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Posts Tagged ‘garden of eden’

Somehow I have had it my mind that God interrupted Noah while he was about his daily business and said, “I’ve got a job for you, go build an ark.” But now, I am caught up in this idea of people “walking with God” and what that means. I have assumed this walking with God business was a metaphor for closeness. Is that the only choice?

Genesis 9b; 13-14a
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. . . So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark. . . “

The only reason I’m playing around with this idea is that pre-flood, life was different. All the patriarchs were still around, their generations overlapping by hundreds of years. Even Adam was around for at least half of this time. The Garden experience was still part of their vernacular. And one of the most memorable things was Adam, Eve, and later, Enoch (my interpretation), walking with God in the Garden.

And here’s another one, Noah, specifically noted as walking with God.

In an article by Bob Sorge in Christianity Today, he writes, “God created man for the enjoyment of a walking relationship that involved companionship, dialogue, intimacy, joint decision-making, mutual delight, and shared dominion.”

I think that’s true, but I think we will never have the same opportunities as Human had before the flood. Despite being cast out of the Garden, God allowed for intimate relationships with others. God seems to always leave a loophole for Human, that’s how much God wants to ultimately preserve Human.

But it is a narrow way (Matthew 7:13). It is narrow because intimacy itself requires it. Even today, we cannot be intimate with everyone. Most people can only manage a few close friends, a few friends we trust totally, a few friends in whom we have invested our time, energy and even money. And sometimes, if we are lucky, we are married to one of these friends as well.

Noah built the ark because he was familiar with the God who told him to do it. He was not merely being “obedient,” they had probably talked about it already. Maybe there was an Abrahamic negotiation even (Genesis 18:16-33). We’ll never know.

All this makes more sense to me, that God doesn’t drop down edicts or demands or mandates on an unsuspecting follower. These requests come out of relationship, out of familiarity, and trust.

I remember, as a young Christian, I was so afraid that God would “call” me to some egregiously difficult post like the bush of Africa or the ice floes of Siberia or the rice paddies of China. But now I see, these directives come from internal agreement and possibly even a nurtured longing.

Come, Jesus says, walk with me.

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Enoch was the baby of the Adam line. Unlike his forebears or those who lived after him up into their 800’s and 900’s, Enoch died at 365. Outrageous numbers, all of them. Nobody can live that long. But who can really say? Clearly, Human (Adam/Eve) was different than we are today. So, let’s assume it’s true, just for the heck of it. What is there to learn?

Genesis 5:23-24
Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

Enoch walked with God. Now, since God usually walked in the Garden of Eden and not out with the non-Garden folks, something tremendous had changed here. The story says Enoch walked with God 300 years, presumably all the years after the birth of his son, Mathusaleh (the grandfather of Noah, who, by tradition is said to have died 7 days prior to the flood, which allowed for the proper days of grieving — that piece of trivia comes from the studious rabbis back in the day).

Enoch is the only one of the line who did not die in the natural way. Each patriarch is written as having a specific time of death, along with the presumable birth year of his first-born son and the total number of years he lived after the birth; but then he died. Except Enoch.

Enoch disappeared. God took him away.

Now, if I had to imagine how life looked back then, I would presume that Adam and Eve set up house as close to the Garden borders as possible. Maybe they couldn’t even see the Garden, maybe it had a mysterious “fantasy-like” secret entrance (there is mention of flashing swords and cherubim) or maybe it was a daily reminder. In any case, I can’t imagine them going far. So they set up a community for several hundred years and and with several thousand people, assuming they all had similar fertility and longevity.

But everyone knew and heard about Enoch. After all those silent years without God, about 600 years, Enoch had a special relationship with God, with the Creator, with the Master of the Garden.

People knew about the Garden. Certainly, Adam must have talked about the garden and what it was like, the same way people talk about heaven, or the good old days, or the best vacation ever. When people struggle, they build hope from their memories of better times in the past. If it was good once, it could be good again.

But Enoch was doing it. He was hanging out with God. Either he managed to get into the Garden for his strolls, or he had a pure heart, was recognized by God and rewarded with access. We’ll never know.

But in some way, what Enoch shared with God, he passed to Methusaleh, even if by story alone. And Methusaleh passed to Lamech, who fathered Noah and blessed him proclaiming, “He [Noah] will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” They believed there was a reason for Enoch’s relationship. They believed in a better tomorrow.

There was an anointing on Noah from the beginning, then. He wasn’t some Steve Carell (an unbelieving Evan Almighty called by God to build a modern-day ark). Noah had the benefit of Enoch’s faith and stories passed down through the generations. It made a difference. We should be telling our faith stories to our children. We should be remembering and keeping track of the blessings of God. They are milestones of faith for those to come.

I believe Enoch is still in the Garden, untouched by the temptation of the other tree, relishing in the Tree of Life.

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Painted by Hans Baldung Grien
16th Century

In a previous post, I spent some time thinking about the idea of choices and boundaries for human in the Garden of Eden (a decidedly perfect environment) and yet, within that garden stood a tree with forbidden fruit. Human had to choose whether to honor God’s boundary (“do not eat”) or not. Now, it appears another kind of choice was there as well, whether or not to believe the “crafty serpent.”

Genesis 3:1aNow the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman . . .

Another thing occurred to me today. Why are so few people concerned with the concept of a serpent that could a) talk and b) interact with human? Some might reason that this was possible because it was really Satan in the guise of a serpent, but still, a talking critter is talking critter. And apparently, human (Adam or Eve) was not particularly surprised by this talking faculty either. Is it possible then that other animals or creatures in the Garden could communicate? I know, that sounds fantastic. (Is that any more fantastic than the idea of a Garden with only two people who named all the animals and walked around naked?) After all, the Garden is not supposed to be Dr. Doolittle’s domain. And yet, isn’t it fun to consider? Perhaps this ability to communicate with other species was lost to us in the “fall.” In some ways, it makes perfect sense that we make up so many stories about talking animals in our children’s stories, fairy tales, and movies. If only, we think, if only my dog could tell me what he really wants. If only my cat would explain why she is so angry with me. And so on.

A few years ago, Carolyn Parkhurst wrote a novel called The Dogs of Babel, in which a man’s wife dies after falling from a tree and the only witness was their dog. The man, a linguistics professor, is so embroiled in grief that his only hope for recovery is to get the truth about his wife’s death from the dog . . .  by teaching him how to talk. To me, that story captured the longing of inter-species relationships.

But, enough about talking animals. What I really wanted to investigate was the logic of the serpent for challenging humans. I believe he really wanted to undermine God’s authority and the best way to do that was by usurping the human role in Eden. The serpent, as a creature of the Garden, had been placed under the authority of human (see Genesis 1:28) just like all the other animals and creatures. To me, this is the reason the serpent was so crafty. He had a bone to pick with Creator and for this reason, he tricked humans, those most beloved of God. Otherwise, why bother?

This breakdown of the chain of command works in today’s world too. What better way to break things up than to hit the “middle manager.” In this way, the organization (or the church) suffers both up and down the ladder. Those below the middle manager begin to distrust that person’s reliability while the administrator above is seen as a poor leader, unworthy of respect. By encouraging human Adam and human Eve to break the boundaries of the Creator, the serpent broke himself free as well. The serpent’s goal was and still is bigger than human.

Evil has an agenda that is beyond mere “search and destroy” missions of human beings. Ephesians 6:12 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Same for them.

What is my role then today? See the big picture. Believe in the boundaries of God. Believe in the reality of a secret agenda of evil. Trust the sovereignty of God.

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Two things: from the beginning, it was always God’s intention that humans should work. I never noticed it before, that “Adam” was put in the garden of Eden to tend it, his first real job. The last garden I tried to create showed me how much real work goes into sowing and growing. And secondly, “Adam” (or man … or human) was lonely without someone else of his kind (human) to do this work. That tells me that relationships are important to people. We do better together.

Genesis 2:15; 18a
The Lord God took the man [human] and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. . . The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man [human] to be alone. . .

Just like the Karate Kid, I’m guessing that Adam’s gardening gig held many unexpected byproducts of learning. Gardening teaches the cycle of life, patience, diligence, perceptiveness, creativity, consequences, and so forth. I know just enough about gardening to know how little I know. It’s one of those things I’ve always thought should have an apprentice program for those who really want to learn it. Oh, I suppose I could read a book about it, and over time, I’d learn by trial and error. But to have a master gardener next door who would be able to show and explain along the way, season by season, now that would be awesome.

The alternative, I suppose, would be to have a gardening buddy. Even if we were both novices, we would be tackling it together, discussing possibilities, sharing the workload, being encouraged, celebrating successes or mourning losses. In either case, two can learn, both from the experience as well as from one another.

The way of Christ is the same. Any spiritual way yields more fruit with a partner. I have neglected this aspect of walk for some time. I have tried to go it alone, thinking no one would be interested in cultivating what I wanted to cultivate. But maybe that’s the point, maybe it’s ok for me to want to plant perennials while another plants annuals. Or maybe I want to plant watermelons that spread out everywhere and my garden friend wants to plant potatoes deep in the earth. Isn’t the garden enhanced by both? As long as the dirt is good and nutrition filled, as long as there is water and sunlight, many different things can grow together.

I need to stop being a “spiritual snob.”

 

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