Genesis: The Book of God’s Kingdom – 02 (“The Presence of God”)
According to Afriforum and the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TLU SA), 3 541 farm attacks occurred between 1990 and 2015 and during the same period, 1 747 people were murdered on farms (the majority by far, white farmers) of which 130 were farmworkers living on farms and 19 visitors to farms. The statistics for the period June 2016 – June 2017 are 357 attacks (more than one per day average) and 74 murders (more than one per week average).
The reason for my referring to these shocking statistics and reality is not to talk about possible reasons for farm attacks and I don’t have any political or racial motivation or agenda. I’m referring to these statistics in order to say that I think that it must be very traumatic for farmers to farm in South Africa currently. I think this situation inevitably leads to a loss of hope amongst many farmers and South Africans. The same applies to the corruption in our country, especially amongst our political leaders and then I’m not even talking about other criminal activities – robbery, hi-jacking, rape, abortions, etc. According to the most recent SAPS crime statistics an average of 52 people are murdered per day in RSA (the majority by far, black South Africans in our townships) – very few South Africans (white and black) are positive about the future of our country – very few of us have hope – hope for a successful, prosperous, peaceful and safe future in this beautiful country of ours.
Israel experienced many similar situations – just think of their approximate 400 years in Egypt, they had given up hope of ever reaching the Promised Land. When they failed to capture Canaan the first time, they lost all hope and wished to return to Egypt. When God later drove them out of Canaan into exile, they lost all hope of ever returning to the land. The author of Genesis, wishes however, to give God’s people hope – hope to the Canaanites – hope to us.
2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Gen.2:4-7 (ESV) ~ “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.”
Last week we saw that God created the entire universe with His word. We also saw that He completed His work and that everything was very good – it was perfect, because He created it. We can see this especially on day six, when He created the crown of creation, namely man (Gen.1:26). God made human beings in His image and placed them on earth, to be His representatives in this world (to be created to God’s image, means to be His representative). God decided to create man differently from any of the other creatures, i.e. “in His image and likeness.” This phrase means several things. As “images of God” we must manage this Kingdom on His behalf. That is God’s good plan for His Kingdom and for human beings. A perfect Kingdom with perfect people.
Our passage for today is the first part of the “toldot” (or “toledot”) of the heavens and earth. “Toldot” is most often translated as “generations.” “Toldot” is the story or genetic line that came from (generated from) a person or event. It is all about human history.
The author of Genesis… (most probably Moses and from now on, I will refer to Moses as the author, because I am – like many others – convinced that the author was indeed, Moses – see: https://creation.com/did-moses-really-write-genesis) …Moses wrote the book of Genesis while the Israelites were wandering in the desert. The stories gave the Israelites a place in history – an identity – which was important for a people coming out of four hundred years of slavery in a foreign country. Knowing the “toldot” they came from (or, knowing their history and their genetic line that they came from…), gave the Israelites context for what God was asking of them when they entered the Promised Land and linked later Israelites to the great men and the mighty deeds of long before. Most of all, the “toldot” showed them how God had worked in the past and how He was sure to work in the present. Moses wanted to give the discouraged and pessimistic Israelites hope through the writing of Genesis.
This first unit in this “toldot” (Gen.2:4-25), provides the necessary introduction to the creation of human life, the record of the fall and the resulting curse. The magnitude of that sin and destruction can be fully understood only when the nature and purpose of humankind is understood. To know what God had invested in human life and what He expected of it is to know what was lost at the fall.
Our exegetical outline for the rest of Gen.2 and Gen.3 can be summed up as follow:
• Man – His image (2:5-7).
• Man – His habitation (2:8-17).
• Man – His responsibility (2:18-25).
• Man – His rebellion (3:1-24).
Today, we will only be looking at “Man – His image.”
3. MAN – HIS IMAGE (vss.5-7):
In vss.4-25 Moses describes to us the “second creation” account, which supplements the first by zeroing in on the creation of the man and the woman and their unique responsibility. God’s special covenant love for human beings are emphasised by the use of the term “YAHWEH” (“Yahweh,” who is the eternal, sovereign, and ever-present helper, who is always with you). Whereas the first creation account, in recounting the creation of the cosmos, regularly used the word “GOD” (“Elohim” – the One True God).
In vss.4-6 Moses thinks of a time before there were any wild shrubs in the earth or cultivated grain in the fields, because there was no man to tend the grounds. The only hint of the beginning of fertility is that a mist used to go up from the earth to water the surface of the ground. But then as from vs.7, we see that God is focussing His attention on the crowning point of creation, human life.
The Lord God formed man. Three significant facts are being stated in this declaration:
• First, God and God alone formed man. Man was not formed by impersonal forces nor did he appear out of nothing. Neither did man evolve from other creatures that had come out of nothing. Impersonal forces did not form man: not cells, not DNA, not atoms, etc. No. The “energy and power,” if we may call it so, that formed man, is the “Supreme Intelligence” of the universe, the Lord God of the universe. The Lord God formed man. The Lord God created the substance and then He took the substance and used it to create man. Man was created and formed by God and by God alone.
• Second, God “formed” man. The word “formed” means to mould, to shape, to form. It is the picture of a potter who has an image in his mind that he wants to create. Therefore, he takes some clay and moulds and forms the clay into the image of his mind. Note: The Potter has the idea of what he wants to create, and has both the intelligence and power to form his creation. So, it was with God. God is the Master Craftsman who had the idea of man with in His mind. God also had both the intelligence and power to create man, both the omniscience (all knowledge) and omnipotence (all power) to do what He wanted. God wanted to create man; therefore, God formed man. God moulded and shaped man just like a potter who forms the creation of his mind. Man is the creation of God, of God’s mind, of God’s intelligence and power, of God’s omniscience and omnipotence.
When keeping this in mind, it gives great dignity and honour to man. Man is the product of God’s mind, thought and heart. Man’s creation – man’s very body, mind, and spirit – came from the heart of God, from the intelligence and power of God Himself. We are the creation of God’s very own heart, His very own mind and power. We have been created with all the dignity and honour possible, the creation of the sovereign Lord and majesty of the universe ~ “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet” (Ps.8:3-6). And Ps.139:14-15 ~ “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”
Beloved, this is a huge truth to be pondered on – to mull over in your mind.
• Third, it was the Lord God – “Yahweh Elohim” – who formed man. This is the personal name of God, the name that stresses…
– God’s personal relationship to man.
– God’s revelation to man.
– God’s redemption of man.
When this name – “the Lord God” – is used, God’s personal relationship with man is being stressed. God’s creation of man was very, very special. It was a matter that had the personal attention and care of God. God Himself was personally involved in the creation of man, involved in a far different way than when He created the rest of the universe. Creating man, God was creating the creature…
– who was to be the summit (Afrikaans: “die toppunt”) of His creation upon earth.
– who was to oversee the universe for God throughout all of eternity.
Therefore, a very special relationship, a personal relationship, was bound to be established by the Lord God between Himself and man, between Himself and the creature He was putting in charge of His world. God stood before man as God, as the great Creator and Sustainer of life. But God also stood before man as Lord, as the Supreme Master of man’s life, as the Supreme Lord and Master…
– who loves and cares for man
– who watches over and looks after man
– who seeks after and saves man
– who is personally related to man as Lord and Master
– who reveals Himself, communicates and fellowships with man.
I want to personify this: God loves you. He the God of the universe watches over you and saved you if you are a Christian. This is why the name “Lord God” is used in the creation of man (and not the rest of creation). The Lord God was establishing a personal relationship with the creature He was now creating. Man was to be very, very special to God. There was to be a personal relationship, a close bond, between God and man forever. God – the Lord God – was to stand before man as man’s Lord. Man was to be subject of God forever and ever. Is.43:7,10 (NKJV) says ~ “Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him” … ‘You are My witnesses,’ says the Lord, ‘And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me.’”
Man – indeed the crown of God’s creation!
But, we must also realise that man was formed from the dust of the ground. Material used to form the body of man was lowly stuff – stuff that is both humble and base, of little worth and value. What was it? Dust, the dirt off the ground. Isaiah and Job call it clay (Is.64:8; Job 33:6). We therefore have nothing to be proud off. Nothing. Absolutely nothing, for we are made of nothing more than a handful of dust. From dust we have come, and to dust we shall return.
The point that Moses wants to make is this: we come from the humblest of beginnings. Our origin is that of dust, lonely dirt and dust. Our bodies are fragile and frail. Therefore, we must depend upon God to look after us, and we must seek the glory and dignity that God alone can give. No matter how much glory and dignity we achieve upon earth, we shall soon be nothing more than a handful of dust. Our origin and beginning upon earth was humble.
There is though, another facet to this body of dust, namely that it was imparted with “the breath of life.” This Word for breath is used in the Bible for God and for the life imparted to man – never for animals. Here the very breath of God is being given in a moment of inspiration. This breath brings more than animation to the man of the earth (the state of being alive), it brings spiritual understanding. As Job states it in Job 32:8 ~ “But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.” This breath of God also brings a functioning conscience ~ “The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the inner depths of his heart” (Prov.20:27). In short, we may conclude that moral capacity is granted to human beings by virtue of this “in breathing” by the Creator God. It truly is the breath of life. It probably is this “in breathing” that constitutes humankind as the image of God.
With this verse then, the nation of Israel, and for that matter all of us, would see that humankind was created with great care and planning, so that it would have the capacity to serve the Lord God and in this fact lies a lot of encouragement and hope for every human being. We must therefore, walk humbly before God, depending upon God to make us eternal and glorious beings – beings who shall arise out of the dirt of the earth and live for ever. We must depend upon God to give us a body that will never age or pass away, a body that will never die, but that will live for ever ~ “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Joh.3:16). Did you hear this? Did you hear and understand that you shall walk humbly before God?
4. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
According to Gen.13:10, the garden of Eden is called… ~ “…the garden of the Lord.” This garden was certainly a delightful place to live. That is what the name “Eden” suggests – “pleasure,” “delight.” Whenever Eden is mentioned in the Bible it stands for a very lovely environment, especially so, to anyone use to arid desert areas (like the Israelites). In comforting His people, the Lord promises to… ~ “…make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord” (Is.51:3).
God is the Creator who prepared a place for the first human couple to live, but also prepared a place for all his redeemed people. Jesus said, ~ “I go to prepare a place for you?” (Joh.14:2). Preparing this garden was nothing compared with the cost involved in making ready our heavenly home.
How can we be blessed by what we heard in the message when we have communion? We heard about God’s (Yahweh) covenant love in creating man. In celebrating the Lord’s Supper, we have the privilege to proclaim that God did not give up on His creation. We proclaim that God, in His covenant love, sent Jesus, His Son to deliver His creation from their sin. We remember the saving work of Jesus – His death on the Cross for our eternal life. We remember God’s grace and mercy which saved man who He moulded and shaped in His image – a creation of His own heart. What worship and praise of our Creator shouldn’t that bring to us. A deep thankfulness and adoration.
We furthermore heard that the name “Yahweh Elohim” stresses a personal relationship. A relationship in which He communicates with man. He mainly communicates through His Word to us and the Word tells us that we are needy sinners who need purification. It communicates that we should examine ourselves, repent from our sin and worship the true God.
Last but not the least, this relationship implies that we are also put into other relationships by God. We should therefore take cognizance of the fact that in our communion with God we also have communion with each other, a oneness, as needy sinners before a holy God.
In spite of corruption; murder; theft; rape; wars etc. we as children of God have hope – hope in Christ Jesus. Hope of eternal life in the beautiful garden that He is preparing for us and which He calls, “the garden of the Lord.” The future state of God’s people will be even more wonderful than anything experienced on earth previously ~ “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’” (1 Cor.2:9).