Friday, 18 October 2013

The Way of Things

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." First letter of John 1:8

"The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.  All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt: there is no one who does good, not even one." Psalm 14:2-3

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23

The Bible presents Adam's choice to disobey God as typical of all of us.  This is particularly clear in the quotations above, but this theme runs through the Bible's story like an unbroken dark thread in a complex tapestry.  The Bible is equally clear that as Adam and Eve faced the consequences of their sin, so we face the consequences of ours.

A quick look at the next few chapters of Genesis drives this home.
  • Adam is cast out of the garden so he cannot eat from the tree of life.  Like cut flowers in a vase, he appears to live for a while, but is actually dead.  Eventually, however, his physical state catches up with his spiritual condition, and he dies.  All of mankind faces the same end (as is pictured in the repetitive phrase "and he died" in Genesis 5); we may like to think of ourselves as immortal, but (as Ecclesiastes 2:16 tells us) "like the fool, the wise man too must die."
  • Adam's task of tending the garden is frustrated by thorns; his work becomes labour - most of us can relate to this.  Similarly, no mother would deny they have experienced the pain of childbirth that is a result of God's judgment on Eve.
  • Relationships become strained - Adam and Eve are ashamed of their nakedness before each other and one of their sons kills his brother.  Today, because of human selfishness, marriages and family relationships are often characterised by jealousy and power struggles, friends betray friends and nations rise against nations.

This is our world - a world dominated by sin and its effects.  It is a far cry from the beauty and tranquillity of Eden.  We sometimes express a longing to return to the perfect world that God prepared for us, and we may even work to bring a little of heaven to earth, but if we examine our hearts honestly, we know that we are as much part of the problem as the solution.  This is the way of things.

For reflection:
  1. Consider the arrogance of Adam and Eve who decided God's word about the fruit could be rejected and ignored. When God speaks to your heart through the Bible, and particularly when he challenges your own attitudes and behaviour, how do you respond?  How much like Adam and Eve are you?
  2. If this is the way of things - that our sin has broken our world and broken our relationship with God - what hope is there?  If God has chosen to cut us off, how can we ever be reconciled to him?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Painful Truth

"When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it."  (Genesis 3:6)

The Bible’s story takes a terrible turn for the worse.  Adam, the one bearing God’s image who has benefited so magnificently from God’s kindness and generosity, decides that he knows better than the maker of all things.  Adam evidently managed to persuade himself that though God had promised a severe sanction were he to eat the forbidden fruit (“You will surely die” 2:17), God would not actually follow through on this.  This betrays his fundamental distrust of God’s word, and his complete misunderstanding of God’s person and character.

His wilful disobedience earns him a stiff rebuke, and his wonderful relationship with his creator is irrevocably damaged.  Not only that, his relationship with his wife is marred, and his authority over the rest of the created order is undermined; both of these act as permanent consequences and perpetual reminders of his selfishness and arrogance.

At one level it would be easy to look at Adam in shock and disbelief that he should selfishly and carelessly forfeit so much, yet as we read his story, do we not see our own story mirrored?  Can we really be so bold as to claim we have never wilfully chosen to do what we know is out of keeping with the character of the God whose image we bear?  Have we truly never doubted God’s willingness or ability to hold us to account?

For reflection:
  1. To what extent do you feel Adam's punishment fitted his crime?
  2. What does this answer reveal about your own understanding of the person and character of God?
  3. Adam is immediately banished from the Garden of Eden so he cannot eat from the tree of life, but he doesn't physically die until chapter 5.  What does this indicate about the Bible's understanding of life and death?  What might it teach us about God?