Yesterday we saw that God’s original intention for His world was to have a harmonious, loving community. God lived in union and harmony with man. Man lived in union and harmony with nature. Think about that for a minute. Has that been your general experience in the world? Does the mass of society live in loving harmony with God, with nature, and with each other? No. Why not? Think about this…fundamentally the concept of harmony doesn’t make sense. How can God — the life-giving, non-physical, unlimited, spiritual author of all things — live in harmony and intimacy with man — the physical, limited creature. How can man — the thinking, rational, verbally-communicating creation — live in harmony with the animals and plants — the instinctual, non-rational, non-verbally communicating creatures? Good question. If we analyze this question given our own experience and our own ability to perceive reality, it is impossible. We can’t see God with our eyes. Our brains can’t comprehend eternity. We can’t talk to animals or plants. In our experience we are limited and we are isolated from God and from nature. To the mass of humanity God is an enigma and nature is scary and a threat. And let’s face it, we are pretty isolated from each other as well. Even though we share the ability to verbally communicate, it is very difficult to communicate well with one another and we typically end up hurting each other more than loving each other.
Perhaps the key to the improbability of the concept of a harmonious community is precisely because we are analyzing it from our current perception. We are looking at the Garden of Eden from this side of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. In our current human condition we are intensely physcial creatures. We are consumed with the physical realities of living. We feel hunger pains, so we forage for food. Our mouths get dry so we scramble for fresh water. Our hormones rage so we seek sexual gratification. We see property so we beg, barter, or beat to get it. We spend most of our time either sweating and working hard to make ends meet or indulging our senses to ease the pain. In all that we do we are focused on the physical realities and the concept of “spirituality” is a vague notion that we may entertain once in a while. It is the rare person who invests much time into the pursuit of the spiritual senses, and even that person struggles intensely to have their spiritual senses be more dominant than the physical senses that so pervasively dominate our existence.
Well, you may be thinking, what is wrong with that? Isn’t that how we were created? Aren’t we predominately physical creatures? Perhaps not. What if Adam and Eve were originally created with the spiritual senses being the dominant factor in their lives. What if the Garden of Eden was a state of existence in which spirit and matter were not as distinct as we understand them to be. What if we were created to be able to handle the very presence of God, in all His glory, in His realm, on His terms. If that is the case then the perplexity of harmonious community would disappear. If we were created to be spiritual/physical creatures, and our spiritual senses dominated our existence, then perhaps we could know God. Perhaps we could speak to the animals. Perhaps we would be in full harmony with nature so that eating, drinking, mating, and working, would all be a natural flow of existence that were secondary, involuntary acts (like breathing) that existed merely to support our purpose and focus, which is to know and love God in eternity.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and willfully rejected His instructions, then something dramatic happened. When they ate the fruit they suddenly had the knowledge of evil. It wasn’t that the fruit magically altered their mind and cognitive ability. Rather, it was that, by disobeying God, they now knew what it was to do evil. By disobeying God they turned their backs on Him, so to speak, and were cut off from His life-giving goodness. When they turned away from Him — the source of light in the universe — they stared into darkness and became aware that it was possible to be apart from God. This new-found knowledge of evil flooded their minds with doubt, with fear, and with shame. Now they saw their nakedness. Now they knew that if they were capable of turning on God they were capapble of turning on each other and they hid their nakedness from each other. No longer would they be willing to be fully exposed to one another. The knowledge of evil had forever altered and inhibited the harmonious community that God had created. Being aware of evil, their senses had been inverted. In the original creation they were SPIRITUAL/physical creatures, able to commune with God fully in the spiritual realm. Now they were (and we are) PHYSICAL/spiritual creatures, unable to connect with God, with each other, or with nature. We are isolated within ourselves, trapped in a limited, physical existence in a body that will eventually die.
Notice how this is evident in the curse. As you read through the curse in vv. 14-19 observe how each player in the drama was altered in their primary senses and were doomed to experience pain in the very thing that was supposed to be their purpose. Notice also how their spiritual focus on God has been replaced by a focus on something physical.
The serpent. The serpent represented the animal kingdom. Animals would be forever unable to commune with humanity and would be at enmity with humans. Being severed from their focus on God they would now be mindless, physical brutes “eating dust” and in enmity with humans.
The woman. With her spiritual senses “inverted” and having her physical senses elevated to dominance the woman would now have pain in childbirth. That thing that was intended to be the image of God’s creational activity in humanity, would now be a physically painful and dangerous experience. Also, the woman’s focus would no longer be on God but “her desire would be for her husband.” Women would now be considered the “weaker partner” and would become fixated on the need for a man’s provision and protection in their life.
The man. The dominance of the physcial senses in the man’s life now made his purpose one full of pain. In the original creation God told Adam to tend the garden and watch over nature. This was man’s spiritual function as he fellowshipped with God. Now, without the focus on God, working the ground would become a sweat-laden, thorn-infested chore that would beat up his body and eventually grind him into dust. The man’s focus was no longer on God but on his work. He had to work to provide, he had to toil and labor, and beyond that there was little meaning.
Can’t you see the results of the curse all around us and in us? Men and women can’t get along with each other. Women tend to find fulfillment in relationships and men tend to find fulfillment in their work, so we spend much of our time watching women chasing after their men while the men are chasing after their work. In both cases the focus is misplaced, the physical senses dominate, and the curse is played out generation after generation.
So, is there hope today? Yes. The hope is that God has not given up on us. God has provided a way for us to reconnect to the spiritual reality of eternity and glory for which we were created. As we read through the Old Testament you will see how God, out of love for His creation, is constantly reaching out from Eden, where the tree of life eternally stands, and inviting us to return home. The Old Testament paves the way and sets the stage for the invasion of the Kingdom of Heaven (the spiritual senses) into the Kingdom of Man (the physical senses) through the person of Jesus.
The message for today is that Jesus has made it possible for us to begin the refocusing process. If we will focus our hearts, minds, and bodies on Jesus and take them off of each other and the “stuff” around us, then we will begin to experience the healing and reconciliation process that comes through a relationship with God.