A couple of years ago, I was having lunch with my dad. He was wound up and talking about how the gospel should be preached in every single sermon because it’s what the whole Bible is about. He was using David and Goliath as an example. He said something like, “It’s not a story about how to face your giants or what a great and brave hero David was, it’s a story about Jesus. It’s a story about how God uses one man...an insignificant, unimpressive son, to intercede on behalf of his people.” There was more to it than that but you get the idea. Suddenly, as I read through the Bible, I saw Jesus everywhere. And in places where I missed him, there were other mentors who pointed him out to me...and it’s never been the same.
Another thing that happened was I realized through friends and family how many parents send their kids to Mother’s Day Out and VBS and the only Bible teaching they get are the little story pages their children bring home and the songs they sing. Other adults who attend church for the first time (or maybe just attend a Bible-teaching church for the first time) hear references to David and Noah and Moses and Abraham and Daniel…and they’re intimidated because they don’t know anything about those people and they think everyone else does. It struck me that we rarely go back to the stories that are taught mostly to children and how much I’d missed. So I began to study. I didn’t want anyone else to be stuck with the kid’s version only, so I started to write what turned into a sort of Bible study and I thought I would share it with you a little bit at a time.
I guess there’s no better place to start a retelling of children’s Bible stories than “In the beginning…”. Adam and Eve is a story that most adults know to some degree. Even non-believers know there was a garden, a piece of fruit that was eaten, and that eating that fruit was a bad thing. But many of us, believer and non-believer alike haven’t looked much deeper than that. This introduction to our God is a rich story full of essential truths about the trouble with man and what an amazing God we have. It’s a story of lies and deception, of jealousy and blame, of consequence, of sacrifice, and it’s ultimately our first introduction to God’s unfolding plan to redeem the world through his son, Jesus. Yep. Right there “in the beginning”. The word Genesis means “beginning” and God had the sacrifice of Christ in mind right from the start. So let’s take a grown-up look at the story.
I would recommend you start by reading Genesis 2:4-15. I’m going to spend this blog post on one word highlighted below:
v. 5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground,
v. 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Maybe your translation says “to cultivate” or “to till”. These are all easy to understand when it comes to a garden. Whether or not we’ve ever lived on a farm, planted a garden, or mowed a lawn, we can imagine what “working the ground” looks like. Do you imagine someone digging, ploughing, or pulling weeds? Do you imagine tools like rakes, shovels, maybe even tractors? Adam doesn’t appear to have had tools. And doesn’t it make you wonder? Did God really look at his creation and think, “Now who’s going to pull the weeds? Hmmm, there’s no one to do the pruning and fertilizing. I’d better make someone to take care of this garden.” Did God need someone to take care of the earth? I mean, wasn’t creation pretty much perfect at that point? Could it really be that the only reason the idea “man” came to be was because God needed a gardener? Yet, there it is in black and white. There’s no one “to work the ground”. God creates man, and then in verse 15, God puts him in the Garden of Eden “to work it and take care of it.”
I decided to “dig” a little deeper (pun intended). When I have questions or have a hard time making sense of something, I often find it helpful to go to the original language. Oftentimes, the English translation doesn’t tell the whole story. So let’s investigate further by looking at the original language. The Old Testament was first written in Hebrew. The Hebrew word translated as “to work” is ‘Abad. Here is a more complete definition of ‘Abad.
‘Abad; to work, to labor, to toil…to serve; to be served or honored; to worship; to cause to worship…
Here’s what I find most interesting. The word ‘Abad occurs 290 times in the Bible and over 200 of those times it is translated in some form as “serve”. Is it starting to make a little more sense? Maybe God didn’t need a gardener. He didn’t look at his creation and think, “Now who is going to water, prune, and fertilize?” Maybe that was part of it. Work is a good thing for man, especially if it’s in a world where there’s no sin. But maybe God also looked at it and said, in essence, “There is no one to serve,” or maybe even “no one to worship.”
I’d love to ask you what you’re thinking right now. Are you as surprised as me? This story is so rich! I can’t wait to share more of what I’ve learned with you. Chew on this a bit and if you would be so inclined, leave a comment. I’d love for you to come on this journey with me!