I want you to stop for a moment, close your eyes, and picture yourself in the middle of your PERFECT DAY. It might be REAL – something you’ve done before, or do quite regularly. Or perhaps it’s a day you’ve only IMAGINED.
But whatever it is, it’s the sort of day that makes you stop in the middle of it, take a deep breath and sigh, “Ah, THIS is the life. THIS is what I was MADE FOR”?
Has everyone got something in their minds?
Open your eyes. Put up your hand if your day involved being somewhere in God’s creation (perhaps the beach, or perhaps the mountains, or the bush).
Now, put up your hand if you were sharing your day with someone else.
Hand up if you were on your own. Interesting!
I hope you’re not too disappointed, but I need to drag you away from your perfect day. Back to Doonside. Back to Gen 2. Ands it’s ALSO a picture of life as good as it gets. A picture of things the way they were meant to be.
It’s a DIFFERENT picture from Gen 1. Not contradictory. But a more INTIMATE and CLOSE-UP picture.
Think about video games. Some video games show a view FROM THE TOP. Looking down on the action. You might be looking down over the whole country as you plot strategies, move armies around, reinforce cities. Like AGE OF EMPIRES.
Other video games show a SIDE-ON VIEW. You might manoeuvre your character from left to right of screen. Jumping over crocodiles, hopping onto platforms, bouncing up to reach jewels.
And then there are games where YOU see what the character SEES. You’re right in among the action. You’re looking through the windscreen of the racing car as it screams down the mountain.
Or you’re looking through the night goggles of the commando as he moves through the building, your weapons peeking out of the corner of your field of vision, ready to blast anyone who comes across your path.
And it gives a very different experience of a game, depending what your VIEW is.
And it’s the same sort of contrast we see here as we move from Gen 1 to Gen 2. A CHANGE OF VIEW.
Gen 1 was a view from the top. The BIG PICTURE. Looking out across the whole universe. A view from GOD’S level.
But here in Gen 2, we’ve moved to the close-up view. From the wide-screen to the small-screen. The telescope to the microscope.
The INTIMATE view. Focussing on ONE MAN. Focussing on ONE GARDEN. Same game. Just a different view point.
It’s the same sort of thing you see whenever you read a magazine article, or watch a show like “A Current Affair”. They might be describing something broad and theoretical, something that affects the whole country. Like rising petrol prices, or obesity in children, or preservatives in food, or tax cuts.
But they’ll always have a human-interest story. How all of this THEORY affects REAL PEOPLE. Real families. How the large scale things affect people on the small scale. (Show eg)
And that’s what we’ve got here in Gen 2.
What’s in a name?
You can see this change of focus even in the NAME used for God. All through Ch 1, he’s GOD – Elohim. The title, or general-purpose name for ANY god. But from Ch 2 v4, he’s THE LORD God, That’s the English translation for Yahweh Elohim. A NAME and a title. The PERSONAL God. Who REVEALS himself in his name. Makes himself known to his creature.
It’s a change you can see in the sorts of things God DOES in this chapter. In Ch 1, it’s mostly about God SPEAKING.
But here in Ch 2, God’s GETTING HIS HANDS DIRTY. Taking a hands-on approach. Skim through the chapter with me.
He makes, not so much by HIS WORD, but (v7) by FORMING, or MOLDING. By BREATHING. V8. By PLANTING. By PLACING. V9, he SPROUTS trees. V19 FORMING again.
Or v21. He PUTS TO SLEEP, he TAKES A RIB, he CLOSES IT UP. V22. He BUILDS a woman. And BRINGS her to Adam.
All very HUMAN sorts of things to do. God is getting up close and personal.
(pause) And you can see a hint of it in the change of order in v4. The FIRST half says the account of the HEAVENS and the EARTH. But the SECOND half of the verse says when the LORD God made the EARTH and the heavens.
It might only be a change for the sake of variety. But it seems to be showing a CHANGE in FOCUS. It’s the EARTH that’s the priority in this part of the story. And in particular, it’s focussed on A MAN AND A GARDEN.
From God and his WORLD. To MAN and his GARDEN.
So let’s have a look at that Garden. And we’ll consider it under three headings. Man and God. Man and the Garden. And Man and Woman.
Man and God
First – the man and God. Have a look at v7. God doesn’t just MAKE man. He MOLDS man out of the dirt. He scoops it up from the ground, and sculpts a man out of it.
And then he breathes the breath, or Spirit, of life into him. Not just PHYSICALLY alive, but SPIRITUALLY alive. Something he doesn’t do for any of the animals.
And so, there’s two aspects to human beings.. There’s FLESH and there’s SPIRIT. BOTH are good. We can’t ignore one and include the other. There’s an earthiness as well as a spirituality about Biblical Christianity. A joy and a participation in the good things of THIS WORLD. Like and food and wine and work.
As well as a faith in the things we can’t see. And a longing for the better things of THE WORLD TO COME.
But even in the world to come. We don’t leave behind a physical body. We get a new RESURRECTED body. We’re not floating spirits. 1 Cor 15 talks about it like a SEED germinating into a PLANT. There’s a continuity between the new and the old, but also some big changes. We won’t leave behind a physical body. Human beings are flesh and spirit.
Some Christians in the history of the church have tried to drive a wedge between the two. And say only the Spirit is good, while the flesh is BAD. And so marriage and and food and physical appetites are all evil desires that need to be killed.
Or that THIS WORLD is bad. And so, they step away from the world. And just focus on the spiritual. Monasteries for meditation. But that’s not Christianity the way God made us. We’re spirit AND body. Both are good.
The opposite position comes from the secular scientists. Who say that man is nothing more than chemicals. We’re ONLY body. There’s no Spirit.
We’re WORTH less than $1 because that’s what our INGREDIENTS cost. There is nothing inherently precious about human life.
But we are VALUABLE because God has breathed his breath into us. We are living BEINGS. Eternal souls. Aware of who we are. Aware of and eternity. Aware of God. Aware that WHO WE ARE / is more than our physical bodies.
All things that the animals can’t do.
But there’s more we can learn about our relationship with our creator. He’s a God who hasn’t just MADE us, but who’s COMMUNICATED with us. That’s there in v16. Who’s INTIMATE and INVOLVED.
And as we think about what God actually communicates, we see a THIRD point about our relationship with God. He’s given us freedom and provision. But it’s freedom within boundaries.
He’s made us. We’re totally dependant on him. He’s given us all we need. But he’s also made us with the freedom to make our own independent choices. “You are FREE to eat from ANY TREE in the garden. All sorts of trees. All of them good to eat and good to look at. It’s your choice.”
But at the same time, there are LIMITS. One tree Adam COULDN’T eat from.
And, as we find out soon enough, being made with the ability to CHOOSE will have huge consequences for the world.
Man and the garden.
That’s man and God. What about man and the garden?
The first thing to notice is that the garden is SEPARATED from the rest of the world. V8 seems to imply that God made the man somewhere else, then took him and placed him in the garden.
It’s the idea of a walled garden, perhaps for the king. And if we can make anything of geography, a garden on A MOUNTAIN. Because it’s the source of the four rivers that flow down and water the world. It’s so lush and succulent and life-giving, it can provide life for the whole world.
And, just like a king’s walled garden, it’s full of the VERY BEST PLANTS. Great to eat from, and beautiful to look at.
And, in particular, there’s two trees given SPECIAL mention. That’s v9. Both in the centre of the garden. One is the tree of life. The other, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
One the man CAN eat from. In fact, the assumption is that HE DOES, because there’s NO yet.
But the OTHER is FORBIDDEN. I think it represents the desire TO CHOOSE WHAT’S RIGHT AND WRONG. To want to be morally independent. But more on THAT tree next week.
And then down in v15, the man is given WORK. The king appoints a royal gardener to tend his royal garden. Caring, nurturing, growing. Even NAMING – showing authority. But also, in a limited way, CREATING, like His Creator.
The whole picture is of life as good as it gets. Of things the way they were meant to be.
Man and Woman
But for all the GOOD things in this garden. There’s one thing that’s NOT good. But have a look at v18. Up until now God’s been saying It’s GOOD. But not here.
18 The LORD God said, “It is NOT good for the man TO BE ALONE. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
We’re made for relationships. Made to communicate. To share. To work together.
How many of you imagined your best day as one you enjoyed ON YOUR OWN? Many of us like time to ourselves, but I’m not sure we’d ALWAYS like to be on our own!
Because if it’s with the right person, a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled. You see something beautiful, or something funny. And you can’t wait to tell someone. And so, your favourite day probably includes someone to SHARE it WITH.
It’s not good for man to be alone.
And so God starts working through the options. One by one the animals parade through. All shapes and sizes. Noisy and quiet. Friendly and shy. Strong and weak. Large and small.
But NOT ONE is… SUITABLE. God needs a helper who COMPLEMENTS the man. Who fills up in the areas he’s lacking. Who COMPLETES him. And animals just won’t do it.
So God decides to start from scratch. Look at v21. He takes a rib from the man, and makes A WOMAN from the rib. The only creature not to be made from the dust of the ground. And he brought her to Adam.
Matthew Henry is often quoted here. Not sure if he’s right about why God used A RIB. But it’s a nice thought. “Not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved”
But let’s let Adam take up the story. V23. He slowly comes to after his sleep. His rib’s a bit sore. He gives it a rub. He opens his eyes. And there in front of him is the most beautiful creature he’s ever seen. Suddenly he forgets all about his ribs.
“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
The RSV translation puts it a bit better. The NOW word becomes “THIS, AT LAST, is flesh of my flesh!”
Finally! He’s been through THE REST. But now he’s seen THE BEST.
The ORIGINAL perfect match. Taken from man – ish – so she’s called ishah.
There’s SIMILARITY, DIVERSITY, and UNITY. She’s made FROM man – so she’s SIMILAR. But she’s made to be a SUITABLE HELPER. Someone who makes up for man’s shortcomings. Who fills in his gaps. So there’s DIVERSITY.
But there’s also UNITY. Because the writer concludes. V24. What this FIRST marriage means for every OTHER marriage.
24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be UNITED TO HIS WIFE, and they will become ONE FLESH.
Man and wife become ONE. A partnership. So close, they can finish each other’s sentences. It’s a unity that’s illustrated in the ual relationship. Two become one. One flesh.
It’s the way things were meant to be. Because v25 tells us the were and felt no shame. Shame comes from secrets. Shame comes from sin and guilt.
It’s a picture of a relationship that’s perfectly open and intimate and comfortable.
And so, the chapter closes. Everything in its place. Every relationship in perfect balance. Man and God. Man and the garden. Man and Woman.
It’s a balance that doesn’t last too long. In fact the very next SENTENCE shows that dark storm clouds are building over the idyllic garden.
But before we get to Ch 3, there’s a few lessons for us here as we think about marriage.
Firstly, if you’re single. This chapter says “It’s a good thing to WANT to get married”. Marriage is CERTAINLY a blessing. It’s NOT good for people to be alone. God took steps to bring a partner to Adam. And so it’s right for you to do the same.
But, let me say THIS. Even though marriage is good, it’s not THAT good, and Christian singleness that BAD, that it’s worth short-cutting God’s intentions. Settling for second-best. Like marrying a non-Christian.
Or perhaps God actually WANTS you to remain SINGLE. Have you seriously CONSIDERED that? It’s what he wanted for the Apostle Paul. He talks about some of the ADVANTAGES of being single in 1 Cor 7.
But that’s not for EVERYONE. In fact, it’s not for MOST people. There are GOOD REASONS to want to get married.
But it’s a good question to be asking – How would I feel if God’s will for me was SINGLENESS? Would I be accepting and content? Or would I be bitter and despairing?
But there’s one other thing I want to say to single people. And I don’t want to say this in a condescending way. But God’s given you a wonderful gift in church families. Sensitive Christian friends, from a range of different areas, can go a long way toward meeting the emotional needs of singles.
Good single relationships are better than a bad marriage relationship.
Secondly, if you’re a PARENT of someone who’s married. This passage says Let them LEAVE. So they can CLEAVE to their spouse. Let them BUILD that one-flesh relationship.
Don’t be a busybody. Your child has a new allegiance now. The husband-wife bond is STRONGER than the parent-child one. It’s the way God’s designed it. Even though you think you know better, don’t go against GOD!
Third, If you’re a married WITHOUT kids. (Perhaps you’re not READY for kids. Or perhaps you can’t HAVE children). Sometimes parents with children can make you feel like second-class citizens .
BUT GEN 2 SAYS THAT YOU, AS A HUSBAND AND WIFE, ARE A COMPLETE FAMILY. EVEN WITHOUT KIDS.
Four. If you’re a family with children. The Husband-wife bond is stronger than parent and child. It’s only your spouse you are one flesh with.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that while the kids are young you can sacrifice your own relationship to focus on them.
The husband-wife relationship is the hub of the family. The core. The most important aspect.
This is more likely a word to MOTHERS. Don’t put the kids before your husband. You might think it’s about looking after is THEM. But often, it’s really about YOU. Your hurts, your feelings of inadequacies, your emotional needs.
Because as years go by, a marriage relationship becomes hard work. And perhaps it’s just easier to throw your attention into your children.
But this won’t help THEM in the long run. A strong family needs a strong husband-wife relationship. Kids feel secure when they know mum and dad love each other and enjoy each other.
(pause) We MIGHT be living in marriages on this side of the fall. And NONE of them are perfect. They ALL take hard work. But it’s STILL God’s design. And he’s there to help us as we work at building open, respectful, constructive, serving marriages.
And in Jesus he’s given us the ULTIMATE PICTURE Of what marriage looks like. IN Eph 5 v22 we read that wives are to submit to their husbands as they submit to the Lord.
And husbands are to love their wives JUST AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER.
That’s our . Our example. Our goal. As we take those verses SERIOUSLY, God can do miracles in our marriages. And they CAN GROW to look like that first, perfect marriage.
The way things were meant to be – again (Rev 22:1-5)
One final thought. If you find yourself getting discouraged about how far away from Paradise YOUR life seems. How distant from the way things were meant to be. Then be encouraged by the HOPE we have.
Life today ISN’T the way things were meant to be. But one day, life will be TRANSFORMED. It’ll be RETURNED to the way it was meant to be. In fact, even BETTER than Eden.
Rev 21 and 22 describe eternity. Rather than a garden, we’ve got a CITY. But it’s a city that’s led on Eden. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.
Close your eyes, and imagine THIS perfect day. When you sit back and think, “Ah, THIS is the life. THIS is what I was made for!”
22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the HEALING of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any CURSE. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.