Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Happened?

Reading: Genesis 1-3  
If God is good, how did the world get to be such a mess?” Have you ever heard that question? It comes in various forms. For instance it might be asked, “If God is good and all-powerful, then how do you explain all the wars in the world?” Or, “...child abuse?” And, frankly, these are good questions. Good questions because the issues raised are real issues. Child abuse is bad. War is not glamorous, no matter what the movies communicate. War wreaks havoc on the lives of millions of people. So these are good questions. Not long ago, I talked with a lady and as she shared pieces of her life's story, I wondered if she might ask the question this way, “If God is good and all-powerful, then why did my brothers rape me repeatedly? Why did they invite their friends over to gang-rape me at the age of 13? Why did my first boy friend rape me at 16? And why did the man with whom I was considering marriage commit suicide?” Her life had a war of its own. Undoubtedly this question is running around somewhere in her mind.
It should come as no surprise that the Bible essentially starts by answering this very real question. The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for a few centuries, and while they themselves had been rescued, it was their own generation whose brothers had been thrown into the river by the order of Pharaoh when they were children. It was they themselves that had experienced the suffering of having to make the same number of bricks, while gathering their own supplies for making them. And, now they are in a wilderness, wondering about food and drink. I have no doubt they had their own form of this question. Something like, “If God is good, and we are the chosen people, then can you explain this?”
The first three chapters of Genesis answer this question. Chapter one tells us what God did: from nothing, He created the world, and out of the darkness and chaos of that world He went to work and made a paradise of paradises. Chapter two gives us a few more details about how he was the master sculptor, who made man and all the animals from mud and simply breathed life into them; how He was the master gardener, planting a garden in Eden and made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground (apparently He loves variety), all of which were good for food and pleasing to the eye. There was one of these, however, about which He said, “you must not eat from it, or you will surely die.” Or, maybe it might be translated, “or dying you will die.”
And then, we have the serpent. We are told, “Now the snake was wiser than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” (Gen. 3:1 BBE) There is a note of irony I think in this sentence. Most modern translations use the word crafty, which can be neutral, but is often taken as negative. But the Hebrew word used could also be used positively and is used that way throughout Proverbs for the prudent man. Indeed God had been crafty... in the positive sense of the word in making the world, and planting the garden and sculpting man and all the animals and then animating them with life which came from within Himself. So while “the serpent was wiser than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made,” he was not any where near as crafty or wise as the Lord God who made the fields and the serpent. At the root of our temptations is the lie that something we desire is a greater pursuit than obedience to God's wisdom... the God who made everything that is.
Adam and Eve seemed to miss that irony. They believed the serpent's wisdom over God's. And the serpent's wisdom was a lie. They ate, and “their eyes were opened” to good and evil (they saw it in a whole new way). Now they saw themselves as the ones who could decide right and wrong. They took on the study of ethics, trying to determine how to live instead of leaving how to live up to God. But now they were blind... they could no longer walk with God. They could no longer see God. In fact the Gospel is the story of God giving sight back to blinded man.
If God is good, how did the world get to be such a mess?” The answer, as simple as it may seem, is also clear: In Adam, mankind rejected God and His wisdom and decided we knew what was best. And God's Wisdom is still proving true: in dying we die. We disconnected ourselves by rejecting God from the source of life. And in doing so, death is our lot. We stand condemned.
One might say, “No problem, let's just reconnect, right?” It's not so simple. Having rejected God (sin), we cannot just reconnect, for God is pure and Holy. Secondly, given all the right information and truth, just like Adam, we all continually choose to stay disconnected. So God had to not only provide a way for sinners to reconnect, but He would have to also change our hearts in order for us to come to Him by faith. And these, in a sense, are what the rest of the Bible is about and it leads to Christ Jesus.
For the believer, having been reconnected by God's grace, our devotions are a time of of walking with God and fellowship with Him. They are a means of staying connected to the source of life, from which all our living proceeds.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,