In a Nutshell…
Read the passage here.
One of the things that we’ve looked at as we’ve begun Genesis is the relationship of these stories with those of the neighbouring cultures. Or more specifically, what kind of theology or worldview is revealed by these stories – and we can get some understanding of this by comparing the stories with those of neighbouring cultures.
A couple of weeks ago, we talked very briefly about some of the origin stories that existed in the cultures around the Hebrews. One of the elements that we mentioned that was distinct about the Genesis story is the notion that creation is good. We see in Genesis 1 – 2:4 the repeated refrain that, after God had created something, He pronounces it ‘good.’ This is in opposition to other origin stories which often conceived of creation as the result of conflict between the (multiple) gods.
But the Genesis account reveals an understanding that the creation, which is by the one God, is fundamentally good. Thus, the creation also reveals a God who is fundamentally good.
But what the competing stories also reveal is not just the notion of a creation that is not good, a creation that is chaotic, random, and difficult. These competing stories also reveal an understanding of why the world is the way that it is. The ancient cultures which surrounded the Hebrews understood the evil in the world, the struggle and difficulty of life, as arising out of the conflict and imperfections of the gods.
Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with Greek mythology in which the gods, Zeus, Hera, Hades, etc. were selfish, irrational, and capricious. They understood their own misfortunes as stemming from the capriciousness of the gods. And in order to avoid the gods wrath, they had to be placated through a variety of means.
In other words, the worldview of these people was essentially, “it’s not my fault.”
The Hebrew worldview was fundamentally different. Unlike their neighbours, the Hebrews understood God and His creation as good – perfectly so. As we saw in our previous talk, they understood creation as ordered and purposeful and according to God’s will. And – though this goes beyond the boundaries of our previous talk, though the concept is all throughout scripture – they understood God’s will as perfect and God as good and holy. So the Hebrew explanation for what is wrong in this world is very different.
There’s a famous story involving G.K. Chesterton. Apparently, a newspaper posed the question, “what is wrong with the world?” G.K. Chesterton responded with the very succinct, but profound, “Dear Sirs, I am.”
It’s precisely the kind of answer that most of us don’t want to hear. Most of us would rather point the finger anywhere else than at ourselves.
So we tell ourselves that the problem is that God is cruel or unreasonable. We tell ourselves that God is powerless or doesn’t care. Or we say, simply, that there is no God. So we start pointing the finger at other people instead. Or we say that there’s simply no meaning to any of it. But the bible tells us, pretty clearly, that the problem is, simply, that we have sinned against God.
Our passage tells us what the basic nature of sin is:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Its funny how the serpent puts it, isn’t it? He frames it in such a way that we think that God is keeping something from us. The temptation, the sin, is choosing to be gods for ourselves, deciding for ourselves what is right and what is wrong, instead of allowing God to be God. And instead of allowing God to be our He makes it seem like we will gain something, when really we are giving up everything.
But that’s a pretty good description of our current popular worldview, isn’t it? I think that, in fact, this has been true in every generation, but it’s pretty blatant these days, isn’t it?
We won’t go too deeply into this, but I think it’s a pretty accurate statement that, by and large, people today tend to decide for themselves what is right or wrong. And we tend to decide what is right or wrong for others based on our own judgments. In a very real way, we have become lost. We are often stumbling around in the dark because we cannot see, and choose not to see, the light.
We don’t really have time to go into the significance and meaning of the specific curses spoken by God – to the serpent, to the woman, and to the man. What we see is that the consequences of sin are that we lose the blessing of creation:
- we lose that sense of priesthood – we no longer administer God’s blessing, but see ourselves struggling against and in creation.
- And we clearly lose that sense of oneness with one another. Contrary to the man’s declaration of joy at discovering the woman in last week’s passage, we see blame shifting and shame.
- But fundamentally, sin, by its very definition, separates us from God.
What I want to consider is that God warned that the punishment for eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was death. And this just makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? If God is the author of life, the giver of life, the sustainer of life (and remember the many discussions we had about life vs. non-life as we worked through the Gospel of John), and we choose to reject God by becoming our own gods, how can we expect to have life?
So the problem that we are faced with is that we have given up our God-ordained purpose, to be the sons and daughters, the priests of God, so that we can make our own way. The problem is that our own way, by its very definition, leads us away from life.
Now just for a moment, I want to look back at what we talked about in the first week in Genesis, the creation account. In that account, what we hear over and over is God declaring His creation “good.” What do you suppose that means? At the very least, there’s an aesthetic aspect – it appears or seems good. But that can hardly be all, or even most, of what it means. It’s not just a declaration that it’s pleasing or pretty. One of the things that scholars like John Walton talk about is function. Specifically, Walton talks about the creation as, in some way, talking about function. So maybe when God declares something “good,” he’s also talking about what the thing is “good for.”
Now inasmuch as we have walked away from God, we in some way, have walked away from what we were made for. It’s not just that we have lost a thing (an incredibly important thing, no doubt) – relationship with God, the creation, and each other. But maybe it’s also that we have lost what we are for.
So What Now…?
I was listening to the radio the other day when I heard the host say something to the effect of “Jesus is the answer…” It’s the sort of thing we hear often in evangelistic circles or when Christians talk to non-Christians. But what exactly do we mean when we say that?
Often, we mean something along the lines of – “Jesus is the way to heaven,” or “Jesus is the way to salvation,” or something like that. Sometimes we mean that Jesus will (ultimately) solve our problems, whatever they may be. And there is certainly truth to these.
However, ultimately Jesus is the answer to the ultimate problem. He is the solution to the real problem in this world and our lives – the reason why things are not as we often feel they are supposed to be. And He offers that solution to any who would have it.