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Being With God | Genesis 2:4-25

Being with God

Genesis 2:4-25

April 30, 2023

I learned as a young man that one of the best ways to learn about your family history is to go to the doctor. This isn’t because the doctor himself will tell you your history. It is because he asks for your history. As a young man, I didn’t know my history. On the intake sheet I needed to fill out a plethora of information about the health history of my nearest relatives, but I didn’t know it. This forced me to call my mom and ask her to give me a run down of my grandparents on my mother and father’s side. It was quite educational.

This information is not simply to satiate the curiosity of the doctor. He wants to know it because it could very well inform him about present problems we may be experiencing. As the American author Mark Twain once said, “History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme.” You aren’t your parents or your grandparents, but who they are at least rhymes with who you are.

The Context of Genesis 2:4-25: The Creation and Purpose of Man

And that’s why our attention should perk up when we read a passage like Genesis 2. It is our family history. As we learn about the first man and woman, we are learning about people different from us, in a different context from us, and in a different time from us. We are not an exact repeat of them, but we certainly rhyme with them. And, as I hope you come to see, by understanding them you will understand more about who God is and who you are.

After the cosmic explanation of creation in Genesis 1:1-2:3, Genesis 2 focuses in on the creation of man that was mentioned in Genesis 1:26-28. Genesis 2 zooms in to understand the creation and purpose of humanity. Genesis 2:4 begins with a formula that we will see throughout the book of Genesis when it says, “These are the generations…” That is the formula for a genealogy. That signals to us that we are getting the beginning of genealogy and it is the genealogy of God’s creation, which focuses on the first manBut understanding humanity requires not only understanding what comes before Genesis 2, but also what comes after. Genesis 3 continues teaching us about our family history as it records the entrance of sin into the world, meaning that Genesis 2 is a description of the way things are supposed to be. Genesis 2 is explaining God’s intention for humanity, which is being with God, in God’s place, and under God’s rule. Let’s examine each of these in turn and see knowing our family history fills in the gaps of understanding ourselves.

First, man is created to be with God.

The first man, and thus all people who come from him, was created to be with God. But being with God is not just about proximity; it is about purpose and activity.

Recall in Genesis 1:26-28 that man was created in the image of God and called to subdue and fill the earth. Genesis 2 further explains this in two ways

Man is with God as His Special Creation

Creation is full of creatures, but man is not any creature. He is the one of which God is mindful (Psalm 8). Man is a special creation and therefore has a special relation to God. We see this in verse 7, which tells us that man is crafted by God. This verse uses anthropomorphic language about God—meaning that it ascribes to God human traits in order to communicate something about God. We know from elsewhere in the Bible that God does not have hands, arms, or a mouth. But here God is described as forming man from the dust and breathing into him so that he became a living creature.

What’s being communicated to us in this language? Man is a special creation of God. As a potter places his hands on the clay in order to personally form his creation, so God his placed his hands on humanity in order to form them just as he desired.

God could have simply spoken, “be a living creature,” and certainly that would have made man. But we are given the image of God himself reaching into the dirt of the earth to form man and then breath life into him. He did not need to do that; he wanted to do that. Once a leper knelt before Jesus and said to him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” (Matt. 8:1-4). What did Jesus do? Certainly he could have simply said, “Be clean.” He did that several times. In fact, he heals a man simply by speaking in the very next passage (cf. Matt. 8:5-13). But Jesus doesn’t just say, “Be clean.” He stretched out his his hand and touched him, saying “I will; be clean.” The words alone communicate his love. But the touch to such a man as a leper communicates love in a richer way.

This personal touch, as we will see more in a moment, is true of the first woman as well. She is “made” or “built” by God as his special activity. The personal touch and the breathing of God in the creation of humanity communicates the reality that men and women are not just a creatures: They are persons in communion with God; they are made to be with God. That is humanity’s purpose. We are created to know God and, in knowing him, to display God’s goodness in all creation.

Man (as in humanity) is with God through Imitation

Before man is created, we are told in verse 5 that the earth lacked cultivation because there was no rain and because there was no man to work the land. As we saw in Genesis 1, God created all things and then set about ordering and filling all of creation. What Genesis 2 shows us is that part of God’s ordering was intended to be completed by the man. He was to cultivate God’s creation. After God makes the Garden, we see in verse 15 that he puts the man in it “to work and keep it.”

As we noted last week, man is created in the image of God, meaning that he is to represent God on earth by imitating God. God’s intention for man is to imitate him by further cultivating, subduing, and filling the earth. The land was in need of a farmer who would image God in creation by imitating God in subduing creation. Man was created, then, to image God by imitating God in subduing the created order.

After man is created, there is now an image bearer who could subdue creation. The first man, at this point, is the sum of humanity. In verse 18 we see God’s assessment of that fact when he says that it is not good. Why? Here are a couple of reasons

First, while all people are made in the image of God, as Genesis 1:26-28 tells us, an individual cannot fully imitate God on his or her own. In Genesis 1:28 God says “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” After creating the world, we see that God subdues creation by ordering it—Light and darkness, water and dry land, day and night. And we see that he also fills it—fish, birds, land animals, and humans. In order for humanity to fill the earth, the man needs a companion who, as it says in the second half of verse 18, “fits” him.

Second, it simply isn’t good that man is alone. This isn’t something that the man says. He doesn’t complain and say, “I am lonely, God.” No, the man doesn’t say that he is lonely; God announces to him that it isn’t good that he is alone. God tells the man that he is a social creature and not a solitary one. That is to say, God again is defining what is good—and it isn’t good for us to be alone. We are made for community.

In verse 18 God announces the problem and also announces the solution: he needs a helper fit for him. As we see in verses 19-20, God creates from the ground every beast of the field and every bird from the sky. The man names them all, but does not find one that corresponds to him. So notice what happens next: God alone acts. Look at verse 21 and see that God caused the man to go into a deep sleep. Just like in the creation of the man, anthropomorphic language is used. He takes a rib, or simply some of the man’s side and, as we see in verse 22, “made” or “built” it into a woman. This again is personal, craftsman language.

Don’t miss the significance of how the woman is created. She comes from the man, meaning that she is his same substance; she is his equal. The man can’t look at her and call her lesser because she is, as he will say “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” She is just as human and just as precious to God.

And don’t miss the significance of her difference. She comes from the man in order to be a fit for him, which means to correspond to him. She is distinct from him and he is distinct from her. They are interdependent sexually and certainly not interchangeable sexually. They are interdependent by their marital roles: he leads, she helps. Each is integral.

God intends to fill the earth with image bearers, so he makes humanity into two sexes and founds the institution of marriage, as we see in verses 23-24, so that they may fill the earth and thus be with him in likeness of activity.

Don’t miss the point of humanities creation or the point of marriage: it is to fill the earth with image bearers who glorify God.

How Does This Fill in the Gaps?

What does all of this family history teach you about yourself? Does this mean that unless you are married you are alone? Men, are you incomplete without a wife? Women, are you less if you do not have a husband?

Absolutely not.

We often read this passage too individualistically. In order for humanity to be complete, there must be men and women. In order for there to be a community, there must be men and women who procreate. For society to exist, there must be marriage, but not all in society must be married. The cure to being alone is not marriage. It is a multiplication of people. God says that it is not good for you to be alone, but marriage is the cure to this not by giving everyone a marriage partner but by giving a plurality of people through procreation.

So how does it fill in the gaps of understanding who you are? It tells you that you have a purpose: Commune with God and fill creation with image bearers that rightly display his glory. Before sin entered the world, this was done through marriage and procreation: in the beginning, men and women rightly reflected the glory of God. Since the Fall, however, mere procreation is not filling the earth with those show reflect God’s glory as they should. While the image of God is not lost because of sin, it is marred. This is why Jesus came. He is the second Adam, the image of God himself. God the Son came to earth and took on flesh in Jesus. When Jesus went to the cross, he had spent his whole life as the groom coming to get his bride. He called people to himself, but in the end all of the people he called left him. Instead of finding a doting and ready bride, he found a people who hated him and did not want him. There was no fit or corresponding companion for him. So, he went to the cross to suffer and die. When Jesus died, you could say that God put Jesus into the deepest sleep. And then, under God’s sovereign hand, the spear pierced and opened Jesus side. When God had that spear pierce Jesus’ side, God himself opened his side and from his atoning death made for Jesus a bride. On the cross God made a bride for him from his very body. He opened Jesus side and presented to him a bride.

Church, Jesus rejoices over you. You are bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.

How do you fulfill your purpose now? You commune with God by faith in Christ and fill the earth with image bearers by obeying the Great Commission—making disciples of all nations. This is what subduing and filling the earth looks like for Christians.

Second, man is created to be with God in God’s place.

Genesis 2 also shows us that man was created to dwell in the splendor of God’s presence. After the creation of man, we see in verse 8 that God planted a Garden in the land of Eden. He put man in this garden, as we see in verse 15, “to work and to keep it.” But, as we learn about this garden, this is the kind of gig we wish we could have. This garden is full of everything that is good.

The garden has every three that is good for food and pleasant to the eye (verse 9). The garden has plentiful water, which means there is lush life (verse 10). The garden, through these plentiful rivers, also have many resources of beauty like gold, bdellium, and onyx stone (verses 11-14). The garden is full of life, pleasure, and beauty. It is paradise. But it isn’t just paradise because it contains these joys. These aren’t just good things; these are God’s things. It is paradise because God is there. It is his temple.

We can know this by the fact that the imagery of the garden is the imagery used of the tabernacle later on in the writings of Moses. The tabernacle is God’s special dwelling place with his people. In the tabernacle, all of the instruments and furnishings have gold coverings. The onyx stone is what makes up the priestly ephod, upon which were inscribed the names of the twelve tribes (Exodus 28:9-14, 20).

In coming to verse 15, we see that the man did not just have the purpose of working the ground and keeping the garden as a farmer; he really had the role of priest. The word used for “work in verse 15 is the word used to describe Levitical duties in the tabernacle and later on temple worship. Likewise, the word keep is used repeatedly in Genesis to refer to keeping covenant regulations (Gen 17:9-10; 18:19; 26:5). In regard to priestly duties, this word for “keep” refers to faithfully carrying out God’s instructions (Lev 8:35) and for taking care of the tabernacle (Numbers 1:53; 18:5).

All of this points to one reality: the garden is good because God is good and God is there.

How Does This Fill in the Gaps?

Everyone in creation wants God; not everyone recognizes that fact. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis argues that when we have a desire for heaven we do not recognize it as a desire for heaven. Instead, we confuse it for something else. If you could recognize it, you want something that isn’t in this world but confuse that something for a thing that is in this fallen world. There are many things in this world that promise you that something for which your heart inherently longs, but they never actually deliver it. The best vacation never lives up to the real desire that you had for that vacation. The best job never really lives up to being what your heart desired it to be. Even the best of our marriages falls short of satisfying the longing that you have. What does Lewis say to all of this? He writes,

“The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”[1]

And you were. You were made for a world without sin. You were made for a world without sorrow and death. You were made for a world in which the Lord himself would wipe away your tears. You were made to be with God in his place. You aren’t meant for a sin soaked world but a God filled one.

And when you trust in Jesus, you know that you will have it. He has promised that he goes to prepare a place for us that were he is we may also be (John 14:2-3)

Christian, stop focusing on how the world does not satisfy your desires. It won’t. It can’t. Set your eyes on the sure hope to come. Christ will make all things new.

Third, you were created to be with God, in his place, under his rule.

In case you missed it, Genesis 2 lays out God’s abundant provision.

He doesn’t just create the man, but intricately fashions him and breaths into him. He doesn’t just put man on earth and say, “get to work.” Rather, God himself plants a garden that is richly furnished with every tree that is good to look at and every tree that has good food to eat. God gives the man authority on earth, which is demonstrated through his naming of the animals. Then, to cap it all off, he completes humanity and gives the man a woman, thus ensuring that there would be society, community, and all the joy that comes with it.

All of these good things come from God’s active rule. He commands the man to work and keep the garden. He gives the man the task of naming the animals. He puts the man to sleep and present to him a bride. He does not consult but rules.

In the midst of all of this abundance, humanity is given one prohibition. While they can eat from every tree in the garden, we see in verse 17 that they are to abstain from one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We will talk more about this tree next week. But for now let’s just focus on this reality: there was only one tree from which the man was to abstain. Just one. And in this prohibition, God mercifully makes the stakes known. If he eats from it, he will die. As we will see in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve do eat of the fruit of this tree, they do not die instantaneously, but they do enter into the doorway of death and cannot turn back.

The first man and woman lived in paradise and had one prohibition. This should make the first sin look even more tragic to us. This command not to eat from this tree was not a burden to bear; it was an opportunity to rejoice in. Obedience to God’s commands is an opportunity to say “thank you” to him for his rich gives and a chance to worship him by saying, “I trust you.”

The lie of sin is ever the same. We sin because we foolishly think that God is holding out on us. The lie goes this way, “If you obey the Lord and skip out on this pleasure, then you will be missing out.” The lie of sin is FOMO and we seemingly can’t resist! But the reality of obedience is this: “If you sin, then you will be missing out on the pleasures of God which exceed all!”

When you realize the reality of obedience, commands shift from burdens to joys. Let me tell you a little story to illustrate this. Imagine a child who just learned how to climb trees. He gets to a high branch and sits on it, dangling his feet below. He is full of a sense of joy. It is his spot; his perch. He loves it and feels safe on it. “If only,” he thinks, “I could have this branch with me in my room or tae it wherever I like.” He looks that the tree from which the branch stems and thinks to himself, “this pesky and selfish tree is keeping hoarding this branch.” So he jumps down, grabs a saw, and returns to the branch and begins hacking away. Laughing at his cleverness, he looks forward to having this branch severed from the tree and being able to perch up on it wherever he likes.

That’s a silly story. You know that the branch won’t just levitate. It needs to tree in order to be the spot of joy and seclusion that the boy enjoys. As he cuts that branch, reality will soon set in for him.

And reality will set in sooner or later for you when you try to divorce good things from God. You can accumulate for yourself all of the pleasures you can imagine in this world, but without God you are simply cutting yourself off from the source of all that you enjoy in the present. You can pursue sexual pleasure, companionship, food, and achievements through work. All of these pleasures are goods created by God. But if you divorce them from God and seek to use them in ways that are motivated by your own self-interest, then one day the branch will fall and you will be utterly cutoff from all that is good. You will finally be rid of God, but you will finally be rid of all that is good, too.

How Does This Fill in the Gaps?

Your greatest joy is worship, but if you are trapped in your sin, then you aren’t even free to worship. Here is the good news: Christ has come to set sinners free. He does this in two ways. First, he frees from the guilt of sin. He lived a life of perfect obedience—the life you should have lived—and died a substitutionary death on the cross and bore God’s wrath for sin—the death you deserved to die—and he rose again from the grave. Simply put, your penalty is paid by Christ. How can you have this forgiveness? Come to Jesus and agree with him by confessing that you are a sinner who deserves judgment but now you want to tie yourself to him by faith. This leads you to the second way that he sets you free: he removes the power of sin. When you come to Christ, you are no longer a slave to sin. You can change. Christ gives you his Spirit and thus you can actually start saying, “No,” to the power of sin that once enslaved you. He empowers you to obey. And here is the incredible reality behind this power: you do not obey Jesus in order to be forgiven; you are able to obey because you are forgiven. When we are trapped under the guilt of sin, obedience to God doesn’t seem like worship. Instead we use it as a futile payment plan. But your obedience can never atone for your sin. In Christ, though, since your sins are forgiven, obedience can now come alive as an act of worship—as it is meant to be. Obedience earns me nothing with God. In Christ, obedience becomes a vehicle for loving God because he has given me all things in Christ.

Do you believe that this morning? I hope you do. If you want to know more about following Jesus, please come talk with me after the service.

If you do believe this, then I want to invite you to come to the table with me this morning. The Lord commands us to take this meal in remembrance of him, and this command is certainly not a burden. In this meal we remember all that he has given to us. In this meal, we refute the lie of sin that says, “God is holding out on you.” This meal appropriately leads us to remember that God gave his Son for us. Since that is the case, we can respond to the lie of sin by quoting Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Indeed, you were made for another world. You do not deserve this other world, but God in his mercy wants to give it to you. And he gives it to you in Jesus.

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 136-137.


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