(Reflections on Genesis 1-3 and “The Terrible Lie” in the Jesus Storybook Bible)
It all started so well. God spoke and separated light from darkness, skies from seas and water from land. He continued to fill the sky with heavenly bodies, the skies and seas with birds and fish, and the land with all sorts of creeping, crawling and walking animals. Then from the dust of the earth he made the one who would bear his image, human beings. In male and female forms he created them dependent upon one another to continue God’s creative process through sexual reproduction, thus modeling the relational interdependence of the Trinity.
Human beings were commanded to multiply and fill the earth, and they were charged to be God’s ambassadors from the very beginning as God granted them dominion in his stead over the animals of the skies, seas and land. Each day during the creative process God looked at what he had done and declared, “It is good.” And on the last day of His labors, having created and vested His own image-bearing icon, God looked it over and said, “It is very good.”
As we discussed this in our Sunday School class last week I raised this question. “If the Bible stopped right there, what would your response be?” Quickly, the reply came (paraphrasing here), “Then what happened, cause it ain’t so good at my house sometimes.”
Obviously, the pristine picture painted in the first two chapters of Genesis does not match up with what we know as “reality” today. But, it should still speak to us in meaningful ways. These chapters reveal something of the heart of God, his careful, purposeful and creative efforts applied to making this world and us to be his representatives in it. God made it good and made us to experience good. The author of Genesis wanted us to know this.
Yet, our experience is not exactly Edenesque. To be honest it can be a bit hellish at times. I’ve had hard times, you’ve had hard times, and that is no surprise to God. Genesis 3 was written to explain why our experience of life on this planet is best described as fallen, or broken. It sounds a bit trite to say it this way, but essentially God speaks through the Genesis author to say, “I made a beautiful garden for you to live in, and I showed you the path to live in harmony with me, but you chose your own way which has horrible consequences. You brought this pain and agony upon yourselves, upon each other and, yes, upon me.”
There were two significant trees named in the garden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was the second tree that the serpent directed Eve towards. His smooth tongue weaved a web of half truths aimed at the greatest temptation allowed by freewill…independence. “If you…you will be like God!” No one in our culture wants to be told what to do. Apparently our culture is quite similar to ancient ones in this regard. The desire to control one’s own destiny, to choose one’s own path, to make one’s own decisions has been a powerful one, and a damning one since the beginning.
According to the Jesus Storybook Bible, in any other story this would have been the end. But in the book that God writes this is just the set up for what we know as the gospel. God knows man’s heart. God knows man’s sin. Yet, God still loves humans and from the last verses of Genesis 3 through the end of Revelation we see that love worked out in the most amazing ways. It only took three chapters to communicate in the text our need for God. The remainder of the Bible, and yes the remainder of our lives are dedicated to convincing our hearts of this truth.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) This truth was revealed first in the garden in the shade of the Tree of Knowledge, but perhaps as you read this you can feel the juice dripping from your chin as you have made some choice recently to trust your knowledge and experience over and above God’s outlined path. The journey back to Eden begins, and continues, with each decision to follow God rather than to proclaim your independence from him. Which will you and I choose today, to walk humbly with God or to walk boldly as a god? The choice belongs to you and me,… but the world belongs to our Father.