Earlier, we examined the wondrous creation of our God. The Earth is now teeming with life.
Now God creates man and woman in His image. He molds dirt into a beautiful form and breathes His very spirit into the nostrils of His man. "Adam" means ground, and we are animated dust. We are royal soil.
Man and woman are not only created with God's tender hands, but He equally creates a place in which to place them. The Garden is our Creator's destination for His children. Where is it? It is where four rivers meet together in harmony: "A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters."
Remember: The Bible is of the desert. Its people, terrain, and customs are all shaped by the expanses of arid wilderness, the occasional oasis, the huge dark skies and the sun that never ceases to shine. To such people, rivers give life as well as death: the waters, when calm, are a source of refreshment. When those waters are out of control, they bring disaster.
Abraham and Moses were of the desert and the children of Israel were of the desert. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. His whole life, just like the patriarch Abraham, is spent in these wide expanses.
Harmony and order existed in the Garden, as it is described as “being well watered.” So, the Garden, with its calm rivers, was an oasis: a place of provision and peace.
I never valued water as much as I do since I moved to Idaho. We live in the high desert. We have rivulets, streams and a river that flows through our town. But by midsummer, the streams and rivulets are gone. The river runs low. It is very dry here. In fact, we had to drill 127 feet to find water on our property. The trees here signal where the ground water is. They congregate where the water flows, and when it ceases, their deep roots catch the underground water. We are a free range state, and that means cows are free to wander everywhere. By the end of summer, they are looking for two things: shade and water. They get desperate if they can't find water. They will trample fences and get into our yard looking for water. Water is life, and our neighborhood cows remind me of that.
The fall of our first parents reintroduced chaos back into creation. God’s creative act was to bring order out of chaos and now disorder, through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, reintroduces it. Destruction, decay and death now plague the planet.
They leave the Garden knowing that birth will bring pain (maybe even death); food is now the result of “toil”; and “thorns and thistles” will imitate plant life, but will be hostile to other plants and not a food source. God sends them out with a promise in addition to His punishments: The Messiah will come from the woman, and crush the head of the serpent. The Messiah, the Anointed One, will reintroduce order into the world by striking and overcoming its very author: Satan.
The consequences of sin’s disorder and its reign on Earth are catastrophic. The first act committed outside of the Garden is murder. In his rage and jealousy, Cain murders his brother Abel. This will set up a never-ending cycle of revenge, which leads to more murder. So, God seeks to prevent this cycle from starting by marking Cain. If you think about it, war is murder and revenge writ large.
The ultimate symptom of chaos is that God’s image in man is marred: Life is taken, decay will ensue, and human beings are devalued. Cain’s descendant, Lamech boasts to his two wives (God's marriage order of one man, one woman is equally marred): “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
Outside the Garden, chaos reigns.
God's wearies of His creation becoming so opposite of His original intentions. What element does He choose? He uses out-of-control water: a flood. The worst fears of desert-dwelling people come true: water that rages and takes everything with it. This water will drown the earth and all its inhabitants except for Noah and his family. But it carries the Promise of the Garden of Eden in it as well: Order will be restored. The floodwaters do recede.
The ark becomes an image of the work of the coming Messiah: It represents God’s mercy and redemption. Why? Inside of that ark, His people are saved from the destruction that sin and disobedience brought upon the Earth. God Himself closes the door of the ark.
Even though sin has brought death, decay and destruction into the earth, God is faithful to His creation. When the flood is over, God promises Noah: “As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” God places a rainbow in the sky as a reminder of His faithfulness to what He has said and done.
Man will impose his own order on the earth by building towns and cities with walls and gates: “They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’ But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’”
Why did God impose confusion on His children?
Man will place his security in his cities, towers and fortifications. What man loves, he worships, and if he worships anyone/anything that is not the Lord, it is an idol. His cities will become idols—a source of pride and adoration. Ancient kings boasted of their cities. Massive building projects were ego-fests of the ruling elite. Big men, big city.The ultimate idol-worshipping people were the Egyptians. Their order, manifested by their belief in idols, in their god-king and in their huge cities, was false. This “order” is based on a lie, for the idols do not exist. Thus, man’s foundation is built upon nothing. So, to show the superiority of God over the Egyptian concept of order, with its god-king, building projects, and gods for every natural force, the Ten Plagues will be a reversal of creation. It will be a reversal of Genesis. God will show how false an order it truly is.
Moses, with the Lord of all creation working with him, will be a fulfillment of the worst fears of ancient people: chaos will come again.
Next time: The Ten Plagues and God's Mighty Hand