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Paradise

Date: Jan. 14, 2018

Author: Michael Mark

Genesis 2:4-25

Key Verse: Genesis 2:8

“Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.”

What do you think about when you hear the word “paradise?”  I know none of you are thinking about cold Chicago winters in the city.  The word paradise evokes thoughts of warm gentle breezes, tropical trees and fruits, white sandy beaches, lush green grass with decorated with beautiful flowers and crystal clear rivers and lakes.  It is a place of pure and innocent delight and pleasure, a place of ease, relaxation and enjoyment.  How many of you would like to get away on a vacation to paradise now?  This is the way God had originally made all of his creation.  Last week we looked at the account of the creation of the universe.  The heavens and the earth were created in 6 days, and on the seventh day God rested.  As Dan shared last week, God did not rest because he was tired, but he rested to enjoy his creation, including us.  God rested so that he could enjoy us, as we mutually enjoy Him, and share together in the enjoyment of what he has created.  That is paradise.  We can get a taste of it now, in Jesus Christ, but one day there will be a permanent restoration of a universal paradise, where paradise will be life itself.  But now let’s take a look at God’s original design of the paradise that once existed.

Look at v.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.”  Pay close attention to the words “this is the account.”  These are important words in the book of Genesis, you will see them repeated several times.  These words mark the main sections of the book, and they will help you understand the stories better and follow the progression of the book.  For example, in Ch. 5 v.1 it says, “This is the written account of Adam’s family line.”  In Ch. 6 v.9 it says “This is the account of Noah and his family.”  There are 10 sections in the book of Genesis.  For the next few weeks we will be studying the first section, “the account of the heavens and the earth.”  Notice again, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth.”  The author is making a definitive statement that this is the overall history of mankind after the creation.  You might not realize that the stories in Genesis are documented history, but the author declares that they are.  And if you believe these accounts, it will help you understand the world better, and the word of God better.  Not only are these accounts the truth, but they are foundational and fundamental.  You will see what I mean.  So from this verse to Ch. 5 we have the account of the history of humankind.  Today you will see where mankind has come from, and next week you will see how we got into the situation we are in today.

 There is one more important point to highlight in v.4.  Who does it say made the earth and the heavens?  The Lord God.  Notice the word “Lord” is in small caps.  That means it is a substitute for the proper name of God.  It is translated as “Lord” because over time we have lost the pronunciation of the Lord’s name.  The Hebrew alphabet has only consonants but no vowels.  The two best guesses we have of the Lord’s name is either Jehovah (or Yehovah) or Yahweh.  In any case, the small cap “Lord” will usually represent the Lord’s proper (or actual) name.  Now read the last part of verse 4 substituting the Lord’s name: Jehovah God made the earth and the heavens.  What does this tell you?  It tells you that God is a person.  The Creator is a Spirit, but also a person.  He is a Spirit with a personal personality.  The Creator is not some unknowable force, but a unique, powerful and holy person.  We learn that God is a person, and also that Jehovah is God.  Why is this significant?  Because only in this first account, only from v.4 up to Ch. 5 do you see this combination “Lord God” so frequently.  You do not see this in Ch. 1, and after Ch. 5, with a few exceptions, the Bible will mostly either use “God,” or “Lord (or Lord).”  It is as if Moses, the author of Genesis, is introducing us to Jehovah, who is God.

Let’s take a look now at the paradise Jehovah God has created.  Look at v.5, “Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground.”  Our focus here is paradise.  What I mean by paradise is the garden God will make for man.  There were already plants on the earth, they were created on the third day.  The purpose of this verse is to set the stage for the garden, and man’s role in it.  Look again at verse 5 – the plan was to create a garden and for someone to work the ground.  Wait, so you’re telling me that someone has to take care of the garden?  It can’t take care of itself?  The animals can’t do it?  Well, apparently this garden needed someone to take care of it.  Maybe there was a different purpose for this garden.  There is a beauty in the wild hills and plains of Colorado, but there is also another beauty in the gardens of Versailles in France.  There is a beauty during the fall season of corn mazes at pumpkin patches in the plains of Illinois.  As you know corn mazes don’t cut themselves.  Versailles is not beautiful by itself either.  Someone had to work those grounds.

So who would work the ground?  Well look now at v.7.  “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  This must have been the 6th day of creation, as the first man was created.  Although man was created on the last day, the way in which he was created was unique.  Other creations were have been formed out of the ground.  By the power of God’s word, and the power of His Spirit, the animals maybe came out of the ground.  But in verse 7 there is a subtle difference.  Man did not come out of the ground, but formed from the dust of the ground.  The picture is God, with his own hands, took dust out of the ground, and molded it carefully as a potter does to clay.  Now, there may be nothing special about the breath of life itself.  In Gen 1:30, creatures have the breath of life in them.  But what makes man special?  It’s in the way God gave the breath, and what God gave to man.  The breath was breathed into his nostrils, and in the last chapter, we were given the image of God.  There must have been something different about the breath of life breathed into our nostrils.  Unlike the animals, we received the image of God, which I can best describe, though inadequately, a personality.  Animals are not persons, only man is a person.  Some animals might have a personality, but nobody calls an animal a person.  Sometimes we call people animals, but usually we do not call animals people.  Personhood is the image of God that distinguishes us from animals.

From v.8-14 we get a description of paradise.  Can we all please read v.8, “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.”  Eden was a garden in the east.  Jewish tradition says that Moses may have written Genesis from Mount Sinai, which is south of Israel in Saudi Arabia.  The garden would have been east of there, in the direction of Iraq, although we are not sure how far east.  In this garden were all kinds of trees, trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.  This really was paradise.  Not all the world was covered with such trees that look beautiful and produce good fruit.  This was a lush, green landscape with a great river running through it.  The river watered the whole garden, and from there split into 4 other rivers: the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris and the Euphrates.  2 of these rivers exist today, the Tigris and the Euphrates, but we do not know if they are the original rivers.  The landscape may have changed significantly since the flood and over time, so nobody knows exactly where Eden is anymore.  In any case, at this 6th day of creation, it is the most beautiful garden on earth with a river running through it watering it well.

At the center of this garden stood two trees – the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  These were two very special trees, different from all of the other trees in the rest of the garden.  Physically, the trees may or may not have been the same as some of the other trees in the garden.  We do not know what type of fruit trees these were.  Whether or not they were the same in substance, is debatable, but they were definitely different in significance.  The tree of life is the tree that imparted eternal life.  In the next chapter, in v.22 it is said that whenever they eat from the tree of life, they would live forever.  In Rev 2:7, Jesus speaks of eating again from the tree of life, and in Rev 22 the tree of life is mentioned again in the new heavens and the new earth.  Here was a tree, the tree of life, that would remind people who the provider and source of life is, which is God.

Next to this tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Look at v.16-17, “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’”  This is the only tree in the whole garden that will bring death!  They were free, free God says, to eat from any other tree in the garden, just not this one.  In God’s great wisdom, he singled out this tree to make the definition of evil absolutely clear.  Evil is disobedience to the will of God.  Even the smallest disobedience is an act of evil, for many reasons.  Disobedience reveals a lack of faith in God’s words, his words of truth that have power to create.  Disobedience also reveals a rebellion and rejection against the words of God.  This is seen clearly as God allowed any other fruit from any other tree to be eaten, except for this one.  To eat the forbidden fruit is to reject the multitude of free fruit God has provided.  The natural result is death, because you have cut yourself off from the source of life.  Ultimately death is separation.  First, your spirit is separated from your body.  Last, you are separated from God.

The existence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil proves all the more that we were made in the image of God, and that we are not like the animals.  As one commentary (Keil and Delitzsch) puts it: not to know good and evil are signs of immaturity and infancy (Deut 1:39), while the ability to discern good and evil are commended as gifts of kings (Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kings 3:9) and wisdom of angels (2 Sam 14:17).  The tree was put there for our spiritual and moral development to grow in the likeness of God.  It shows that we have free will and a freedom of choice to obey or disobey God.  According to K & D, God originally intended for us to learn good and evil by not eating the fruit, by choosing to obey his command and growing in our resistance to evil to overcome temptation.  As we will see next week, we learned about evil the hard way.

Paradise had beautiful trees, delicious food, a flowing river, a land where there is precious gold, aromatic resin and onyx – a land flowing with treasures and bounty, and a man, created in the image of God to rule over it with life and wisdom.  But there was something still missing in paradise.  Look at v.18, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.’”  Hmm….  Last week we saw that after each day God created something, he saw that it was good.  But here, something is not good: the man was alone.  The sixth day was not over yet!  God had work to do!  John MacArthur (in his study Bible) describes it like this: “The words of this verse emphasize man’s need for a companion, a helper, and an equal.  He was incomplete without someone to compliment him in fulfilling the task of filling, multiplying and taking dominion over the earth.  This points to Adam’s inadequacy, not Eve’s insufficiency.  Woman was made by God to meet man’s deficiency.”  Without a complimentary companion, helper and equal, men will be incomplete, inadequate, and deficient.  Look at God’s concern and love for Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.”  Just creating a human.  No big deal.  All for Adam.

Look at what God did next, from v.19b-20a, “He brought [the wild animals and birds] to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.  So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.”  There was no command to name the animals, but God brought them to Adam to see what he would name them.  Right away Adam started giving names to the animals.  Adam didn’t really have to learn how to talk.  He was formed as a grown man with language, and he spoke the name of the animal whatever he wanted to call it.  This is so that he would be able to get to know the animal, and also govern over it.  Naming an animal implies dominion over it.  In the first Rocky movie, I think, Rocky finds a stray dog and adopts it, and then has one of the kids he watches name the dog.  He says, “I think every guy should at one time try to name an animal or something.”  Even Rocky knows.

But look at verse 20b after naming the animals, “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.”  A dog is a man’s best friend, but he’s still not a suitable helper.  I don’t know if Adam felt his loneliness or not, but I just imagine how the naming of the animals went:  “Lion,” “Lioness,” “Tiger,” “Tigress,” “Bear,” “Bear,” “Bull,” “Cow,” “Ram,” “Ewe”, “Rooster,” “Hen,” “Hmm, I get this nagging feeling that I’m missing something…”

Now look at what God does in v.21-22, “So the Lord caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”  This is the first wedding in paradise!!!  The paradise scene just got beautifuller.  And guess who was presiding over the wedding and acting as a witness: the Lord God himself.  God was there for the first ever wedding in human history.

What was Adam’s response?  Look at v.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 a man.’”  This was an expression of love, joy, happiness and gratitude.  Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; someone who is just like me, my counterpart, my mirror image, my other half.  You can’t get any closer to someone than being their own flesh and bones.  This is how I feel when I see Mary every morning.  Sometimes I want to call her ribs but I don’t think she likes it.  Whenever I see her, I get excited.  Sometimes I tell her I want to crush her to pieces so I could absorb her, or I wish that I fell from the sky on top of her so we could merge.  Sometimes that scares her so I only say it once in a while.  But marriage truly is a blessing.  There’s always someone to come home to and talk to.  I always have a date to dinner or a movie or a trip.  She helps me and encourages me in the ministry, and also tells me to slow down when I take on too much.  She keeps my wardrobe up to date because I never buy new clothes unless they have holes in them.  She completes me, and I know that for all those who are married, your spouse completes you.  Even if you might not know it, it’s the way God designed it to be.  I know there are couples in here excited to get married.  It’s a great blessing.  My wedding day was the beginning of the best days of my life.

Look at what Moses writes in v.24, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”  God has instituted marriage with the first male and female humans.  Marriage is a sacred institution, and it is the first institution God has established.  What do I mean by institution?  A dictionary search on Google defines an institution as “an established law, practice or custom.”  Marriage is the first custom God has established with the first two humans, that is why it is universal across all cultures, and it is unique to humanity.  Animals do not have sacred rites.  To be married, you must be recognized by the state, by the church or community.  We wear wedding rings as signs of our vows.  Weddings are always joyful events.  In India weddings are attended by thousands of people.  In Albania everyone dances in a circle.  In America we do the cha cha slide.  In Korea the bride gets a piggy back ride from the groom.  Modern weddings will also play Gangnam style.  In China they do the lion dance.  Marriage was not established by culture or by people, it was established by God, who says it is good.

A man leaves his father and mother.  When a man is married, he becomes the head of a new family unit.  When he was a child, he was under the authority of his father and mother.  When he’s married, he still respects his father and mother, but he’s a new household.  The husband and wife are united to one another.  The definitions of a marriage are very clear – it is a union between a male and a female, between one husband and one wife.  It is a union.  God intends for it to be permanent.  Jesus said in Matt 19:6 “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Why else is marriage so important, and so vital to maintain?  Because it reflects the image of God and it fulfills the will of God.  Marriage is a picture of Jesus Christ and the church.  Eph 6:5 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  Husbands, love your wives, and give yourself up for her.  It is a picture of how much Jesus loves the church, and gave his own life to save her.  The union between husband and wife is a picture of the union between Christ and the church.  Jesus is one with us when we repent and believe in his death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins.  He will never leave us nor forsake us, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.  So too, nothing must separate you and the wife of your youth.

Marriage fulfills God’s will.  God said to mankind, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  This is God’s will for humanity.  This will can only be fulfilled by a true and faithful marriage.  Divorce, unfaithfulness and sexual immorality will bring society to ruins.  The breakdown of marriage and family leads to the breakdown of society.  God wants faithful marriages because he wants godly offspring.  Children are literally the one flesh between the two, and they are the future of the kingdom of God.  Mal 2:14-16 says this, speaking to the unfaithful men of Israel “The Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth.  You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.  Has not the one God made you?  You belong to him in body and spirit.  And what does the one God seek?  Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.  The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘does violence to the one he should protect,’ says the Lord Almighty.  So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.”  Malachi seems to reference a lot of what was in Gen 1-2, and also draws a practical conclusion – husbands should protect their wives as well.

Verse 25 ends this passage with “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”  Their marriage was pure, and they felt no shame because they right with God as well, and did not disobey his commands.  So far, things were looking good in paradise.

Today, we saw the beginning of the account of the origins of mankind.  God had created a paradise with lush trees, good food, flowing water, gold, aromatic resin and onyx.  He created mankind from the dust of the ground in his image – we say mankind because all people, even Eve, came from the one man Adam.  Paradise was not complete without the wedding of Adam and Eve.  Once they were married, God saw that it was very good, and they were allowed to eat from the tree of life and live forever in paradise.  Today we can only dream of a perfect paradise.  Even our short trips to paradise-like locations feel busy and we come back more tired than refreshed.  But there is a hope one day that paradise will be restored.  Genesis begins with this picture of a wedding in paradise.  Revelation ends with a picture of a wedding in the restored paradise.  The Holy City, the new Jerusalem will come down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  In this city will be the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and on each side of the river stands the tree of life.  The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”  And let the one who hears say, “Come!”  Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.  Put your trust and hope in Jesus, and believe that his shed blood on the cross has washed away all your sins, and live to serve the will of the Lord in obedience to his word.  When he comes again, may he say to you, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

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