Summary: God’s people in God’s place, the place of his blessing, the Blessed World, living in obedience to God’s commands, in harmony with one another and caring for God’s creation as good stewards of all that God has provided. That’s as good a description of par
We noted last week that when the Biblical writers deliver their accounts of the things that happened they often shape them in particular ways in order to convey some particular aspect of the truth of the situation. Now there’s nothing deceitful or underhanded about this. They’re simple wanting their readers to see the things that they’ve discovered in the events that they’re recording. Often they’re theological truths that we need to understand. In fact we might want to say that God has chosen these people to record these events because he wants us to see the things that they notice.
So it’s interesting that in the first two chapters of Genesis, the first two chapters of the Bible in fact, we have two quite different accounts of the same set of events: two accounts that no doubt arise from 2 different viewpoints. The first, in chapter one, is written in the form of a poem or a song. It may well have been used as a form of hymn, used in worship to recount the way God had made the world and everything in it. If you look at it closely, you’ll see that it’s highly structured with a number of refrains - "And it was so;" "And God saw that it was good;" "And there was evening and there was morning, the ... day."
But when we read this second account of the creation of the world, in Gen 2, we find quite a different emphasis. Here we find a description, not of the wonder of the creation, of it’s perfection, not of God as the one who brings it into being through the agency of Word and Spirit, but instead the focus is on the man and woman who are the pinnacle of God’s creation in the first account. Here we discover a number of important truths about how God intended us to live in his world.
Here we find that God makes a man out of the dust of the ground. That is, he’s made of the very stuff of the creation. His existence is integrally bound up with this world in which he’s placed.
Then God breathes into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. So right from the start we discover something important about humanity. First we’re an integral part of creation. That’s why scientist have found so many similarities in the DNA structure of human beings and other creatures and that shouldn’t surprise us. But then, more importantly, we’re utterly dependent on God for our life, for our existence. It’s the breath of God that brings life to the man. I guess this is a parallel concept to the expression in chapter 1 that men and women are created in the image of God. God breathing the breath of life into the man carries the idea of him imparting something of his own life to the man.
But then the story continues and we find three more critically important truths about how God intended us to live in his world. Having made the man, the earth is now ready to be populated. First God plants a garden for the man to live in. The garden is full of trees that are both pleasant to look at, but also good for food. There are two special trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We’ll come to them later. And there’s a river flowing out of Eden, that first waters the garden, then branches out to form four great rivers. At this point we discover that this story is rooted, not just in time but in place. There’s a time and place historical context to this creation account. The time is at the beginning of human history, however long ago that was, but the place is clearly anchored to the geographical region to the east of Canaan. Now this is important, because one of the things we’re going to notice as we go along in this series is that at almost every point in the developing story, in the Old Testament at least, we find the blessing that God promises being located in a place. In this case the place where God’s blessing is found is the garden of Eden.
But then we come to the first of the three important truths I mentioned; truths about how God intended us to live in his world.
Having planted the garden and placed the man in it, he then gives him a task. He’s to till it and keep it. Now, again, this is a parallel statement to that at the end of chapter 1 where humans are told to fill the earth and subdue it, and to rule over the rest of animal life. Here he’s to till the earth and keep it. He’s made the steward of God’s creation. Here the meaning of subdue the earth is made a bit clearer. He isn’t meant to subdue it in the sense of being a tyrant, merely exploiting it for his own gain. Rather he’s to keep it under control, to manage it like a good steward of a valuable resource. He’s to maintain a relationship with the earth that’s at the same time that of the master, but also the benevolent carer.