Sherry and I attended a local Friday night service that was celebrating Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar, is the day that marks the beginning of a “new year” for trees. I think we can all recall that it is very popular to commemorate someone or something by planting a tree in Israel. What you might not know is that it has deeper roots. For example, for over a thousand years it was prohibited to put an ax to fruit trees even if it was during a war. The enemy could be killed but the trees were to be saved. Deuteronomy 20:19
Before Roman times the land was filled with trees. The Romans did not have the same ideas about trees, and often a siege of a town caused a ten mile ring of destruction. Fruit orchards that were hundreds of years old were completely destroyed. The final conquest of Jerusalem created a desolation that was visible for over a thousand years.
We must be reminded of a few things in Genesis that sometimes gets lost.
God designed us and created us to be eternal beings. Look carefully at Gen 2:15, 15. It tells us that God allowed us to eat of all the trees in the Garden except, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, at that point Adam and Eve could have eaten from the Tree of Life, which would made them eternal. It wasn’t really that crucial because had they obeyed God they would have never died because sin was not in them. But once the apple was eaten God had to remove them from the garden before they could eat fruit from the tree of life. But it is very clear that God intended us to be eternal. God intended us to be in the right place. There is a word the defines “being in the right place.” The word is righteous.
Adam and Eve brought sin and death into the world. By not being in the right place, humanity became unrighteousness. This is the basis of the Gospel. Another way to look at it is that we wouldn’t need the Gospel except for what happened with Adam and Eve.
So on one end we have the Problem in the Garden, and on the other end, we have the solution. Now, the truth is that the solution to the problem was entirely God’s plan, unfolding in God’s time. We really didn’t have any part except to follow God’s will.
What is wonderful for us is that we can describe this dilemma with the solution already provided. This is the great tool of evangelism, defining the problem, describing the Plan, and then explaining the Solution.
The issue for many of us is that we often see so many of the necessary steps as isolated, and disconnected from the Plan.
So this morning I thought I would spend a little time reviewing some of the necessary steps.
First, let’s quickly review what the problem is, we were created in God’s image in order to have a love relationship with Him. He did not create a race of robotic followers. For a time this worked, then the God given quality of free will created a crisis. Now this is a subject that has generated volumes of study. Important theologians have studied this, and looked at it from dozens of angles. “Free will” has been such a buzzword that it has been difficult to use without generating conflicting arguments. For the purposes of this mornings message, I would like to summarize the Problem with a different phrase, one that comes from scripture when defining the problem of Mankind.
In the Garden Adam & Eve decided to “Go their own way”. We can agree that it was disobedience, that it might have been theft, that it was certainly disrespectful, that it was choosing to listen to evil instead of good.
This is all true but perhaps all of this can be summarized as “going their own way”, which resulted in a broken relationship that was not the desire if God. God created us for that personal love relationship where our ability to “go our own way” was under control through love and understanding.
The very second that Adam & Eve broke the relationship God out in place a plan that would restore that relationship, and every word of scripture points to the necessary steps and individual actions that fulfills that Plan.
Think about it, it could have been God’s plan to inspire Cain to rectify his father’s sin and restore the the relationship with God. In fact, God has done this countless of times in scripture, empowering the son to rectify the wrongs of the father. It didn’t happen. Instead the sin of “going our own way” convinced Cain to slay his brother, causing generations to move further and further from the Lord.
This is not just a story, it is simply the first part of God’s marvelous plan of redemption and salvation. I know it seems dark and bleak, almost like a gothic mystery novel, but remember we know the end of the story, and it we apply the Spirit that lives within us, we can glimpse parts of His Plan.
There is part of us would like the solution quickly. We can grasp the awful consequences of losing the Garden, but certainly God could give us a solution within a generation or two. Okay, maybe Cain was bad news, but how about Seth? He wasn’t a bad guy, let him apologize and fix it. Well, it didn’t happen. The good thing about knowing that the solution is available, and that all the important parts were written about, is that we can look back and see the solution in perfect retrospect. God’s perfect retrospect.
The problem was that the issue was deeper than we could fathom. Imagine holding a plate. Imagine throwing the plate to the ground, shattering it into a thousand pieces. Imagine apologizing. It can be done, but the plate doesn’t come back together. Some actions have consequences that must be spiritually pieced back together, in God’s time. The solution is not only repenting, it is the ability to control the desire to break it in the first place.
So fast forward to other “stories” in scripture. What does the culture of Noah tell us about solving the problem? Well, first of all, that we can’t do it ourselves. In fact people made very little effort, they made “going their own way” an artform so grievous that God was almost convinced to erase mankind from the Earth. Now He didn’t, because one man, one family, was found righteous and had made the right choices. So God selected him to play his part of the solution.
Does this mean that Noah’s righteous could have been enough for the solution? Sadly it was not so, the lesson is that the sin was so deep that after a while it creeps out and then multiplies. While Noah and his sons appear to get it, it wasn’t long before generationally there were bad choices appearing over and over. The lesson is that “the solution” may take years, and generations, of discipline.
Dealing with sin is a lot easier when it is repented of, and not repeated. But once we chose to follow our own way, God knew it was going to be a long trial and error period before we could control and subdue our actions. He wasn’t going to do it for us, but he would provide a way.
Looking back we can see His plan was to create a people, a Chosen People, that would be called out, that would receive the Word, protect it, teach it through the generations, and eventually provide the lineage that would lead to the Savior. And the Savior would bring back individuals, families, and nations, into a relationship with the eternal God.
It took a longtime to even get to Abraham, to find a leader who would guard God’s word and train the people up in the way they should go, out of their own free will, or maybe despite their free will. By the time Israel and his sons came along the stage was mostly set. A people had been identified and the basics of the truth, the one and only God, was established. But they were far from ‘trained up’ in controlling their desires or understand the role they had in God’s Plan.
It was very apparent that the tribe chosen to be the line of the Savior had huge problems. The most important appears to be the tendency to forget, they are constantly told to remember. Another problem is that they tended to bring in Canaanite influence. The very inheritance of the land was in danger, and the separation line between idol worshippers was blurred. How can God’s plan unfold if the people were lost?
So we have the story of Jacob and Joseph. We just finished this story in our weekly bible study. It a very exciting story, full of intrigue, theft, lies and deceit, and dare I say “sex”. If you just look at the summary of Jacob’s family, and the fate of Joseph I think it would compare very favorable to some of the best dramas on television. In fact, this one little chapter is the most exciting of the many short stories.
The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’
Adonai will kneel before you presenting gifts and will guard you with a hedge of protection, Adoni will illuminate the wholeness of his being toward you, bringing order, and he will beautify you, Adoni will lift up his wholeness of being, and look upon you, and he will set in place all you need to be whole