God's End Game - Part 4
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
October 07, 2018
Last week in our series on God’s end game, we covered the better part of Genesis chapter 2. And if you’re just joining us today we are in Genesis because to discover what God’s end game is we have to go back to the beginning of the game.
Let’s look at our text from last week to get us in context for this week…
Genesis 2:5–15 (ESV) — 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. 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. 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. 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
If you remember, as we studied these verses, we did a little myth busting.
We busted the myth that Eden and the earth were the same thing. In other words, the whole earth was like Eden. Eden was a special place unlike any other place at the time, because it was the dwelling place of God on earth. It was where God would exist alongside and govern the affairs of his image bearers, who were tasked with the responsibility of making all the earth into an Eden, which is so important in figuring out God’s end game.
We also busted the myth that work is part of the curse. That work is like a punishment. Nope. It was intended from the beginning. And even now, as Christians, we understand that work is worship.
Now let’s pick back up in our text…
Genesis 2:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
I told you those two trees would come into play in a big way. In the garden were lots and lots of trees, but among them were two special ones, supernatural ones. Back in verse 9 we learned one was the tree of life.
The presence of that tree and what Genesis tells us about it later shatters another myth: Adam (and Eve in just a moment) were automatically immortal. Since you know how this story goes, we’ll get ahead of ourselves a little so you can see this.
Genesis 3:22–24 (ESV) — 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
It was the tree of life that gave them immortality. So God, once they fell, prevented them from accessing it.
Do not forget about this tree. We will see it again.
It’s pretty easy to understand the idea of the tree of life granting immortality. In fact, the idea of a plant granting long life is a very common ancient motif. But what about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Eat from the tree of life and live forever. Eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and you die. What’s that all about?
One scholar points out that […in the Bible, the idea of “knowing good and evil” has various senses: proper discernment in legal judgments (1 Kgs 3:9); legal responsibility for one’s actions (Deut 1:39); the implication of mature decision-making (Deut 1:39; 2 Sam 19:35; Isa 7:15); and even omniscience (2 Sam 14:17, 29).]
A bunch of other scholars build off that, proposing the knowledge of good and evil means everything from knowing everything to sexual awareness to just plain moral judgments. So what is it?
Years ago, when my middle daughter Chloe was about three or four, we went out to lunch with an older couple in the church. She sat next to the elderly man and out of nowhere in her sweet little voice asked, “Why he color he arm?”
It took a minute to figure she was talking about his tattoo, one he got serving in the Navy back in the day. She got in trouble for coloring herself and wondered why it was ok for him I guess. One of the most precious things about a child is her innocence. As they grow up they inevitably lose that, and it’s just tragic.
You don’t want them to know about wars or murders or abuse or betrayal or agony or all the other terrible things waiting for them in this world. You try as hard as you can to protect them, but life is set up to steal their innocence away. Or, you could say, as their knowledge of the world increases, their innocence decreases to the point where it eventually dies.
We could spend hours going over all the different perspectives on what the knowledge of good and evil is here, but I think at its core it means eating of it gives knowledge the recipients were never intended to have, knowledge they couldn't handle, knowledge that once attained changed everything and not in a good way.
In the end, I don’t think it matters so much what the knowledge of good and evil was exactly but what God had commanded Adam concerning that tree. Do not eat of it. Ultimately, eating of that tree would sever the beautiful, sweet, unhindered relationship between God and man. That’s a kind of death all it’s own, isn’t it? That’s the worst kind of death. The Bible calls eternal separation from God the second death, the first being physical.
Do you realize, in the Garden of Eden when all was good just as our good God made it, you could do whatever you wanted save one thing?
God gets such a bad rap for being a killjoy, a cosmic tyrant who relishes in restricting mankind with unfair rules and unloving moral codes. But you go back to the beginning, and all he asked was one thing. And that rule, that moral code was all about protecting his most prized creation from losing fellowship with him, from dying.
All these rules, these codes, folks get so bent out of shape over today? God’s heart is still the same: they are there to protect us. To keep us from being shackled to things that destroy us.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. As of right now in our text all is right and good in the world for Adam, so let’s jump back in and tackle the elephant in the room.
There’s a question here begging to be asked. The kind of question a child might bring up.
Why would God allow for the possibility of mankind disobeying him if it’s the consequences are so horrific? I mean one less tree and there’s nothing to worry about. Or, just make them incapable of disobeying.
Answering this perfectly good question takes us back into those deep waters again. And you know when we dive down deep into who God is, trying to figure why he does what he does, we have to do it knowing that an all knowing, all powerful, mighty, sovereign God who simply spoke the heavens and the earth into being is beyond figuring out.
But Bible scholars and theologians have offered a few reasons why there were two trees and not just one.1. Because of free will
God gave man a free will, allowing him to choose to obey, to choose to love his heavenly father. Free will requires the possibility of disobeying.
Love isn’t really love if you don’t have a choice. Only stalkers go up to someone and say, “You will love me!” It doesn’t work that way. Love potions are nice and all, but it’s not really love if that person didn’t decide to love you. Billy Graham, in responding to this very question wrote…
“Why didn’t God make us so we couldn’t sin? The reason is simple: Then we would have been like puppets, unable to choose between right and wrong. Our love for God wouldn’t have been genuine either, because we couldn’t have freely chosen to love God. Love is real only when we can choose it.” — Billy Graham
Some think that’s too simplistic and insufficient as an answer. They lean way into God’s sovereignty and conclude that God allowed for the possibility of rebellion…
2. Because of His glory
By allowing for and ultimately purposing the fall (sovereignty) God displayed his greater glory in redeeming us, in bringing us back into relationship with him.
One fellow puts it this way (thinking caps on, please!)…
“… it’s reasonable to infer that God’s primary purpose in allowing the fall was to showcase his glory both in the original creation and also in his powerful and merciful restoration of that creation from its rebellion and corruption.
But… couldn’t an unfallen creation glorify God as much as a restored creation?
Reflecting on this question has prompted a number of Christian thinkers to propose [the] basic idea [that] while the fall was a great evil, it made it possible for God to bring about even greater goods in its wake: the God-glorifying goods of the incarnation, atonement, resurrection, and all the salvific blessings that flow from them.
One might think an unfallen creation would be preferable to a fallen creation—and all else being equal, that’s true. But all else is not equal, for our world is not merely a fallen creation. It’s a fallen creation into which the eternal Son of God has entered, taking on human nature, perfectly expressing God’s likeness in our midst, living a morally flawless life, making atonement for our sins through his sacrificial death, rising in triumph from the grave, and ascending into heaven, where he continually intercedes and secures for us an eternal joyful dwelling-place in God’s presence.”
In other words, God’s glory shines brighter in allowing the fall and then remedying it the way he did.
I think maybe it’s both. God wants us to choose him. Love isn’t really love if we have no choice. But at the same time, because he gave us the ability to choose knowing we’d make the wrong choice, God’s glory has been displayed in unbelievable ways, and just wait until you see how it all plays out in his end game.
Here’s a good way to look at all this (especially if it troubles you):
- God allowed the fall.
- God has good reasons for everything he does, including what he allows.
- Therefore, God had good reasons for allowing the fall, whether or not we can discern them.
Conclusion: *** Look at illustration
Let me close with the words of one commentator…
“If Genesis 1 shows us the sovereignty of God, then Gen 2 shows us the love of God. He took care to form Adam out of dust and to imbue him with life, animated by a divine breath. He could have spoken the garden, the animals, and the man into being, but instead He planted, He formed, and He breathed. Genesis 2 shows God intimately involved with His creation, actively engaged with His world.
The overarching theme of Gen 2 is that God cares. But at the same time, Gen 2 reveals what God expects from His creation—especially from man…, His image-bearer.
God demonstrated that He could provide everything [man] needed—a place to live, food to eat, a job to do… In return, He gave [man] the choice to accept the world on His terms. However, the only way [he] could have a legitimate choice was for God to provide [him] with the freedom to choose what was wrong. So God set limits—specifically, the forbidden tree. The knowledge of good and evil served as a decision to accept God’s version of good or reject it. We face the same choice, although that choice now relates to the coming of Christ: We can accept God’s good and generous gift of salvation or follow the path to evil on our terms.”
You can focus on why create us in the first place, but I choose to look at why go to the trouble he did in saving us, bringing us back (end game). The writer of Hebrews warned us…
Hebrews 2:3–4 (ESV) — 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
What have you done with what God has done in sending his Son to live the life we should have lived and die the death we would have died?
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