THE SKY IS THE LIMIT (GENESIS 2:1-25)
In March 1997, Dolly of Scotland made headline news. Who was Dolly? Dolly was a sheep. Scientists from the Roslin Institute in Scotland, who have tried for more than 10 years to clone a sheep from a single adult cell, produced Dolly after 277 failed attempts. Times magazine said Dolly “is a carbon copy, a laboratory counterfeit so exact that she is in essence her mother’s identical twin.” (The Age of Cloning” 3/10/97 J. Madeline Nash) The truth is that Dolly is technically more likely her clone’s sister than twin or kid.
Genesis 1 tells us that God created the world out of chaos. Man was incomplete without God, and he is the crown, the climax, and the centerpiece of God’s creation. Everything God created was good, but creation was only complete with man. What He saw as “good” before now had become “very good.” (1:31)
In God’s design and by His devise, the sky was the limit for man. The possibilities were boundless, and nothing was beyond his reach. St. Augustine said, “Man wonders over the restless sea, the flowing water and the sight of the sky - and forgets that of all wonders Man himself is the most wonderful.”
How is man “very good”? How is he the center of God’s creation? Why did God lavish on man and reserve for him the best things in life?
Man is a Physical and Spiritual Being
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. 4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens-- 5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground-- 7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Gen 2:1-7)
First, you and I are physical and spiritual beings. We are not heavenly creatures. God did not make us from star dust, moon beams, or meteor showers. Man is dust from the ground, soil, or in the “Fiddler on the Roof” expression: “a worthless lump of clay.” At the end of life three things await physical humanity: disease, death, and dust (in that order).
Do you know what else comes out from the ground (2:19)? Animals! So man, in a sense, is comparable to an animal.
There was a Jewish story about a king who tested Elijah the prophet with two questions. The first was: “Why was man created?” Elijah responded: “The only reason that He made man was that he serve Him with all his heart, so that He should take pleasure in him and in the generations that spring from his loins until then end of days.”
“Why did the Almighty create reptiles?” was the second question. Again Elijah said, “When man procreated and his number became great he began to worship the sun and stones and wooden idols. From day to day the sinfulness of man had been mounting so that he deserved death and greatly tried God’s patience.
At that point God looked upon all creatures He had created in the world and said: ‘Men have life and these creatures have life. Men have souls and these creatures have souls. Men eat and drink and these creatures eat and drink. Therefore, men too are animals and are no better than the reptiles that I have created.’
Immediately thereafter the Almighty’s wrath subsided and he withheld his hand from destroying mankind. From this therefore, you can see that God created the reptiles, so that He would have some creatures with which to compare man and shame him unto humility.”
William Jenkyn says with wit, “Our father was Adam, our grandfather dust, our great-grandfather nothing.”
However, we are more than dust and we differ significantly from animals. How are we like and unlike animals (2:7, 19)? By the way, animals possessed the breath of life (Gen 7:15, 22), too, but God Himself breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life (2:7). God has put His spirit and breath in us (Job 34:14-15). Man has a longing for the Creator - in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
As spiritual beings, we long to know our Creator, our origin and our destiny. Animals have no desire to know, worship or serve their Creator. Peanuts’ Snoopy the dog one day looked down to the ground with his head hanging from his doghouse. He then sat up and around, and finally lied flat on his back, thinking to himself: “My life has no purpose...My life has no direction...no aim...no meaning...And yet I’m happy..I can’t figure it out...What am I doing right?”
Man is a Diligent and an Intelligent Being
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." 18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." 19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. (Gen 2:15-20)
Was work a punishment for man’s fall? European folk legends describe Eden as a place of milk and honey and free from work. Daniel T. Rogers, a Princeton University historian says that to Europeans “to work was to do something wearisome and painful, scrabbling in the stubborn soil. It was the mark of man entrapped by necessity, and thus men who were not wholly free.” (Los Angeles Times 9/17/92).
A friend of mine in Australia told me that people flock to the beach on the weekends, towing their boats, and no money on earth can persuade them to work.
Man’s distaste for work is articulated by this bumper sticker question I saw: “Is it Friday yet?” Another states: “Born to Sing, Forced to Work.”
No, man has to work (2:8-9, 15). Work is not the outcome of sin; it was not optional. The garden of Eden was paradise, with a lavish garden (2:8), scenic trees (2:9), rippling rivers and streams (2:10), and precious stones (2:12). Man had almost everything, but yet work was a way of life in God’s original plan.
A 58-year old woman said this: “A marriage can survive almost anything except the husband staying home all day.” (Live and Learn 137)
Why work? In working, we seek to realize our potential, we learn to relate to others and we repay God by our service.
Man is also an intelligent being. God did not create a robot. Man has the right to choose. Obedience or disobedience is an alternative; however, the latter brings serious consequences. God created a person. By definition, a person has “personality,” a mind of his or her own.
God placed His confidence in man, gave him the freedom to choose, but warned him to favor what is right. So you and I today are expected to ponder over things, prioritize the options, and pick the right choice. Some things are forbidden, some areas are optional, but man’s task is to decide what is fitting and do the right thing.
Moreover, naming animals (v 19) was a difficult task: “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.”
For example, do you know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator; a turtle and a tortoise; a frog and a toad? I discovered the difference from a child’s book! A crocodile has a long triangle head but an alligator has a flat broad head. The teeth of a crocodile are visible on the outside of the mouth, but only the upper teeth of an alligator are on the outside.
Tortoises usually live on land or in fresh water. They have legs and were known to run against rabbits in children’s books. Turtles, on the other hand, usually live in salt water and have flippers for swimming.
Toads have dry skin and can be found far from water, but frogs have smooth moist skin and live close to water.
Man is an Emotional and a Relational Being
21 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 closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ’woman,’ for she was taken out of man." 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Gen 2:21-25)
Before woman was created, things did not look good for man or quite right to him. Naming pairs and pairs of animals (2:18) made him aware of his missing half and it did nothing but doubled his misery and loneliness. Adam needed someone to do things with, to discuss things with, and to decide things with. Adam was busy with work meant for two people, surrounded by species not his type, and engaged in fellowship with God, but not on the same level.
So God gave Eve to Adam in the first marriage on earth (Matt 19:3-6). She was his helper; two was better than one. They were two bodies but one flesh, alike but unlike each other, uncovered but unashamed. Peter Lombard (in 1158) said, “Eve was not taken from the feet of Adam to be his slave, nor from his head to be his lord, but from his side to be his partner.” Man was the head, woman his spine, the neck, his soul mate. Note that the first ever words out of Adam’s mouth was a love poem to his other half and a romantic pining of how close they were and how alike and unlike they were (v 23).
Adam was the king, Eve was her queen; he was the man, she was his lady; and he is the head, and she was his side. She was his love and he was her life. The word man referred to male and female (1:27). The joint equation, and not one gender alone, was “very good” (1:31) - they were dependent on each other and devoted to each other. They loved, trusted, and supported each other.
A CEO noticed that the gas attendant and his wife were engaged in an animated conversation. The conversation stopped as he paid the attendant. But as he was getting back into the car, he saw the attendant wave and heard him, say, “It was great talking to you.”
As they drove out of the station, the CEO asked his wife if she knew the man. She readily admitted she did. They had gone to high school together and had dated steadily for about a year.
“Boy, were you lucky that I came along,” bragged the CEO. “If you had married him, you’d be the wife of a gas station attendant instead of the wife of a chief executive officer.”
“My dear,” replied his wife, “if I had married him, he’d be the chief executive officer and you’d be the gas station attendant.” (Bits and Pieces, 1/9/92)
The emotional need of man and wife were met in each other, but couples, like everyone else, need to learn how relate to family members, friends, and outsiders. The command to leave one’s parents was meant for us and not Adam and Eve; they were the first man and woman on earth and the first parents!
English poet John Donne said these memorable words: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
Conclusion: God has given us a lot, but He asked from us one thing – that we obey Him. God’s providence for man includes healthy fellowship with God, guidelines on positive living, and good relations with others.
Do you appreciate what God has done for you? Do you challenge your mind, discipline your body, and excel in tasks? God did not intend for us to be couch potatoes. It’s been said, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Some of you may turn out to be doctors, engineers, and teachers. Whether in the arts, science or other operations, the Chinese say, “An official emerges from every profession.”
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