Opening Prayer: Father, open my eyes to see You. Change my heart to want You and Your company more than I want the blessings You can give me.
Relating to God:
What Went Wrong?And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" Genesis 3:11
This lessons covers the essentials:
It will also help you to do the very first tutorial, "Foundations for Relationships," before this one, if you haven't already. Many concepts appear repeatedly in the course of these tutorials, and these concepts will make more sense if you take the lessons in order.
- What is God like, as a person?
- How does He feel about humans in general and me in particular?
- What does He expect from me?
Let's begin at the beginning: Genesis 1:1In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.
Can you spot something about God that makes Him different from you and me? And can you figure out the criteria for His being God?
He has the power to create. The Hebrew word for create is "bara" -- to create from nothing. That power, alone, is enough to make Him God.
God is the Boss, and nobody has the power to tell Him otherwise. He had the power to exist before anything else existed, and had the power to create everything else.
Couldn't there be other criteria for being God? What if I put my hands on my hips and say that I don't believe in God because I'm not happy with this unpleasant circumstance or that -- does that change the criteria for determining who's God?
I doubt it.
What if I stand up and say that it isn't FAIR to make me believe in a God who allows me to experience troubles that aren't my fault -- isn't that a FAIR thing to say?
In our household, "fair" was the "F-word." We told our kids that something was either right or wrong. We could discuss what was right or wrong, and we could look stuff up in the Bible if they didn't believe me. But our kids grew up knowing that "fair" was not a basis for deciding whether something was right or wrong.
OK, I've got it now! What if I pout and say that I'm not gonna follow God because "a kind, loving, good God would not have allowed" this or that to happen -- surely God will be really impressed by my reasoning, right?You're probably not impressed by that line of reasoning. I'll bet my shirt that He's not impressed, either.
God does not have to live up to my expectations of what a "good, loving God" should be. My expectations elevate my wants and perspective above whatever God may have in mind, and automatically find God coming short and being unworthy.
God has the power. He does not need to be kind or loving in order to be God. He does not need approval from me (or you) in order to exist. Amazingly enough, though, other Scriptures suggest that God is a kind, lovable sort -- even though a bit peculiar by California standards. God certainly would not be considered "politically correct." And neither should you, although that's an entirely different subject.
So how do we go about relating to this God? Could He possibly be interested in how we feel about Him? Does He even know we exist? Does He care how we're doing?
Genesis 1:3-4:Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good...
Verse 10:And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
If you have a Bible handy, open it up now and count how many times you see some derivative of the phrase "it was good" between here and the end of Chapter One.
If you don't have a Bible handy, I'll just tell you: the phrase occurs in verses 12, 18, 21, 25 and 31. In fact, in verse 31 we see:Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.
What does this tell you about God's work habits? Would you hire somebody like this to landscape your new house? To invest your nest egg? To borrow your car?
Good help is hard to find...
Let's backtrack, for a moment, to verse 26:Then God said, "Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that moves upon the earth."
What portion of man was created in God's image?
It doesn't say. But I'll bet it was/is worth having.
What important factor in fellowship do we find here?Shared traits, and some capacity to relate to each other. This is first and foremost. For more detail, see the previous tutorial.
Moving on to Genesis Chapter 2, verses 8, 9 and 15:The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food... Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
Did God just create man, like a zoo specimen, to be kept in a cage for His amusement?
For some reason, God had a plan for Adam and Eve to exercise authority and responsibility.
What do these verses tell you about God's concern for Adam?
- God provided a delightful place for Adam to live, and this place provided trees, plants and animals to meet Adam's physical needs.
- God provided a location where He and Adam could meet and have fellowship.
- God did not intend Adam to be an ornamental person. He arranged things to provide just enough work, responsibility and authority for Adam to keep him busy and build up his self-esteem.
Did God put man in charge of the Garden of Eden because of his superior management skill and wisdom?
No. God just decided to, for reasons known best to Himself.
We introduced the concept of place in the last tutorial. As you may recall, unless two individuals share time and place together, it is hard for them to start or maintain a relationship. God not only created the place to meet with Adam, He consistently came to visit Adam in the most pleasant part of the day, as we'll see a bit later.
Let's stop and review some key points we've seen so far:
- God created man in His image, therefore with some capacity to relate to Him.
- God is a master craftsman, honest and competent. He has high standards and did good work. He still has high standards. He still does good work.
- God provided a PLACE specifically for the man, as a place for man and God to have fellowship and a place where man could get his physical needs met.
- God made man responsible for being a steward of the garden and its animals.
Now let's look at Genesis 2:15-17:And the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to tend it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die."
What other basis for fellowship do we see in this verse that we first discussed in the previous tutorial?
Shared boundaries, limits, rules for maintaining fellowship, and cautions to avoid the types of behavior that could end the fellowship.
So how many rules has God given Adam so far?
Just one: don't mess with this tree or it'll kill ya. Some folks might say two, since God did give Adam responsibility to care for the garden, but there weren't any penalties associated with that, and it never became an issue.
What kind of tree was that forbidden one? What color was the fruit? Was it a bush or a tall fruit tree? Was it a literal tree or just symbolic of some type of action, such as sex?The text doesn't elaborate on any of these issues, but the context suggests a literal tree. The key truths in this passage aren't affected by the answers to any of the questions.
Were there enough other trees to feed Adam and Eve?You bet. God planted them Himself.
God's plan gave Adam and Eve a lot of freedom. He provided for all their needs, and only asked for one thing in return -- that they avoid eating the fruit from a certain tree. Bottom line: They were secure (and immortal) as long as they kept one simple rule.
The next issue is actually a group of questions:
- Is God really interested in the lives of us insignificant mortals?
- Did God care if Adam and Eve kept the commandment or not?
- Does He care if we live moral lives or not?
- Does He care if our needs are met?
- Is God impossibly difficult to please?
- Does He ask us to do things harmful to ourselves?
We'll find answers to all these questions very soon.
Let's look at Genesis Chapter 3, verses 1 to 3:Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, "Can it be that God has said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'" And the woman said unto the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'"
Did Eve quote God correctly?
Close, but no cigar.
What did Eve leave out of the quote?
She didn't mention that God had emphatically said they could eat freely of all the other trees of the garden.
What did she add to the quote?
In the original command (Chapter 2 verses 16 and 17), God did NOT say anything about touching the fruit.
If God didn't add that part about touching the fruit, who did?
We don't know. Most likely, Adam added that part himself when he was telling Eve the rules of the garden. It is possible, though, that she mistook Adam's instruction "Don't touch that stuff!" for something direct from God.
These days, what do we call this type of extra baggage on a simple command of God?
Did Adam's "church tradition" make the commandment of God any easier to keep?
Nope. In fact, it made life twice as difficult, because now there are TWO commands, not one -- don't eat, and don't touch.
Do you suspect a pattern? What point about relating to God do you think I'm trying to make here?
Yes, there is a pattern. God Himself would like to keep it simple, and have us give Him quality time, not busy time. We, however, find it easier to busy ourselves with rules and rituals than to cultivate a personal relationship with God.
More on this later; let's get on with the story. Verses 4-5:And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die, for God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
The gloves are off, now. What hindrances to fellowship do you see in these verses?
- First, a different agenda or set of goals.
- Second, defaming the character of somebody who is not physically present in the room.
- Third, appeals to the vanity of the listeners.
- Fourth, a willingness to tell outright lies in order to accomplish a goal. This is sometimes called letting the end justify the means.
What were the specific lies of the serpent?They were:
- God lied to you.
- You surely cannot trust somebody who would act that way.
- You will not die. That's just religious superstition.
- God is jealous of His powers and prerogatives.
- God is trying to keep you from developing your true potential.
- You can be like God, since you have the potential to be as smart and as powerful.
- If you eat this stuff, you are going to get cosmic, supernatural knowledge.
- This knowledge will allow you to discover and use your innate divine knowledge and power.
Boy, these folks were sure ignorant, weren't they! Surely nobody with the intelligence and education of 20th Century Americans would believe that kind of logic! Or would they? Do they?
Well, I fell for it. Twenty-five years ago, I used to preach this type of message, and most folks assumed (correctly) that I was ignorant of what the Bible really says. (Fortunately, I didn't make many converts to my guru-of-the-day. Better yet, I finally swallowed my pride and read the complete Bible, cover to cover, trying to prove the Christians wrong with their own book. Try that yourself: read it through in a year -- 4 chapters per day -- and see what happens.)
Today, the politically correct popular culture is different. Nowadays, you can teach most of the bulleted points above in public schools -- under the guise of building pupil self-esteem. Supposedly, this is not religion -- it's self-realization methodology. But as you and I just saw, the main tenets of this methodology come from a rather curious source, and were originally prefaced by an invitation to study God's word. These teachings were and are an alternative religion inconsistent with God's word.
Let's continue with verses 6 and 7: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 its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband with her, and he ate. 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.
Well, folks, they ate the forbidden fruit. What knowledge did they gain?
They learned that they blew it. And they figured out how to make some pretty silly-looking clothes. If the serpent's theology was the first false religion, the fig leaves were the second. Adam and Eve knew they were guilty and tried to cover their guilt through their own efforts.
But what about the other stuff? Did Adam and Eve live forever? Did they become omniscient, omnipotent or omnipresent? Did they gain the knowledge of how to exercise God's creative power?Not so you'd notice. But they did make those cool aprons.
What effect did their new knowledge and power have on their relationship with God? Let's see in verses 8 to 13:And they heard the sound 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 among the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam and said unto him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree that I commanded you to not eat?" And the man said, "The woman that You gave to be with me -- she gave me of the tree and I ate." And the LORD God said unto the woman, "What is this that you have done?" And the woman said, "The serpent fooled me, and I ate."
Adam and Eve clearly portrayed three reactions to their sins. Can you figure out what they were?
Guilt, fear and hiding. Guilt: they knew they had made a big mistake. Fear: they were afraid of the consequences. Hiding: they were afraid to stand before the LORD God and bear the consequences of their actions.
Now that 20th Century man has become so educated, sophisticated and politically correct, what do you suppose the three most common reactions to sin are today?
Guilt, fear and hiding -- usually with a generous dose of denial thrown in for good measure.
What bushes do we try to hide behind today?
We try to rationalize away our guilt. We are afraid to admit that we have done anything wrong, especially since we are no worse than the next guy (whoever he is). And we often stuff the problem down, trying to ignore it with our conscious mind, hoping it will go away. We hide it so well, in fact, that it might take years for a counselor to sort it out, years later.
Isn't it great how the human race has become so much more sophisticated and civilized since Adam's day?Yeah. Sure. Much better.
Anyway, we all know that Adam and Eve indulged in some world- class blameshifting. Adam blamed Eve and God. Eve blamed the serpent and her own lack of sophistication (the serpent fooled me).
Might Eve have unwittingly told the first "blonde" joke? Eve may have been blonde, but what happens next is no joke.
Verses 16 to 19:Unto the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply your sorrow in childbirth; with pain you shall bring forth children, and your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you." And unto Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground for your sake. In sorrow shall you eat of it all the days of your life. It will bring forth thorns and thistles unto you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face shall you eat food, until you return unto the ground. For out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and unto dust you shall return."
Read and re-read those verses carefully, because life as they knew it suddenly became life as we know it.
So what's so different about the world/garden that God originally provided Adam and Eve? Wasn't it about like the world now? What was so different?
- God had given them life, liberty, a decent-paying job and a homestead in a quiet neighborhood.
- There were no earthquakes, no homeless families, no mortgage payments, no car repair bills, no illnesses, no deaths and no taxes.
- There was no need of attorneys and politicians because there was only one rule: "Don't eat that stuff. Eat freely of all this other stuff instead."
At this point, I expect somebody in the audience will stand up and shout, "That's terrible, God! That's not fair cursing Adam and Eve for such a tiny thing. How could a kind, loving God be that way to His own kids? I'm not going to believe in a God like that!"My initial response would be, "Good luck finding any other God who has this kind of power and absolutely no expectations of us. And using the 'fair'-word doesn't help."
Seriously, though, what can we learn about God from this?
- God loves and cares for us. After creating Adam and Eve and setting them up in the garden, He didn't wander off to create new universes or to meddle in the lives of the Martians. He stayed around and made Himself available to Adam and Eve every day.
- He has very high standards, not only in His workmanship but also in personal ethics and behavior.
- He favors giving us a small number of simple rules that we are capable of keeping.
- The rewards of obedience are considerable.
- Because of God's integrity, He must follow through and let us bear the consequences of our own disobedient actions.
So now the damage has been done, and we're still trying to figure out how to relate to God. Is there any hope? Do we have to become little gray drudges, stooped low under the burden of religious responsibilities? Is there anything at all we can do to restore some measure of our fellowship with God?
I'm glad you asked! God has never particularly liked religious drudges either. He likes people with some life to them. He has a better plan than hopelessness or religious drudgery. We'll see that in Lesson Four: What Went Right?
Closing Prayer: Lord, I can't pretend that my life has been free from guilt, fear, hiding, or religious drudgery. Prepare my heart to receive the Good News in its simplicity. Amen.