Genesis 2 - A Hot Air Balloon and a Microscope
[Text: Genesis 2:4-25]
Scripture Intro: Remember the Story: Israel was just released from slavery. They’ve seen awesome displays of power by God and have come to Mount Sinai so that their God can renew the covenant with them. They needed to know, “Where did the covenant come from?” and, maybe more importantly, “What is a covenant, again?”
[Read text and pray]
Introduction: Imagine yourself riding far above the tree tops in a hot air balloon. You can see for miles and miles and all the colors of the changing leaves seem to mix and blend into beautiful hues of fire and emerald. You’re up there with a bird’s eye view of everything! Hot air balloons are good for getting the big picture around you, but there are some limitations to what you can do from up there. You can see the geography of the land so that you could even make a map, but you can’t do any real detailed work on the ground. From way up there you could never pull a splinter out of a friend’s finger or draw a fine pencil sketch. You certainly could never perform surgery. If you’re going to perform detailed work like heart surgery, you should consider trading in the hot-air balloon for a microscope so that you can see the details.
From chapter 1 of God’s Story, the Israelites who just got released from slavery heard answers about some of their questions; about who their God was (He is the only God, the Powerful and Good Creator). Now they’re left with the question, “Ok, so why us? Why is this God concerned with our family? Why did we just walk out of Egypt and why are we standing in front of this smoking Mount Sinai?” That’s where the Story turns next. But instead of going straight to Abraham, Israel’s forefather, God has to go back to the beginning and zooms in on the sixth day of creation. He focuses on that day to talk about the first covenant with humanity because there’s more to the Story than just Abraham. Israel first needed to know why God was concerned with humanity at all because Israel knew better than anyone that humanity was broken. Their slavery had made them ashamed. Their own disobedience toward God left them ashamed. From without and within, their experience in life could be summed up by the word; shame.
You see, God had an intention for creation. He wanted his presence to be with what He had made. The earth was becoming his temple where he would meet with his people. So he made a covenant. We use that word in church sometimes, but it needs defining. Dr. Jack Collins, one of the editors of the ESV Bible, has a great, simple definition of a covenant. He says that a covenant,
“…formally binds…parties together in a relationship; they are to be true to the relationship by keeping their promises of loyalty and commitment. There will be consequences for keeping or not keeping the covenant (benefits or punishments).”
So, in Gen. 2 God is revealing something new. Israel just found out that God is the Only God, the Good and Powerful Creator, in the first chapter. That’s some of the big-picture-answers to who God is. Now they discover that that same God is also the Covenant God. In a nutshell, the focused account of chapter 2 furthers the Story by answering their “Why us” question; (1st) it’s because YHWH is the Covenant God and (2) because Adam was humanity’s Covenant Representative. If you’re taking notes, that’s how we’ll cover the text today. It will involve a little bit of moving around, but I think it’s a helpful way of seeing the main message.
So look with me and let’s see this amazing story of YHWH revealed as the Covenant God, and Adam becoming the Covenant Representative (who is in major need of help).
I. We’ll start with YHWH revealing himself as the Covenant God.
v. 4 - The very first thing to notice is that the Creator God is the God of the Covenant, translated here as “the LORD.” Now that name, the LORD, should give us pause for a moment. In our Scripture reading this morning, we heard that God had not revealed his name at the point of the Story that we’re considering right now. It wasn’t until Moses and the exodus from Egypt that the people of Israel knew that YHWH, translated here as the LORD, was the name by which their God was to be known. When he revealed it to them at that time the name YHWH became known as His covenant name, that is, His name that should immediately bring to mind the specific promises of God made to God’s people. It’s like Moses is telling the people, “See? The same God that made a covenant to save you and your family from bondage and promised his presence with you is the same God who made all things!” Just like in chapter 1, God is introducing himself to his people, but here he is zooming in on the fact that he makes (and keeps) covenants with men.
What does this Covenant God do?
- In v. 7 we see that He formed the first man.
vv. 5-6 give us the setting for the event, and show that some things didn’t yet grow because there wasn’t a man to irrigate and work the fields yet. This is pointing us toward God’s intention for man to be His image bearer, to continue the work that God began by filling and subduing the earth (makes a strong literary connection to ch. 1).v. 7 – Leaving behind the majestic language of chapter 1, here God is pictured as a master artisan forming a clay vessel, molding into what he desires.Calvin notes that we should let our origin humble us, lest we let our being made in God’s image make us proud and arrogant.Man lives because YHWH gives him life – we are dependent and we are valuable to him…always. This type of intimate creation is not described when God made the animals…only man.
- The Covenant God also provides for his new creation.
v. 8-9 – God plants a garden and makes it beautiful and productivetree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evilWe’ll revisit them in a moment, but note…Moses doesn’t explain the nature of these two trees.
- The Covenant God makes a covenant with his creation, specifically man.
Remember what a covenant is?“… [It] formally binds…parties together in a relationship; they are to be true to the relationship by keeping their promises of loyalty and commitment. There will be consequences for keeping or not keeping the covenant (benefits or punishments).”
vv. 15Note first that God and man are already in a relationship – already a gracious act of condescension. His love drives him toward such a relationship!God gives him work to dov. 15 - Keeping and enlarging the Temple2:2 – God resting after the work he had done is an ancient way of talking about a king in his palace2:11 – gold and other precious stones associated with the temple
v. 16-17 - God gives him a commandment“Covenant obligation,” not meriting God’s favorTo continue in the covenant, these are the terms. – nothing to gain (already in relationship with the One for whom he was made) but everything to lose…disobedience brings death!
Forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (but not forbidden to eat of the tree of life or any other tree).How do you view this? Suspicion or as Fatherly love for His child?Illustration: Silas and outlets…forbidding because I don’t want him to die, not because I want to squash his explorative nature.Not told the nature of the trees, but there are some hints:Some (for good reason) consider the tree of life to be some sort of sacrament, a physical sign of a spiritual reality. One commentator argues that eating of it would “confirm the man in his moral condition… [and so] he needed to gain (or retain) access to it by his obedience.”Know less about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – only that going after it would indicated discontent with the good that God has shown and imparted…at the root is a rejection of God.The warning in the commandment is this: “If you reject me, you will be cut off from life.” But the grace implied is “If you hold fast to me in obedience, abundant life is yours already!”
As we read this, what should become obvious to us is that rebellion against such a good God, who makes a covenant with mankind, is crazy!
So that is YHWH, the Covenant God, at work, but his work is done…
II. Through Adam, humanity’s Covenant Representative
The Creator is certainly capable of keeping and expanding his temple on his own, but the text teaches us that he plans to keep and expand his temple through the man made in his image. Adam, the first man and first image bearer, becomes the representative for all of humanity in God’s covenant.
As the first human and as God’s imager to the rest of creation, the responsibility of obedience to the covenant was given to Adam. The commandment given in v. 16 is grammatically clear:
- “the LORD God commanded the man,” (definite article present)
- The Hebrew text reads, “you (second person, masculine, singular) shall not eat… you (second person, masculine, singular) shall surely die.”
- We’ll see later in chapter 3 that Eve’s understanding of what was given to Adam, her covenant representative, is also binding on her, as well even though she did not yet exist when the commandment was given. She is “in Adam” (if I can borrow some language from later in Scripture). What is true of him (as her representative) is true of her, too.
This gets illustrated in the detail of what follows in chapter 2 as well:
- v. 19 - God brings all the animals that he had already formed (translation issue in v. 19) for Adam to name.
This is an exercise in representational authority over creation. In other words, this is part of his dominion over God’s creation as God’s covenant representative.
- v. 20-24 - God presents to Adam his helper and Adam names her as well.
This, too, is a demonstration of Adam’s representative role. But…
But don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that Adam is presented as better than the woman. Even though the role of covenant representative is given to Adam and not the woman there is more going on here than some acknowledge.
- First, God says that Adam alone is not good. Remember that in chapter 1 God said that he created man in his own image; male and female he created them. In this zoomed in view of Day 6, we see that man alone is incomplete. And it becomes obvious that this is about more than just man’s inability to be fruitful and multiply apart from woman.
Note the action following God’s statement that the solo-man situation wasn’t good. His solution is to make a helperfor Adam.Again, don’t let anyone discount the importance of that role and make it seem servile or slavish. In Psalm 40:17, the writer of Scripture says, “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes though for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!"A “helper,” then, is a supreme and necessary gift. What we see is that if Adam is to actually succeed in his covenant responsibility he must have someone to help him, even in a state of perfection!God created mankind as relational beings. Here it is seen in the institution of marriage (v. 24), but the reality is that we are always in need of community in order to succeed as human beings!v. 23 - Just see how he honors and delights in God’s gift! There is no abuse of power here!
So, Genesis 2 is the zoomed in account of day 6 of creation and a lot happens on that day. The Creator reveals himself to be the Covenant God, YHWH, and makes Adam his Covenant Representative with the necessary help of his wife. And what is the final state of affairs as chapter 2 closes?
v. 25 – “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
And why would they be ashamed? They were lovely in the presence of God, beloved and in intimate fellowship with the God of creation. They were in a beautiful land. They were fulfilled in their work and in their relationships. Everything was perfect.
Have you ever been ashamed? Not just because of physical nakedness, but because spiritually you felt naked before God. I’ve felt it. The people of Israel felt it, too. Just like last week, we feel the immensity of the chasm between what was at the beginning and our shame about what is now. In chapter 3, we will see a catastrophic display of absurdity, a display that you and I recreate each day, as mankind rebels against his good King and Covenant God.
But in this passage, we see God beginning to answer Israel’s question of “Why us? Why would God save us and want to be with us? What can he do about my shame?”
The answer is simple; As the Story moves forward we understand that God was rescuing his people and drawing them near to himself… because that was what he wanted from the beginning. That’s why he entered into a covenant with them! Even though his creatures, his children, ran away from him and broke his covenant he could never leave them alone in their shame. Israel, and you, were going to be God’s… even if he had to come down from heaven and keep your end of the covenant himself.
And that’s just what he did in Jesus. Jesus is the one:
- completing the work Adam could never complete – building and expanding the temple of God… by redeeming sinners and filling them with the Holy Spirit and knitting them together for his own dwelling place.
- fulfilling the covenant through perfect obedient to God’s commands.
- who was stripped naked and bore our shame on the cross. Through faith in him our shame is removed as far as the east is from the west because he clothes us with his eyes; covering us with his own righteousness and taking our sins upon himself!
- who left his Father and holds fast to us, becoming one with us as our husband so that what is true of him is true of us.
“Why us?” Not because we earn it. Not because we deserve it. But because loved His children so much that Jesus died and rose again so that those who set their faith in him might taste and see that YHWH, the Covenant Keeping God, is good and, so, live unashamed in that goodness forever in His presence.