Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 4 January 2022:
Genesis 2:18 — Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 shows us something about how God loves – He worked, provided, partnered, and protected. God first displayed His love through His effort, His work of creation. Though God only had to speak for creation to occur (as opposed to our requirement for physical labor), nonetheless, the Bible says when He finished the “work that He had done… He rested,” characterizing creation as God’s labor of love. After God properly prepared the environment in a way that was perfectly good, the Lord then created man and woman solely because of His love for them (Genesis 2:7), and He placed them in a wonderful garden of perfect provision (Genesis 2:8).
Notice that in God’s perfect love and provision, the next thing God gave Adam was a job, or work. God could have created the earth to be wholly self-sufficient and allowed Adam to simply partake, but God created Adam in His own image, intended to love, work, create, provide, partner, and protect. So, God gave Adam a job as a blessing so Adam could fulfill His designed purpose of love. Adam’s work was a partnership with God (Genesis 2:19) intended to be the mechanism of relationship with God, Adam walking with God by working with God and for God for the benefit of God’s creation. Again, God didn’t ‘need’ Adam to do the work, but Adam needed work to be what God created Him to be – a physical agent of God’s invisible love. Work was not intended to be a burdensome toil, but a blessing. Only sin makes work a toil, but we will discuss that later.
Notice that throughout the creation process, when God created something, He said it was “good,” except for when He created man in His own image and said it was “very good.” However, in Genesis 2, God communicates His first malediction, when He says, “It is not good.” (Genesis 2:18) This is the first time in God’s creation where God says something is bad. What is bad? “…that man should be alone.” God created us in His own loving image that we would manifest His love in the physical world, and to do that, we needed someone to love. So, God created Eve, not just to receive Adam’s love (to simply partake), but rather to partner with Adam as a co-laborer of love, to work for love with God and with each other in complete selflessness. Adam could not fulfill His life purpose without Eve and the opportunity to work for Her benefit as a manifestation (or glorification) of God’s love, and Eve could not fulfill her life purpose without co-laboring with Adam. When Adam and Eve labored in selfless love, they were fulfilled as people, they enjoyed God by partnering with Him in His love, and they glorified God by making His invisible love tangible – “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) Later, Jesus will say the greatest commandment is love — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Notice that love requires more than your heart; it also requires all your soul (your identity and orientation), your mind (planning), and your strength (effort); and to love God, you must love your neighbor. In fact, loving your neighbor is the primary way you demonstrate your love for God and grow in God’s love –
– 1 John 4:12 — No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
– John 14:15; John 15:12 — “If you love me, you will keep my commandments…. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Finally, God demonstrated His love by protecting Adam and Eve, and He did that by placing limitations on them – “…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.” We will discuss the purpose of that limitation tomorrow, but the key takeaway is that God’s provision and protection are blessings, intended to ensure we get the very best out of life, not designed to limit our joy but rather fulfill it. God only restricts from us what is harmful, though from our human perspective, we might not perceive the danger. God’s commands are His loving direction for us, and we demonstrate our love for Him (as well as for others), and our trust in Him by obeying His commands, whether we understand the “why” or not –
– 1 John 3:24 — Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
– 1 John 3:9 — No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
– 1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
We see God’s first commands in Genesis 1 and 2, things to do and things not to do in order to abide in God’s love and fulfill our life purpose of love. First, God says, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) This is often referred to as the “dominion mandate,” calling us to be productive for the benefit of others and God’s creation as laborers of love, magnifying His love across the globe, living out the motto, “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Then God gave us something not do – Don’t eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Again, we will talk about that tomorrow. Finally, chapter 2 concludes with something that must be done – Marriage must he held as sacred – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2) This is also a topic we will expand upon later, since it is such a priority teaching from God, but the important point for today is that marriage is the first and foremost institution ordained by God for mankind on earth, between one man and one woman for life. Though not everyone is intended to marry, all marriages are intended to be a visible representation of God’s perfect love for us and are the primary place where most people will learn to love as God intended – Marriage (and family) is the schoolhouse for Christ-like character development.
What does Genesis 2 teach you about God’s love and how you should love in order to fulfill your life purpose?
“Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and…. he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him’ ….an angel of the Lord appeared… and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’” (Matthew 2:7-14)
A key theme for Matthew 2 is – two kings, two kingdoms, two choices. The Bible says, Jesus was born “in the days of Herod the king.” (Matthew 2:1). Imagine the faith required in the time of great king Herod for someone to believe the Son of God, the Immanuel (God with us), the KING of Kings, the LORD of Lords, the Messiah, the Savior was a small baby, born to a poor humble family in the small town of Bethlehem. Yet, “wise men” who clearly had been studying God’s word close enough to see the signs of the times, new the Christ had been born, knew were to find Him, and had the heart to make the hard journey to worship Him in costly ways. (Matthew 2:1-6) Only these God-seeking wisemen understood who the real KING was (is) and were willing to go out of their way to honor Him. Note that Herod also had his chief priests and scribes who knew “where the Christ was to be born.” (Matthew 2:4). However, Herod wasn’t interested in worshipping Jesus but rather destroying Him, getting Him out of the picture, seeing Him not as His Lord and Savior but rather as a threat to His worldly kingdom. Though He understood Jesus was the Messiah, He would rather be in control of His own life (seemingly) than to acknowledge Christ as KING and submit to His authority. So, Herod, before eventually dying painfully from kidney disease and a rare infection which causes gangrene of the genitals, ended up killing “all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under,” (Genesis 2:16) in a futile effort to stop God’s plan of loving redemption through Jesus.
We see in Matthew two kings (Jesus and Herod), two Kingdoms (the Kingdom of God vs. the kingdom of man) and two choices – worship and follow Jesus for seek to eliminate Him. Every human on earth will choose their king and kingdom and who they will serve, whether they acknowledge that choice or not. One choice leads to eternal life, and the other choice leads to eternal pain and death. Some will choose to follow Jesus and be a part of the eternal Kingdom of God, and some will choose to follow some form of self-determination (often shrouded in some form of religion) and be a part of the doomed kingdoms of man. Notice that Herod, outwardly proclaimed his goal was to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:8), but in truth, His ‘religion’ was a destructive façade intended for personal gain.
Our readings in Matthew today give us an opportunity to reflect on what it means to us that Christ is KING and how that reality is evident in this world we live in and in our lives. Day-to-day, do we have the faith to go out of our way to worship in costly ways the KING who is unseen and unrecognized by most people who are placing their faith in worldly leaders, worldly teachers, worldly philosophies, and worldly systems, all futilely attempting to save us from our human condition? Will we seek first the Kingdom of God today or our earthly kingdom? Will loving Jesus and others be our ultimate priority today and the primary goal for which we plan and labor, or we be self-serving? Prayerfully reflect on your readings today.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 4 Jan 22: Love God and others today through intentional labors of love. Serve your KING, Jesus today by doing his bidding in every situation today and in every encounter with others. Love others as Christ loved you, wholly sacrificially and fully.