God's End Game - Part 3

Series: My Preaching Bucket List

September 30, 2018
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

We are in the middle of a series called “God’s End Game.” We are trying to figure out what God’s up to; what his ultimate agenda is; how he’s going to wrap everything up one day.

To figure out what God’s end game is, we have to go back to the beginning of the game. In other words, to figure out where God is headed with us and the world, we have to go back and look at where we came from, our beginning.

That’s the underlying purpose of the book of Genesis, the book of beginnings: to tell us where we came from. When we know where we came from, we can figure out why we’re here.

The first verse of the first book of the Bible is more rich and deep and wide and profound than we could ever imagine, but at the same time it very simply tells us how it all began…

Genesis 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

That puts all things in their proper place: under God. If he created all things then he is Lord over all things.

It also legitimizes the place in which all things were put. God made it all: the material (matter, space, time) and it was good, and he also made the immaterial (body, soul, spirit) and it was good. One was not better than the other. Remember that.

And then he made us.

Genesis 1:26–28 (ESV) — 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Two things make us special (and that’s too mild a word) over all creation. 

  1. We are made in God’s image, or it’s better to say we are God’s image bearers. It has not so much to do with how we’re put together but what our job is as the pinnacle of all God created.
  2. We are given rulership over all creation. That does not mean we can do with it as we wish (which is what we’ve done, tragically) but that we treat it the way God would.

Now let’s continue on in the book of beginnings with chapter 2. 

Genesis 2:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Note that God’s rest wasn’t one of exhaustion.

Isaiah 40:28 (ESV) — 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

It was a rest of completion and accomplishment. What he’d done was so wonderful, so amazing, so right and good, he needed to just sit back and soak it all in. When you’re God, it’s not being vain, it’s just being honest.

This day later came to be called the Sabbath, which means to rest, and even became part of the Ten Commandments. It is technically Saturday. No one is supposed to work on the Sabbath. That was and is a big deal to the Jews.

What?! I cut my grass yesterday!

It’s ok. Christians consider the first day or Sunday our Sabbath. Why?

Jesus rose from the dead on the first day, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church at Pentecost in Acts 2 took place on a Sunday.

So Sunday took on importance as the day of the week God completed His redemptive work. Saturday Sabbath celebrated God’s work in creation; Sunday Sabbath celebrates God’s work in redemption (a new creation).

That’s why the early church began meeting on the first day of the week to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and worship, and we’ve been doing it that way ever since.

Let’s get back to our text for a rehash of what’s already happened with some added details.

Genesis 2:4–9 (ESV) — 4 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. 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. 

When I think of a garden, I think of what Bill Mattox did for me at my first church…

But that’s not the kind of garden an ancient Near Eastern person would have thought of when mentioned in the context we see here in Genesis 2.

One Bible scholar says…

[Eden can only be properly understood in light of the worldview the biblical writers shared with other people of the ancient Near East. … the people of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia … believed in an unseen spiritual world that was governed by a divine council. The divine abodes of gods—the places they lived and where they met for governing the affairs of the human world—were portrayed in several ways. Two of the most common were gardens and mountains. Eden is described as both in the Old Testament.

Ancient people thought of their gods living in luxuriant gardens or mountains for simple reasons. It made sense that the gods would have the best lifestyle because, well, they’re gods. Cosmic celebrities can’t possibly live like we do.]

That’s why kings and wealthy individuals of ancient times were fascinated with gardens, not the kind with rows of tomatoes but the kind with fountains and exotic plants and terraces and such. Eden actually means luxury in Hebrew. Ever heard of the hanging gardens of Babylon? It was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. King Nebuchadnezzar II most likely created them around his palace to make a statement: I’m like a god.

I tell you all this to dispel the myth that Eden and earth were the same thing. In other words, all the earth was like Eden. It wasn’t. If we could go back in time and land on the earth just after it was created, coming across Eden would have been striking compared to all else. We would have instantly noticed its lushness, its design, it’s structure, as being intentional. It’d be like walking through the woods and coming upon the hanging gardens of Babylon. The woods were beautiful and all, but this!

All the earth was good, but it wasn’t good like Eden. Which leads us to another revelation for most (quoting that scholar again):

“[This understanding of Eden] helps us see that the original task of humanity was to make the entire Earth like Eden.

Adam and Eve lived in the garden. They cared for it. But the rest of the earth needed subduing. It wasn’t awful—in fact Genesis 1 tells us that it was habitable. But it wasn’t quite what Eden was. The whole world needs to be like God’s home. He could do the job himself, but he chose to create human imagers to do it for him. He issued the decree; they were supposed to make it happen. They were to do that by multiplying and following God’s direction.”

Eden was a special place unlike any other place at the time, because it was the dwelling place of God. It was where God would exist alongside and govern the affairs of his image bearers, who were tasked with the responsibility to make all the earth into an Eden. That is so important in figuring out God’s end game.

And now in that garden were many trees…

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.

There were all kinds of trees in that lush garden, bearing all kinds of delicious and desirable fruits. But among them were two special trees, supernatural trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

There has been much speculation on whether these trees were real or symbolic. The problem with making them symbolic is, what other parts of this account are symbolic and how do you know?

I will tell you this, when you discover God’s end game by putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, making these trees symbolic is difficult.

Unlike the fruit of all the other trees, which gave only sustenance or nutrients, the fruit of these two trees imparted something divine: one life (eternal life or immortality) and the other knowledge (good and evil).

Those trees play a cosmic role next week, but for now, let’s keep going…

Genesis 2:10–17 (ESV) — 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. 

This supports the idea of Eden being lavish, well-watered, and unlike any other place on earth at that time. Now look at verse 15 and get ready…

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 

This destroys another myth: that work is a curse, a punishment. 

Have you met my boss?

We will see that the curse resulting from Adam and Eve’s coming disobedience makes work difficult, but work was part of God’s plan from the beginning regardless (which plays into God’s end game!).

This has relevance and meaning right now.

“One of the most revolutionary concepts that we can get is that all work is important to God, not just spiritual work like the work of a pastor or a missionary. We are created in God’s image and as such we are co-creators and we are doing God’s work along with him.” — JD Greear

Colossians 3:23 (ESV) — 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…

Folks, work is worship!

Conclusion: Show board and highlight symbols. 

You know what’s coming. All of this is about to change, in a bad way. What happens next is why God came up with his end game.

For now, though, remember that when we came on the scene, God said it wasn’t just good, it was very good. That shouts the truth of how valuable you are, how God has not only breathed life into you, but purpose and meaning. 

Does anyone know what a Tardis is? It’s the time-traveling spaceship of Dr. Who. On the outside it’s a small police box, but on the inside it’s cavernous with room after room. It’s bigger on the inside than the outside.

God wanted fellowship with Adam and Eve above all. He wanted to dwell with them, to provide for them, to love them and be loved by them. And that’s what he wants with you. God doesn’t just want to be with you, he wants to live inside you. In order for that to be possible, there has to be more to you on the inside than the outside (and there is: you are his image bearer, the one he wants to rule with him one day).

Pascal, a famous French mathematician and philosopher, said this: "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ."

You’ll never truly know peace or fulfillment until you fill that God-sized void in your life with the one who made you.

1 John 5:11–13 (ESV) — 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

Romans 5:8 (ESV) — 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:1 (ESV) — 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:15–17 (ESV) — 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Hebrews 4:16 (ESV) — 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

2 Corinthians 5:18–20 (ESV) — 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

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