In Living Communion With God - Part 1
Genesis 2:15-17: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 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.”
(I would like to acknowledge my indebtedness to my Old Testament professor, Rev. Mark Vander Hart, for his Genesis Bible Study Guide, from which much of the thought of this meditation were taken.)
The study of the book of Genesis is fascinating not only because it is the first book of the Bible, but also it addresses many of the issues that confront us today. From the origin of the universe to the history of Israel, from the creation of man to the choice of Abraham’s descendants, Genesis is filled with dramatic accounts that shed light to many of our questions today. Genesis records many of the first things in history, both redemptive and natural.
Interestingly, the book of Genesis accounts the beginning of God’s dealing with His created world, specifically with man, and most especially with God’s covenant people, the Israelites, with whom God established the most gracious relationship. It was and is a living relationship, living in the sense that this relationship exists between the living God, who created the world, and His living creature with whom He breathed the breath of life. This living communion between God and man, often called the covenantal union and communion, would be the focus of our study today.
Our text this morning tells us that the LORD of creation establishes a living relationship with man in the Garden of Eden. This relationship involves at least two things: first, it entails a divine call; second, it includes a sovereign command. I will only deal with the first point here. In our next installment, we will talk about the second point.
A. A Divine Call (v. 15)
Verse 15 tells us that God initiates this relationship with a divine purpose or calling. Going back to Gen. 1:26-27, we read the account of God’s thought and His subsequent act in creating man. It took place after God had set the whole universe into place. By the time God created man, the world had been 'fully furnished', so to speak, for man to dwell and live. Gen 1:28 adds that God blessed man and gave him a mandate to rule and subdue the earth. Gen. 2:8 picks this theme up when it says, “And the LORD….”
Here in Gen. 2:15, we read a recapitulation of these two accounts. Thus, God’s blessing and mandate to man in Gen. 1:28 to rule and to fill the earth is further explained by the phrase ‘to work and to take care of it.’ Man's divine calling in this relationship is to be God’s servant-king working where God puts him.
Though the whole earth is in mind, the Garden of Eden, where God put the man, is the specific place for man to start fulfilling his calling. Prior to this mandate of working and taking care of the land, the preceding passages tell us that God Himself has been working in the land of Eden.
The context portrays God not only as the Creator of the universe but also as a Gardener who plants and prepares a beautiful garden for man, where man can fulfill his divine calling and enjoy his relationship with his Creator and LORD. The blessedness of the Garden in Eden is pictured not only by the absence of sin or corruption, but also by the abundance of vegetation (trees and other plants), water supply (the four rivers), and precious stones (pearls, golds and onyx).
So aside from giving man the proper authority to rule and the perfect ability to get his job done, God has also provided man the best possible ambience to exercise his God-given vocation. God did all these to bless man so that in return man will ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’
Now it is clear for us that God’s divine calling for man is to work and to take care of the Garden of God. Man, being God’s image-bearer and governor, was given a special authority and ability by God to fulfill this holy task of working the land. Again, I would like you to take note that all these had taken place before man fell into sin.
This is an important point to remember because some think that work was a result of the fall of man to sin. But that's not true! Work is not a curse on account of sin but a divine calling from God before sin entered the world. To work faithfully and obediently before the presence of God as a grateful response to all His blessings is the greatest thing to aspire now as it was before. Work is a blessing! Sin makes it difficult and a burden but God’s plan for work is for our good.
Another important point in verse 15 that I would like to show you is that God’s call for man is not all work and no pleasure or rest at all. In v. 8, we are told that God put man in the garden. After digressing a little bit, the author returns to this idea of God putting man in the garden in verse 15. The verb ‘put’ in verse 15 is a different verb in Hebrew than the one in verse 8. Though they carry the same meaning of 'putting,' the verb ‘put’ in verse 15 has also the idea of rest, comfort and safety. The root word is the same word where the name Noah comes from.
In Genesis 5:29, we are told that the name Noah means ‘comfort and relief’ from all labors and toils. So in putting man in the garden God’s intention all along is for him not only to work but to work in safety and to have rest and relief from work. In this sense the idea of Sabbath is in mind. Another thing, the word ‘Eden’ means delight or enjoyment.
Thus, verse 15 conveys the idea that when God put man in the garden to work, God's main purpose is for man to serve God with the greatest pleasure and utmost delight in God and in what he does for God.
Furthermore, the two verbs ('to work' and 'to keep') in verse 15 describing man’s responsibility imply far more than work. The first word translated as ‘to work’ or ‘to cultivate’ means nurturing the ground in such a way that it brings forth the desired food and other natural products. It has the idea of developing ‘the earth’s resources for the greater glory of God.’ The thought carries us to the entire range of cultural enterprises that make up life within the kingdom of God.
The same verb is actually used in describing man’s worship of God or service to God. Psa. 2:11 and Psa. 100:2 use the same verb to describe service to the LORD. “Serve the LORD with gladness!” We are aware that these psalms refer to the worship activities of God’s people. Thus in Scripture to work is actually to worship God for the same word can be used for both work and worship, both for culture and cultic activities. We call our gathering today a 'worship service.' Rightly so because our worship and our service to God are two sides of the same coin. They are inseparable.
We Christians believe with all our hearts that all of life is lived "coram Deo," that is, before the face of God. Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper said that ‘not one square inch in the whole universe of human life falls outside the kingship of Jesus Christ.’
Our Lord Jesus Christ sees the whole universe and claims it as His. Therefore, just as Adam was created to worship God in the midst of all his work, we also are called to worship and to take delight in the LORD on His day, Sunday. We are to perform our priestly duty on the LORD’s day and from there we must be lead to work as faithful stewards and vice-gerents for the LORD through out the week.
To recap, work and worship in God’s garden-sanctuary constitute man's calling. Servant-king and priest describe our relationship with the Creator-Lord of the universe. Faithfulness to God and to His divine calling summarizes man’s response to this living relationship with God who created and blessed man with goodness and grace.
Brothers and sisters, all these are true to us now through Jesus Christ, just as they are true in Adam, the first man. In Christ, we work and worship in God's world. In Christ, we are God's servant-kings and priest, ministering to one another in the body of Christ as well as to our neighbors. In Christ, God calls us to be faithful to Him and to our calling as His priests in His holy temple, the church.
I can’t overemphasize the need for us to keep on gathering together on the LORD’s Day in order to express our grateful worship to Him. It is the source of our delight and strength for the week to come.
Parents, it is our privilege to bring our families to the church to worship God. Together with other believers, we experience a spiritual union and communion with God through Jesus Christ by the Spirit when we gather as His covenant people here on earth.
Children, sometimes going to church may not be that exciting to you. But if your delight is in Christ you will never get tired of coming back to serve the Lord again and again, for this is our spiritual act of worship.