Series: In the beginning... - Part Three
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
January 15, 2017
We have been looking at the first three chapters of Genesis. All of which is foundational to everything that comes next. Hang on to something...
The opening chapters of Genesis is our introduction to the one true God - the triune God - Father, Son, Spirit - God Who in the beginning before anything existed - out of nothing God calls into being everything that exists. What is intricate and immeasurable. What displays the unprocessable awesomeness of Who God is.
God Who concerns Himself intimately with this planet. Who in six days of creation forms an amazingly diverse ecosystem with an abundance of vegetation and living creatures. God who forms mankind - male and female - us - in His image and likeness.
Genesis tells us that each of us uniquely bears the spiritual, intellectual, and moral likeness of God Who has created and breathed life into us. God uniquely creates us in His image and likeness and then gives to us purpose. Be fruitful and multiply. Fill and subdue. Have Dominion.
Can we affirm that together. Each of us for ourselves. “I bear the image of God. I am God’s representative and steward in His creation.”
That’s a lot. Isn’t it? And we’re only on chapter two.
The point of thinking through all that is to marinate more deeply on the astounding reality of what we’re being shown here about God and our relationship with Him. What meaning He gives to our existence.
What we’re coming to today - starting at Genesis 2:4 - what we’re coming to today is the slow motion highlight video of Day Six and the creation of mankind. Specific things God wants us to slow down and focus on as we process His creating us. We’re going to break down these verses into 5 sections or scenes. Go through them. Then, as we’ve been doing, come back and grab some take homes for when we head out of here.
Scene One - verses 4 to 6 - is Chronological.
Read with me: These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground...
Notice in verse 4 that the order changes. “heavens and earth” becomes “earth and heavens.”
That word order “earth and heavens” is unique. It’s only used one other place in all of Scripture (Psalm 148:13). It’s unique use here is to focus our attention on what God is doing in the here and now.
Genesis is the beginning of creation. But we’re moving chronologically forward from God creating everything to God forming and making specifically here on Day Six. Emphasis is now on the earth. This is the beginning of history - God now forming the earth - our atmosphere - heavens - becomes the starting point of the development of mankind - our history - our chronology.
Verses 5 and 6 give us a description of the earth with no vegetation and no rain. Maybe some of you have been wondering about how that relates to the previous days of creation when God had already created vegetation. Where’s the vegetation that was already created?
The highlight video description here of Day Six seems to contradict what we were shown back on Day Three. There are a number of good people who have given some grey matter to trying to work all that out.
All of which would be a great study for you to do on your own time. But not now.
Here’s what we need to know. What we’re seeing here is God moving forward from the generalities of His creating - “heavens and earth” - to the specifics of “earth and heaven” and in verses 5 and 6 focusing us even more specifically to His preparation of a place on the earth to put mankind - mainly the Garden of Eden.
That we’re not being shown vegetation here doesn’t mean that there isn’t vegetation in other places. Just not here.
When we come to verse 8 that gets even clearer. We’ll see that the Garden isn’t a garden yet because there’s no man there yet to garden in the Garden so God hasn’t planted it - caused it to spring up.
Mist may have to do with how things were watered before the flood in Noah’s day. Which also is a great study for another time.
Bottom line: After God forms man then God plants the garden.
What we’re being shown here - the specific focus moving from all of creation to a specific location on earth - is helping us to see how Day Six fits into what God is creating - and the uniqueness of mankind in that creation.
Hold on to this: The Garden is created for man not man for the Garden. That’s God’s timing - chronology. When God puts us somewhere in His perfect timing He will supply everything we need.
Verse 7: then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
“Then” - verse 7 is what draws us to God’s timing - then in that time - in that circumstance - then God did this…
What we have here is a condensed account of some amazing truths.
How did God form man? Did He pile some dirt up - water it with some mist - make something like a snow man - a ‘mud man”? Then did God take that “mud man” statute and breath life into it?
We don’t know.
Did Adam have a navel? We don’t know. Does it matter? Maybe it did to Eve. Not significant for us.
Three truths about us that are crucial to know.
First - God made the body of man out of the dust of the earth. Out of the stuff of this planet God first forms the body of man.
Second truth: Seems kind of a no-brainer. But God doesn’t stop with just a body. Man is more than just meat on the hoof with a nervous system. It lives! Meaning that man has a soul - a mind, a will, emotions. He thinks… most of the time.
The phrase “breath of life” in Hebrew means “a spirit of life.” “Breath” and “spirit” are the same in Hebrew and Greek. What we’re being shown here is way more than “mouth-to-nose” animation.
This is God giving to man what is unique to man. Animals have bodies. Animals have souls. Our cat Moscow has a will of it’s own.
But the spirit is what God has uniquely given to man. Man is not a more highly evolved animal. We are God created unique.
What’s on this chart is a description of how Scripture describes us as human beings. Each of us having three parts: body - soul - and spirit. Do you see those up there?
Our bodies - the green area - our bodies are the physical part of us that encloses everything else. The part of us that ends up dead and buried. What is the least important part of who we are that we spend the most amount of time focusing on. Something to think about next time you’re assessing yourself in the mirror.
The blue circles represent our soul. Essentially - our soul is who we are. Our soul is made up of our mind, will, and emotions. What we do or think. The exercise of our will under the influence of our mind and our emotions.
Our spirit is uniquely something that God has given us. No other creature has a spirit. Only man. The spirit has the capacity to survive and be held morally responsible after we die physically. The spirit is at the core of who we are in our relationship with God and at the core of who we are in how we live life. (1)
Looking at the chart - the spirit is at the center of the soul. Which can be a little bit misleading. The spirit is not part of the soul. The spirit drives the soul - our mind, will, and emotions.
Meaning that if the spirit is alive towards God then what drives our mind, will, and emotions - and the physical acts of our bodies - is going to be a spirit alive towards God. Meaning we’re living pleasing to God. Or, if our spirit is dead towards God then what’s driving our soul is going to be dead towards God. Meaning not pleasing to God.
Next Sunday when we look at Adam sinning - when Adam sinned he died spiritually. His body lived. Physically he went on living - pulling weeds, herding goats, and having kids. His soul lived. He kept making decisions and acting on those decisions. But, just as God said, “If you eat that you’ll die” when Adam disobeyed God spiritually he died towards God.
Which is true of each one of us. We’re born physically. We have a soul. But at the spirit level we’re born dead towards God. Which is why our own best efforts at pleasing God come up short. Because at the core of who we are we’re spiritually dead. Meaning unable to please God.
When we come to repentance and salvation - God - the Holy Spirit - sovereignly blows into and through a repentant person powerfully - sometimes painfully - but with progress and purpose - re-birthing that person - transforming that person - so that that spiritually reborn person is going to move through life where God leads. Our bodies and souls being blown - being directed - by God. Living lives that please God.
Which is hugely exciting. When God gets a hold of our lives things change. Having our lives directed and empowered by the God of creation its impossible to go on the way we were. Who can predict where God will lead you? What exciting purposes God has created you for? The amazing things God will do in you and through you? We’re in for a totally different adventure through life.
Let’s go on. Scene Three is Geographical.
Read with me starting at verse 8: And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
God puts man in a garden that God plants in Eden. Meaning that the name of the garden is not Eden. The place where the garden was is the land of Eden. There’s nothing here suggesting that the whole earth was some amazing garden. We’re being directed to a specific place that was pretty barren until God caused vegetation to spring up.
For this we need a map.
A lot of really smart people have spent a lot of time and effort to figure out where the Garden of Eden was and there are a number of suggestions. From my extensive research of what’s been suggested - meaning take this with a grain of salt - it seems that best understanding is represented by this map.
We know with reasonable certainty two of the rivers mentioned. The Tigris - which flows east of Assyria - present Iraq - and the Euphrates. And based on some solid research and some speculation the other two rivers are probably the Arax which flows between Armenia and what is currently Eastern Turkey. And the Qizil Uzan in northwestern Iran.
We’re given the name Havilah and told that “the gold of that land” is good. The Qizil Uzan which flows through that area “Qizil Uzan” translated means “floating gold.” Cush is given to us as a reference point.
Ultimately we don’t know. And, with whatever Noah’s flood did to mess up topography - today we really don’t know.
But someone did. All those specifics are there to inform real people of a real place - that at least the general location of it was known back then. And we can have some reasonable understanding of today.
The garden in Eden is not a myth. Not some spiritualized religious ideal. The garden in Eden was a real historical place that God put the man that God uniquely formed.
There is a reddish area which we believe is the land of Eden. “Gan” is outlined in yellow. “Gan” is the Hebrew word in Genesis 2:8 for “garden.” The garden being in the land of Eden.
The meaning of “garden” is… garden. An enclosure - for plants - fruits - spices…. and also a place of God’s blessing. Meaning that God places man in a garden to dwell there with God - ongoing being blessed in the presence of God. The unimaginable potential of that relationship gets lost in sin. (Job 8:16; Isaiah 61:11)
But we see that idea of location and blessing later in Scripture in the Promised Land which God gives to His people so that they have a location to dwell with Him. The Tabernacle and Temple are places of God dwelling with man. Jesus comes to dwell with us in His incarnation. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer. In Revelation with the new heaven and new earth the eternal dwelling of God is with man. What we’ve lost because of our sin God is in process of restoring.
Geography is hugely significant when it involves God’s presence. That’s not spiritualized mythology. God desires to dwell with you.
Scene Four is Theological. Verse 15-17
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Everything we have seen so far helps us to understand that we are in a real garden in a real place in real time with a real man being given a real warning about a real tree with some real fruit and some all to real for us real painful consequences.
One of the real questions that we can ask here is: “What is so bad with knowing the difference between good and evil?”
Isn’t it a good thing to know the difference between good and evil? Isn’t one of the signs of a mature Christian that he or she knows that’s good and that’s evil. Go there. Don’t go there. That’s a good thing. Isn’t it?
Don’t parents who have their heads screwed on straight try to get that idea through the heads of their children?
Why the warning? Why the prohibition?
Flipping forward to Genesis 3:5 - what we’re going to look at in more detail next Sunday - Genesis 3:5 - Satan speaking to Eve: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
From the forked tongue of Satan himself: “You will have your eyes opened. You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” True or false? True.
Question: How does God know good and evil? Because of experience. Right? Well, no. God doesn’t sin.
God knows what’s evil because God is not evil. He’s holy - morally good. What is consistent with Who God is, is good. God knows evil by comparison with Himself. Everything else is evil - self-destructive - a disaster in process - what God holds separate from Himself.
God is good. Everything in sync with Him is good. Everything else is not.
We’re together? God knows good and evil by relating it to Himself. God alone being good is the only One Who can do that. We can’t. Because we’re not God.
When we try to relate everything to ourselves we get ourselves into massive trouble. When we eat of the fruit we try to do what God alone is able to do. We try to relate everything to ourselves. We try to think of ourselves as the center of creation. We set ourselves up as being “like” God.
Looking at human history. Looking at our own lives. Isn’t that the lie? The reality that’s foundational to sin? Either God is god in our lives or we are god in our lives. If we’re god then whatever is right or wrong is judged right or wrong based on our version - flexible as it is - our self-centered I’m god version - of what’s right and wrong.
Are we still together? If God alone is good and we’re not God. And we set ourselves up to be God - then we sin. We do what is outside the character of God - what is evil. Which separates us from God Who is good and God Who cannot dwell with what is evil. We - by our choice - separate ourselves from God now and forever.
God who in real time causes to spring up this real garden in a real place for this real man to dwell with Him in real time - God issues this real warning and prohibition because God knows that if that man eats that real fruit that real relationship is going to be severed. Huge ongoing disaster for the relationship - for the man.
Scene Five is Relational. Verse 18-25
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man.
Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Notice what God intends and why.
First - God intends that woman is to be man’s companion. “It is not good that the man should be alone.”
Up till now - reading through the creation narrative - God ends each day ends with, “And God saw that it was good.” Without “woman” Day Six would end, “And it was not good.” God creating mankind - male and female - in His image was never an afterthought or a correction to a mistake. The companionship of male and female is integral to what it means to be mankind.
For a human to exist - male or female - in isolation - in loneliness - is misery. We were not created to exist in loneliness. We were created to need each other. One of the primary purposes of bringing a man and women together in marriage is companionship through the stuff of life.
Second - God’s intent is that the woman should be “a helper fit for him.” Someone to share life not as a companion - but someone to share his work and responsibilities - having dominion and stewardship over God’s creation. Procreating and raising children.
From the beginning it has been God’s design that man and woman should work in partnership together. That may mean different roles - different areas of responsibility. But always intertwined partnership - shared concern - shared decisions - shared labor. A partnership united in serving and glorifying God.
Then in verse 19 that gets clearer. God gives Adam the task of studying and naming the animals.
“How about this one?” “Oryctolagus cuniculus.”
All that naming is a homework project prepping Adam for marriage.
Question: What does Adam learn from all this?
Answer number one: A women is not an ox. Or a camel. Or a donkey.
Down through history and even today there are places where women are treated like that. They’re treated like beasts of burden and have a value that’s about the same as a cow or goat.
“100% Cotton: Machine wash warm - inside out with like colors - use only non-chlorine bleach - tumble dry medium - hot iron - do not iron print! Or, give it to your woman. It’s her job.”
That is totally against God’s design of male and female - companion and helper - relationships. A woman is not a slave - or a servant. Her role in the partnership is not to pick up after the man.
Second - Adam learns that the woman is not a baby factory.
Of course women are the ones who bear children. But they’re not like animals who seemingly exist only to reproduce. That isn’t the only reason God created women. Adam needed help in multiplying. Sex and sexuality is about intimacy and depth of relationship.
Third - Adam hopefully learned that women are not disposable.
Like an animal that’s a beast of burden that has to be able to pull the cart. That needs to reproduce to be useful. That when it’s usefulness is done it ends up being dinner.
Our sex driven - self-focused - immediate gratification culture thrives on the idea that women are around for the pleasure and use of men. Objects that require no relational commitment. Use ‘em and toss ‘em. Next.
The woman is a helper and companion fit for the man - she corresponds to his needs - continuously. She is to be treated with the sacrificial love that God shows in giving that gift to man.
What Adam should be learning here - as he’s naming animals - is the uniqueness the coming woman as his companion and helper. The need to cherish her and to value what she brings to the relationship.
How God forms the woman is intentional. Each of these may be a tad of a stretch. But not really. These are all in the ball park of what we’re being shown here and what’s useful for us to think about.
First: God causes the man to fall into a deep sleep.
The idea here is more than just anesthesia. What’s being described here touches on what we know from experience - that relationships are not just physical. Deep relationships are deep subconscious - psychological - heart level unions. God intends this relationship to touch the deepest levels of the man and the woman.
Second: God uses the man’s rib to make the woman.
Tons of jokes and ideas of come out of this. Right?
One suggestion - because a rib is one of the few bones that’s curved that’s why women have more curves than men. Which is probably bending things a bit too far.
Two realities. First - the rib emphasizes the core emotional nature of a woman. Ribs are nearest the heart - linked with the heart. Not that men are incapable of tender emotions. But we often need women to help bring them out of us and to channel them.
Second - the rib is protection. The word in Hebrew for “helper” is “azar” which has the meaning of “to surround.” Like a rib protecting vital organs women have a protective instinct.
C.S. Lewis asked the question: “If your dog has bitten a neighbor’s child, would you rather face the mother or the father to discuss the issue?” (2)
Pulling that together: God uniquely makes a woman to be man’s helper and companion using all of her emotional and protective instincts.
Coming to the last 3 verses of the chapter - these are really well known verses. So we not going to dwell here except to make four brief observations.
First: Complete Oneness. The two are to be one. Seamless. The blending of two histories - two lives - two psyches - two souls - two lives into one.
Second observation: Headship. Which is a study for another time. But here we need to grab that it is the man who bears greater responsibility before God for what goes on in the relationship - in the home. He is to exercise leadership and he will answer to God for that leadership - good or bad. There’s respect in the relationship.
Fourth: Intimacy. “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Which is about openness between the husband and wife. There’s nothing to hide. No distortion of sin.
We’re skimming the surface of what God has created. But are we reasonably together on what we’re seeing here?
God creates man and woman for each other as companions and helpers - meeting each other’s needs on the deepest - most intimate levels - to partner together in and through the stuff of life - serving and glorifying God.
God - from one end of Scripture to the other - God uses marriage as an example of our relationship with Him. Paul - in Ephesians 5 - uses marriage as an example of the relationship between Christ and His church.
The church - we exist in fellowship as the Body of Christ because we need each other. God has given us to each other to serve and glorify Him. Love God. Love Others. Serve the Church. Serve the World.
That doesn't exist in isolation. That should be hugely energizing.
Processing all that… and that’s a lot to process. Let me share one take home about relationships.
Up until Genesis 2:4 - in the Hebrew text - the name of God has been Elohim. The name of God that speaks of the fullness of Divine power. The sovereign God of creation - Elohim - Who in the beginning called all things into being out of nothing. Who forms everything according to His will.
The highlight video of Day Six - verse 4 introduces us to the “Lord God” - which now becomes the only name of God used here. “Lord” translates the Hebrew name “Yahweh.” In Hebrew Lord God is “Yahweh Elohim.”
Elohim is the generic name of God. Yahweh is specific - personal.
The God - Yahweh - Who is self-existent and Who gives life. The God Who reveals Himself to His people and establishes His covenant - His intimate relationship with them. Who makes them to be a people. Who delivers them - redeems them - from bondage in Egypt and establishes them in the Promised Land to dwell with Him. The God who provides for and protects His people.
Yahweh is the most frequently used name of God in the Old Testament. Used 6,800 plus times. Maybe God is trying to make a point about His desire for relationship with His people.
So “Lord” here in this sixth day of creation - is Yahweh - God - creating a man. A man with the spiritual capacity for relationship with God. A depth of quality and character of relationship that as man is created in the image and likeness of God - that depth of relationship is reflective even of the depth and intimacy of relationship within the Triune God - Father, Son, and Spirit.
Yahweh - God - places man in a garden in the land of Eden - a garden that God causes to grow as a place for the man - and woman - to dwell in relational intimacy - oneness - with God.
Yahweh - God - who creates a companion and helper for the man - and intentionally gives to them the potential for a relationship of enviable deep fulfilling intimacy and purpose.
The take home is to see ourselves - to see yourself - here in Day Six. What we are created for. What God desires for us. That potential is not lost regardless of where you may find yourself today.
Yahweh Elohim - is the name of God that speaks of the intimacy - relationship - that God desires with each of us. God who uniquely creates each of us - you - comes in the flesh of Jesus our Lord - opens up to us a redeemed and restored relationship with Him - a dwelling with Him now and forever.
1. Definitions adapted from “The Mystery of Godliness” by Major Ian Thomas, Zondervan, 1964
2. Quoted by Ray Stedman, “The Making of Woman” - see below.
As a general reference for this message I used two sermons from Ray Stedman: “The Making of Man” Genesis 2:4-17, January 7, 1968; and “The Making of Woman” Genesis 2:18-25, January 21, 1968
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.