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Monday, January 9, 2017

Genesis, Part 1 - The Creation

Introduction
            We are starting a new study on Wednesday nights and Thursday mornings at my church.  it's called THE STORY and it studies the whole Bible in chronological order, starting in Genesis.  So I thought I would share a series of blogs about the story of Genesis.  Today, I want to work through some of the highlights of the creation story from Genesis.  In particularl, I want to focus on how the story relates to people, how God’s perfect creation was spoiled, and the consequences of that spoilage on the world and us today.  So let’s look look first at Genesis 2:25

Genesis 2:25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

            It's a short verse, but there is so much we can glean from it.  This is a picture of the perfect creation God made in the beginning.  Notice the total innocence of Adam and Eve.  They are naked, but they felt absolutely no shame.  When was the last time you could stand naked and feel as Adam and Eve?  They could because they were perfect in every way--just as God originally intended for humanity.
            Their bodies were yet to be touched by any sickness.  They had perfect sight, perfect senses, a body that functioned perfectly.  Have you ever known anyone who was a perfect physical specimen?  The closest we find to this in our time might be professional athletes or Olympians who are gifted with raw, natural talent and then spend their whole life developing that gift.  And yet, Adam and Eve were infinitely better than eve the best athletes we find in our world today.
            Their bodies were untouched by the slightest mental dysfunction.  They had perfect memory, perfect clarity of thought, perfect understanding.  Again, think of the most brilliant person you know or of whom you have heard.  Adam and Eve had infinitely better mental capabilities.
            They had no emotional problems, not eve the slightest.  For, no one had ever betrayed, harmed, spoken an ill word, had a misunderstanding or disagreement, been insulted or even perceived an insult, been depressed or sad or angry or anything other than at perfect peace and harmony with all God and all of His creation.
            So that Adam and Eve could stand completely naked before one another (and God) and have absolutely no shame.  They had no thoughts about blemishes, for there were none.  They had no feelings of vulnerability.  They felt perfectly safe.  They were not cold or concerned about getting a sunburn.  They did not have even a thought that there was anything to be ashamed of or that they were even naked.  To them—completely and utterly innocent as they were—it was an absolutely natural state of being. 
            And these attributes applied not just humanity. All of Creation was perfect. No wild beast threatened to harm Adam and Eve or any other animals, whether by malice or accident or necessity of food. No natural disaster existed on the earth—whether tornado or hurricane or wildfire or earthquake or frigid temperatures or scorching sun or flood or drought.  All nature was perfectly balanced and in harmony so as to make life completely sustainable and fit to enjoy.  And God and humanity were so close they lived in perfect harmony—talking to one another as friends walking through a garden on a beautiful day.  All this was the gift God gave to Adam and Eve. And yet, apparently, this couple wanted more.  The Serpent used that desire to tempt them.
 
Genesis 3:4-7
4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

            You might ask: "What was so bad about eating the fruit?"   It was direct disobedience of the one and only commandment of God--a test of their loyalty and love.  It was distrusting God – Eve (and Adam) believed the Serpent who contradicted God and even insinuated God was holding out on Adam and Eve. They wondered if they could get more. (How could you possibly have more?). They somehow believed they could get more if they disobeyed God (even though God had never done anything to make them question His love for them).
            It was appealing to Adam and Eve to be free of total dependence on God.  When my son was a young child, he loved Cheez-Its.  I remember vividly on time we were sitting in the car together--he strapped into his car sit.  I gave him some Cheez-Its and he loved them.  He wanted more.  I was delighted to give him some decided I would give him as many as he liked, but I didn't give him the box for fear he would spill them or soil the contents with his sloppy hands.  So I handed him a handful again and again each time he asked for more.  After only a couple handfuls, Gavin determined he was not satisfied to let me feed him one handful at a time.  He wanted the whole box for himself.  Even thought I would give him as many Cheez-Its as he liked, Gavin didn't want to be dependent on me.  In that moment, I perceived an aspect of our human nature.  We want to be independent--even from God.
            Don’t you see the seeds of your own human nature at work in Adam and Eve?  We are so easily tempted to disobey God.  We often distrust God though He loves us completely and unconditionally--even giving up His own Son on a cross to redeem us. We say:
  • “Why is God so mean to me?”
  • “Why can’t I find a husband? ...have a baby?"         
  • "Why can’t I have more money?  ...a better house? ... a nicer car?  Why is God holding out on me?”
  • “Why do bad things happen to ‘good’ people?”  (As if we are good people.  Romans 3:10 clearly tells us, "No one is righteous--not even one."  There are no good people, thus bad things do not happen to good people.  Yet we accuse God of making this happen.)
            We just want to live our life the way we want to without God.  I mean, we want God in our life--especially when we are overwhelmed or in trouble--but we don’t want to be dependent on God.  “Just help us out, God, when we need You and, otherwise, we’ll visit when it’s convenient.”  Who really wants God to be their All in All?  So we see in Adam and Eve the birth of the very sickness in our own souls.       
            Adam and Eve took a chance on the Devil... and lost.  And now we see the aweful result:

Genesis 3:8-11
When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”
11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

            Adam and Eve were afraid of God--their best friend, the giver of all good things, their protector, sustainer, source of life and peace and love.  They were so afraid they hid.  So add to their malady: desperation and confusion.  For, how can you “hide” from the Creator of the universe--WHO created stars a trillion lightyears away and also created the very heart beating inside your chest?  But their fear filled them with desperation and--being otherwise innocent and unskilled in the black art of sin and deception--all they could think to do was “hide.”
            Oh, we are so much better at sin and deceit than Adam and Eve were.  We’ve had thousands and thousands of years of practice.  Some are so skilled they can go their whole life never letting a single person know the secret sins of their dark heart; some can even deceive themselves.  But NO ONE can hide it from God.  For THE ONE WHO KNOWS HOW MANY HAIRS ARE ON YOUR HEAD will come looking for you.  “Where are you?”  He calls and we cannot help but reveal ourselves, “I hid from you because I was afraid.”
            The innocence was completely gone.  Now Adam and Eve were agonizingly aware of their nakedness.  They were ashamed where before they were joyful and happy.  Their once perfect bodies now suddenly bore the awful marks of age and deterioration that must come upon every aging body. (Can you imagine terror that seized Adam and Eve as they saw for the first time in history their once perfect bodies reduced by stretch marks and wrinkles and age spots and a thinning hairline?  We take these things for granted now, but Adam and Eve had no experince to build upon.  Can you imagine their horror as they felt for the first time in history the aches and pains of old age and arthritis and the dulling of their senses--sight, sound, the ability to remember--the degrading of their reflexes, the onset of vertigo?)  And the ONE PERSON they could ask anything and completely trust for help they feared was now their enemy.

            However, despite their evil and rebellious and ruinous decision, God still was not their enemy.  They turned their back on God, but God did not turn His back on them.  God provided a sacrifice and protection.  

Genesis 3:21 – 21 And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.

            Despite their sin, God took pity on Adam and Eve.  Concerned for their fear and shame and safety, God sacrificed the lives of animals to make clothing for the naked humans.  Imagine the horror of the man and woman as they saw animals slaughtered for the first time in history.  The animals’ innocent blood was spilt because of human sin.
            The only protection suitable was animal skin.  Adam and Eve needed protection from a now hostile world.  The elements now were a deadly threat--exposure to cold or scorching sun could wipe them out.  And the inevitable consequence of sin is death.  The animals died in place of Adam and Eve.  They wore the skins as a tangible reminder of the cost of sin and yet also of God’s continuing love for people as the most important part of His creation.

Conclusion
             God made Adam and Eve perfect and gave them the freedom to love Him or not.  They chose to love selfish desires and independence instead of God. They betrayed God for a deceiving snake and lost.  Their sin corrupted all of creation--sin, death, destruction, and disorder are now the norm of this life. The only thing holding back the doom is the loving hand of God--who despite being betrayed--still hopes and longs for a restored relationship with His people.
            Eve is the mother of all who live (Genesis 3:20). And so, we inherited Adam and Eve’s sinful nature and their resulting suffering. But God has not left us without hope.  Through Christ, our sins are forgiven and we are given new life and eternal life.  Through Christ, we can once more come before God and each other with an innocent heart.  For our sins are no more.  They have been crucified with Christ!  His blood has washed our sins away!  The blood of animals was only a temporary solution.  It was insufficient to truly wash away our sins.  But the blood of Christ is all-sufficient.  It washes us clean for all time--every sin we ever committed and every sin we might commit in the future are scoured clean by the blood of Christ shed on the cross. 
            One Day, God will even restore Creation.  Romans 8:21 - “...creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”  I invite you then, to take hold of this hope through God’s promise in Christ.  Turn away from your sin.  Stop chasing your own sinful desires.  Turn back to God.  He is your only hope, the hope of all Creation.
I invite you to bow your head and pray to God and turn your life over to Him completely.

“Lord God, forgive me my sin.  Just like Adam and Eve, I listened to the serpent in my heart and tried to find happiness on my own without You.  It did not work.  I am so sorry I turned away from You. Please forgive me.  Restore me, by the blood of Jesus Christ, to a right relationship with You so I may walk with You unashamed and unafraid all the rest of my days, and I can have everlasting life with You in eternity.  Amen.”