Humanity’s Relationship with God, Part 2 (The Covenant & the Cross #31)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 3:6-7 which reads: “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible edited by theologian R.C. Sproul:

Their consciences condemning them, Adam and Eve shrank from the intimacy with God they formerly enjoyed in the garden. Their expulsion from it matches their attitudes and actions. Though omniscient, God accommodates His speech to human limitations. Here the question induces them to come to Him. Ironically, the word translated ‘heard’ is also a Hebrew idiom for ‘obeyed’—precisely what Adam did not do.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from A.W. Tozer. He said: “The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”

Our topic for today is titled: “Humanity’s Relationship with God (Part 2)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

We learn that the broken relationship between man and God is known as “spiritual death.” We have tried to show the key feature that distinguishes humans from animals. Both have physical bodies. Both also have an immaterial part, nephesh in Hebrew, that is often translated “soul.” The nephesh seems to be the nonphysical part of both humans and animals that makes them living beings. Passages such as Leviticus 17:11 associate this nephesh with the blood. This feature puts both humans and animals in distinction to plants, which have a different type of life, one without blood and thus without a nephesh. Associated with this soul are such common features as mind, emotions, and will.

Unlike the animals, however, humans have another nonphysical aspect, which is called ruach or “spirit.” This term is more difficult define. If animals have mind, emotions, and will, then the distinctiveness of humans does not lie there. It is clear that there are qualitative differences between the mind, emotions, and will of humans as opposed to animals. For example, only humans have abstract reasoning ability. However, these qualitative differences alone do not explain how humans differ from animals. The distinction lies in the contact with the spiritual realm. Only humans have a spiritual dimension, which places them in a category with other spiritual beings, including angels and God.

But humans are not clearly cognizant of those other spiritual beings for two reasons. First, we are also physical; and second, we have died spiritually. The spirit of man died as he was separated from God in the Fall. Although Adam and Eve died spiritually, they did not lose their spirit. Rather, the spirit may be viewed as having collapsed upon itself so that it no longer is a channel of communication with God, but rather is a self-focused center. This notion correlates with what Pascal described as a “God-shaped vacuum.” As such, it now distorts each person’s view of life. The effect may be similar to how a black hole in outer space sucks in light so that the view of its entire neighborhood is distorted. Each person is born with what may be termed an egocentric reality — a view of life distorted by self.

Humans now fear God, although their fear is often disguised as disdain. At the same time, they intuitively recognize the reality of God and their need for Him. So, as Paul discusses in Romans 1:18-32, humans still have a religion, but it is one in which they worship the creature rather than the Creator. Consequently, even today, people try to hide from God, although their methods are more sophisticated than those of Adam and Eve.

The Old Testament, however, also anticipates the coming of the Messiah. For a person who has received Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit becomes the medium of communication with God and thus effectively replaces the dead human spirit, filling that God-shaped vacuum.

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Humanity’s Relationship with God, Part 1 (The Covenant & the Cross #30)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 3:6-7 which reads: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible edited by theologian R.C. Sproul: “Sin is essentially man’s failure to trust in God, an act or state of unbelief, an assertion of autonomy. True religion consists of communion with God based on trust and issuing into obedience. Eve’s decision was based on practical values, aesthetic appreciation, and intellectual gratification. Through the Fall, man becomes a rebel: surrounded with sufficient motives to trust and obey God, he chooses disobedience against God. Salvation depends entirely upon the Lord, not the rebel. By God’s appointment, Adam represented the race as its federal head and brought death upon all. He also represents, as a model and prototype, mankind’s hostility against God.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from C.S. Lewis. He said: “In most parts of the Bible, everything is implicitly or explicitly introduced with “Thus saith the Lord”. It is not merely a sacred book but a book so remorselessly and continuously sacred that it does not invite — it excludes or repels — the merely aesthetic approach. You can read it as literature only by a tour de force… It demands incessantly to be taken on its own terms: it will not continue to give literary delight very long, except to those who go to it for something quite different. I predict that it will in the future be read, as it always has been read, almost exclusively by Christians.”

Our topic for today is titled: “Humanity’s Relationship with God (Part 1)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

Because of its consequences, the Fall may be regarded as the most significant event in the history of the world. First, the Fall hurt every relationship in which every person in history has been involved. This includes relationships with God, fellow humans, their environment, and even themselves. Second, as a result of the Fall, there have been several judgments on humankind. The most significant was the Flood, which drastically rearranged our entire environment, producing a new climate and affecting the geological record. Third, because of the Fall, God provided a means of reconciliation that involved the incarnation of Jesus the Messiah and His crucifixion and resurrection. These three consequences intertwine to provide the theme for the entire Bible.

The first and most important relationship broken was that between humankind and God. We recall from our overview of Genesis 1 three key aspects of the original relationship. First, man was a created being and was finite — made specially by the same God who made the rest of the universe. We think of humankind as the pinnacle of creation, so it is very humbling to realize that we are made of the same physical material as the universe in which we dwell. Still, when humankind was created, God declared that the result was “very good.” Second, humankind was a unique creation, specifically described as being in the image of God. What this term means is somewhat uncertain, but there are aspects that we can pick up through studying various descriptions of God and humankind (that is, through theology).

First, Scripture distinctly states that this phrase applies to both male and female. Beyond this, we might note that humans are spiritual beings, which distinguishes them from animals. A number of other traits might be observed, including rational and abstract thinking ability, a will, creativity, verbal communication, and a sense of humor. While other aspects can be suggested, these suffice to point out that humankind is unique. Third, man had a special relationship with God that involved cognitive communication. God put Adam in charge of the garden and gave him commands to carry out. Adam was presented with the animals and gave them names that reflected their character.

The narrative suggests that, on a daily basis, Adam had communion with God as he walked through the garden. Many theologians believe that when God appeared during Old Testament times in human form (a “theophany”), it was a manifestation of the second person of the Trinity, the Son, who would become incarnate as Jesus the Messiah thousands of years later in history. This special relationship with God is key to the brokenness of the Fall.

After Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (which was not an apple, whatever it was), their first reaction was to make fig-leaf coverings because they were naked. It would seem that at least part of what is addressed is their new feeling of guilt and shame, which resulted from their disobedience. Then, when God appeared in the garden, they hid. When God asked them why, they admitted that they now feared God. Not only was the relationship broken, but fear had replaced the earlier openness and trust.

The Relationships of Creation, Part 3 (The Covenant & the Cross #29)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 2:15-17 which reads: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible edited by theologian R.C. Sproul: Man was to find fulfillment, not in idleness, but in a life of rewarding labor in obedience to God’s command. The Hebrew behind the term “keep it” also entails the notion of protecting it against enemies. God’s first words to man assume his ability to choose and his moral capacity and responsibility.This unique exclusion — “thou shalt not eat of it” — is an exception to man’s dominion over the creation, confronted him with the Creator’s rule over him.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He said: “Some people like to read so many [Bible] chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather lay my soul asoak in half a dozen verses all day than rinse my hand in several chapters. Oh, to be bathed in a text of Scripture, and to let it be sucked up in your very soul, till it saturates your heart!”

Our topic for today is titled: “The Relationships of Creation (Part 3)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

We have made three observations about the world as it was originally made.

  1. It had a temperate climate.
  2. Adam and Eve had a vegetarian diet.
  3. Adam and Eve did not fight weeds, thorns, and thistles.

Here are 3 more observations about the world as it was originally made:

1. Adam and Eve had a close relationship with God. Apparently every evening, they walked through the garden with God. I sometimes try to imagine what one of those walks would have been like, and the best I can come up with is Adam and Eve telling God what they had seen and learned that day. In my imagination, their times together had the freshness and excitement of a five-year-old telling her daddy what she learned in school.

2. Adam and Eve had a close relationship with one another. Eve was designed to complement her husband perfectly. Their strengths meshed and supported one another — and they knew it. As a result, there was no jealousy or competition as they worked together to do the job that God had given them.

3. Adam and Eve managed only a small part of the globe. How big was the garden? That is a question for which I have no answer. The text clearly indicates that it was a section of the world that had been specially planted in preparation for Adam. The implication was that the management zone would increase as the world population increased. The text also suggests that there were special animals in the garden that Adam named, but again we are not sure what this means. Clearly the garden was finite and relatively small, because after the Fall, they were expelled and the gates were guarded by cherubim. Given the extensive global remodeling implied by the Flood, I suspect the location of the garden is now a moot point.

When we look at the Fall, we will find that it points to four key areas of relationship that were broken. These broken relationships have left the world in the miserable shape we find it in today. Our attempt to understand what the world was like before those relationships were broken is somewhat analogous to our efforts to appreciate the beauty of classical Athens based on piecing together in our minds the ruined remnants. They will be unsatisfactory at best.

The Relationships of Creation, Part 2 (The Covenant & the Cross #28)

[audio https://www.buzzsprout.com/25444/205274-the-relationships-of-creation-part-2-the-covenant-the-cross-28.mp3]

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 2:8-9 which reads: “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible edited by theologian R.C. Sproul: “The garden represented a sanctuary where God invites humanity to enjoy fellowship and peace with Him. Cherubim protect the garden’s sanctity so that sin and death will be excluded. Faith and obedience are prerequisites for living in this place of special communion with God. The origin of the term ‘Eden’ is disputed; it may derive from an Accadian term meaning ‘plain’ or ‘prairie,’ or from the Hebrew term meaning ‘pleasure’ or ‘delight’ (from which the association of Eden with the term ‘paradise’ derives). Eden was apparently the region in which the garden was located. The mention of Assyria and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers indicates a location east of Palestine in Mesopotamia.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Henry Ward Beecher. He said: “Sink the Bible to the bottom of the ocean, and still man’s obligations to God would be unchanged. He would have the same path to tread, only his lamp and guide would be gone; the same voyage to make, but his chart and compass would be overboard!”

Our topic for today is titled: “The Relationships of Creation (Part 2)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

Based on the data we have, we can make these observations about the world as it was originally made:

1. It had a temperate climate. We base this inference on several bits of data. First, as is commonly known, Adam and Eve were naked prior to the Fall. If we assume that physically they were similar to modern man and woman (although without any of the physical weaknesses to which we are prone), this detail suggests a moderate climate. In addition, we note that there was no rain before the Flood: a mist was adequate to provide water. Finally, we observe that seasons were originally noted by the stars, and we do not see cold and heat associated with the seasons until after the Flood.

2. Adam and Eve had a vegetarian diet. At the outset, they were told they could eat from “every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.” It was not until after the Flood that Noah and his descendants were told that they should eat meat.

3. Adam and Eve did not fight weeds, thorns, and thistles. These items are a result of the Fall. The lack of weeds suggests a garden where every plant grew in its place, and that place was determined by Adam. The lack of thorns and thistles suggests a lack of what we call defense mechanisms.

On our next broadcast, we will look at three more observations about the world as it was originally made.

The Order and Structure of Creation, Part 2 (The Covenant & the Cross #26)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 2:3-4 which reads: “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible edited by theologian R.C. Sproul: “The seventh day is the first thing in the Torah to which God imparts His holiness and so sets apart to Himself. It summons mankind to imitate the pattern of the King and so to confess God’s lordship and their consecration to Him. This sign of a covenant with God and type of Christ gives promise of divine rest both now and forever.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Charles Dickens. He said: “The New Testament is the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world.”

Our topic for today is titled: “The Order and Structure of Creation (Part 2)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

If we consider the perspective of the Israelites at Sinai, we can see that the writer’s purpose was to show how God created the various aspects of creation, beginning with the concept of light and ultimately ending in the creation of man, described as both male and female. The order presented seems to be chronological, although there are still serious questions of how the specific details of these aspects fit together (e.g., the nature of the “expanse” in Gen. 1:6-7 or the creation of light prior to the creation of light sources). These questions remain, regardless of what view one takes on the subject.

Consequently, we will merely note that there are two key truths that we should derive from this section. The most important truth is that God created the universe and that He did so in an orderly process, and the result was very good. As such, this says much about the awesomeness of God; He is greater than anything we can imagine. His greatness is evident in the macrocosm as we look through powerful telescopes and see stars and galaxies. It is also evident in the microcosm, as we delve into living cells and discover how intricately they are put together. As I look at the creation and the wide variety of living creatures, I am also struck by the wisdom of God and even by His sense of humor. Perhaps the most important aspect of this whole process, however, is the fact that humankind is also a creation of God.

The second truth is that from the outset humankind has been given a key position of responsibility within the created universe. This position is one of world management or stewardship. Included in the command to take care of the world are both genders (male and female) and the anticipated numerous offspring of the first couple. The summary statement in Genesis 1:27 that humankind is created male and female is amplified in Genesis 2. Moreover, this created couple is commanded to multiply and fill the earth—and given the authority to manage it.

With the creation of humankind, God declared that the creation was “very good,” and the text states that He rested. God’s rest was based on the completion of the creation process, and in turn it became the foundation for a Sabbath rest for humankind.

The Order and Structure of Creation, Part 1 (The Covenant & the Cross #25)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 1:31 – 2:2 which reads: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.“

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible edited by theologian R.C. Sproul: “This concluding summary statement underscores that the Creator perfectly executed His will. The creation cycle was completed on the sixth day and God rested on the seventh, providing man with a model for the cycle of labor and rest. No mention is made of “evening and morning” here, perhaps because the Sabbath ordinance continues and man is exhorted to participate in it, and to look forward to the eternal redemptive sabbath rest.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Martin Luther. He said: “I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the scriptures do not reign paramount.”

Our topic for today is titled: “The Order and Structure of Creation (Part 1)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

I have suggested, on the basis of the toledot structure, that Genesis 1 is an introduction. As such, its function is to briefly answer the question, Where did the world come from? It does so in thirty-four verses, and virtually every reader comes away from that section wanting to know more. However, it is clear that the writer does not intend to give us the detail we would like to have. His purpose is merely to show that the entire cosmos is created, and that it is God who is the source. The brevity of the material has led to tremendous controversy even among those who claim to take the Bible as a document inspired by God. There is not enough time to sort out all of the issues; therefore, we will merely make several observations.

As we look at Genesis 1, we see a carefully laid out process of creation, though it is expressed in very broad brush strokes. This process consists of seven stages, the last stage being completion, the Sabbath rest of God.

These stages are portrayed as seven days, a description that has created much controversy. On the one hand, we have a text that seems to give a very explicit time frame. On the other hand, we have scientific data that seems to show that the universe is much older than a literal seven-day creation would allow. A variety of approaches have been taken in an attempt to resolve this disparity.

One group dismisses the Genesis account as purely mythological, or perhaps, at best, poetry. According to those who hold this view, the account is to be viewed as a “prescientific” attempt to explain the origin of the world. If one follows this view, the entire account can be dismissed as a poetic way of saying that God created the universe, and the “days” are mere literary devices used by the writer to give structure.

Another view notes that the Hebrew word for “day” can also mean an extended period of time. Those who hold this view look at the various physical phenomena used to date the universe, such as its vastness and the amount of time it would take for the light from distant galaxies to reach us. Taking these and other factors into account, they propose a long period of development that would allow God to use various tools, such as evolution, to produce the world we have today.

A third group argues that we should take the account as a straightforward presentation. Those who hold this view observe that the word day with a number as used elsewhere in the Old Testament refers only to a literal day. They argue that all of the methods used to measure the age of the universe are based on various assumptions, which may or may not be valid. Moreover, the Bible suggests that the universe was fully functioning from the beginning of its creation, which implies that it already had an appearance of age, just as Adam had the appearance of a mature man the moment he was created. Another argument used is the statement that God rested on the seventh day, which is difficult to fit into a long chronology.

The problem we have to address is that God is beyond space-time and thus not limited by our criteria. Would God be dishonest to create a fully functioning finished product if in doing so there was an “appearance of age”? On the other hand, when we look at the heavens and see how great the cosmos is, must we limit its history to a few thousand years? Then again, must God be restricted to using “natural” physical cause-and-effect processes such as evolution in the creation process? Unfortunately, even in Christian circles, there has been much name-calling as we have tried to evaluate these complex issues. While these questions are very relevant to the study of this book, they are not issues that can be resolved here.

The Two Creation Accounts (The Covenant & the Cross #24)

[audio https://www.buzzsprout.com/25444/201544-the-two-creation-accounts-the-covenant-the-cross-24.mp3]

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 1:1-2 which reads: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 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.“

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck:

“The account of Creation is the logical starting point for Genesis, for it explains the beginning of the universe. These verses have received much attention in connection with science; this is to be expected. But the passage is a theological treatise as well, for it lays a foundation for the rest of the Pentateuch. In writing this work for Israel, Moses wished to portray God as the Founder and Creator of all life. The account shows that the God who created Israel is the God who created the world and all who are in it. Thus the theocracy is founded on the sovereign God of Creation. That nation, her Law, and her customs and beliefs all go back to who God is. Israel would here learn what kind of God was forming them into a nation.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Daniel Webster. He said: “If there is anything in my thoughts or style to commend, the credit is due to my parents for instilling in me an early love of the Scriptures.”

Our topic for today is titled: “The Two Creation Accounts” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

The first two chapters of Genesis contain some of the most controversial material in the Bible. Until the mid-1800s, most scholars viewed these two chapters as a straightforward cosmology, that is, a description of the origin and structure of the universe. Since then, many scholars have abandoned that view. Today, most people in our culture look to geology or astronomy textbooks to find an explanation of how the world came into existence and how, over time, today’s world came to be.

In terms of biblical studies, the primary cause for this change was the work of German scholar Julius Wellhausen, who published his “Prolegomena to the History of Israel” in 1878. In this book, Wellhausen picked up on the ideas of another German scholar, Karl Graf, regarding how Genesis 1 and 2 fit together. Wellhausen was able to develop Graf’s ideas into a coherent theory and make it popular. In the process, he made a number of assumptions, which we discussed in the introduction. The heart of this theory (often called the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis) was that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch (especially Genesis); therefore, what we call the Pentateuch today was a compilation of various documents from a variety of sources. Graf and Wellhausen identified four sources: J (from Jahwe, German for Yahweh), E (from the Hebrew word for God, Elohim), D (from Deuteronomy, which was viewed as a separate work added at the end), and P (a source written by priests to justify their existence). Because of these four sources, the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis is also sometimes called the JEDP theory. This way of looking at the Bible is also called “source criticism” (i.e., critically examining the text to find its literary origins).

It had earlier been observed that in Genesis 1 the word Elohim is used consistently to refer to God. Beginning with Genesis 2:4, in contrast, we find the phrase YHWH-Elohim (translated as “the LORD God”). Some scholars concluded that the two sections were written by two different authors, which would explain the various differences in the way the creation process is described. More recent scholarship, however, has shown that these assumptions are not valid. Moreover, when we look at the terms used for God, we find an interesting distinction.

Elohim. This name, which is used in Genesis 1:1-2:3, is the plural of EL. It is usually viewed as a “plural of majesty.”‘ As used throughout the OT, the term reflects the transcendence of God, that is, His separation from and superiority over creation.’ As used in Genesis 1:1-2:3, which discusses the order and structure of creation, it points out the power and majesty of the transcendent Creator God.

YHWH (Yahweh). This name is apparently derived from the Hebrew verb “hayah”, “to be,” and thus related to the phrase translated “I Am.” As such, it denotes the eternally existing quality of God and emphasizes the personal, eternal, and all-sufficient aspects of God’s nature and character. But as used throughout the rest of the Old Testament, this term also shows the relational aspect of God. When we note how it is used in Genesis 2:4-4:26, we see a section that emphasizes the relationships of creation, especially between God and man. Here the name YHWH points toward the covenant God who is immanent (that is, within creation). Interestingly, in the part of Genesis 2 known as the “second creation account,” it is used as a compound term, YHWH-Elohim, pointing to a God who is both transcendent and relational.

Once we realize how these names are used for different purposes to reflect different roles of God, we begin to have a better feel for the structure of Genesis 1 and 2. In chapter 1, where the title Elohim is used consistently, we are given an overview of God as the Great Creator who is outside of creation. The description of the act of creation here is straightforward and matter-of-fact. In chapter 2, where the name YHWH is used, we see in contrast a focus on man and his relationship to the rest of creation as well as to his Creator. This distinction is even more evident when we observe that this second account is arranged topically rather than chronologically.