God with us in the Garden
George Methodist church
8am and 10 am
13th January 2019
With Peter Veysie
Bereisheet- BEGINNINGS – Hebrew Genesis
I am often so relieved as to how the story of creation begins in a garden. Our garden experience this weekend at the Christie’s farm was amazing. To find ourselves out in the succulent Karoo surrounded by mountains rugged rock faces and beautiful natural springs providing water was like being in the garden with God. The silence of this space cannot easily be explained as it combined with the noises of wind and nature. It is so important for us to get outside and into the garden and we find ourselves so blessed to be living in George with all the garden beauty that surrounds us. I sometimes wonder if this isn’t the actual source of all creation here in the Garden route. Not really but only because it’s so beautiful. I want to take the word GARDEN this morning and explore it as an acrostic for GOD, ADAM, RELATIONSHIP, DECEPTION, EXIT, NEW LIFE and choosing life.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. After creating the earth, the sky, all vegetation, the sun, moon and stars, and the seas, God made the birds and the fish on the fifth day. On the sixth day animals and human beings were created. So God created man in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.” (From the creation account in Genesis 1:1. There are three accounts of creation in the Bible, the other starts in Genesis 2: 4b and Genesis 5.
THE MOST POWERFUL REVELATION OF ALL IS THAT GOD CREATED OUT OF NOTHING – EX NIHILO – KARL BARTH.
In theology, the common phrase creatio ex nihilo (lit. “creation out of nothing”), contrasts with creatio ex materia (creation out of some pre-existent, eternal matter)
- ADAM and EVE.
Adam (HUMANITY) and Eve(LIFE) were created in their likeness out of God – out of nothing. At the beginning of human time whenever that was this began. It is not possible to put this into an historical timeframe as the time that we know today was only invented in the early part of the 1000’s. We find a story depicting a man Adam and a woman – the living interacting with a creator in a garden who has given them freedom to live free. There is a tree representing a knowledge of good and evil, which tells us that evil already existed before the creation of man and woman AND THERE IS ALSO THE TREE OF LIFE which we will talk about at the end. They are told not to eat from this knowledge tree or they will die. It is the space between a knowledge of everything that is seen and unseen and a knowledge of the seen.If they eat of this tree it does not say that they will go to hell, but that they will die. Not spiritually die, but physically die as they eat the fruit.
God’s words when he created Adam and eve was that it was very good and he would walk with them in the coolness of the afternoon and they were naked and not ashamed. Wholeness and purity existed in this very harmonious relationship between God Adam and Eve.
It is still God’s desire today to walk with us as we journey through this life and as long as we are close to Him we find ourselves being drawn closer rather than further away.
As much as they are told not to eat, they like, us have an enormous inquistitive spirit and so they sneak up to the tree and eat of the fruit, never described as an apple but more of a knowledge.
The phrase in Hebrew: טוֹב וָרָע, tov wa-raʿ, literally translates as good and evil. This may be an example of the type of figure of speech known as merism, a literary device that pairs opposite terms together in order to create a general meaning, so that the phrase “good and evil” would simply imply “everything”. This is seen in the Egyptian expression evil-good, which is normally employed to mean “everything”. In Greek literature, Homer also uses the device when he lets Telemachus say, “I know all things, the good and the evil” (Od.20:309-10).
If tree of the knowledge of good and evil is to be understood to mean a tree whose fruit imparts knowledge of everything, this phrase does not necessarily denote a moral concept. This view is held by several scholars.
However, given the context of disobedience to God, other interpretations of the implications of this phrase also demand consideration. Robert Alter emphasizes the point that when God forbids the man to eat from that particular tree, he says that if he does so, he is “doomed to die”. The Hebrew behind this is in a form regularly used in the Hebrew Bible for issuing death sentences.
Where are you?
God should by all rights kill them right then and there, but strangely he doesn’t. His nature is mercy and love instead and so he clothes them and feeds them, however, there are consequences to their decision. They have to shift from being hunter gatherers in this beautiful garden to a life which involves toiling the land with their hands and battling thistles and thorns and the reality of the pain of life outside of the shelter of their God. This crash in their lives seems to be a fall and as a result of original sin, but it starts them on a track of huge productivity which otherwise would not have happened and they become nomadic herders. They begin to move and find land and farm and in this process shift away from the beautiful presence of the garden and their God to a fearful awareness of space. They also now have to become proactive in being fruitful and multiplying. This could not have been done successfully without them being pushed out of the garden.
This is a coming of age for humanity , but it also brings with it huge challenges of moral evil and social injustice.
It is always significant to me that in the telling of the story of creation, we have three accounts. Genesis 1 gives us a picture of the basics of 7 days or times of creation. Genesis 2:4 gives us a picture of eden and what it was like including rivers and names and actual places and then the third story is one of geneaology and it describes the Godhead as they creating them in their likeness Genesis 5.
- NEW LIFE
The tree of life does hold the answer — just not right away. When God separated us from it, he never meant to forbid it to us forever. Only until the proper time.
That tree of life appears again in the Bible: in the last book. There John receives a vision of “the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb … On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit 12 times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations” (Rev 22:1-3).
We see Eden restored and accessible again. Fruit is abundant and always available. But why? Because of the Lamb, the slain Lamb, whose throne produces the water to nourish the tree of life.
We now call Christ’s cross, an instrument of death, the tree of life. Christ’s body and blood are its fruit, food for everlasting life.
“The Triumph of the Cross is therefore the expulsion from Eden reversed,” Archbishop Hart wrote. “Through the Tree of the Cross, sin is forgiven, death is defeated and life is restored.”
These three although so different describe a God who is wanting relationship with humankind and in spite of much rejection, disobedience and dissatisfaction, He pursues them.
God’s unfolding drama is not a narrative by perfection, fall, condemnation, salvation and heavenly perfection. It has a different story entirely – It’s the story of the downside of progress – a story of human foolishness and God’s faithfulness, the human turn toward rebellion and God’s turn toward reconciliation, the human intention toward evil and God’s intention to overcome evil. God meets us again in another Garden the garden tomb and restores humanity through his resurrection and declares this through Mary Magdalene a woman.