of need for repentance.

A second implication of the doctrine of creation is that everything that exists has a purpose, a goal, and a reason for being. If God did not create the world then any man’s goal is as good as another. There are no absolutes and everything is aimless and absurd. The only meaning in life is what you arbitrarily create by doing your own thing. But if God did create the world then it has an absolute purpose and goal, for God is not whimsical or frivolous. Nor is His purpose ever in jeopardy for He says in Isaiah 46:10, “My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose.”

The ultimate purpose of God in creation was and is to display His glory in all its fullness. According to Numbers 14:21, God’s intention to fill the earth with the glory of the Lord is as certain as His very existence. He says in Isaiah 43:7, “I created Israel for my glory.” And, in Ephesians 1:12, rebellious creatures are brought back to God for this purpose: “to live for the praise of His glory.” Since God created everything, He owns everything; everything we have and are belongs to God. Therefore we must ask of every expenditure and every act, “Does this achieve the purpose of my Owner?” And now we know what this purpose is and so we must ask, “Does this purchase or this act or this attitude display God’s glory?” Thus, the second implication of the doctrine of creation is that God has a purpose in creation, to display His glory, and therefore the purpose of all His creatures is to join Him in that aim. That’s why we exist.

A third implication of this doctrine that I want to mention is simply this: If we are creatures, we are totally and utterly dependent on our Creator for everything. We are weaker than the weakest baby apart from Him, because apart from Him we fly into nothingness. Every breath we take, every calorie of energy we expend, and every good intention we fulfill is a gift from our merciful Creator who owes us nothing. So the lesson is clear: You can’t glorify God as the all-sufficient Creator and Sustainer unless you turn and become like little children who gladly depend upon their Father for everything.

The final implication is that everything that exists must be under God’s control. The creation must be in subjection to the Creator. Forces of nature, enemies, creatures, and objects that became pagan deities—none of these would pose a threat to the servants of the living God. So what are you currently worried about? Are you worried you will become a financial burden to your children? Are you worried about pending surgery or poor health? Are you worried about the future of your children—their physical safety, financial security, and spiritual wellbeing? Are you worried about your career and if it will take you where you want to go? Are you worried that you may not be able to adapt to all the technological changes in our world today and thus be unable to cope in your business?

Having a mission ambition

On March 11, 1965, Gary Duschl of Virginia Beach, Virginia began making a chain of gum wrappers. Today, over 53 years later, it contains over 2.4 million gum wrappers and is 101,440 feet long as of April 11, 2018 and growing. This length is 19.14 miles and would require the average human being about seven hours to walk! It is the equivalent to 337 football fields or 69 Empire State Buildings. Guinness’s World Records declared Gary’s chain of gum wrappers to be the longest in the world. The chain took over 38,000 hours to create. Regardless of what you think about this endeavor, it is quite an astounding accomplishment! I am impressed with Gary Duschl. Can you fathom the time, energy, and skill he put into this endeavor? What astounding ambition! http://www.gumwrapper.com/

What is your ambition? What do you hope to achieve with the rest of your life? Many people are consumed with work, family, money, and pleasure (not necessarily in that order). How much of what you do could be seen as a chain of gum wrappers? As a believer in Jesus Christ, you ought to be driven by an even greater ambition—one that can change world history and extend beyond the grave.

Paul gives you a holy ambition to shoot for in Romans 15:14-33. In this passage he prepares to conclude his letter. When biblical writers begin to wrap up their letters, people tend to tune out. However, these twenty verses answer the question: “How do I develop a mission ambition?” He says: God calls you to mission possible.

Perhaps you are thinking of “Mission Impossible” and are looking for Tom Cruise to appear. But this is not a movie, this is your life—your personal mission. Paul is going to ask you to do some impossible things in this text, but the underlying implication is that with God all things are possible if you humble yourself and depend upon Him to live His supernatural life in and through you. Paul imparts three characteristics of mission ambition.

1. Ambitious servants proclaim Christ (15:14-21)
If you are saved, you are called to proclaim Christ with your lips and your life! In 15:14 Paul writes, “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.” According to Paul, the Roman Christians excelled in three spiritual attitudes and aptitudes:

(1) They were “full of goodness.” These believers were good spouses, parents, employees, neighbors, and Christians. They were rightly motivated and were characterized by moral excellence in their lifestyles. Do you exude this kind of “goodness?”

(2) The Roman Christians were “filled with all knowledge.” Paul uses a word that often signifies knowledge gained by learning, effort, or experience. Doctrinally, these believers were well taught with no grave deficiencies in their biblical and theological knowledge. They also applied what they learned. Does your biblical IQ far surpass your AQ (application quotient)? If so, you are far better obeying what you know than continuing to add to your head knowledge.

(3) They were “able also to admonish one another.” There seems to be a sequence to these three commendations. The Roman Christians’ “goodness” and “knowledge” qualified them to “admonish one another.” The word “admonish” (noutheteo) has to do with counseling and guiding another Christian. The Roman Christians challenged and instructed one another in God’s Word. They also cared so deeply about one another that they took the time and the risk to lovingly confront those veering off the path. This is a critical need in every church.

Many of us fail to handle conflict the way we should. We either go into denial and avoid the confrontation altogether, face it head-on with a prideful attitude, or acknowledge the problem but shrug it off for the sake of maintaining a friendship. All three of these reactions are inappropriate. God expects you to lovingly admonish those believers who He has placed in your life. This is not a job for your pastor; it is a job for you. Often, you will be able to have a greater impact on individuals in the body than your pastor. You have unique gifts, experiences, and passions that God will use in your church. But you must step out in faith and do your part. Don’t wait for someone else. Don’t count on someone else! God calls you to mission possible. He will give you the strength to fulfill what He calls you to perform.
In 15:15a Paul writes, “But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again.” The apostle has written “very boldly” on numerous points:
(1) the Gentiles that have not heard the gospel are condemned;
(2) just being moral will not get a person to heaven;
(3) a person is justified by faith without any good works;
(4) through one single person sin came into the world;
(5) where sin increased, grace increased even more;
(6) we died to the law and are no longer under the law;
(7) nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus; and
(8) God will keep His promises to Israel despite their faithlessness.

Paul does not pull the punch—he makes it plain. His purpose is to “remind” his readers of what they know. He uses a word that literally means “to over remind” (epanamimnesko).

Why do we need to be reminded of basic truth?

(1) We are forgetful. As we age it is amazing how our memory can fade. Now that I am over 50 I am becoming a bit of an authority on this subject. Hence, we all need to be reminded of the truth we have known.

(2) We are easily distracted. Marriage, family, work, church, and our own personal pursuits can often crowd out our learning. Thus, we need to regularly return to our theological moorings and regain our focus.

(3) We think we know more than we do. One of the grave dangers of being involved in a Bible church is that it is easy to get puffed up like a spiritual blowfish and assume that we have a grasp on various theological concepts, when in reality, we don’t. Every believer can benefit from going over the fundamentals. After all, the vast majority of biblical interpretation is not profound; it is straightforward.

As Mark Twain said, “Most people are bothered by those Scripture passages which they cannot understand. But for me, the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those which I do understand.” Our great need is to be regularly reminded of what we know; then, we must be challenged to obey! Are you grounded in the fundamentals of the faith? Are you prepared to go back to the basics? Are you willing to obey what you know? God calls you to mission possible.

Paul now explains why he can speak such forceful and repetitious words to the Roman believers. He declares: “. . . because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (15:15b-16). God gave Paul “grace” (charis) to minister. Grace is simply God giving to us what we don’t deserve. Paul’s calling and ministry as an apostle are founded upon grace. If you underline in your Bible, underline the words “minister” (leitourgos), “ministering as a priest” (hierourgeo), and “offering” (prosphora) in 15:16.

These are all technical Greek words that are used to describe the Jewish priests who offered animal sacrifices in the Jewish temple. Paul uses these terms drawn from temple worship in Judaism to describe his own apostolic ministry. Instead of being a temple priest, Paul is a minister of Jesus; and, instead of being in the Jerusalem temple, Paul serves on the frontiers of the Roman Empire. Instead of having a priestly duty to bring animal sacrifices as an offering, Paul’s priestly duty is to share the good news about Jesus with Gentiles.

Two significant principles stem from this verse:
(1) Ministry is a gracious privilege.Admittedly, it is daunting at times. It is easy to feel taken for granted and unappreciated. This can lead to the fleshly response, “My church is lucky to have me!” Yet, the reality is, “I am fortunate to serve my church.” Ministering to others is a privilege! Do you see your opportunity to minister as a privilege or a burden? When you have served in a ministry for an extended period of time, it is easy to grow weary and disillusioned. Pray this week for a greater awareness of the privilege of ministry.

(2) The gospel is a precious responsibility. A priest handled an offering very carefully in order to keep it holy; we must handle the gospel just as carefully. You must see yourself as a spiritual heart surgeon who is dealing with matters of eternal life and death. How well do you know the gospel of Jesus Christ? Have you mastered its contents? God calls you to mission possible.
Verses 17-21 describe the priorities and principles that shaped Paul’s ministry up to the time of his writing and explain his absence in the past. In 15:17-18a he writes, “Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.” Paul states that he boasts (lit. “glories”) in “things pertaining to God.” Now keep in mind: no one hated boasting more than Paul. But when it came to boasting in what Christ had done through him, Paul could brag with the best of them! He does not say, “I boast about what I have done through Christ,” as if he were the subject and Christ merely the instrument. Rather, he says, “I boast about what Christ has done through me!” Paul is merely a tool, an instrument, a vessel for the work of Christ.

It is so easy to take credit for our own ministry accomplishments. Sometimes we are not even cognizant that we are doing it. We must deliberately choose not to rob God of any of His glory. This means we must consciously seek to be out of step with our culture. Today heroes in sports, entertainment, and politics promote themselves and their own agendas, yet as believers we are to be absolutely dependent upon Christ. God calls you to mission possible.

There are many reasons why Paul depended upon Christ so much. One reason was the sheer immensity of the task that God called him to. God-sized tasks typically bring about great humility. Paul explains that his ministry resulted in “. . . the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; but as it is written, ‘THEY WHO HAD NO NEWS OF HIM SHALL SEE, AND THEY WHO HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND’”(15:18b-21).

God did great things in and through Paul whose specific burden was to preach to those who had never heard. He pictured the region from the city of Jerusalem to the city of Illyricum as being like a big circle. (Presently, Jerusalem is in modern-day Israel, and Illyricum is in what used to be Yugoslavia, modern-day Croatia, Bosnia, and Albania.) Within this circle Paul planted about a dozen Christian churches in key cities. His strategy was to plant a church in a prominent city, and then empower church leaders to fan out into the smaller towns and villages. In this passage Paul was not saying that there were no longer any non-Christians in this circle, but he felts he was laying the foundation for the churches as he proclaimed God’s good news in this entire area.

Paul’s heart would be for us to follow in his sandals and focus on those who have never heard the good news of Jesus Christ. This means that churches should be forming churches where there are no churches. We must be committed to praying for world evangelization, particularly in the 10/40 window. We must seek to plant churches throughout the world including our own county. We may even be called to offer our lives in the service of world missions. History has told us that the lieutenants in Napoleon’s army carried in their jackets, close to their hearts, a map of the world. What Napoleon was trying to communicate to his men was world conquest! Wherever they went, they had that map close to their heart. Their vision was world domination. The same is true for the disciple of Jesus Christ. Our cry must be, “God give us a passion for souls.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said it well: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
[Not only do ambitious servants proclaim Christ, but . . .]
2. Ambitious servants make plans (15:22-29)
It is good to make plans and then hold them loosely. God has ways of redirecting our paths. Paul writes: “For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you; but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while—but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ” (15:22-29). Opposition and closed doors are not a sign of God’s disapproval. Rather, God can powerfully work through such circumstances. When Harold MacMillan was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, he was asked what represented the greatest challenge for a statesman. Famously, he replied, “Events, my dear boy, events.” Life has a way of catching us by surprise. We make our plans—and we ought to plan carefully for the future—but our plans do not equal God’s will. Events will intervene.

Perhaps you had plans for your life, which you thought were God’s will that did not come to fruition. You may have been engaged to the person you had waited your entire life for only to see the relationship break up. Maybe you are a married woman who has longed for a child of your own, but now you and your husband have been unable to conceive. You may have asked, “God why are you depriving me of being a mom? Do you think I am unfit for the task?” Perhaps you have prepared yourself for ministry and find yourself unable to get a job. It seems like every time you apply you are rejected. You may be wrestling with resentment, “God, I have spent thousands of dollars on college. I’ve tried to honor you with my life, and I feel like the well has run dry. What am I supposed to do?” Often, what has appeared as setbacks, God can use to promote us to the next level of Christian growth and character.
The apostle is also concerned that the Roman Christians give to the church at Jerusalem. The word “helped” refers to a generous financial gift. The phrase “serving” (diakoneo) is often used in connection with raising money. Apparently, many of the people who had turned from Judaism to Christ had lost their jobs and been ostracized from their families. Paul reminded the Gentile believers that salvation came through Israel, and told them that they had a moral obligation to help these Jewish believers who were enduring hardship because of their faith in Christ. Hence, the rich should help the poor; the strong should help the weak. Paul also emphasized two other terms: “pleased” (15:26, 27) and “indebted” (15:27).

His point is that sacrificial giving is a debt and a pleasure. How can these both be true at the same time? If you are a parent, you are under obligation to care for your children. If you do not care for your children, the State will remove them from your care. Yet, you likely also find pleasure in parenting (at least most of the time). If you are a parent, this great responsibility is both an obligation and a pleasure. Of course, the more you grow in Christ and spend time with your children the more pleasure you will discover in your parenting. Likewise, you are under obligation to give, but the more you grow in Christ and the more you get to know those in need the more pleasure arises in giving. Will you give sacrificially to those who need your financial assistance? Remember, you don’t own your wealth—you owe it. But there is great pleasure in giving generously to those in need. Perhaps in addition to giving cheerfully and generously to your local church, God is calling you to give to our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world. If so, do it today.
[Ambitious servants proclaim Christ and make plans. The third and final characteristic of ambitious servants is . . .]
3. Ambitious servants solicit prayer (15:30-33)
The quickest way to get on mission and recognize “Mission Possible” is to pray and to ask others to pray for you. In 15:30 Paul writes: “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” In Romans 1 Paul assured the Christians at Rome of his prayer suppo;t, now he turns to them and asks them to return the favor. In praying, they are actually participating with Paul in his ministry; they are, in Paul’s words, “striving together with him” (sunagonizomai).

The word-group agonizomai is often associated with the strenuous discipline of the athlete who struggles to prevail, such as contestants wrestling in the Greek games. It is a Greek word from which our English word “agonize” comes from. Clearly, Paul saw prayer as part of the Christian struggle. That is why Samuel Zwemer, ground-breaking missionary to Muslim lands, could utter his famous saying, “Prayer is the gymnasium of the school.” Paul expects you to pray diligently for your leaders. If you are in leadership, there is also wisdom in recruiting a prayer shield. A prayer shield is a team of people who will pray for you in the course of your ministry. Oh, how we need prayer to fulfill our ministries and finish well!

Paul makes two specific requests in 15:31-32:
(1) “that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea” (15:31). He does not ask that they pray for the salvation of these unbelieving Jews. They have had their opportunity. Judgment now awaits them. Paul does not see this journey as an evangelistic campaign among the unbelieving Jews but as a ministry to the saints in Jerusalem (15:26).
(2) Paul also prayed “that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints” (15:31). The Gentiles gladly gave to minister to the Jewish saints, but would the Jews gladly receive these gifts? Paul asked for prayer that they would. The goal of Paul’s prayer requests is: “so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company” (15:32). Thus, the “refreshing rest” (sunanapausomai) envisioned is not the relaxation of a hammock and a tropical drink. The refreshment stems from the fellowship and joy that exist when members of the church mutually minister to one another. God calls you to mission possible.

We must keep our main focus in prayer on the main task of the gospel. We must go for Satan’s jugular in our prayers and not get distracted into majoring on minor skirmishes. I imagine Satan briefing his demons: “I am afraid we can’t stop them praying altogether. Some of them have gotten in the habit. But, let’s divert them from the jugular and get them aiming for the little toe. See if you can get them to spend all their prayer time praying about physical illness. When their circumstances are difficult, get them to focus their praying on asking that things will get easier. Don’t, whatever you do, let them pray for courage and faithfulness to Christ in their difficult circumstances. I don’t mind too much if their health returns or for their circumstances get easier; but, I mind very much if they are loyal witnesses to Christ and servants of the gospel.”

In our final verse of this chapter, Paul writes, “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen” (15:33). Paul uses the familiar term “peace” (Gk. eirene/Heb. shalom) to emphasize that his mind is preoccupied to the end with Jewish and Gentile unity. Similarly, God wants us to experience true peace and harmony with other believers by tearing down any ethnic, social, and preferential barriers in the local church. God calls you to mission possible.