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Paradise

Submitted by Nigel on Sun, 31/01/2021 - 10:00
Series
Focus
Genesis 2:4-17

Every now and then, you hear of some situation in which a person is asked “Imagine that you’re going to be stranded on a desert island. What would you take with you?” Perhaps the interviewer is particularly interested in what book a person might pick, or what music they’d choose, or someone they’d take with them – someone they’d love to spend time with.

I can’t say I’d be a good choice for a question like that – my choice of book wouldn’t be some great work of fiction or some interesting murder mystery. It wouldn’t even be the Bible – it would a gardening book. It would be something that told me what on that island would be good to eat and what would make me sick. Something that would tell me how to best tend the plants I needed to keep and get rid of the ones that weren’t helpful. Something that would be useful and interesting long after the murder mystery would have become boring.

I wouldn’t need to take the Bible with me because my person to take with me would be the Lord, or if it couldn’t be the Lord, the apostle Paul. I wouldn’t need the Bible because I would be able to learn from and talk with that person, growing in my understanding of and appreciation for the gospel as I walked and talked with them and as the Spirit quickened their words to my heart and mind.

As I’ve prepared this sermon, it has occurred to me that the question of who and what you’d take to a desert island has a lot of relevance to the actions of God, here in Genesis 2. You see, when you pick things for that desert island, you’re going to pick the good things, aren’t you? You’re going to pick what’s interesting, what’s important. You won’t choose the trivial or the mundane. More than that, though - you’ll pick things that are central to who you are and what you’re seeking to achieve as you enter that situation.

And that’s just what God does as He prepares a place for last and perhaps the greatest of His creations to live. I can see eight things God gives to Adam, and they’re eight things that he also gives you and I today and seven of them are things we are also promised in heaven. Let’s take a look.

The very first thing that God gives to Adam is life itself. Verse 4 signals the start of a new section in Genesis by giving us the first of a number of statements “This is the account of...”. It’s usually an account of a person and their life, as in chapter 5, verse 1: “This is the written account of Adam’s line”, but here we’re rewinding the clock and focusing particularly on God’s creation of mankind and His interaction with us. And so we read (v4-7):

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.”

With these words, we are told, simply, that God gave Adam life. We might wonder why He didn’t simply speak, like He did with the rest of creation. We might query what Adam looked like, or how tall he was, or whether he had the same number of ribs as we do. But the one thing we cannot validly question is the fact that there was no slow evolution. God formed Adam’s body out of some of the earth He had previously made and God gave Adam life in a way no other creation was given life – breathing into his nostrils.

Second, He gave Adam the means by which that life could be sustained: “8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” Having been created, Adam didn’t then have to figure out – like you or I might have to on that mythical desert island – what was edible and what was not. God put him in the middle of a garden full of trees that were “good for food”.

Next, Adam was given work. He wasn’t left with an eternal holiday – with nothing in particular to do, and he wasn’t left to guess what God wanted. Instead, he given a mandate to work the garden and take care of it (verse 15). This mandate should be read hand-in-hand with the creation mandate at the end of the previous chapter – filling the earth and subduing it was to begin here in Eden. “Work it and take care of it” reflect the complimentary goals of making use of the fruit the garden produces and ensuring that it can continue to produce fruit into the future. Adam’s mandate is one of stewardship, not raw exploitation., and provides a basis for us understanding that mankind as a whole has the same task today.

Notice too that at this stage it wasn’t hard work. Adam didn’t have to struggle to find a good source of water for himself and the garden. God had placed him right at the source of four rivers. God had planted the trees themselves. He had no doubt arranged things so that at least some of them already had fruit, ready for Adam to pick. Adam just needed to take things from there. He may well not even have needed to fight weeds at this point!

The fourth gift God provided to Adam was peace and security. Throughout this whole passage, it is just assumed that there is nothing around that will endanger Adam. In the next section, all of the animals are brought to him, and there’s no mention of even the possibility of one of them doing him any harm. Both of these facts match perfectly with the end of chapter 1, where all creatures were given plants and fruit for food, with no indication of even the possibility of animals eating each other then. Adam can enjoy peace and security.

More than that though, God provides the potential for enjoyment of the creation He has made. Our passage mentions gold and other previous stones in verse 11, implying – I believe – that these too were provisions of God that Adam or his descendants would have eventually have discovered and enjoyed, perhaps fashioning the first jewellery (not to mention tools).

Gold is not the only thing to enjoy though – the trees were not just good for food. They were – verse 9 – pleasing to the eye. Adam was given a beautiful creation, and these things that are mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. As he and his descendants filled the earth, they would encounter many more beautiful creations, from waterfalls to snow capped mountains and much, much more; all of it made by God to enjoy and appreciate.

The sixth gift of God to Adam was fellowship. We’ll focus on this more next time, when we consider the special place Eve had. But we shouldn’t only think of Eve. Verse 25 says Adam and Eve felt no shame at their nakedness and the chapter 3 shows them feeling shame, post fall, when God approaches. It is clearly implied that Adam and Eve had regular fellowship with God at this time.

The seventh gift of God was a choice. In the middle of the garden, God placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – verse 9. Verses 16 and 17 pick the thread up again, telling us that God warned 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.”

You might wonder if this really was a gift. I’m going to argue it was for this reason: The presence of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not only an opportunity for Adam to disobey and fail. It was also an opportunity for him to obey and succeed. It was an opportunity for him, regularly standing unashamed before the God who made Him and growing day by day in his understanding and appreciation of who God is and what He is like, to deliberately choose to keep that fellowship and blessedness and reject the knowledge of things he didn’t need to know. Remember that God clearly warned Adam of the consequences of eating from the tree, and we can have no doubt that he would have passed this warning on to Eve too – if God himself didn’t also repeat it to her after she was made.

Lastly, God gave Adam the gift of hope. This isn’t so clear from our passage – we need to take other passages into account to get the full picture – but that’s what the tree of life is here. Notice that Adam was free to eat from the tree of life during his time in the garden. It was only after the fall that it became a problem. But even in that context – particularly in that context – the tree of life provides hope. If the tree of the knowledge of good and evil can bring death then perhaps a tree of life can undo that death? Even as Adam and Eve were being frog marched out of the garden, and as they recalled the events afterwards, the presence of that tree of life (together with other things God says in chapter 3) could give them the hope that all was not lost.

So there you go – eight great things God provided in the garden. Life, sustenance, work, joy, peace, fellowship, choice and hope. Eight things that show His goodness, His kindness, His glory to His creation.

We know what’s coming in Genesis though. The wrong choice will be made. Life will be lost. Work will become hard. Joy and peace are diminished and fellowship will be broken.

But there was still hope.

And what was hoped for by Adam and Eve has again been provided by God, in Christ His Son.

After centuries of showing humanity through the events recorded in the Old Testament that we can’t save ourselves, God provided new life in Jesus Christ. The overwhelming message of all the gospels but of John especially is that this is the very reason Jesus came:

John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

And this life – like the life given to Adam – is repeatedly also described as a gift.

But it doesn’t stop there. Just was the case with Adam, God doesn’t merely give life, but also sustains it – this time through the gift of the Spirit. Romans 8:11 assures us that if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

In Christ, we also get a new work – the task of making disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us.

More than that, our Saviour gives us joy and peace in the knowledge that all our sins – past, present and future – are fully paid for and completely forgiven through the one sacrifice of Christ our Lord.

Our fellowship with God is restored and as part of His church, we also have fellowship with one another in a way that can make other human relationships seem pointless and superficial.

God gives us choice again. Rather than being dead in our tresspasses and sins, slaves to all that is opposed to God’s good purposes, we can – by God’s grace – fight sin and be victorious.

Above all though, God provides true and lasting hope to us. There will come a day in which Christ will return and all the glory of Genesis 2 will be restored. Actually, it will be better than Genesis 2 because the potential for sin and rebellion will not be there at all.

On that day, all of our hopes will be realised. We will get new and eternal life in all of it’s fullness – imperishable, undefiled and unfading in glory. Our joy and peace will be perfect and unending. Our fellowship with God and one another will be as good as it gets and better than anything we know on this earth. By the work of God’s Spirit in us, we will be only ever make the right choices – there will be no more possibility of sin and rebellion, never again will there be a person who stands ashamed before God. Life will be full of purpose and we will glorify God as we ought every moment.

Won’t that be awesome, brothers and sisters?

And it’s all because of God and His goodness and grace. Not because of anything in you and me, but because the God who first provided every good and perfect gift to Adam at the beginning of creation is the same God who provided every need we have in Christ our Lord, and will again provide them perfectly when He makes all things now.

How can you and I respond appropriately? What can we say or do?

We can’t repay God for His grace and kindness. We can’t make Him send Jesus back sooner. But we can fight sin and seek to live lives that truly glorify our God. And above all else, we can be thankful for all He has done and will do, and express that thankfulness day by day.

To God alone be the glory for His amazing provision of our needs, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. Let’s pray!