My dad and I have this thing where we read the first sentence of a book to each other and then we rate it on a scale of average to awesome. If the first sentence grabs us, it’s usually a book that will keep us enthralled through the end. The more the suspense, the better.
After deciding to officially read through the Bible, I cracked open the cover of my hand-painted journaling Bible to “In the beginning…” Genesis, the origin. And so begins the greatest story of all time. Suspense, romance, adventure that rival every Oscar nomination. Character development, twists and turns, poetic beauty that rival every New York Times Bestseller. First sentence, hooked.
If one had to summarize the theme of the entire Bible, it would be creation, sin, recreation. This is the prevailing theme all through Genesis, the Old Testament, the Gospels, and through Revelation.
I recently attended The Word Alive conference with Lysa TerKeurst in Fort Lauderdale. She spent a great deal of time describing the importance of dust. God had every potential ingredient at his fingertips, but chooses the dust of the earth and the mist of the ground to form Adam. Dust is what God specifically and intentionally chose to create something new – something precious – his likeness.
He takes man’s bone and builds Eve up, bone connecting bone, sinew connecting sinew, but as man would have remained dust, Eve would have remained dry bones without the breath of the Lord. As beautiful as his external creation, he creates something even more beautiful and complex with all of its varied faculties – the soul. And with but an exhale, man and woman live.
As I read through the first few chapters of Genesis, a prevailing word caught my attention. God plants the Heavens, Isaiah says. Then God plants Eden. He causes Eden’s trees to grow and sprout and shade the earth. He plants four rivers originating from this Paradise – the Garden of the Lord.
Then he put man in the Garden. The Hebrew word for plant and put man is the same. After fashioning his Edenic Temple, he then plants man in it. As he fastened the garden to stand upright on the face of the earth, he fastens man to stand upright in his presence. As I was reminded of this during the conference, we were designed for Eden, not this it’s-not-suppossed-to-be-this-way fallen state. God’s intention was for our feet to remain steady, growing roots deep and long and wide in his perfection.
I couldn’t shake the idea of planting. My digging led me to the first Psalm. Blessed, it says, is the person who delights in the teachings of God and studies and meditates on them day and night. The person who does these things will be like a tree firmly planted and tended to by streams of water. I don’t think it was a coincidence that God planted four rivers in the Garden and then planted man there. Our roots are meant to go deep into his heart, and in Eden we had all the living water we could ever need or want.
After Adam and Eve sinned, the world instantaneously entered the its-not-supposed-to-be-this-way state in which we remain in today. Eden was lost. They hid from God, no longer desiring the intimate and beautiful relationship they had with him before. And God being holy and merciful sent them out.
In Genesis 3, God himself makes Adam and Eve garments to cover their nakedness and shame, foreshadowing the great sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, giving us his garment of holiness so we can be restored to God.
I can’t help but think of God’s broken heart – now he must be separated from his beloved creation. How sorrowful, he must now kill another one of his “it is good” creatures, slaughtering it before Adam and Eve – to cover them, but also to show them the consequence of their sin – death. In Psalm 104, David pens that the Lord created the leviathan (most likely whales) to play in the sea. If God cares so much for the sea creatures that he would create a habitat for their delight – how much more does he love man? How his heart must have ached, now all of his precious creation would experience death, and sacrifices must be made.
But as I re-read Genesis, I noticed the grace and mercy of God from the very beginning of time. See, with the Genesis 2 finishing work of creation – God’s plan for the “It is finished” work of the cross in John 19:30 was already set in motion. The same Hebrew word to describe the finishing work of the heavens and earth is also used in Psalm 72. This is the last Psalm King David writes before his death. And his deathbed words, they foretell the coming of Jesus. The one who will come and water the ground to bear fruit.
His deathbed words – look for Christ!
In the beginning God planted mankind in the Garden of Eden. Because of Jesus, he now plants Eden in us through his spirit. As God claimed creation finished, he claimed the finishing work of the Gospel – where Jesus would finish the payment of sin on the cross, once and for all – bringing Eden back to us through His Spirit. The same Spirit that hovered over the waters in the origin now hovers overs our hearts.
I am tempted so often to feel the weight of my own salvation. As I read the Bible, I am reminded of the beautiful gift of grace. The Bible tells us that it is God’s job to plant – it is his job to cause deliverance to exist or spring up. It is his job to grow and spread his truth and spring up the dead to life. He is the one who breathed life in man, and with it awakens the soul of man with the ability to love or reject him.
The earth is the Lord’s, yet it yields no fruit unless he works it – it is his job to plant, water, give increase.Matthew Henry
It is God’s job to quicken and bring life – not my own, because if it were up to me I could not and would not muster it. Yet, this grace-gift doesn’t resolve me of responsibility. It is his job to bring the dead to life, but it is my job to obey.
After Adam and Eve are sent from his Garden temple, God plants a vine – Jesus, God in flesh on earth. This vine spreads the earth with the good Gospel news. The news of salvation – the way back to Eden.
It is interesting that Mary mistakes Jesus as the gardener after his resurrection – because that is who he was since the origin of the earth. Little did she know that he’d garden the heart of the soul he planted in her, tilling it and causing it to flourish in the form of his hovering and indwelling Spirit.
When I studied deeper into the Hebrew word for tree, one of the definitions was bone. He made Eve from Adam’s rib, fashioning the bones to make him a suitable counter part and made those dry bones live. Another definition for tree is used for materials in a building. God plants mankind and builds them from dust and bone to one day house his Spirit.
As the Spirit hovered over the chaos of the deep in Genesis, he hovers over the seat of our souls now, working to bring order from disorder, life from dead elements, revival and ripening what needs tending — and the Gardner of our souls tenderly oversees, cutting back the suffocating weeds of the world to restore once again the beauty he’s created within – not ourselves, but his spirit in us.
In the beginning the triune existed together. God sends Jesus to us and then he sends his spirit to us, giving us access to him until the day we enter his temple-garden to see him face to face. But because of his Eden-temple within, we won’t be meeting him for the first time – we will have known him all along.