Tag Archives: death

Dirt

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19 ESV)

God told the man that when he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die. Adam ate the fruit from the tree but he did not immediately, physically die. God’s command states that when he dies (physically) he will die (spiritually) (“you will die die” Genesis 2:17).

Now God tells Adam that he will live his physical life by hard, frustrating work, and that when it is his time to die he will become dust, or dirt. The very ground he works to grow food to live will claim him and he will become indistinguishable from it as his body deteriorates back to dirt. “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” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). God used dirt to make the man and to dirt the man will return when his body dies.

What happened to Adam happens to all who follow him. Had he obeyed God then those who followed would have received God’s blessing. That he disobeyed God, rebelling against Him, means he was sentenced to separation from God and the earth was cursed. We are not going to speculate about the probability of whether people would have individually rebelled against God if Adam had not. We do not know and cannot know the answer to that question. We do know sin infected all of humanity because of Adam’s rebellion. We do know all people die and their bodies become dirt after a time. Once the body is dead it cannot be made alive again by natural means.

Scripture does not use the term “federal headship.” Yet, Scripture is filled with historical examples of the children and citizens bearing the consequences of the actions of their fathers or leaders. “Federal” is a system of government where the leaders speak for the people. It is not a democracy where each has an equal voice but a system where the leaders are charged with the responsibility of implementing the will of those they represent. It is not fair but it is just.

Adam died. His body, after his life was no longer sustained, returned to the earth from which he was made and over which he was to have control, or dominion. He kept dominion as part of the image of God but lost the ability to exercise dominion. Before the fall, he was God’s representative over the earth. After the fall, the war began between those who hate God, even as they were created to know Him intimately, and everything pointing to God.

God makes it clear to Adam, and to all who follow him, that though they work and fulfill their responsibilities, they are still wholly dependent upon Him for their lives. Yes, people have to work and their work is both painful and stressful. God, after the rebellion of the first man, calls people to turn either toward Him or allows them to run away from Him. Those who turn away from God will work in their own effort and accomplish only what lasts a short, unfulfilling time. Those who turn toward God, acknowledge their inability to accomplish anything without God’s direct intervention. Physical death becomes the great equalizer among all people. Either there is a truthful and honest admission of separation from God because of sin or there is an attitude of not needing God, which is rebellion.

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Thorns and Thistles

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 ESV)

Because Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God had said he was to not eat from, sustaining his life and the lives of his family by growing food would now become difficult and even painful. God cursed the ground, not Adam. This is a serious consequence for everyone who comes after Adam.

God had already told the man the ultimate consequence of eating the fruit from the forbidden tree would be death. Not just physical death but spiritual separation from that which sustains life. The man would be separated from God. When God cursed the ground His declaration was on top of the absolute justified sentence of death and separation. Yet, by not cursing the man, and all men, God leaves open a way for reconciliation, just as He did with the woman’s sentence. The consequence of her rebellion was pain in childbirth, with sorrow in raising children, with the knowledge that a child would come who would crush the head of the serpent. God, while holding them accountable for their rebellion, takes upon Himself the ultimate consequences of their actions.

When Adam prepares the ground to plant, then plants the seed so a crop will grow, thorns and thistles, weeds, will also grow. A weed is a plant growing where it is not supposed to grow. If Adam plants wheat and flowers grow among the crop, the flowers are weeds, taking up soil and nutrients meant for food. God says that “thorns and thistles” will grow where Adam wants food to grow. There will always be weeds, making Adam’s job more difficult. He will have to constantly pull the weeds so his crop will continue to grow.

Thorns and thistles are a constant reminder of the rebellion of Adam and the presence of sin. Adam will wage a constant war against sin as he works to sustain his life. So, too, all who follow, as they work will have to wage a uncompromising war against sin, while sin is waging an unrelenting war against them. The weeds want to take over the crops just as sin controls every thought, motive, action and consequence and wants to take over the life.

Work, to keep the thorns and thistles at bay, becomes hard. Adam will sweat as he works to get food for himself and his family. Perspiration is not evil. Avoiding perspiration by avoiding work, is rebellion. Is it not the intent of everyone who works to come to a time in life where they no longer have to put an abundance of effort into sustaining life? Those who do not have the discipline of work will not have the discipline to wage war against the sin which continually assaults.

Adam’s Sentence

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; (Genesis 3:17 ESV)

God now turns His attention to sentencing the man. In this verse God uses the word man as a proper name for the first time. Up until now the word adam means man, the human race comprising the gender man and woman. In this verse, there is an article preceding the word Adam making it a proper name.

Adam’s sentence, because of his rebellion, is the third declared by God to those present. This just sentence carries the gravest consequences for all people. To the Deceiver, inhabiting the serpent, God’s sentence is a “curse” truthfully predicting that a Son who will come from the woman will crush it even as it tries to hurt Him. To the woman, God sentences her to pain in childbirth and conflicting desires for her husband, to be over him and protected by him. God does not use the word “curse” with the woman. To the man, God uses the word “curse” as He did with the Deceiver. God’s just sentence is pain and suffering in work.

But first, God declares the reason for the sentence. For the Deceiver, the reason is “because you have done this” tempting and lying to the woman about what God said. For the man, the reason is “because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it’” (see Genesis 2:17). The Deceiver cast doubt on the words of God to those created in His image. Adam completely rebelled against the word of God, spoken directly to him.

Listening to the voice of his wife does not mean everything she said up until or following this time was contrary to God’s will. Adam cannot claim ignorance of the debate had between the woman and the Deceiver. Nor can he claim ignorance about from which tree the fruit came that she gave him to eat. We have none of the words spoken by the woman to Adam at any time after she was created and while they were living in the Garden of Eden. They talked. When she handed him the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil we do not know what was said but he knew from which tree the fruit was plucked. We do not know if he questioned her about what she was doing or why she plucked the fruit and took a bite. We do not know if they argued or if she went through the entire discussion she had with the Deceiver. We do know she plucked the fruit, took a bite then gave some to her husband and eat also ate.

Adam was given dominion over the earth. He was put in charge and was given the responsibility of caring for that which God had made for Himself. His act of rebellion showed he could not be trusted to do that for which he was created. Adam bears responsibility for his rebellion.

God confirms what theologians have labeled “federal headship” by making Adam ultimately responsible for the sentence of separation from God for all people. Because he sinned all sin. Federal headship is a theological idea foundational to Christ’s redemptive work. Just as Adam’s sin brought death, spiritual separation from God, to all people, so Christ’s just and righteous act brings spiritual life to all people. (See Romans 5:12-21.) But not all people will claim Christ’s righteousness because they desire to cling to Adam’s rebellion.

Hiding from God

Studies in Genesis 3

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

When Adam and Eve “heard” God walking in the garden they “hid themselves” from Him. What they heard was the “sound” of God walking. Yet, the word for sound can also be translated voice or noise. This means God was not silent as He walked but was either deliberately making noise, something they were used to and knew to be God, or talking and singing to His creation. Perhaps He was humming. Nevertheless, they heard God and knew it was He.

They did not come to greet Him, which is what those with clear and wholesome relationships will do. Instead, they found a place where they thought He would not see them. This is what children do when they know they have done something they should not have done, when they have done something wrong. They will hide themselves from those whom they have wronged in the vain hope their wrongdoing will not be discovered.

Instead of greeting Him face to face they hid their faces from His. They ran away from His presence. Here is the evidence of wrong done and the evidence of a broken relationship. It is not God who runs and hides from them but they from God. It is never God turning His back on those He created for relationship but always those He has created to know Him turning their backs on Him.

Did our first parents not know God even a little to think they could hide from Him? What did they know about God? How intimate were they with Him?

God created them in His image. They could look at themselves and know what God is like. Not their physical likeness but their intellectual, emotional and willful likeness. Yet, they are not God so could not know Him completely. And they were young, still learning about God while maturing in their thinking and feeling. But God had given them enough information, the tools they needed, to know Him both intellectually and intimately.

As the first sound of Him in the garden reached their ears, I imagine they were startled, gripped with fear, immediately hiding because of the danger in which they found themselves because of their act of rebellion. These were new emotions. Before their rebellion, they did not fear death even though God had introduced them to death. Adam, at least, knew the command of God to not eat, and the judgment of eating, from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His rebellion was unthinking and unfeeling, a reaction to what Eve had done. Hid from God is also a reaction.

When they hid from God, when anyone tries to hide from God, there is enough of an intimate understanding of God to know they are facing, not a Friend but a Judge.

July 3, 2017

Deceived and Purposeful

Studies in Genesis 3

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Gen 3:6 ESV)

Adam was with his wife. She gave him a piece of fruit she had picked and eaten from, and he, too, ate the fruit. Did Adam watch the entire transaction and conversation between the Deceiver and Eve? Every sermon I have ever heard has Adam standing passively next to his wife while she deliberately disobeyed the command of God. Either he heard the discussion or Eve told him of the discussion. Or she didn’t tell him, because he was not there and simply offered him a piece of fruit when he arrived and he ate.

In Genesis 3:6 the word “with” can mean beside. It can also mean against and in spite of. Like many of the words in the first three chapters of Genesis this is the first time this word is used. We assume Adam and Eve were together all of the time. This does not necessarily have to be true. We can know for certain he was present when she gave him the fruit. Whether he was present during the discussion with the Deceiver and then when she actually picked and ate the fruit is only assumed.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for disobedience. Adam knew he was to not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Either he ate knowing the fruit was from the tree or he ate not knowing from which tree the fruit came. Either way, he ate the fruit which God has specifically forbidden from eating.

Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Timothy 2:14 ESV)

There are many implications from Paul’s statement. The woman was deceived by the Deceiver. Adam was not deceived, by either the woman or the Deceiver. His rebellion was purposeful. He knew the consequences of his rebellion. We know nothing of his thinking or feeling which brought him to the action of eating the fruit. We are reminded daily of the consequences. For the consequences of Adam’s purposeful rebellion is abundantly clear and always present. It is sin and death.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12 ESV)

“For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19 ESV)

Second Death

Studies in Genesis 3

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5 ESV)

If I am correct in my thinking then God wanted Adam and Eve and all of Man to know the difference between good and evil. God, the Creator, knows the time He wills to introduce knowledge which will lead to maturity. This is not the time but is a test which would probably usher in the right time.

That which is inhabiting the serpent, the Deceiver, continues speaking half-truths. A partial truth is still a lie and still designed to deceive. It, the Deceiver, tells Eve that God lied. God said “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 (dying you will die)” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV). Not only will you die if you disobey and eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but you will die again, a second death. For the Deceiver to state Eve would not die is a contradiction of the stated consequences of rebellion against God’s command.

Here are some educated assumptions. The Deceiver has already rebelled against God. Created by God for service to Him and at His pleasure the Deceiver did not originally have the design to rebel against God. Nothing God creates, and God created everything, was evil or designed for evil. There is, however, the ability to choose evil for those creatures given the capacity to do so. Man was given the image of God in a created body. Part of the image of God is the ability to choose, to decide, to act. Whatever the Deceiver was it had the ability to choose, decide and act and did so through rebellion. This does not mean creatures other than Man may have been given the image of God, for there is more to His image than the ability to choose, decide and act.

When the Deceiver rebelled God did not immediately bring death, but allowed it to continue to live. So to, the Deceiver told Eve she would not die. It knew, at least for a time, she would continue to physically live. God did not say judgment was immediate. He did say judgment was absolute. When Man rebelled death was not immediate but still guaranteed.

Those who are living cannot understand what death is until it is experienced. When the body dies, it does not immediately cease to exist. In fact, the physical properties of the body after death are slowly re-absorbed into the larger creation. God formed the man from existing material.  “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” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). So, when the physical body of Man dies it does not cease to exist but returns to the material from which it was initially created.

There is a second death. We can only know about this second death through personal experience and by the little God tells us. At this point, we know nothing of the second death other than there is another death that is probably spiritual because it is not physical. Rebelling against God brings God’s judgment which is a second death. The Deceiver knows this, deliberately lying to Eve and in doing so stating God is the liar.

True Freedom

Studies in Genesis 2

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.” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV)

God’s first recorded words to Adam were not those of a friend or acquaintance. Nor were they the words of a father to a child. His words were of a God, who owns all He has created, to a created being to whom He has giving authority over part of His creation. “Command” means to give a charge, or a commission, an assignment, a boundary. God spoke to “the man” (adam) setting the wide parameters of what he could eat, not where he could go or what he could do. Adam’s natural inclination is to work, taking care of the creation under his God ordained authority. Part of his work is to grow more fruit-bearing trees. He couldn’t possibly eat all of the food growing on these trees. Adam could eat anything he wanted from any tree except one tree.

God does not treat Adam like all of the other creatures He has created. He speaks to him face to face. “Saying”, in its various forms, means to speak one’s heart, to show intention and promise, to be told, to answer. This is not casual conversation. Yet, God’s words are not mysterious to Adam either. God spoke clearly. Adam understood completely.

God makes a promise in His command. We think of God’s promises as positive, yet He recognizes the propensity of the negative in those created in His image. His intent is to train those who are His to restrain and control the negative they will encounter in themselves, not to suppress the negative. Ultimately, He wants those who have an intimate relationship with Him to know the difference between good and evil and have the freedom to always choose the good. This is true freedom.

His words are not a threat but a statement of fact. This is not a covenant. A covenant is an agreement between two where the greater blesses the lesser, guaranteeing a promised outcome when certain criteria is met. God promises an outcome for disobedience but not for obedience. God’s expectation is for obedience from Adam, not disobedience. He did not create Adam for disobedience but for relationship. God’s omniscience gives Him the foreknowledge that Adam will disobey but this does not mean God created Adam for disobedience.

Adam, like everyone, must grow in his intimate knowledge and intellectual understanding of God. But he had an advantage we cannot ignore. He saw God. Before the fall, Adam was sinless and able to come into, or be in, God’s complete presence. God spoke to Adam face to face. God enjoyed His creation and was intimate with Adam, who was created in His image for relationship and intimacy. Adam enjoyed God. Growing and maturing is not limited to his natural surroundings but to the spiritual realm in which God dwelt. Adam could see there was more than the physical world every time he was in God’s presence. Thus to “eat, eat” shows more than physical food and nourishment just as “die, die” implies more than physical death. There is a spiritual second death just as there is a spiritual food, and by implication, life. Eating from the tree of life brought a second life just as eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as an act of outright rebellion brought spiritual death. God was training Adam to live.