These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created,Genesis 2:4-9,15-17
in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil….
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Mankind was created with a purpose; and our purpose was always by design from the beginning to participate in God’s creation. Nowhere in all of Scripture is that made clear as much as it is here in the second chapter of Genesis.
First of all, let us dispense with the notion that Genesis 2 is a “second creation.” This idea is birthed out of a two different thought processes that seeks to defame God Himself. 1) It is a theological attempt to marry the apocryphal, medieval creation myth of Lilith by source critics that try to say that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 were written centuries apart from one another with different theological purposes. 2) It is a theological attempt to marry modern evolutionary philosophy with the Creation account. Both philosophies reduce God to an imperfect and fickle being that is both impotent and incapable.
The first creation account in Genesis 1 is very general, with little detail to be found. However, what is common in Ancient Near Eastern narrative (and can even be found in modern narrative storytelling) is the technique of telling a general idea and then filling in the details afterwards, a foreshadowing if you will. In this case, days 3-6 were in a sense of foreshadowing of Genesis 2. Allow me to explain.
In Genesis 1:14-19 (day 3) God said to let the earth sprout (bring forth – “assah”) vegetation. However, if one only casually reads Genesis 2, they will get the impression that the days of creation changed, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. God still empowered vegetation to grow and bear fruit, but growth takes time. “When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field and yet sprung up- for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground…” (Genesis 2:5) The order had been given for the earth to produce vegetation, but it still required time and man’s participation in the creation process.
“And the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7) Yes, God gave the order for the earth to grow vegetation. Water was available for the earth to produce. But what of the animals on the fourth and fifth days of creation. Did they not need food to eat? Yes, but the prevailing theory is that the animals were created without the immediate need for food until the earth began to produce the vegetation needed to sustain life.
On day six, we see God Himself speeding up the process by planting “a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground, the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” (Genesis 2:8-9a) Fast forward to verse 15 and we see “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden TO WORK IT AND KEEP IT.” (Genesis 2:15, emphasis mine).
Man was not created to live a life in paradise that was free of responsibility or purpose. Adam wasn’t meant to just frolic through nature naked and without a care in the world. He was meant to participate in God’s creative design. He was given the first command to work the garden. The first job of mankind was that of a horticulturalist – a gardener. However, it meant that it was Adam’s job to not only tend the garden for his own well-being, but for the well-being of all of creation as it was the source of his own food and the food for the animal kingdom that had its own mandate to be fruitful and multiply and fill their space of existence in the waters, air, and land.
And for our own well-being, man was given boundaries. “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” The only way to intimately know the difference between good and evil is to experience the difference between obedience and disobedience to the will of God. A simple command. In effect, the Creator was saying “I have created all of this for you to enjoy, except for this one thing. This is mine and my own special prerogative. I’m leaving it here for you to tend to in the garden and to keep it and protect it. Just don’t eat from it.” Man was given a responsibility to tend to and care for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because it was placed in the garden as part of his responsibility. The only limit was for man to not eat from that tree as the fruit of it would poison his life from that moment forward.
Even today, we are given the responsibility to be guardians of the truth of good and evil. Not in the manner of passing judgement, but rather in tending to the roots and warning away any who would dare to eat of the forbidden sweetness. Let us be clear: God did not create evil. Everything He created was good – very good even. However, evil is, by definition, disobedience to God’s commandment. Evil is the supplanting of God’s Word as the supreme authority for our purpose and design. Evil is the disregard of the Father’s care for His creation. Evil is the choice of self-interest over God’s design. The tree represents the choice – a choice that is defined by love and that defines not only God’s love for His creation by giving them the will to choose, but defines our love by our act to choose to obey or disobey. The choice then determines the well-being of the tree and its roots and its leaves. When we choose disobedience, the roots dry up, the leaves wither, and the fruit decays. And as a result we can no longer clearly see the difference between what is good and what is evil.
Evolutionary philosophy has the end result of destroying our sense of purpose, thus producing a heart of hopelessness. Hopelessness, at its core, is a loss of a sense of personal purpose. You were created and designed from the beginning with a purpose to participate in God’s created order. Somewhere along the way, we have lost sight of what it means to have purpose beyond ourselves and our own appetites and our own selfishness. This was never God’s intent for us, but our sin got in the way. Our sin and pride has turned us into self-seeking, lazy creatures that seek our own end and our own means, with no guiding purpose other than to satisfy our own animalistic passions and desires.
Thus we can plainly see that man’s first and foremost need was fellowship with his Creator. His second need was purpose. Man was not designed to seek purpose from other humans, even from a spouse. Our drive for purpose was always intended to be rooted in our position as God’s a participant in God’s creation. The same goes for woman – your purpose was not to serve man, but to be a helpmate – a partner on equal footing, with equal value. While our roles as husband and wife, man and woman, are different, God’s definition of roles does not define value. Man is not more valuable than woman, nor is woman more valuable than man. Any other argument is a distraction from the intent of God’s creation for us both.
But when we realize that not only were we created with a purpose to participate in God’s creation, but God Himself made a way to give us hope after our fallen state by redeeming His creation. He paid the price on Calvary to restore creation and give us a renewed sense of purpose and a restored hope of participation in His Kingdom work. You were not created for the world to cater to you and your whims. You were created to give to the world, to grow the world, to populate the world. You were recreated to spread the seed of the gospel to the world – a gospel that said God loves His creation because when He created all of it, it was “VERY GOOD” (Genesis 1:31, emphasis mine). One day, it will be very good again, with the birth of the new creation and the new heaven and the new earth. (Revelation 21:1). This new heaven and new earth will be a new global Eden with a renewed purpose.