Many years ago, I shared the teaching responsibility of a men’s Bible study. The entire church was interrupted by the Pastor, who felt we needed to walk everyone through Rick Warren’s The Story, a pathetic overview of the Bible. You would be right if you got the sense that I was disgusted. Since we each had a copy of this book, I made some notes that might assist me in teaching and put them on my website. This was posted in 2014 when I did not use the Grammarly program to check my grammar. After a recent check of my statistics, I saw that someone had pulled up this excessive rant, prompting me to fix it. If you invested the time to read all 18 pages, I am chopping this up and extending it by one chapter.
Because “The Story” covers many subjects quickly, it is difficult to do a focused bible study when dealing with many topics over 11 chapters. That being said, I will attempt to focus on one aspect at a time.
God creates heaven and earth
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” (Genesis 1:1 LSV)
(The Literal Standard version italicized the word “the” as it was added for continuity. Removal of such a simple word tends to show that the creation was a process, and we are still involved in that process until the end of the 1000-year reign.)
Why is it important to know how things began?
Perhaps because it shows original intent, or, once everything goes bad, it demonstrates that the creator has a plan.
God creates man in his own image, blesses him
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness! Let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the flying creatures of the sky, over the livestock, over the whole earth, and over every crawling creature that crawls on the land.”
(Genesis 1:26 TLV)
Several things dominate this passage.
“Then God said,”
Ah, but to whom?
If we work off the assumption that God, like Allah, is a standalone entity, then this makes no sense. The writer has to be referring to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Knowing that I am writing these notes to followers of Christ, then it seems safe to believe that you understand that God is a triune entity and that Jesus Christ – the Word of God – has made himself known to us in the body of a man.
“Let us make man in our image, in our likeness”
In unity, from the beginning of time, there have been three.
How does that affect how I understand creation?
It does not unless, as I consider what the image of God was, I began to understand that this has little to do with a physical body and is focused more on the character and attributes of the creator.
The Apostle John makes it very clear that Jesus was right there in the beginning.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
Jesus indicates that the Holy Spirit was there.
“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2 KJV
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me:”
(John 15:26 KJV)
As for making “man in our image, and likeness.”
Paul wrote, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, about man when he said,
“…You were created to be like God, and so you must please him and be truly holy.” (Ephesians 4:24 CEV)
The Hebrew word for image tselem – conveys multiple possibilities. Tseh’-lem – From an unused root meaning to shade; a phantom, that is, (figuratively) illusion, resemblance; hence a representative figure, especially an idol:
If man was only a shadow, then he is not an exacting duplicate of God but a mere representation, something that vaguely resembles the creator. Seeing as man is made in all three aspects (shade, resemblance, and representative figure), how could you pin down one specific thing to define what the man looked like without a body.
The point to this, the overarching theme I see here, is that God created someone that was so much like him that it would be ridiculous to think that this man did not walk in constant communication with the Father.
I am stunned by God as he opens my eyes, and I begin to see things I have never seen before. Examples of this would be: Jesus, the last Adam, created in the image of God, and untainted by the sin prevalent in the world, walked this earth, in full view of the disciples, in perfect communion with the Father. The other is Enoch. Enoch learned how to walk in perfect harmony with the Father and walked off the earth. This freedom of communication is the atmosphere that Adam was placed in.
The book, The Story asks the question:
Why did God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden?
One of the things that run through my mind as I look at the events of man’s creation is: if the human is so closely and intimately made in God’s image and apparently placed here so that God would have someone to talk with, what separates us, and makes us something other than mere slaves?
The answer to that question has freedom written all over it.
We are free to choose whom we will love and how we will respond when love is shown to us. The other side of this coin is how God will continue to respond to us, even when we break off communication.
Man had complete knowledge of good, for that is part of the character of God, as is love, but he had no knowledge of bad; there was nothing inhibiting or tainting man’s relationship with the creator.
So man was free to exhibit love toward God or ignore Him. Certainly, the fruit of that tree was a test, but what you don’t see or know is how many years were they able to ignore it?
Man is placed in the garden, and the fruit of the tree of knowledge is the only forbidden thing.
“Then Adonai Elohim took the man and gave him rest in the Garden of Eden in order to cultivate and watch over it. (16) Then Adonai Elohim commanded the man saying, “From all the trees of the garden, you are most welcome to eat. (17) But of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you must not eat. For when you eat from it, you most assuredly will die!” Genesis 2:15-17 TLV
Man only has one demand placed upon him; do not eat the fruit of that tree!
Does it get any better than this?
Well, yes. Having an intimate union with God is, even in God’s mind, not enough, and so God made a woman for him.
The serpent deceives Eve
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any creature of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Is it true that God has said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’ ” Genesis 3:1 AFV
My pastor recently said, “we don’t know where Adam was during this time.” Oh really!
Adam was standing right there, watching the entire process, hearing everything the dragon said, and never said a word in defiance.
“Now the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a thing of lust for the eyes, and that the tree was desirable for imparting wisdom. So she took of its fruit and she ate. She also gave to her husband who was with her and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made for themselves loin-coverings.” (Genesis 3:6-7 TLV)
Adam was very clear about what God had told him, and there were NO issues with his memory, and he is alone with the animals. Adam, in time, of course, after she was cloned from his rib, told Eve about the only rule they had, and there is no doubt in my mind she understood what he said and where that information came from. But keep in mind that deception is a twisting of the truth, and those who are not established in their relationship with the Father seem to be the quickest to fall.
How does that explain Adam being sucked into this?
It does not, but what it does demonstrate is that God has to be consistent with His actions. (We will see God demonstrating His intent and character throughout the Old Testament. He says to both Noah and then Abram. God typically said “as for me,” indicating that no matter what happens, I will uphold my end of this contract.)
I have heard pathetic explanations about the fall of man in the garden, told in so many perverted ways, and none of them make any sense to me.
Adam has, at this point, demonstrated selfishness and defiance for the first time, and he did what he wanted. In contrast, Jesus told us that He only did what the Father told him. Think about the alternatives. Adam heard those words from God and knows full well that Eve will die, and he watched her bite wholeheartedly into that fruit without wincing.
Could God make another Eve, as He had made the first one?
Well, certainly, but there is a huge issue with the man trusting what the Father had said, and he had just demonstrated that he didn’t trust God anymore.
Here is a tainted human piece of logic. God, on the other hand, can use any or all methods of death to fulfill His promise; and lacking specific information, we do not know if Adam fully understood what those words concerning death meant.
Also, think about how it appears that nothing had ever been killed before God did it, and it might be an entirely new concept to them. For all Adam knows, she could merely drop dead in the next few seconds. Oh, they died, as both, immediately in their spirits, as the lights of this open communication with the Father went out, and they began to deteriorate immediately in ways they slowly began to perceive.
“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21 NASB)
Some, you would think, prefer an angry, vengeful God, and this would have been a good time for it, if that was his character, but he does not pour out His hot anger on them. What we do see is that God is entirely consistent with His nature and character, and this is something that we need to perceive as we read about the events of creation and the beginnings of man.
At this point (I may have seen this in “The Story,” but I indicated that it was a caption from the NIV. I have four versions of the NIV, and none of them say this.), the next segment shows God arraigning them as though they had been convicted in a criminal court.
Watch what happens, and I will show you differently.
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”
(Genesis 3:8-10 TNIV)
God is not arraigning anyone. In fact, He is acting completely within his unchangeable character; He is acting in love toward that, which is a replica of him, and showing them respect; but there is one huge change, and the only ones demonstrating the effects of the change that sin brought, is His creation as suddenly the man, who had been naked and not ashamed, is now hiding, not only from God but from each other as well.
“And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis 3:11 TNIV)
I fully expect Adam to understand what is being said because God spoke directly to the man. But it is a peculiar statement, at best, if God did not expect Eve to know the rules. You see, the problem is that He did expect her to know, not like an angry father, who expected you to somehow absorb his thought processes. God told Adam, who had dominion over the earth and was, therefore, God’s representative here on earth, and Adam conveyed this information to Eve. As far as God was concerned, she had been told, and there could be no excuses. Well, that sounds harsh, and if it was like that, then a full and brutal punishment would be in order; but that IS NOT what God did. He showed mercy, grace, and punishment by upholding His word.
I suppose many generations of misunderstanding and tradition have taught us that God is always ready to strike us down, but what if what we see here is God merely asking questions and reasonable questions at that. (Try to maintain one clear thing here, you are not getting anything past God, and He already knows the answer before He asks, so lying is not an appropriate response.)
Did Eve just stand there dumbfounded as she listened to God’s word to them?
We do not know, but the hesitation allowed for the newly found damage to manifest in Adam when He said:
“The man answered, “That woman, the one you gave me, gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12 GW)
Well, that was pathetic. Now we see something close to what I deem anger.
One of the things you cannot deny is that God can and does get angry, but at whom?
The serpent is cursed
“So the LORD God said to the snake, “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all the wild or domestic animals. You will crawl on your belly. You will be the lowest of animals as long as you live.” (Genesis 3:14 GW)
There is good news and bad news.
The promised seed
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel.” [Gal. 4:4.]
(Genesis 3:15 AMP)
Enmity? Webster’s dictionary tells us that it is “The quality of being an enemy; the opposite of friendship; ill will; hatred; unfriendly dispositions; malevolence.”
In short, Satan hates us.
“But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law.”
(Galatians 4:4 MSG)
None of this caught God by surprise.
How would you have played a game of chess, over a period of years, with such vast dimensions, all the way out to the last winning move, without putting tremendous thought into it?
(It is possible that God had this all mapped out in his head in seconds.)
Giving His “representative figure” the freedom to make choices almost makes you think that there had to have been an alternate plan, or was this the plan from the very beginning. Apparently, God did not intend to let such a destructive force run havoc, not against Him and His creation for all eternity; that would have been contrary to the original design and out of character.
While there may be a good chewing out going on here, there is also the God I have come to understand, giving Eve the hope that her seed will be the one that brings the enemy his defeat.
The new way of life Adam and Eve brought upon themselves will soon be filled with pain, murder, jealousy, and the promise of hope, much like the covenant God made with Abraham.
Expelled from paradise, the repercussions of man’s selfishness permeated everything, and the death clock immediately began counting down; under the limitations of that clock and now recorded time, two sons are born.
There are many horrid aspects to consider.
The outcome of their sin that God continues to discuss: such as pain in childbirth and Adam now having to toil to get the land to produce. But I refuse to believe that they did not have an understanding of what God was talking about when he speaks of crushing and bruising or as He kills the animals necessary to make the clothing they needed. God made clothing for them. He did it in such a manner that they, too, would know-how and understand the implications behind what He did. This is not made explicit in scripture, but enough clues are given that allow us to ascertain what God did, for in a short time, we will see both Cain and Abel making sacrifices. One son does it right and is accepted, and the other turns his jealousy inward, with a devastating result.
Thank you for your like of my post, “Our Church.” Your kindness is humbling. Blessings to you,
Senior Pastor/Equipping the Saints
Philip 3:10, “That I May Know Him”