Gen 2v4-17 Made to Work
What sort of bosses or teachers or conditions have you had to work under? Have you ever have been made to work? What is it that motivates you to work at school or manage the household? What is it that makes you go to work?
About two weeks ago I spoke to a gentleman who has recently retired who said he never didn't want to go to work - there wasn't a single day when he thought he'd rather not go to work that day.
A few years ago I met a similar gentleman who'd recently retired who said the same except for the last five years of his working life when his new boss had made life terrible.
They are the only two men who I've heard say that. I presume there's more but they're few are far between. So what is it that makes our view of work so positive?
I remember my Careers advice at school: "choose a job you enjoy" they said. Great. So I should have pursued being a rally driver or footballer. That's just ridiculous. And my wife isn't too chuffed when I and do those two things at once.
And regarding children planning what to do when they grow up there are at least two mantras I've heard in schools these days: "follow your dream" and "fulfil your potential".
And these just create desperate unrealistic expectations leading to disappointment and an unfair pressure or fear of not fulfilling one's potential.
Here's what Steve Jobs said about work.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."
Well that's not very kind nor helpful for those are trapped in their situation or who haven't made a $100milion by age 25 and have got the security and flexibility to take risks to do what they want. As we see later in Gen 3 work becomes toil. Sometimes, if you're fortunate enough to be able to choose a job, it's a case of choose your poison. If you get a choice you have to choose from a variety of jobs each of which will be toil. I remember hearing a retired fisherman explaining how he began his fishing career those many years ago. It was through his dad bringing him down to the docks when he was a lad and just handing him over as an apprentice. No choice. No say. No discussion. But grateful for work.
Sometimes we can be too romantic about work and think it's not about earning money, but you have to feed and clothe your family and put a roof over your heads. Sometimes we can be too cynical and mercenary and think it's just about earning money and be in it for ourselves without a care for the job or for serving others.
Having a Biblical realistic view of work is vital. So let's see if we can get more of that view today. We're looking at Genesis Ch2v4-17 on p4 of the blue Bibles. We're going to learn some things about God and some things about us and some things about work.
As a recap; we're in our 4th sermon working our way through the beginning of the book of Genesis which means beginnings. So far we've seen how God created the heavens and the earth. And he created mankind in his own image [male and female equal but different] to rule the earth under him and with him. And God blessed the 7th day of the week so that we would be blessed by that day by spending time with him and looking forward to the eternal sabbath rest with God through Jesus the ultimate image of God.
Today we're up Ch2v4-17. In ch1 we saw God's power and his transcendence - how God is beyond us. He is the creator and we are his creatures and yet he intends to be with us - in Ch1 the emphasis was on his creating; in Ch 2 the emphasis is on relationship. We see in our verses for today more of how personal God is: how immanent, not imminent as in 'about to arrive' but immanent as in present all the time; close and personal. Yes God is the almighty and powerful creator but he is not far off and unknowable.
Previously we've had a broad explanation of why God made the world in Ch1-2v3 and now here we zoom in with more detail on the creation of man and we begin with an account or an introduction to the following verses. Let's read v4 "4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens" Previously God has been called God. Here for the first time in the Bible we see that God has a name. He is addressed by his personal name yhwh which we translate as LORD with capital letters; YHWH means I am. We can discuss what that means another time or perhaps over tea and coffee at the end of the service. But it's talking about God in a personal way using his personal name. It's also all the more noticeable that the Devil avoids using God's personal name later in Gen 3. But the point is that God can be known personally. Did you know that? Do you know God personally?
And we see more of this in our following verses: verses 5-7. "5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground-- 7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."
Again we see the personal nature of God. The creation of man was nothing like Michelangelo's depiction in the Sistene Chapel. It's not by a touch of finger tip. No. God breaths life into the man's nostrils. Can you imagine it. It's more personal. It's as personal as giving someone the kiss of life. It is isn't it? Life that comes from you being breathed into another. How personal. And we should find this comforting in the individualistic culture we live in where people out for themselves and are less community minded and less cared for. It's comforting to know that we have a personal God who loves us and created us for intimacy.
God is personal
And what's more God get's his hands dirty, perhaps not literally, but he gets involved in the matter this world is made from; the physical bits and stuff of earth. Verse 7
"7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. 8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed."
verse 8 God planted a garden! God did it. And verse 7 God formed the man. That means shaped, as a potter shapes the clay. God works with matter. God had previously made matter out of nothing and now he works with the raw materials of earth to create man. What is man made from? v7 from the dust of the ground. This tells us something about the nature of us. It helps tell us what it means to be human = i.e. part of us is material and physical. There is an idea in Greek philosophy which can invade our thinking today and believes that the Spiritual is all that matters. That the spiritual is good and that the physical is bad. This has led, especially amongst people who believe in God, to downplay the importance of matter and physical things. The Physical is good. We are not to dismiss our physicality. Please enjoy your physicality. Those of you who can run fast - run and enjoy the way you're made. Those of you who can think fast - do it and enjoy it. Those who can multitask - do so and enjoy it. Those of you who are married - be untied to each other physically, often I suggest, and enjoy it. We were meant to be physical. We were made physical The Personal God made us physical.
In terms of work this also tells us something about the nature of work
is one kind of work more noble than another other, more dignified than another? Should a blue collar worker be ashamed of his or her job compared to a white collar worker? God planted a garden. God shaped some physical earth. Jesus the incarnate God was a carpenter. And as Adam the gardener was the representative of the whole human race it's ok for us to get our hands dirty. Physical work is good. Please don't fall into the snobbery trap of this country's awful class system of thinking you're better than someone else (or worse than someone else). That's another false ideology my careers advisor promoted. No. There are no 2nd class jobs. We may even fall into the trap thinking that gospel work is the only work worth doing and we should all give up our jobs. Ordinary work is important as well as gospel work. Doctors, lawyers and church ministers won't exist in heaven. Gardeners and farm labourers will! There are no 2nd class jobs. Value your work whatever it is.
What else can we learn about the nature of work? In v5 we read
"5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground,"
There is a working relationship between God and Man - God sends the rain and man works the ground. We are to work with God; alongside God. I wonder if you ever take time to feel that at work - when you're working you're managing, you're stewarding God's creation with God. He doesn't leave you on your own. You're working with him.
There is also a working relationship between man and the ground. The ground needed a man to work the ground. The ground needs work to make it produce. You can't just leave it on its own. It takes work, effort, time and investment. You can't expect something for nothing. The man is to make the earth profitable but not in an exploitative way. We are to work with the earth The Hebrew for man is adam and the Hebrew for ground or earth is adamah. Man is made from the ground and man is made to work the ground. There is a symbiotic relationship between us creatures and the earth we're made from. We are not to abuse it. There is a right fear of not being in harmony with our planet. It's not good. There's a reason why people invent dystopian ideas of the future which often feed off a fear of the scarcity of natural resources. We are to steward this world carefully. We are to use it not abuse it. We are to work with it.
Let's read on to learn more about God and the work he planned for us. Verse 9-15.
"9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. 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 take care of it."
So far we've seen that the personal God made us to work with him. We saw earlier in v5 how we are to work the ground. So we can see that we were made to work. It's ingrained in our nature. It's what we're designed for. We are working creatures. V15. 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. That's what we were made for.
- We were made to work
We were created to work. That's why being unemployed feels awful and the avoidance of work isn't something to aim for either. Being so wealthy that you don't need to work is bad for you. Please don't make that your aim. It's laziness. Don't aim to be so rich that you hardly need to work. We were made to work
And look at where were we put to work. Eden is where we get the word 'paradise' from. It's from the greek translation of the Old Testament. It means 'delight'. Can you see the paradise God made for mankind? Can you see the delight God made for us? What a kind, bestowing, giving, generous God. God is giving. God provides delight. God gives good things and God provided a delightful place for us. I don't know what working conditions you've had to work under and what working conditions you've seen throughout the world but God provided the perfect fair and delightful working conditions ever! God provided a delightful place for us to live and work.
He had planted the garden - "he made made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food."
and what else do we notice about the place? The land sounds good doesn't it? It was well watered and there were plenty of natural resources; things like Gold and Onyx (a beautiful gem) and again these are matter - raw materials that man has to work from the ground. It was a rich land but it's also important that we don't miss something else here: there are tabernacle and temple references here. Remember the tabernacle or temple was where God lived with his people? When the tabernacle was being made it was designed in such a way as to refer back to Eden - and why - because it spoke of the place where God lived with his people. Things such as Gold and onyx were used in the tabernacle and priestly clothing. The lamp-stands where made in a tree like shape with blossom. They referred back to Eden.
Not only that but the job the man was given to do was also of a priestly nature.
"15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."
These are the same words are used later in the Bible when talking about the priestly duties - the priests were to attend to and keep the tabernacle - the place where God lived with his people. The man is to look after the place where God lived with his people. Work is to care for God's place
So we have been made to work by a personal providing God.
- We were made to work in God's place
and the Lord provides instructions how to work. We were made to work in God's way.
- We were made to work in God's place in God's way
"15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
Eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil meant us deciding what right and wrong is ourselves. It's mankind wanting Autonomy. There were two trees in the middle of the garden as we saw in v9. Eating from the tree of life - you gain life. Eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil - you gain knowledge of good and evil. It doesn't mean God wanted us to live in ignorance but God wanted us to depend on him for what right and wrong is. He's the creator and we're his creatures. That's the way it should be. Who decides what right and wrong is in my household? Is it my dog or my children? If it were then amazon would be delivering quadruple the amount of of dog food and no one would ever go to school. Imagine you were there, in the garden of Eden - if you ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil - would you need to ask God what right and wrong was? No. it's Autonomy. It's us deciding ourselves what right and wrong is. We don't want to need God. That's what mankind is doing today. We are putting ourself in God's place - we are making up what we think is right and wrong about all sorts of areas of life with disastrous consequences for us all.
And notice what we do by nature: we naturally focus on the negative. Can you see what I did? I immediately explained what the tree of knowledge of good and evil is. I immediately explained the restrictive command - the negative. We think God is a killjoy but look at the previous verses - it's all positive - look how kind God is. He's personal and involved and wants us to work with him in his place - his beautiful place that he's made for us that he wants us to delight in. He's a God who gives us paradise. He's not a kiljoy. Look at how permissive God is - we're free to eat from all the other trees - all the other trees! It's us that are the killjoys not God. We're free to do so many things, but we are not free to decide what right and wrong is! That is the one limit to our freedom - and rightly so - he is our loving creator who wants to give us delights, who wants to be with us and is personal - whom we can know personally. Do you know this God? Do you want to?
What a joy to be given a command by someone who cares for us and knows what's best for us. Don't get drunk. Don't have sex outside marriage. Don't cheat your employers or your government or gossip about your teachers or colleagues or friends. There aren't loads of don'ts in the Bible but the ones that are there are there for a reason; because we need to be told them. Take drinking for example. The Bible says don't get drunk. It's pretty obvious that if you get drunk you lose self control and are more likely to break other commandments. It's fine to drink in moderation but I read just this week of a 30 year study that those who have a glass of wine each day are more likely to have lower brain function than people who don't drink. It takes scientists to find that out. God knows what he's talking about. He's given us commands for a reason - for a very good reason. Let him tell us what right and wrong is. He made us. Do you really think we know better than our creator? It may be that we think God's commands don't dignify us; that they don't give us the esteem we should have or deserve. We naturally want to elevate ourselves and don't want someone else telling us what to do. We think us deciding means we can can have our own dignity in our own right, to be our own 'I ams', rather than relying on someone else to give it to us, to give us that dignity, someone else who is kind and generous and knows what's best for us.
You may have heard the Greame Goldsworthy description of the kingdom of God: "God's people in God's place under God's rule." And that's what we have here - God's people; Adam (and Eve arrives by the end of the chapter) in God's place; Eden, under God's rule. And what is God's rule His word! His commands. We should live by them and work by them. You and I should work in line with God's word. We were made to work in God's place in God's way
And if we want to see what that's like then we need to look to one man who always did this perfectly. Matt 4 we read Matthew 4:1 "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." 4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'""
Jesus knew how to avoid temptation; by using God's word. Jesus knew what it was to obey - to live by God's rules. He always cared for God's place in God's way. Jesus always obeyed God's commands. He obeyed even to the point of death, even death on a cross. And we should follow his example. Jesus, God the Son, fully God and fully man, the great I am, our great high priest came down to be with us, personally. The personal God who cares for us enough to sae us he paid the price for the way we don't live God's way. Let's praise God for the Lord Jesus and let's focus on Jesus each day as we go to work and remember what he has done for us on the cross to motivate us to obey him and work God's way. What is it that makes us go to work? Have you ever been made to work? All of us have been made to work by a loving personal providing commanding and saving God.