Genesis 2:4-17 | A Man, His Garden, and His God | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: Genesis 2:4–2:17
And turn if you will to Genesis chapter 2. Our text will be verses 4 through 17. I was reminded while we were singing of Colossians chapter 3, which tells us that we not only sing to the Lord when we sing; we sing to each other. We remind each other of the truth of the words that we sing. And so it was good to be sung to today by you, and it was good to sing back to you this morning. We’ve missed that lately, and that was a huge encouragement the last ten minutes. So thank you.
Genesis 2:4-17. We continue in our study of Genesis 1 through 11, and I’ll read the text before us, and then we’ll dive in and explain.
Genesis 2, starting in verse 4:
4These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
I’ve entitled the message, “A Man, His Garden, and His God.” A man, his garden, and his God.
It was a few months ago that some of us were at a cemetery, and before the burial service began, a rain started. And we went and sat in our cars, and I was in the truck with Pastor Will. And we were just sitting there talking, kind of waiting for people to arrive.
And we noticed a man probably about 50 yards away from us, in the rain, sitting down next to one of the gravesides. And it was evidently, from what we could tell, his wife. And he was sitting there and cleaning up the area around her headstone. He was putting flowers there, taking care of it. And then we noticed him start to talk. And from what we could gather, he was talking to her. And it was one of those moments where you just sit and watch. And you’re amazed. A special moment.
And as he was taking care of the ground around her headstone, and as I came to this passage recently and began studying it, my mind was brought back to watching this man take care of that area. And what I thought of is, the way that he was caring for that little area, her little area, her little garden, if you will, said a lot about what he thought of her. She was clearly important to him. Speaking to her, probably missing her, taking care of the area around her that memorialized her. And it reminded me of this passage.
In this passage, God creates a garden. A good garden. We’ll see later that he created trees that were nice to look at, beautiful. He created fruit in this garden that was good to taste. What does that tell you about God? He loves man. He’s a good God. He thinks highly of man. He cherishes man. Man is, as Psalm 8 would note, the crown of his creation, even greater than all other created beings and things.
This passage in the Bible tells us a lot about how God thinks of man, and it’s a very encouraging passage.
So I want to break it up into three points just for the sake of clarity and to be able to digest it better. I want to break it up into these three points: three acts of God which show off his relationship with man. Three acts of God which show off his relationship with man.
1. God Creates Man Uniquely (vv. 4-7)
The first is found in verses 4 through 7. God creates man uniquely. God creates man uniquely. Man’s origin is different than the origin of the animals. We saw in chapter 1 God’s creation of the animals. This creation of man is distinctly different. And this tells us something about how God views man.
Verse 4 says, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.”
Now, you need to know something about Genesis—specifically the section we’re studying, Genesis 1 through 11. That phrase, “These are the generations,” is something you’ll come across a few times in Genesis, and we’ll see it a few more times in 1 through 11. This heading, chapter 2, verse 4—which really you could say that chapter 2, verses 1 through 3 fit better in chapter 1. These aren’t God-given divisions; these are man-made divisions. You can say that chapter 2 really starts here, and this section is going to continue from this passage until the end of chapter 4.
So get this straight in our heads. We’re gonna go through God’s creation of man, God’s bringing woman to the man, creating woman out of the man and bringing them together—marriage; we’ll look at that next week. And then we come to the fall. And then we’re gonna see the consequences of the fall and even two sons being born to the first sinners, Cain and Abel being born to Adam and Eve, and the writer—specifically, the Holy Spirit—is trying to get us to see this all as a unit.
God created man, he gave him this wonderful place, he gave him this wonderful woman to be together, to cultivate the land, rule over it; and then they sinned against God. And God was still gracious—he promised a Redeemer as soon as they sinned—but there was a curse on the earth, and we see the effects of that curse beginning with Cain and Abel even.
So the Holy Spirit wants us to see this all as a unit. That’s why it starts this section, “These are the generations.” And where it says, “These are the generations” in Genesis, it’s preparing you for a new section.
You can see this also in chapter 5, verse 1 if you turn over there. “This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.” And so we’re gonna learn in chapter 5 about the line that comes from Adam.
And then you’ll see in chapter 10, verse 1: “These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” So we’re gonna hear about Adam’s family, and then we’re gonna hear about Noah’s family later on. The Holy Spirit wants us to understand what comes after these men.
And then, in chapter 11, verse 10, we’re gonna focus in on one of those sons of Noah, and we’ll talk about why he’s more significant than the other two later. But we’re gonna focus on one of those sons where it says in 11:10, “These are the generations of Shem.”
So the Holy Spirit is preparing us to see this whole unit together as one. Creation of man, and ending in the consequences of sin through the end of chapter 4.
Now I want you to notice something else about this. Chapter 2 is different than chapter 1 in this sense as well. Chapter 1 keeps referring to God as “Elohim.” Elohim all over the place. God. Chapter 2, verse 4 begins calling him “the Lord God,” Yahweh God. And that matters.
I’ve told you before: Yahweh is the covenant name of God which demonstrates his relationship to man, specifically, the men and women under his care or in proper relationship to him—Israel, or the church today. So “the Lord,” the term “the Lord,” is talking about his relationship with man. “God” speaks of his sovereignty over all things.
So the writer here—Moses, or the Holy Spirit—wants you to focus on the fact that Yahweh is God. Relational God, sovereign God. And all through chapter 2, verse 4 through the end of chapter 4, you’re gonna see “the Lord God,” Yahweh God—relational God, sovereign God—together, except … in one little section. You know what that section is? Look over at chapter 3.
Chapter 3, verse 2. There’s a created being that doesn’t care to show how the sovereign God is a relational God. That created being is Satan. He doesn’t refer to “the Lord God.” He says this (chapter 3, verse 2):
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden [interesting, she also calls him Elohim only], neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows [the sovereign one knows, not the relational one] that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So Satan doesn’t really care to highlight the fact that the sovereign God is also a relational and a good God. But the rest of this section does. And so that’s important to note.
Back in chapter 2, verse 5. “When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:5-6).
These two verses are like a parenthesis. So the section opens with, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth”; we know that he’s gonna start talking about something that he’s going to be doing—we know later that it’s the creation of man—but he tells us when this is happening.
And if you read verses 5 and 6, you might think, oh, he’s talking about creation of man before any bush or plant. Hold on a second. Chapter 1 said the plants and the trees came before man. The Bible clearly has errors; let’s all pack it up and go home. No. That’s not what this is saying.
What is this saying? It’s not saying that man was created before plants. It’s pointing the reader to a time before the fall. It’s pointing the reader to a time before the fall.
Here’s what you need to understand. The words for vegetation and plants in chapter 1, verses 11 and 12—let me read that. “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.” Those words for those plans—that vegetation, those fruit trees—are different from these words here in verse 5.
These words in verse 5 refer to things like thorns and thistles and plants that need to be cultivated so that they will produce food with the help of man, not produce food on their own. So these are different words; it’s talking about a different time. This is talking about the time of the fall. It’s pointing the reader to a time after the fall when it talks about these bushes and these plants. But it wants you to know that it’s referring you to the situation before the fall.
So the Holy Spirit’s trying to get you to see that there was a need for man to come and manage what happens later on. So it’s screaming for the creation of a man.
Again, these terms refer to shrubs, thorns, thistles, small plants that need cultivating to produce food. These plants in this verse represent challenges that need to be managed. It’s anticipating a time that’s different from before the fall.
Before the fall, everything’s growing and everything’s great and the water’s coming up from the ground, watering things. But later on, there’s going to be a time where there are thorns and thistles, and more care is going to be needed for the plants to provide certain fruits, and it’s gonna be a time where the rain eventually will come to water—and we know that that comes during the flood. So this is trying to show that there’s going to be a time where things are a lot different, and there’s gonna be a time, because things are different, that someone will need to care for this earth and this ground. That’s man.
So it’s setting us up for verse 7, setting us up to see there’s a need for man to be created, there’s a need for someone to really deal with the thorns and weeds and all of those things.
Now we know that man is part of the problem. Man’s the reason that there will be thorns and thistles. But man is needed to tame that new environment, if you will, under the curse.
Verse 7: “[T]hen the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
Now there are two verbs for what God does here. He forms and breathes. He spoke animals into existence. But he forms man and breathes life into man. The idea of forming is like a potter. There’s purpose to it. I’m gonna give something called a nose and ears and taste buds and an eardrum and an ear canal and a belly button. (Did Adam have a belly button? Did Eve have a belly button? Of course they did; they’re people.)
So God forms intentionally, intricately, with purpose, everything with purpose. There’s intentionality here, like a potter. The idea that he forms us from the dust points to our weakness. He forms us out of dust, not gold. He points to our weakness, his ability to do anything with anything. Points to his power.
Listen to Psalm 103. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).
So when you hear, you know, we shouldn’t think too highly of ourselves; we’re just dust. I know that isn’t the politically correct thing to say today, but it’s true. We’re just dust. But we also learn that we’re evidently valuable to God. He knows that we’re just dust. And that doesn’t cause him to think, they don’t matter. That causes compassion to come from him like a father. So we’re dust, but compassion comes forth from him. God values the beings that he created out of dust.
So he forms man, specifically, intentionally, intricately, and Yahweh breathes life into man. So, there was at one time, evidently not very long, a man’s body first, and then it was given life. So God creates a body. It exists—evidently it wasn’t doing anything—and then God breathes into his nostrils life. This is the order the text tells us about. Man’s body is created, there’s no life, and then God initiates life. And God is always the initiator of life. Any time you have a life, God had something to do with that. Any time you have spiritual life, who gets the credit? God. God is the author of all life.
So he breathes into the nostrils of a man. Now this is fascinating. The word “breathes” implies intimacy, closeness. God, in some way, breathed into the nostrils of man this life. The picture is of being face to face.
So for illustration’s sake, turn to the person next to you and get an inch away from them—no, I’m just kidding. If you did that, you’d think, oh, that’s a little awkward. Why? Because that’s for intimate times. That’s for people who are close. Husband, wife. Mother, son. Mother, daughter. Just a closeness, a familial closeness.
That closeness is reflected here in this word. God speaks; animals exist. God gets up close and breathes life into man. There’s a closer relationship here than there is with any other created being or thing. And this tells us how God feels about man.
The breath of life then fills the body of a man, and it’s not just that he starts breathing and blood starts flowing and he becomes some sort of machine that’s alive; the breath of life fills him, and he all of a sudden has emotions and will, desire, a physiology. It’s life in all of its forms. It’s not just a heartbeat and physiological realities; it’s emotional realities, spiritual realities. God breathes life into man.
So God creates a man uniquely, intimately, and to be superior over the rest of the created world. Evidently man is important to God. Listen to Psalm 139:13-14. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
This is how Christians think about life. Christians, today in this cursed world, should be the people of all people that value life as precious. Is that true? Because we know that our God values life, every single life.
We often think about this when we think of things like abortion, and we see people seemingly discard human life, put an end to human life. And we cry out, no. Every single life, as soon as it’s created in the womb, has value and dignity. This is the Christian position.
Now, in that sense, I think I’m preaching to the choir. We know that. We understand that. But I want to ask you not to be duped by the world. I’m gonna give you another illustration about the value of life that I don’t think we often think about.
You see, when a young black man is shot by local law enforcement, the world wants us to take sides real fast. Doesn’t it? Either the side of the young black man, or the side of law enforcement. My question as a Christian is, why can’t I take both sides? Why can’t I prize law enforcement and say, this is a good gift God has given us according to Romans 13? And why can I not weep with a mother who’s lost her son? Regardless of whose fault it is, a life has ended.
The world wants us to take sides, and we’ll start fighting. Pro law enforcement, pro the young black man. A Christian says, a life was ended. That’s horrible. A Christian says, government, the police, are a good gift. Christians can say both things. Don’t let the world tell you that you have to pick one or the other.
Every time there’s a death, regardless of the circumstances, it breaks our heart because we know it comes from sin. We know that man was not created to die. It breaks our heart.
We, of all people, should value every single life, even those lives that are currently hostile to God. Remember Jesus looking over Jerusalem? Jerusalem, Jerusalem. How I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her young. Jesus is speaking about a group that is in rebellion against him, and his heart goes out because of what they’re choosing to do. He values the life of everyone.
Christians value all people because all people are made in the image of God, and God has intricately woven every person together in his or her mother’s womb, and life is precious. Every single life that’s ever existed, every human life, is precious to God.
God shows his relationship to man by creating him uniquely.
2. God Places Man Intentionally (vv. 8-15)
He also, point number two, shows his relationship to man in the fact that he places man intentionally. God places this man in a specific garden with intentionality. Man was created with a purpose, to manage the resources that God has filled the earth with.
In his wisdom, in the wisdom of God, Adam was placed intentionally in the environment that God determined was best. And he’s done that for every single person. He’s placed us where we are for specific reasons. For us, Prescott, Chino Valley, Prescott Valley, Paulden—wherever you come from, God has placed you there, today, with a specific purpose. Might not end up there, might have come from somewhere before that, but God places his people intentionally into the environments he wants them to work his work.
Verse 8 is kind of the overarching statement of this section: “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” The rest of the verses in 9 through 15 are gonna kind of flesh out how he did all that. God plants a garden in Eden.
Now here’s something that we often don’t think about. The garden of Eden—Eden is bigger than the garden. Okay, it’s like saying that downtown Prescott isn’t the only part of Prescott. There is a downtown in the greater Prescott. There is a garden in the greater Eden. So God creates this area Eden, and inside of it plants a garden. This is the environment he’s going to put Adam in.
Eden means delight. Paradise. Surprise, surprise. God plants a garden, and it’s a delight. It’s a paradise. Again, can you see the character of God all over this passage? Our God’s a good God, and he creates a good garden. He creates a paradise for the man whom he loves and has a plan for. This is our God.
Verse 9: “And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” Again, I mentioned this earlier. Every tree that’s pleasant to the sight. So, pleasant to the sight for whom? For the man. Man gets placed into a garden and he sees trees and thinks, these are beautiful. Maybe he sees a beautiful oak tree, fully mature, or a beautiful cypress (not the tall pointy ones—those are kind of ugly—but the beautiful ones that spread out a little bit). They see these trees, and they’re beautiful.
Oh, by the way, and they’re also good for food. So they’re beautiful; they’re good for food. They eat of these trees, and they’re eating things like mangos and limes. (By the way, try those two things together, with a little bit of salt. Trust me.)
This is God. God creates beautiful things, things that appeal to the senses, things that appeal to the sight, things that appeal to the taste. And then he names two specific trees that are there. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The tree of life. A tree—we’ll talk more about this later—a tree whose fruit brings forth eternal life in some way. In some way, eating the fruit of this tree brings about a constant youthfulness or a constant life. In some way.
We know that this tree was a tree that was, after the fall, not allowed to be accessed by man. Because if man and woman would have lived forever in their sinful condition, that would have been horrible for them. So God, as an act of mercy, keeps man from eating of this tree after the fall, when they are characterized by sin.
But before that, it’s a tree where when you eat, there’s life. Some have thought maybe when you eat this fruit that you stay young, you stay at a certain age, or you stay with this vital life forever. And that’s certainly the case.
Later on, by the way, at the end of the Bible, the tree of life shows up. So between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20, no one’s allowed to eat this tree as an act of mercy from God, but evidently in the new heavens and the earth when the curse is gone, we’ll be eating fruit from this tree. So get ready. You will one day eat of the tree of life. Literally, with your literal mouth, eating something literal from this literal tree, and somehow that will produce in you an eternal life. That’s God’s plan. Interesting, isn’t it?
There’s also a tree of knowledge of good and evil. Now Adam and Eve already knew good. They knew God’s goodness. Eating of this tree would be an act of disobedience, and they would then therefore experience evil. Eating of this tree would bring an awareness of evil and a subsequent death.
Now some of you are asking, why would God put that tree there? Now, there’s two ways to ask that question. One’s appropriate; one isn’t. [In contemplative tone of voice] “I wonder why God would put that tree there?” is an appropriate way of asking. [In angry tone of voice] “Well then, why would God put that tree there?” is an inappropriate way to ask. He is God; we are not. We’ll get more to maybe why he put that tree there and why he even allowed sin to happen in the first place in Genesis 3, but we’ll have to wait a little while for that. But we’ll get there.
But all we know now is he put in a tree of good and evil, and eating of it would allow a person to experience evil and ultimately experience death, and the Lord did not intend for man to eat that. He gave a command so that man wouldn’t. Man transgressed. Why? We’ll explore that a little bit later. But there are two trees there.
Verse 10. There’s also a river flowing through this garden. “A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah” (Genesis 2:10-11).
Evidently these are areas that were named before the flood. So anybody living before the flood knew these areas, the river of Pishon, knew the area of Havilah. Those areas don’t exist anymore after the flood, but at one point they did and would have been known throughout the inhabited world.
Verse 12: “And the gold of that land is good [so there’s mineral; there’s gold]; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon [another river that doesn’t exist anymore]. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush” (Genesis 2:12-13). Some think that that could be Ethiopia, but it’s possible there was another Cush before the flood.
Verse 14: “And the name of the third river is the Tigris [now that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?], which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates”—that sounds familiar too. So people have tried to speculate, where in the world was the garden of Eden? It must be around the Tigris and Euphrates of today. Well, it could’ve been a different Tigris and Euphrates, but we don’t know where Pishon and Gihon are. But remember, the geography of the world changed with the global flood. So, the geography here is not the same geography of now. We don’t know exactly where the garden of Eden was.
But listen, that’s not the point. The point is not, let’s all get out of here, go on a tour, and figure out where this place is. The point is, God provides.
There’s a river. And this river splits. And it comes from the dwelling place of God—Eden—comes from the dwelling place of God, who’s created man to dwell with him. This river comes from the dwelling place of God and splits to go to different areas to be distributed to different areas because God is going to bring about water for different people that come later. God provides what man needs.
So any time you see a river—you see a river anywhere—you think God provides. He provides water. Any time you see a dried up river, you remember man sinned and ruined this world. God is a provider.
Listen to Psalm 46:5. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (Psalm 46:4-5).
So this river comes from the dwelling place of God, and it brings about life and joy. When you read Psalm 46, you wonder, are they talking about Eden or the new Jerusalem, because in the new Jerusalem there is a river going through the city, in the sanctuary of God. So from the presence of God himself, he provides for man’s joy and delight and all of his needs. This is what we understand from this account.
Revelation 22, as I mentioned. A river flowing through the new Jerusalem, watering the area around it, and by the way, it’s watering a specific tree. The tree of life. Read Genesis 1 and 2 sometime, and then read Revelation 21 and 22. The similarities are striking.
Verse 15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Evidently God created man, breathed life into him, somewhere outside of the garden of Eden and then took him and placed him in the garden of Eden. And that’s the first place we hear of man operating. He was created outside of it, placed inside of it by the purposeful plan of God.
So God creates man, forms a garden, takes man, places him in the garden, and that’s where he will create woman out of man. He creates man to be put in the garden to do something. He creates man to work and keep it.
Now, again, some of you are a little iffy here and wondering if the Bible is right. You’re thinking, work? But we haven’t got to the curse yet. Doesn’t work come because of the curse? No, work happens before the curse. Work is not a curse. Now I know we’re just, I don’t know, 18 hours away from Monday or so, or whatever it is. Work is not a curse.
The difficulty of work, and the way that crops don’t always do what you want them to, and sprinkler systems go out, and bosses make bad decisions which affect your productivity—those things are a result of the curse. Work in and of itself is not a result of the curse.
Work is something to be treasured because when God creates you in this wonderful environment, the only logical thing to do is to say, what can I do for you? How can I serve you? You want me to take care of this plant and these trees so they produce? I’m all in. I want to do this for you. Work is a privilege.
Now you know there’s a devaluing of work today. Some people who are able do not work, do not want to work, do not try to work. Work is not seen as a privilege; it’s seen only as duty. Work is something to avoid. Every single Monday, I go past a group of people on my way to the office—every Monday, I can count on it—and I say, good morning, and they go, ooohh, Monday. And I feel guilty for saying, I love Mondays! Here we go. Another week!
But we’re weird people. We’re Christians. We’re different. Monday is a gift. Work is a gift. What can you do for your Lord tomorrow in the place that he’s placed you in?
Colossians 3 tells us to work not so as to please man, but to work as if we’re working for the Lord, who’s our boss. That’s the way to see work.
So young people, kids … chores are a way to worship the good God who created you. Chores. Glad you came to church this morning? Chores are a way to worship. Schoolwork is a way to worship. He’s given you a mind, eyes, ears, a brain; he’s given you all things that you need to work hard for his glory. He’s given you an earth to learn about, numbers to learn about, biology to learn about.
Part-time worker, he’s given you work. Someone who’s in the middle of their career, your career is a gift where you can take some resources in this earth and produce something for the glory of God.
Retirees, you might be done with your career, you might not be able to do the thing you once did to the degree you once did it, but you’re still here to work. Serve the church. Volunteer. Meet a need. Take care of a garden. We still do something. We work until he tells us, you’re done. And done isn’t when your 65, it’s when he takes the breath out of you. We’re still here to work; it might not be to the same degree we once did, but we’re still here to work.
Christians throughout history have been known as hard workers. There’s actually a term called “the Protestant work ethic.” I believe that Christians should be the best workers. We know the value of this planet, we know the object of why we work—for his glory—and we understand that he’s given us faculties. We understand that things are hard, and while the world moans about them, we just go, yeah, it’s part of sin, part of the earth. Here we go; let’s keep working.
Richard Baxter, a Christian from another time, wrote in his Christian Directory some tips for work. I think they’re helpful here. He said this—and maybe this is for those of you are in college or high school or younger and thinking about what you’re gonna do. He says, “Choose that employment or calling in which you may be the most serviceable to God. Do not choose that in which you may be the most rich or honorable in the world, but choose the thing that you can do the best for God.” Not what makes you the most wealthy, but what you can best do with how God’s made you and the opportunities that he’s given you. That’s working as worship.
“Be diligent in your callings,” Baxter says,” and spend no time in idleness.” Laziness is such a bad sin because it says, God, you are such a good God; you’ve created such a good world; I’m just gonna sit here and take. Laziness is such a gross sin.
“Be diligent in your callings and spend no time in idleness, and perform your labors with holy minds to the glory of God and in obedience to his commands.” Another tip from Baxter: “Idleness is a robbing of God, who is the Lord of us and all of our faculties.”
Finally, Baxter says, “Take pleasure in your work, and then you will not be slothful in it.” Now, I get some work might not, you know, be the most exciting thing in the world. Standing at an assembly line doing the same thing for 50 years might not be the most exciting thing, but you take pleasure in the idea, he gave me hands, he gave me a job, he gave me something I can do that helps society somehow, even in some small way, and I can do these things for his glory; I am being used for him. And I get a paycheck, and I come home, and I feed people, and I have a shelter. You take joy in that.
That’s what Baxter said: “Take pleasure in your work, and you will not be slothful in it.” When you see it that way, you’re not gonna be lazy. I’m doing this for my King.
So, God has created each of us to serve him in a specific environment. We have purpose. Now again, this shows what God thinks about man. God has given us things to do, and when you are thinking rightly about your relationship with God, you say, I want to live for you. I want to work for you. I want to function for you. I want to speak for you. I want to hammer for you. I want to wash the car for you. I want to do everything for you. You’ve given me all these things.
And so God gives us ways to worship him. Heaven is characterized by people bringing service to Christ. Heaven is a place where we get to work for God, free from the curse, and say, here. Like a little child who draws a picture for a father, and has a big smile on their face because they just want to please their father. That’s work in heaven.
God has created us to serve him in a specific environment. We have purpose.
3. God Governs Man Graciously (vv. 16-17)
Number three. God creates man uniquely, God places man intentionally, and God governs man graciously.
Verse 16: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden’”—it’s the first part of the command. You are allowed to surely eat of every tree in the garden.
Now, the word “command” in this verse is placed where it is in this passage, in the original language, for emphasis. So get the picture here. God creates this good environment, good to the sight, good to eat, good because man can work it for the glory of God—good, good, good, good, good—and then God tells man something he can do and something he cannot do. That shows you something. God creates this place, a special place, for man and woman, but God is still the authority in this place. God is able to give the commands.
Man doesn’t become created and say, this is a wonderful area; look, I own this garden of Eden. I own it more than the lions and tigers and bears. I’m the owner of all of it. God, I’ll tell you what to do. It doesn’t happen that way. God creates it; therefore he is the one in charge.
“The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden.’” By the way, his command first starts with something that man is able to do. You may surely eat. “Surely eat” is a way of emphasizing something. He doesn’t say, you may eat of the garden. He says, you may surely eat. God is showing him the privileges that he has. “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden.”
Then he gives him a prohibition in verse 17. “[B]ut of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall”—now get this, same type of emphatic statement; not you shall die—“you shall surely die.” You can bank on this. You can surely eat, and if you eat of this other tree you shall surely die. It will happen. “[T]he tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
He prohibits them from eating one tree out of all the trees in the garden. God prohibits—listen—God prohibits what causes pain and death. God’s prohibitions are good. When you are tempted to think that Christianity is about not doing a bunch of things that would make you happy, don’t think that way. It’s not what the Bible teaches. God prohibits you from doing things that will harm you, that will harm others. Why? Because he’s good.
The first mention of death in the Bible happens in verse 17. In the day you eat, you will surely die. And it’s related to breaking God’s command. You disobey God; there comes death. Why would God do this? Because he’s a good God, and he tells us what to stay away from and he tells us what to enjoy.
The world acts as if God created all these trees in the garden, and they’re all harmful, and he tells us not to eat any of them. That’s how the world seems to think of God’s commands. They don’t get that God created this world and said, enjoy it. Don’t eat of this. Enjoy all of this; don’t eat of this. The world doesn’t see the goodness of God. They just complain about the things that they can’t do, and that’s a misunderstanding of who God is. God is in charge, and he governs us graciously. There’s grace even in the commands of God. Trust me; don’t eat of this tree. That’s grace. The commands of God are grace. He gives good, and he keeps us from bad.
Listen to Psalm 19:8. “[T]he precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” Trust him. Trust him when he gives a command.
There’s a church, Emmanuel Church in Nashville. They are doing something like we are doing in the Epistle Project—we’re reading through the New Testament epistles together. They’re reading through the Scriptures together, and they handed everyone in their church a bookmark. And it’s “How to Understand the Commands of God.” Because some of those readers in that church, some of those believers in that church, are new believers, and they don’t know how to think about the commands of God. The world has told them that that means that God’s some mean guy that wants to keep you from things.
So they made this little bookmark telling you how to read the commands of God, and I think this is wonderful. So I want to share it with you. Four ways to understand the commands of God. I’ll give you four words. And the statements on their little bookmark say this: “I receive each command as [here’s the first word] revelation, showing me the moral beauty of God. I sit in awe of his glory.” I receive each command as revelation, showing me the moral beautify of God. I sit in awe of his glory.
Secondly, “I receive each command as confrontation, showing me my urgent need for God. I open up to his scrutiny.” You know those commands—those commands you wish you didn’t have to obey. When you think that way, let that point to your heart. Let that reveal what your heart’s doing. And let that show you your need for him. Open up to his scrutiny.
Revelation, confrontation. Next, “I receive each command as instruction, showing me how to live in God’s grace. I ask him for strength to take the next step.” So instruction.
Fourth, “I receive each command as promise, because God is writing his commands on my heart. I rejoice that my perfect wholeness is coming soon.” So one day I’ll be able to obey all of it and fully trust him like he has designed me to do.
So I receive each command as revelation, confrontation, instruction, and promise. Our God has created man with dignity, purpose, and guidance. Our three points today: He created us uniquely, placed us intentionally, and governs us graciously. God loves his created beings. God loves man and woman.
Now, there’s one way to respond to this God. You know what that is? Perfectly. We must respond to this God perfectly. He’s a perfect God, he’s created perfectly, he’s cared for us perfectly, he’s placed us where we are perfectly. He’s created us perfectly. It’s the only way to respond to him. With perfect obedience, trusting in him perfectly.
There’s a problem there, isn’t there? For every single one of us. We’ve all disobeyed him. We’ve all responded to him imperfectly. Me, you, every one of us.
We disobeyed in the garden in which God has placed us. Wherever you are, whatever city you’re from, wherever you live now—we’ve all disobeyed in the garden in which he’s placed us. We deserve eternal death for doing what God has forbidden us to do.
Listen to Romans 5:12. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” We’re the ones in that sense who ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and didn’t listen to our God.
But listen to Romans 5:15. There’s evidently a gift that God gives sinners. “But the free gift is not like the trespass.” The free gift is not like the sin. “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.”
We’ve all sinned in Adam, sinned with our own volition, our own will, our own desires. We’ve all sinned, but a gift of God is greater than our sin. We don’t deserve that gift. But he’s given it to the world. For those that trust in that gift, the person of Christ, he gives it freely.
We’ve had someone respond to this holy God perfectly. A man, at one time, was born and worked perfectly, perfectly trusted his Father, perfectly obeyed. And that man gave himself for our sin—did not deserve to die, but died in our place—and gave us his perfect account, perfect record. Jesus died so that we could be brought back into the garden, or the sanctuary of God, if you will. Brought back into the garden.
If you’re a Christian, you’ve been brought back into the garden to commune with God on peaceful terms by the death of another. We don’t deserve that. This man rose again, and we will one day join him in this new sanctuary, in this new garden, in this new city.
Listen to Revelation 22:1-3. See if it sounds familiar.
1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
We’ve been brought back to the garden by the blood of Christ. That’s a reason to serve and worship him. Let’s pray.
Lord, give us things to do for you. Give us things to do that express our gratitude to you. We’ve clearly seen how much you love us. You’ve created this earth for our enjoyment. You’ve achieved salvation for our eternal enjoyment of you. You clearly love us. May we be a people who see the dignity in all men, women, and children. May we be a people who serve and work for you, who do what we can with the Eden that you’ve given us.
Lord, we thank you for your character and for your love. We pray this all in your Son’s name. Amen.
More in The Beginning of Creation
June 17, 2018Genesis 2:18-25 | Marriage in the Garden and Beyond | Andrew Gutierrez
April 29, 2018Genesis 1:26-31 | God Creates His Image-Bearers | Andrew Gutierrez
April 22, 2018Genesis 1:14-25 | God Fills the Earth | Andrew Gutierrez