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Worship Series: Genesis: Foundations of the Christian Faith
Worship Theme: Work
First Lesson & Sermon Text: Genesis 2:4-15 (EHV)
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 9:9-13 (EHV)
Music: CW 194 Oh, that I Had a Thousand Voices, O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer, CW 456 Forth in Your Name, O Lord, I Go, CW 462 Oh, that the Lord Would Guide My Ways (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
In the last couple of weeks, we’ve talked about the first chapter of Genesis. The opening chapter painted us a picture of the beautiful world the Creator designed and put together at the beginning of time. The next section of Genesis, 2:4-4:26, is going to give a historical account. It’s going to reveal the developments of why things are not the same now as they were back then. Eventually, the section will get into the first sin and explain why the human race needs a Savior, but first it starts by showing the living relationship that existed between the Creator and his highest creatures. The creator’s love is evident in all he does for both Adam and Eve. We see this today as the LORD prepares a wonderful home for the crown of his creation (v. 8-14) and as the LORD gives satisfying work (v. 15) to his people.
But before we look any further into this section, immediately we are introduced to a new name for God in verse 4. For the first time ever, the name “Yahweh” is written down. When you come across this name in an English translation it shows up as “LORD.” If you want to know more about this name come talk to me after the service or shoot me an email. For now, know that this name stresses God’s covenant promises. This name shows how God is constant, especially in his free and faithful love. This will be important to keep in mind with the topics our sermon series will cover in the next couple of weeks.
Verses 5 and 6 set the scene for our account. They show us the world was a very different place then. In fact, it tells us that four things didn’t even exist yet: 1. No bushes or shrubs were growing in fields. 2. There were no plants/crops growing from fields. 3. There was no rain falling on the earth. 4. There were no humans tilling the soil. The author is giving us perspective on the time. When sin would enter the world, humans would be cursed and be forced to try and get things to grow out of the ground through hard and painful toil. They would need rain to water the plants, they would need to till the soil to urge plants out of the ground. Right now, none of that is needed. Adam and Eve have all this delicious food growing on trees and plants given to them by God. No crops or shrubs are growing out of the fields because Adam and Eve didn’t need to cultivate fields to get food. No rain had happened because everything was watered not from the sky, but from the ground through streams and springs. It’s a completely different hydrologic cycle than we know today. The author is letting us know the world was different and giving us examples.
After setting the scene, Moses describes just how humans came to be (verse 7). God uses an unusual ingredient to start out with: dirt. You all come from dirt. “Did the pastor just call all of us dirt? Can he do that” That’s right...you’re dirt. Me too. How does that make you feel? Ecclesiastes 12:7 reiterates this fact when it says, “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” For the record, I would like to advise you not to tell your significant other that he/she is dirt. For your safety and well-being, don’t do that. You are not just dirt. The Hebrew word used for “formed” is the same type of terminology used for a potter crafting an intricate masterpiece of pottery. So now, you are not just dirt, but carefully crafted dirt. A masterpiece of dirt. Still doesn’t sound that great, does it? But God adds something else that changes things. He breathes into humans the “breath of life” and also adds the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). It’s an odd mixture of humility and majesty. Other creatures have the breath of life too, but the manner in which God acts shows us as the crown of his creation (Genesis 1:28). Humans also differ from animals because God made humans in his image. God made humans carefully and wonderfully. The mixture of dirt mixed with God’s breath and the image of God is a constant reminder in our own lives that God can take something lowly and give it great dignity (like sinner to saint) and that life is precious.
After creating the crown of his creation, God puts Adam into this garden called “Eden.” This is not like the garden you find in your backyard. Here, the term garden includes groves of trees and gives the impression of an “enclosure,” a sheltered and protected spot. The garden has everything Adam needs: all types of food and drink, shelter, a beautiful place to live that stretches over a large area; and with Eve: companionship and love. In your mind’s eye, picture your dream home, complete with all the accessories you’ve ever wanted. Eden is even better! It’s a perfect, glorious, new home from creator to creation. Our account even mentions the Tree of Life is located in the garden to show how things could have gone for humans. God is showing his free and faithful love to the human race right from the beginning of their existence.
There’s more to this wonderful dream home! Water is abundant. These aren’t the murky, somewhat questionable water you sometimes find. This is pure, cool, nourishing, refreshing, thirst-quenching water in all directions. Think of the first readers of the book of Genesis. Moses wrote this book. The Israelites who had wandered in the desert with him very much understood how hard and important it was to find water sources. In our text, Moses speaks of four streams coming from Eden. He gives their names so the people listening could connect them to four well-known rivers of his day. He does this because the Garden of Eden seems to be too good to be true. This way his readers and listeners have the facts to know none of this was made up. This isn’t fiction. It’s a historical account. Then Moses continues describing the richness of the land. God had even filled it with gold, precious stones, and rich incense. These notes would not be lost on the Israelites hearing this. God had certainly given humans a place to thrive.
And this brings us to verse 15, the verse I’d like us to focus on most for today. “The LORD God took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it.” “Work” is a word absolutely riddled with connotations. It can bring up thoughts of enjoyment or misery, joy or pain. It depends on what you do and if you enjoy what you do. Mix in your coworkers, your boss, and your support system and you have a recipe ranging from delightfully tasty and fulfilling to abject despondency leaving a sour taste in your mouth. So what does God mean when he says “work?” God charges humans to govern the earth responsibly under God’s sovereignty. We don’t know everything this entails, but one thing we do know is the work God gave Adam and Eve wasn’t a bad thing. Even God enjoyed his work when he created the world in 6 days. Work is not something that entered the world because of the fall into sin. It was a part of the original design. You know, the design constantly quoted as “it was good.” We know that wearisome and burdensome toil were not involved in this work. That aspect of work will come about as an evil consequence of sin (Genesis 3:17-19). Instead, in this section, God continues to pour out his love for Adam with another beautiful gift. He gives humans the joy of meaningful occupation and the opportunity to see what they are capable of. This work was a satisfying activity in paradise. They could put all their mental capacities and physical abilities to work for their glorious Father and Creator. A quote I found in one commentary stated, “The LORD God did this as part of his intent to make man blessed and happy. The assignment afforded satisfying activity for man, it gave man an opportunity to put all of his God-given faculties of body and mind to use for God. Man was not doomed to idleness (A Commentary on Genesis 1-11 by C. Lawrenz and J. Jeske pg. 110).” It may be a hard concept for us to understand today, but I think we can get close. When you have time to do a hobby, you probably really enjoy it. It doesn’t seem like work to you. Or when you’ve just completed something and you poured your energy into its creation and everything turned out just as you hoped. When you look back and admire it, that feels nice, doesn’t it? Imagine never getting tired or bored of doing something and always knowing there was a meaningful impact from your work. This is the type of satisfactory work God gave Adam and Eve in the garden.
“Big whoop, Pastor. The world was perfect back then. What does it mean for us today, living in an imperfect world?” I’m glad you asked. We don’t live in a perfect world anymore, but there are a lot of strong parallels between this text and the world we live in today. God still gives us work to do. He wants us to spread the message of a Savior who paid for the sins of your best friend, the sins of your family, your sins, and of course the sins of the whole world. Jesus calls you to follow him in words and actions just like he called Matthew in our Gospel lesson for today. In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul and his associates give us a “model to imitate.” They tell us not to be idle, but to never tire of doing good. We still have work to do and it is good work. It is a great gift to us. But the sinful nature inside of us immediately protests against this work. “It’s too hard.” “Why doesn’t God just do it himself?” Insert your own excuse here. Do you let your light shine or do you let Satan blow that light right out? Work isn’t exactly the same as it was in the garden. Adam and Eve had work in a perfect world. We do not and so we still have the evil consequences of sin: the inadequacies we face at our tasks, the frustrations we encounter, and the weariness and exhaustion from our labors. Because of these consequences we often treat the work God gives us as if it is the curse inherited from sin. However, the work he gives us is pure and sinless. Even God himself still finds great satisfaction in his work. He finds delight in his creation and continues to find joy in preserving all things. And just like a new parent, God can’t stop talking about and being proud of the work produced and preserved in you. Having assignments in life, worthwhile work to do, challenging tasks to perform where we make full use of our abilities, are great blessings for us and can be a strong source of earthly happiness.
The work God gives us is not meant to be toil and pain, but rather, a fulfilling opportunity for service. And the work is certainly meaningful. What could be more meaningful than having God himself work through you to tell people of Jesus death on a cross and save souls? This is satisfying, meaningful work, on par with the gifts found in Eden. And you get to grow through the same message you share because you are hearing once again how an almighty Savior humbled himself to take on the punishment of every single bad thing any of us have ever done and how we are saved because of it.
Let’s look at one more point. Even though our world has been infiltrated by sin, we still have someone who is exactly the same from the perfect garden of Eden: the LORD. The same God of free and faithful love is your God. We have spent most of this sermon briefly covering some of the ways God showed his care for people. He gave a beautiful world to live in, crafted and formed people as something precious and valuable, gave a home, provided for needs, and gave satisfying work to accomplish. God hasn’t changed one bit since way back when. Just as he gave great gifts to Adam, he’s giving you great gifts as well. He’s given you a place to live here on earth and, more importantly, earned a perfect place for you to live in heaven. He’s taken the punishment of your sins upon himself so you don’t have to face them. He’s given you specific gifts and abilities, knitted you together into just the right person to help his kingdom grow. He grants you rare and expensive gifts through his Word just as he surrounded Adam and Eve with costly materials. All the while, he encircles you with life-giving water from his Word. And he certainly gives you fulfilling work to complete in sharing that life-giving water. You get to be the bearers of the best news ever. Brothers and sisters, may we strive to make use of this great gift and recognize it as a source of extreme satisfaction. Amen.