Genesis 3: The Cast of Characters

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Wheel in the Wheel GENESIS

Click Here For Today’s Passage: Genesis 3

It has taken me over a week to figure out how to proceed on Genesis 3. Lots of prayer, lots of study, lots of thinking. I wanted to find a way to talk about the Fall of Man that would be pleasing to God and interesting for readers. One morning during my prayer time, a thought came to me to write several posts on Genesis 3…dealing with each of the “players” in this human/supernatural drama individually, and “in order of appearance.” So, starting with the 30,000-foot view, this post will simply introduce each of the four beings who populate the Garden of Eden at this point in the Bible.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. (Genesis 3:1a)

There is a lot of speculation regarding the serpent. I have heard that the serpent originally had legs, hence the curse that the serpent would crawl around on its belly. I have also read (in Matthew Henry’s commentary for example) that the serpent may have been a “flying serpent,” and may even have been mistaken by the woman for a heavenly being, adding to the deception of the temptation. Some believe that the serpent was simply a run-of-the-mill serpent that had been possessed by Satan.

Whatever the serpent looked like, though, we can be confident that this was a manifestation of Satan (see Revelation 12:9). More on the serpent in the next post.

The woman said to the serpent… (Genesis 3:2a)

The woman is she who was taken out of man in Genesis 2. Interestingly, she does not have a name until after the events that caused the broken relationship between God and humanity (see Genesis 3:20). In our post on the woman, we’ll talk more about Eve, and why I think she gets a pretty bad rap in this story.

She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6b)

Adam was familiar with the serpent. After all, in Genesis 2, he meets and names every kind animal one at a time. He was given dominion over every fowl of the air, cattle of the field, and every “creeping thing.” One wonders if Adam knew of the serpent’s cunning, and if he ever shared that information with his wife. In our post on Adam, we’ll see if we can figure out where Adam was when the serpent started his conversation with the woman, and what made him take the fruit and eat it.

But the Lord God called to the man… (Genesis 3:9a)

Do we need any more proof of God’s desire for relationship with us than this one verse? “But the Lord God called to the man….” There was God, walking around in the Garden in the cool of the day, seeking the man. But did God really not know where the man and woman were? Did He not know already what had happened? Were His questions those of the ignorance of a God who does not know all, or was there something more behind His questions? We’ll explore God’s part in the story (apart from the fact that He wrote the story) in another post.

…But The Lord Was Not In The Wind

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The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. – I Kings 19:11-12

My prayers are with the families of those who have lost property, and more, who have lost family and friends, in the devastating storms that tore through Oklahoma yesterday.

But I am also reminded of this passage from I Kings. A great wind tears a mountain apart, but God was not in the wind. He was not in the earthquake. He was not in the fire. “And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” In the King James, “And after the fire a still small voice.”

Often after a natural disaster such as yesterday’s tornadoes, people tend to blame God, or to ask “Where was God when all of this devastation happened?” Even if the disaster is not natural, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, these questions abound.

I have an answer that not everyone will like.

God was in the rescue workers who, just minutes after the tornado passed, were tearing through walls and rubble to seek for total strangers.

God was in the teacher who stretched out her body to shield several young elementary school students as stone and debris rained down on them from the ensuing damage caused by the tornado.

God was even in the utter joy expressed by an elderly woman who, during an on-camera interview, discovered her dog, alive and well, digging itself out of the rubble of her home.

Does God cause destruction? The Bible makes it clear that God is in control.

The Lord kills and brings to life. He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich. He brings low and He exalts. – I Samuel 2:6-7

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? – Romans 9:19-21

But doesn’t that make God a monster? Why did 24 people have to die? Why did so many people have to lose their houses? Why didn’t God just stop the tornadoes?

I have an answer for that not everyone will like.

The answer is “I don’t know.” I mean, I know that everyone dies, and I know that death was introduced because Adam and Eve were disobedient and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But I don’t know why those 24 people had to die in the storms. I don’t know why those 26 people had to die at Sandy Hook.

Then again, I’m not God.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

If you’ve read my previous posts, particularly the post about Genesis 1 and 2 and the “30,000-foot view,” this passage starts to make sense. The thing is, God has the 30,000-foot view AND He has the one-inch view of all of us, at all times.

We don’t know God’s plan, but the Bible makes clear that He has one. God’s plan is perfect, and it will come to pass. There is a reason that those tornadoes destroyed those homes, schools, and businesses in Oklahoma yesterday. And while God may (or may not) have caused the storm, He will use this tragedy, as He does every other, to reveal His plan. and His plan will always be one of desiring relationship with humanity.

For my readers in the Oklahoma City area, if you are looking for practical ways to help those who have been affected by this disaster, you can volunteer through an organization called Samaritan’s Purse, which is an internation relief and evangelism organization. You can contact them at www.spvolunteernetwork.org/. And even if you don’t live in the area, you can send a donation to Samaritan’s Purse through this web link: www.samaritanspurse.org/donation-items/us-disaster-relief-donation/.

How Do We Keep The Sabbath Day Holy?

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Wheel in the Wheel GENESIS

The beginning of Genesis 2 shows God establishing the Sabbath (in Hebrew, “Shabbat,” whch means “rest”). One interpretation that I have seen here and there is the idea of an “intermission.” This piqued my curiosity, as I have been a director of stage plays for a good part of the last 20 years. And it sort of keeps with the theme we looked at yesterday about how stories are told.

If you have ever attended a play or musical, and even if you haven’t, you are probably familiar with the “intermission.” It’s the period of time between acts where the lights come up, the audience stands, stretches their legs, gets some refreshment…they take a break. Of course, the actors also spend the intermission resting between acts, although some will be involved in preparing for the next scene.

The intermission usually comes just as the story gets to one sort of climax, either with a mysterious cliff-hanger, a powerful muscial number, or some other action that sets up the rest of the play. It’s not the end of the action. It’s the time when the audience gets to reflect on what they’ve already seen in Act One, and to anticipate what is coming next.

One other note about the intermission: it’s usually a break that’s built in to the script by the creator of the piece. There is often some great dramatic tension that the playwright builds into the end of the act that he or she WANTS the audience to have some time to reflect on what’s past and to anticipate what’s to come.

In thinking in these terms, we can turn to the New Testament, when Jesus is speaking in Mark 2:27:

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

God did not need a nap after creating all things. He did not need a rest. But we do. The Sabbath is God’s “intermission,” a time when He says to us, “Take a little break. Think about what is past. What have you learned? Where do you think the story is going after this?” It is a time, set aside by the Creator, to reflect on the one hand, and to prepare on the other. And yes, it is also a time for us to rest from the work we’ve done all week.

I don’t know about you, but it’s a whole lot easier to be at my best when I’ve had a time of rest. And it’s better when I’m able to sit and reflect on the things that God is doing in my life, in the lives of my family and friends, and even in the life of the world, so to speak.

And naps are good, too!

The Creation Story: The Close-Up

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Wheel in the Wheel GENESIS
Click here for today’s reading: Genesis 2:4-25

It’s always fascinated me how a story comes together, whether it’s a play, a movie, a book…whatever. The direction that a story takes as it unfolds for the audience can make it an incredible journey! In any great story-work, you set the stage by establishing the scene, and you introduce the characters whose lives you are “invading.”

Filmmakers often use what is called an “establishing shot” or a “wide shot” to set the scene. In many films, this will be a high-level view of something…mountains, cities, underwater panoramas. Sometimes it’s a collage of shots that mean something to the story…a sweeping shot of a room, individual objects, or some other details.

But without the rest of the movie to give you the context of these “establishing shots,” it’s just a bunch of pictures up on a screen, or a bunch of words in a book or in a script. It’s a “30,000-foot view” of the story. In order to make the story meaningful, the storyteller needs to zoom in; to focus on what the story is about, and who is involved.

And so it is with Genesis 2.

Many non-believers use Genesis 2 to “prove” that Christianity is a sham, because it appears to them that the Creation story in Genesis 2 is vastly different from the one in Genesis 1. But is it? Or is Genesis 1 simply the “establishing shot” of the Creation? Genesis 1: the scene is set, literally. We see God building the scenery for the story, and teasing us with the appearance of the main characters.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

And God said, “Let there be…” and there was…

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

Genesis 2 zooms in from establishing that God is the Creator of “all that we see, and all that we don’t see,” and focuses on those main characters: God, and the man and woman.

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (verse 7)

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. (verse 8)

 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. (verse 18)

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.  (verses 21-22)

The story itself has finally begun! In Genesis 1, God says “Let us make man in our own image.” In Genesis 2, we see the detail put into creating man and woman: forming the man from dust; breathing into him the Breath of Life; creating a partner for him.

It’s interesting to note God’s words in verse 18: “It is not good for man to be alone….” God created man in His own image and likeness, but He did not create a god. He created a new being, and even in the beginning, God proved that relationship is of utmost importance to this new being. Relationship with God, yes, but also relationship with fellow-beings.

Finally, in the last verse of chapter 2…

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (verse 25)

Man and woman, in the state in which God made them, living and working in the Garden God planted for them. Creation the way it was supposed to be…the way God made it. In chapter 3 we see God “walking in the Garden in the cool of the day.”

We don’t know how much time passed between Genesis 2:25 and Genesis 3:1, but I think it’s safe to assume that, until Genesis 3:1, God did walk in the Garden, His presence known by Adam and his wife.

Perhaps that is why Genesis 3 is even more heart-wrenching. Man is living in the presence of God on earth, and still chooses disobedience.

Genesis 2:1-3 – The Sabbath (redux)

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As you see, I posted an entry earlier today that had nothing but the title of the post and the Scripture for the post.

As I went through the rest of my day, I was kicking myself for prematurely posting this entry. I was using my Android phone to create the post, and I inadvertently hit the wrong button.

However, while eating dinner and then running my son around to a couple of things he had going on tonight, I got to thinking about the subject of the post…”The Sabbath.” And I couldn’t help but thinking, “God, did you do that on purpose?” I had entered only the Scripture about the Sabbath, and then “accidentally” hit post.

Or did I?

The more I reflected, the more I thought it actually pretty fitting that the only thing in the post was the description of God’s establishment of the Day of Rest.

So, I leave the post as-is. We’ll move on to the rest of Genesis 2 tomorrow night, but for now, let’s just take some time for personal reflection on the meaning of the Sabbath, the Day of Rest, established and blessed by our Father. We’ll talk about the Sabbath sometime in the future.

See you tomorrow!

Genesis 2:1-3 – The Sabbath

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Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Genesis 1

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Click here for today’s passage

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth….

One of the most well-known phrases in the Bible. The start of it all. “The Message” puts it like this: “First, this: God created the heavens and the earth – all you see and all you don’t see.”

Much has been debated among believers about the Creation. The details of Creation end up being a stumbling block, as various teachers, pastors, and laymen argue about when Creation happened, how long it took, even if God was actually there for the whole thing. Do I think the answer is important? Yes I do. Do I think it’s worth seeing Christian A and Christian B tear each other (and the Church) apart because they can’t agree? No I don’t.

I listened recently to a pastor whom I respect speak about the reasons to believe that the Bible speaks of a literal six-day creation and a 6,500 year-old Earth. I read another pastor whom I respect explain why the Bible’s creation story must mean something other than a literal 6-day creation because of the knowledge that God has given that supports a much longer, more evolutionary track of creation.

I respect both of these pastors, and value their teachings. I feel that both are strong men of faith, and that they are both men of God. I would not stop seeking their teachings and guidance on any topic of the Bible. But I would not savor the idea of putting the two of them in a room together and having them discuss Creation.

While the debates rage on, I think that all sides sometimes lose sight of the awesome work that God does in Genesis 1. And since you asked, I believe that scientific “evidence” seems to indicate a billions-year-old earth. I also believe that God is quite capable of creating His universe in six days. I am just in awe that He did it at all, and that His purpose for creating was to have a relationship with mankind.

And the earth was formless and empty, darkness was on the surface of the deep, AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD HOVERED OVER THE WATERS.

The word translated as “hovered” means “fluttered” or “moved.” Sometimes it can mean “trembled.” I picture the flutter of anticipation as the Spirit anticipates the first Word. In a very human sense, I think of my kids on Christmas morning, anxiously waiting next to the presents for my wife and I to arrive so they can year into the packages in front of them.

Then I think about the Spirit hovering over a person in the moments before he or she accepts the gift of salvation from God through Jesus Christ. The moment when the dead, lifeless soul of that person comes vibrantly alive as a “New Creation.” The moment when we confess with our mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we are one again faced with that glorious command within our soul, *LET THERE BE LIGHT!”

Genesis 1 is full of the miraculous work of God, His Word (Jesus), and His Holy Spirit. We see how He put into place a vast system of water, light, vegetation, and animals, and we see WHY He did the work.

Let us make mankind in our own image, and our own likeness, that he may rule [over the earth and its plants and animals]… and God blessed them…

We shall see that God didn’t just leave the man and woman alone and take a long vacation. He planted a garden for them to tend and to live on. He moved among them, and spoke to them. He gave them every good gift, and asked for (but never demanded) obedience to the one rule that He laid down for them.

“In the beginning” all was “very good.” God was in a loving relationship with mankind. It is all that God wanted, for Himself and for us. It is still all He desires. His Spirit continues to hover tremulously over us today, awaiting the moment when we invite the Light to shine through the darkness.

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