Reflections: Obedience and Worship (Genesis 2:15-17)

Welcome back to Reflections. Last week we looked at Genesis 1 and how being made in God’s image impacts our worship. I also mentioned that we try to hide the parts of God’s image that make us uncomfortable. We have a tendency to highlight His love while veiling His holiness and justice.

This week’s reflection will take us into Genesis 2 and it challenges my perception of what a loving God looks like.

In Genesis 2:8-9, God plants a garden and in that garden we find “every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food, the tree of life is also in the midst of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Then there are a few verses about rivers and precious stones, before we come to Genesis 2:15-17.

Here we read this:

15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;

17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

Genesis 2:15-17 (NAS)

So how does this challenge my perception of a loving God? Well, lets break it down. In verse 15 we see that God gives Adam a job, or a command, “cultivate the garden and keep it”. Considering that this garden is the source of Adam’s food, and there’s even a “Tree of Life” in the garden, this seems like a pretty good deal. No issue there.

In verse 16 God gives Adam freedom to eat from whatever tree he wants to eat from. Great!

But wait, in verse 17 there is one exception: don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you do, you will DIE.

Hold on.

God put Adam in a garden, told him to maintain it, and then said “oh, by the way, one of the trees will kill you if you eat from it”

That doesn’t make much sense. As a soon to be father, when I think of loving my wife and child I think of keeping them as far away from danger as possible.

But here we are, an all loving, all powerful, all knowing God, giving Adam the job of cultivating and keeping the very tree that could (and does) lead to his death.

There’s a mystery here that we need to wrestle with.

Here are some things that stand out to me:

First, the stakes are high. Following God’s commands leads to life, while disobedience leads to death.

Second, sometimes God calls His children to dangerous jobs. He hasn’t promised an easy path.

Third, if we show that we love God by obeying His commands (John 14:15) then what we see here is God providing Adam with the opportunity to not love Him. For some reason, the type of worship that God is asking Adam to provide includes the possibility of worshiping something else.

Here is the crucial lesson we need to learn. We are always worshiping something. When we are obedient to God’s commands we are proclaiming that He is Lord, that He is worthy to rule over our lives. When we disobey His commands we are asserting that something else, whether it is a “serpent” or our own desires, is more deserving of obedience.

For those of us who have sinned, this should scare us. How many times have we proclaimed that something else is more deserving of worship than our Creator? And if we, God’s image bearers, are proclaiming that something else is God what should God do with that image? If we take the illustration from last week, if the statue in the center of town is proclaiming that someone else is king what should the true king do with that statue?

If he does nothing then the villagers will be misled, they won’t know who the king is.

That means that the true king must destroy the statue. If Adam eats from the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, thus proclaiming that something or someone else is God, then he needs to die. If God is the source of love, life, satisfaction, and all things good then it would be unloving to allow such an image to lead others elsewhere.

In this situation God would display His perfect love by removing the misleading image.

In wrestling with verse 17 I now see that a loving God would stand against evil.

But as we’ll see in Genesis 3, Adam doesn’t immediately die… at least physically… why is that?

It’s because God sees another way. Restoration.

Instead of immediately destroying the misleading images, God goes about the work of restoring them. Adam, Eve, me, you, we’ve all proclaimed that something else is God. Yet the very God that we rebel against washes us clean, smooths out the rough, self inflicted chisel wounds, and reattaches the parts that we discarded in pursuit of our own gods. He does this through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, so that all who believe that He is Lord may have eternal life, forever proclaiming that God is God.

Songwriting Takeaways

  • Somethings are a mystery that we need to wrestle with. Don’t be afraid to wrestle with these topics through song. If you don’t understand something, ask God “why”… maybe someone else is asking the same question. See the Psalms, like Psalm 13, for some good examples of songs that wrestle.
  • When we picture a loving God we need to see His love standing against evil. Yes, His love is comforting to His children but it is also terrifying to His foes. Check your lyrics, does your loving God stand against evil?
  • We cannot fully appreciate the depth of Christ’s sacrifice until we understand what He saved us from. This leads to a natural, and powerful song form where the verses confess our sinfulness but the chorus proclaims how Christ overcomes.

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