Tag Archives: work

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.

Blessing to Cursing

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)

God blesses and God curses. When God created Man in His image He blessed them. To bless means to kneel before and give a gift, as a father would kneel before his child and give them something precious. Here, God creates Man in His image, for relationship with Him, and gives them control over the creatures of the earth, gives them fruitfulness to fill the earth, and gives them the work of bringing the earth under their control.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 ESV)

When Adam rebelled against God, ignoring His specific instruction, God reversed His blessing. He turned what He had blessed into a curse. God’s blessing and God’s curses carry the eternal power of God to carry out and fulfill His decision. But, God did not take away what He had given. He still wants Man to be fruitful and fill the earth and subdue it. Man’s rebellion corrupted and compromised the ability to do that for which Man was designed. God cursed the ground not Adam.

God tells Adam his work, beginning with taking care of the garden which was his home, has gone from joy to pain, from fulfilling to tedious. The word “pain” is the same word God uses to describe the pain of childbirth for his wife and all women who follow.

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)

There is no comparison between the pain and sorrow of having children and that of working. For the woman, the pain is intense but short in duration. For the man, the pain is continuous and lengthy. For the woman, the sorrow of raising children is daily, until they are mature and able to have and raise their own. For the man, the sorrow of growing food attacked by weeds and thorns is a constant struggle, “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.”

Life is now hard and unforgiving. Because of their rebellion, what was meant to be cared for with confidence and success now becomes tedious and frustrating. The ground will no longer yield to Adam’s direction and dominion, becoming resistant and rebellious to his direction.

The curse levied against Adam is the exact opposite of the blessing. The sentence takes away the ability to perform and function as he was originally created while leaving the image of God to draw him back to his Creator. God still desires relationship making the pain of work a tool used to draw Man to Himself.

Work and Keep

Studies in Genesis 2

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 ESV)

God “took” the Man He created by laying hold of him, or fetching him from one place and depositing him in another. God carried man with deliberate intent from where ever he was initially created and brought into existence and placed, not just in the Garden, but in his home. God “put” man down, settled him into his own place.

This is not the first time we see the function of Man to “work” the garden. God tells us that part of Man’s purpose is to “work the ground”. “When … there was no man to work the ground” (Genesis 2:5 ESV). In these verses “work” is a verb and means to till, or turn the ground and make it ready and productive. By implication, God wants the ground to serve Man. “Keep” is another verb and means to watch over, to be attentive, wait for that which grows from the ground. Thus, man is to work by preparing the ground to produce and then to attentively watch what grows in order to learn how to make future growth better. Just as God fully participates in His creation, so man fully participates in a world over which he has authority and dominion.

God’s use a different word to describe His “work” of creation. Three times in Genesis 2:2-3 He uses a word which means that which He does as a natural consequence of who He is. Work is more than an occupation or simply something done. His work is integral to who He is.

Man’s work is evidence of the image of God and the design, purpose and intent of God for him. Part of the image of God given is the ability to think and reason and then to act willfully on the decisions and conclusions drawn. Man is able to learn and grow in knowledge and ability. One of the implications of working and keeping the garden is man’s ability to patiently observe and be aware of what is occurring, to experiment and make changes to the place, process in order to achieve a different outcome.

Man’s work is a direct representation of God’s work. In creation God took that which He created out of nothing and formed matter into perfectly useful stuff intricately designed to sustain life. Life is minutely complex and balanced. Creation is good, perfect, moving toward fullness and completion, beautiful and useful, infinitely varied yet understandable by those with the image of God. Man grows in a knowledge of God as man keeps and fashions, observes and learns how to imitate what God has done by fashioning that which is useful and beautiful. This is Man’s work.

Man was created to do that which is integral to the image of God and is natural and inherent. Man does that which God designed him to do.

God Blesses and Makes Holy

Studies in Genesis 2

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV)

This is now the third time God uses the word “blessed.” On the fifth day, when God created the sea creatures and the birds of the air He blessed them, saying they were to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22 ESV) and fill the earth. Then, on the sixth day God “blessed” Adam, Man, to not only fill the earth but to have dominion over all earthly living creatures. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV). I think it of no consequence that God refrained from blessing the wild and domesticated animals and those creatures that creep. His blessing is to all earthly living things, that they are fruitful and multiply, according to their kind, and fill the earth.

“Blessing” means to kneel before and give that which cannot be had otherwise. Where God blessed living creatures during creation, here He blesses, not a period of time but the totality of the end result of His work of creation. If we read the first six days as periods of time with definitive beginnings and endings, then God’s seventh “day” has a beginning but no end. Or, the seventh day is the end of creation where all is accomplished according to God’s eternal purpose and He will do nothing else. God is eternal, unconstrained by time. For us to view Him in time helps us understand Him in a limited, space-time manner, but ultimately our understanding of Him will never define Him.

God uses His eternal character to define His blessing of the seventh day. He declares it “holy.” He set apart the seventh day from all the rest. He sanctified it and dedicated it to Himself. Holiness carries all of the eternal attributes of God for His use and according to His design and for His direction ad purpose. Nothing holy is defiled or corrupted, bent or broken, unable to fulfill its purpose and design because of a flaw. Nothing God creates is flawed or broken or unable to fulfill the purpose for which it was created. Holiness is integral to God. It does not surround Him, or direct Him or force Him to conform to its purpose. Holiness is God. All which God does is holy.

God’s Sabbath is holy and all created by God are designed to recognize Him as such. Holiness cannot be ignored. Man, created in the image of God for intimate relationship with Him was given an immediate and eternal disposition to love God and enjoy Him in peace and rest. Now, God tells Man to view and treat Him as holy and to keep, as a reminder and promise, the Sabbath set apart for intimate relationship with Him.

God Rests

Studies in Genesis 2

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV)

God finished His work and then He rested. Do not think God is exhausted from His work or that He needs to sleep so He can get up after the weekend and do it all again.

We need to have an understanding of God’s work for us to understand God’s rest. God worked in creation. His work is everything He does which is natural to His being. He does not work for someone else but acts according to His eternal nature. What He begins He finishes, perfectly completing all He determined to accomplish. He then ceases working on creation. He finishes creation, because there is nothing left to do. His finishing creation and ceasing to work He calls “rest.” God “rested.”

“Rested” is a verb and means to cease or desist from labor. It is the word shabat from which is derived the noun shabbath translated Sabbath. So, on the seventh day of creation, the sabbath, God rested, shabat.

One of the questions which arises is whether after God rested He again began to work. We are told God finished His work. If He were to begin working again it would be to do something different, unrelated to that which He created. A new project. We don’t know about God’s “projects” other than the space-time universe in which we live. Yet, Jesus tells us He and His Father are still working. “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:15 ESV). John uses a word for “work” which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “work” used in Genesis 2.

Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and the Jewish leaders are incensed. One of the rules the Jewish leaders extrapolated from Scripture was no one was to “work” on the Sabbath. Apparently healing a person on the Sabbath was considered “work.” That, and Jesus told the man healed to “get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8 ESV), which is also considered work by the Jewish leaders. Not only was Jesus working but encouraging others to work on the Sabbath. How scandalous.

Jesus’ response to the superstitious tradition of not doing physical labor on the Sabbath was that God works and is still working, regardless of the day of the week. These Jewish leaders misunderstood what it means to work and rest. They also have a skewed understanding of God. They do not know Him either intellectually or intimately.

Jesus is God. It was He who created the heavens and the earth, every atom in the universe, accomplishing exactly what He intended. It was He who wrote the Scripture, inspiring the writers to record, in their own voices, that which He wanted. It is He who declares Himself “Lord of the Sabbath” “for the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8 ESV). It is He who created the beginning of the space-time universe and it is He who will bring it to an end.

God’s rest is in our future. He is not constrained by the space-time universe He created but exists outside of it. Those laws which hold the universe together are sustained by Him until He decides to bring the universe to an end. The laws of the universe, like the moral laws, are a reflection of Him but do not control Him. Scripture tells us He rested after He finished His work. Those who are His know how to rest in Him because they are looking forward to His rest in eternity.

God Finishes

Studies in Genesis 2

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:1-3 ESV)

God has accomplished the unimaginable. Finite minds cannot comprehend the eternal work of God, who surrounds the universe and has intimate knowledge of every atom and molecule contained therein.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 ESV). He began his work of creation. Nothing existed except God prior to creation. There was no universe. Then there was. He created matter, ex nihilo, out of nothing. Every atom and particle of matter came into existence at the direction and authority of God. Our universe is a closed system. Nothing inside of it can get out of it and nothing outside of it can get in. Except for God, the Creator.
What God begins He finishes. God uses the word “finished” twice in these verses.

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished.”

“God finished his work that he had done.”

“Finished” is a verb and is used 223 times. It is translated using a variety of English words in the King James version. It is also translated “consumed” or “consume” and “end” “fail” “done” “accomplished” “spent” “determined” and many other words. It can mean “consummated” “accomplished” “fulfilled” and “wasted away,” “exhausted,” “to come to an end,” “to perish” or “be destroyed.” What does God mean by describing what He has done with this word?

These are the first two instances of this word in the Scripture. Our tendency is to use all of the instances of the word to determine its meaning, with order and placement holding little account. Yet, this is the first time the word is used and God is using the word, twice, to describe what He has done. Perhaps we should give placement in Scripture more emphasis when seeking to understand the meaning of a word. Especially when the word is used by God in His description of Creation. He has not failed in His work but accomplished all He determined to do. He has not consumed anything but has brought all things into existence. His energy and resources are not spent because He cannot exhaust Himself. Does He finish creation to then simply destroy it?

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35 ESV). Jesus explicitly states there is an end to creation. That which has a physical beginning also has a physical ending. Yet, God did not created Man in His image for any to cease to exist.
Jesus also finished His work in tortured agony on the cross. “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30 ESV). “Finished” is an echo of what God has done in creation. There is no more to do because all He has determined to do has been accomplished.

There is a physical end to the physical universe. There is a physical death to that which lives in the physical universe. Jesus was raised from physical death to spiritual life. So, those who are His, when they physically die are raised to eternal spiritual life. A physical end to the physical universe does not mean the end of existence.

God finishes that which He begins and that which He accomplishes carries the eternal, unmistakably vibrant mark of God.