************ Sermon on Genesis 2:4-15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 19, 2010
"The First Man and the First Garden"
Let me start with a confession: I was surprised more than once as I prepared my messages on Genesis 1. And, I was surprised again as I prepared my first message on Genesis 2. And, I am sure you will be too.
Before we begin, let's address the concern of those who think of Genesis 2 as a second, somewhat contradictory, account of human creation. Jesus settles the matter for us when He makes clear that Genesis 1 & 2 are harmonious accounts of the same event (cf Mt 19:4-5 where Jesus ties the two accounts together).
The New Testament also compels us to regard Adam and Eve as real people, not legendary characters or literary inventions. Jesus regarded them as the first human pair (Mt 19:4–5). Paul considered Adam and Eve to be just as historical as Moses (Rom 5:12, 14; 1Tim 2:13f.; 2Cor 11:3; 1Cor 11:8–9). Luke included Adam in the list of Christ's real historical ancestors (Luke 3:38).
So, today we are being given a second look, a closer look, at man as the crown of God's creation.
Genesis 2 & 3 are filled with a number of firsts: the first man, the first garden, the first law, the first marriage, the first question, the first sin, and the first judgment. Today, we want to look at the first man and the first garden.
I The First Man
A Our Scripture reading starts with a rather surprising statement: "no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up" (Gen 2:4). In other words, contrary to what many think, the opening verse does not indicate that the entire original earth was a paradise.
"No shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up" (Gen 2:4). The children of Israel knew exactly what Moses was describing: a typical middle-eastern desert; something like the wilderness Israel was traveling through on the way to the promised land; a place without plants and fields and flowers and trees.
There are two reasons the original earth was no paradise. First, "for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth" (Gen 2:5). The original earth had no rain. Instead, "streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground" (Gen 2:6). These streams or fountains must have been restrained by God because in the days of Noah "all the springs of the great deep burst forth" (Gen 7:11) and flooded the earth. So, the original earth had no rain. Which also means no clouds, no storms, no lightning, no snow.
The second reason the original earth was no paradise has to do with the absence of man. Listen to the entire thought:
(Gen 2:5) ... 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 ...Did you catch that: "there was no man to work the ground" (Gen 2:5). We can or should add something to what we learned from Day Three of creation. We learned from Day Three that fertility is a created capacity that God has given to "Mother Earth." All that the earth needs to make things grow is God's permission and God's command. Now we learn something else is also needed.
A couple of months ago I heard from someone who served on a grand jury. Extreme environmentalists told the grand jury their goal was not a "green" or environmentally clean earth. Rather, their goal was an earth without man.
What does an earth without man look like? Is it full of fruited plains and amber waves of grain? Is it a place of milk and honey? Is it lush with life? Scripture tell us that "Mother Earth" needs man – contrary to environmentalists who think she can get along perfectly well without us. According to Scripture, earth is better off with man than without man. The earth needs man in order to be fruitful.
Think, for a moment, about our San Joaquin Valley. A description of the original earth sounds a lot like a description of the Central Valley: "no shrub ... no plant ... no rain ... no man to work the ground." Thanks to JG Boswell and other early farmers, our valley is one of the most productive valleys on the face of the planet. Dams have been built, irrigation canals have been dug, crops and trees have been planted, and the ground is fruitful indeed. All because of man our corner of the earth is very fruitful.
"No man to work the ground ..." (Gen 2:5). We are told that man's purpose and calling is to "work the ground." We cannot help but notice that man is defined by his work even before he is created by God. But isn't this what we learned back in chapter one already?
-Man was to "rule" over fish, birds, cattle, creeping things, and all the earth (Gen 1:26,28). The word for "rule" means tread upon, subdue, rule over. It connotes absolute sovereignty.
-Man was to be "fruitful," to "increase in number," and to "fill the earth" (Gen 1:28). God created the earth to be inhabited by man.
-Man was to "subdue" the earth (Gen 1:28). The verb means to bring under one's control, to take possession of a hostile country, to assert one's superiority of power or wisdom. Several of the twenty-four passages where this term is used in the Old Testament suggest that the dominion should be exercised with great care.
From the beginning, it has been God's intention for man to work the ground, to subdue the earth, to fill the earth, and to rule over all. It is up to man to develop the earth to its fullest potential. But to do so in a responsible way.
B In verse 7, we notice two things about the creation of man – two things not revealed to us in Genesis 1:
(Gen 2:7) 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.
First of all, man was "formed" from the dust of the earth. The word "formed" describes the work of an artist. Like a potter shaping an earthen vessel from clay, so God formed man from clay.
We notice that man is "earthy" in spite of his sinful attempt to be like God in the next chapter (Gen 3:5). We are told that God formed man "from the dust of the ground." Take note, too, that the Hebrew word for "man" means "ground" or "earth" – a constant reminder that man is from the ground. And, do you remember the opening words of our Scripture reading:
(Gen 2:4) This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens ...The word for "account" is translated as "generations" or "history" by other Bibles. This word is found eleven times in Genesis and is how the author organizes and introduces his material. There is the account of Adam, the account of Noah, the account of Noah's sons, the account of Shem, the account of Terah, and so on. Man's creation does not come under the account of Adam; rather, it comes under "the account of the heavens and the earth." Because man is of the earth, earthy. Because man is from the ground.
The second thing we notice is that man received the breath of God, the breath of life, and became a living being. We notice God does this for man and for man alone; He does not do this for the animals. This breath of God in man is what we know as the soul or spirit. Man, and only man, has a soul. Which is one of the things that sets us apart from the animals and the rest of creation. It is the soul that allows us to live even when we die. It is the soul that appears before the throne of God. It is the soul that is reunited with the body when Jesus returns. It is the soul that encapsulates the essence or center of our being.
C It was God Who made man – not an accident of nature, not evolution, not blind chance. I want you to notice the name of this God that forms man and breathes into man. Moses joins together two names. First of all, He is the "God" of Genesis 1 – that is, the transcendent and all powerful God Who made the heavens and the earth out of nothing. Second, He is also the "LORD" – translated from the Hebrew name "Yahweh." Yahweh is the covenant name for God in the Old Testament. Yahweh is the God Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, the God Who led Israel out of Egypt, the God Who brought them safely through the Red Sea, the God Who provided manna and quail and water from a rock. In other words, the God of redemption. The same God Who loves us in Jesus Christ.
II The First Garden
A "Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed" (Gen 2:8). The image of the divine potter making and molding man is replaced by the image of the divine gardener planting a garden. The Garden is a sign of God's benevolence – He made the Garden solely for man's comfort and enjoyment. I repeat what I said before – not all of the original earth was a paradise. But the Garden planted by God certainly was.
The LORD God "planted" a Garden. We have a number of exceptional gardeners in our church: Patty Weeks, Nancy Blanken, my wife, probably a few others I don't know about. Do you think they just plant willy-nilly? Do they throw seeds wherever? Of course not! They have a plan in mind. God, the Master Gardener, had a plan. He planted His Garden with a view to color, symmetry, balance, and beauty. He included food for man and the animals.
B In the original Hebrew, the word "garden" signifies a place protected by a fence or wall – again, something familiar to the children of Israel from when they lived in Egypt. The wall explains why, after the fall into sin, cherubim and a flaming sword had to be placed only on the east side of the Garden to guard the way to the tree of life.
C We are told three things about the location of the Garden. First, we are told, the Garden was "east" – east, that is, in respect to the location of the writer. Second, it was in a place called "Eden." Third, it was on a plain right by the joining of four rivers. Even with all these details, it is impossible for us to know for sure the location of the Garden. However, Moses appears to be describing the geography of present-day Iraq.
D We are told the LORD God put the man He had formed in the Garden (Gen 2:8). Which means the man was already formed before being put in the Garden. Which means the man knew something about conditions outside of the Garden before he came to experience the blessings of the Garden. The man knew what an earth without shrubs, plants, and trees looked like. Not only that, the man actually experienced life in the desert or wilderness before being placed in the Garden.
What was man's life like in the Garden? Innocent – as yet, man knows no pride, anger, guilt, malice, or vanity. Satisfied – man experienced no gap between desire and fulfilment. Safe – man felt no opposition from without or within. Perfect – man lived in a Garden that provided him peace, ease, and the satisfaction of his basic needs.
God shaped, formed, and planted the Garden of Eden with man in mind. It was a place of beauty – all kinds of trees grew out of the ground; trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food (Gen 2:9). It was a place of meaningful work – Adam was to work the garden and take care of it (Gen 2:15). It was a place of moral responsibility – Adam was required to obey God (Gen 2:16-17). It was a place for invention and imagination – Adam was to name the animals (Gen 2:19-20). Everything that man needed to live life to the full was in that Garden.
E What do you think Adam did all day in the Garden? Did he lay in the lush green grass looking heavenward (remember, there were no clouds to look at)? Did he snack all day on the fruit? Did he spend his time looking at the beautiful trees and playing with the animals? What did Adam do all day?
The Garden was not a place of idleness. God assigned man work to do. Notice what Scripture says:
(Gen 2:15) The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.Do you see what God wanted Adam to do? Adam was to "work" the Garden and "take care of it." The Hebrew word for "work" is the same word used to describe the labor of a slave. Adam was expected to expend considerable energy. The labor required of him was intense. But in doing this, Adam was not a servant of creation; rather, he was a servant of God. This was his spiritual act of service. Furthermore, Adam was expected to "care" for the Garden. That is, Adam was to keep the Garden in the same perfect condition as it was when it was made by God.
You may wonder, what work and care is there for Adam to do in a world and a Garden without sin? After all, thorns and thistles were not yet a problem (Gen 3:17-18). The Garden was well-watered so irrigation was not a concern (Gen 2:6,10). No enemies threatened the security of the Garden. However, the trees and green plants were food for Adam and the beasts and the birds; so they need pruning and harvesting. Furthermore, even the best trees need replacing after a time. And, left to themselves, trees and plants scatter seeds indiscriminately and grow indiscriminately. The new growth needs to be cut down or transplanted. Remember what we read earlier about the original earth? There was no shrub and no plant for there was no man to work the ground (Gen 2:5). Even in the perfection of the Garden, God ordered His creation so it needed the work of man. Without man's attention and work, the Garden would have speedily degenerated. It would have lost its beauty and balance and symmetry.
F Finally, let us consider the Garden's description. It was a delightful park full of fruit trees, rivers, gold, and gemstones. Do you know where else we see something similar? In the descriptions of the tabernacle (Ex 25-27) and temple (1 Kings 7; Ezek 41-47). Do you remember the primary feature of the tabernacle and temple? Wasn't it the presence of God and His glory? Telling us what? Telling us, therefore, that the most important thing about the Garden was the presence of God. God used to walk there in the cool of the day having intimate conversation with Adam and Eve (Gen 3:8).
Do you know where else we see the trees, river, precious gold and gems? In the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21 & 22). Telling us what? Telling us that the new heaven and new earth is paradise restored. Don't forget, the highpoint of the future life is also the presence of God (Rev 21:3-4). So, the first Garden points us to the last Garden.
In between these two gardens comes two others: Gethsemane – where Christ yielded to death; and Calvary – where Christ died and was buried. In fact, the only way from Eden to the heavenly Garden is through Christ. It is only through Christ that man can again walk with God and talk with God.
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