Last week our discussion took us through Genesis 2:8 wherein the Lord God placed the clay-person in the Garden in Eden. For this week, we will continue our discussion of the Garden. Please read Genesis 2:4-24.
The First Commandment:
The first commandment in all of Scripture is when the Lord God commands the person that he created out of the ground to cultivate and to preserve the Garden. God creates the Garden as a cultivated, landscaped, well-planned, and well-ordered place. The person he creates simply tends to the remainder of God’s creation. God’s intent is not that his person be indolent but that he has a purpose and actively contributes to the maintenance of God’s creation. There is no indication in the story that strenuous activity on the person’s part is required. It appears that the ground (adam-ah) easily responds to the work of the clay-person (adam). This is the very purpose for which God created the first person. God creates and he maintains. As our story continues into Chapter 3 and the Fall, what we will see is that sin makes our labors more difficult, but that is a discussion for another week.
We should see this commandment to cultivate and preserve God’s creation to be present in all areas of our lives as well. God creates and gives us certain well-planned and well-ordered places. God creates marriage (Mark 10:9), human society (Rom. 13:1), the church (Matt. 16:18), and other institutions within human civilization. The commandment to us is to cultivate and preserve these well-planned and well-ordered areas. Like the first human being, our basic purpose is to tend to God’s creation.
The question is how do we tend to God’s creation? The answer to this question imbues the entirety of the New Testament. From the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) to Paul’s condemnation of the works of the flesh and exhortation of the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-24), the how is given to us in Scripture. Jesus is the new Adam and it is Christ who provides us the Way of how we are to tend to the places of creation.
If you remember back to Genesis 1, God daily looks at his creative work and proclaims that “it was good.” (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). At the end of the last day of creation, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Gen 1:31). Here, God creates and animates the person out of the clay, places him in the Garden, and gives him the purpose of caring for the Garden. But in looking at his created being, God says, “it is not good.” (Gen. 2:18). It is not good because the person’s creation is incomplete because the person is alone.
Only after the creation of the person is completed is it “good.” If you remember back to our Easter study of Everywhere Present, Fr. Stephen Freeman addresses the very question of “what is a person?” in chapter 10. (Our discussion of this question is HERE.) The word “person” is fundamentally one of relationship. The word derives from the Greek prosopon which comes from the root word ops meaning face or eye and the preposition pros meaning “to move towards or to interact with.” Someone can only be a person when he has his face turned towards someone or something to interact with that someone or something. No one can truly be a “person” in isolation.
On one level there is the question of how can God’s created person grow and mature if he is alone? How can this creature morally develop by himself Can he grow in consciousness and self-awareness if he is the only one? On a much deeper level, it is in loving and in being loved that makes us human. Love requires that I am face-to-face with someone else and that I give up or empty myself in the hope and expectation of receiving the other. Only in this relationship with the other, can I truly find and know myself.
Insufficiency of God:
The other mystery that arises out of God’s observation is why is the creature alone? The Lord God Himself is present in the Garden. God likes to walk around in the Garden in the cool of the day. (Gen. 3:8). Why is God’s presence insufficient to complete the creation of his person? Why can’t the creature fully develop into a person in the presence of God? Why does he need another creature when he has God?
The reason why God is insufficient is ineffable. This lack of understanding and reason, however, does establish that there exists an unbridgable ontological chasm between the Creator and his Creation so that Creation is alone even in the presence of God. The vast difference between human and divine is such that, in this instance of making the person fully human, God cannot complete the process on his own. (This unbridgeable chasm, however, is one of the great arguments for the Incarnation since God must become a person in order for us to truly know him.)
God says that he will make a “helper” for the person so he will no longer be alone. The Hebrew word for “helper” is ezer. The Scriptures will apply this word not only to people but even to God himself. See, Ex. 18:4, Ps. 33:20. God is not creating something to be subservient to his created person, but to complete the creation of the person. God also does not jump right to the idea of creating a second human. Rather, the Lord God goes about creating the beast of the field and the birds of the air to see if any of them may be a suitable helper.
At first, God forms things that are similar to his human creation. In verse 7, God formed (yatsar) the person (adam) from the ground (adam-ah), and the person became alive (chay). In verse 19 God formed (yatsar) the living (chay) things from the ground (adam-ah) as well. God uses the same process (forming) with the same materials (the ground) with the same result (living thing) to create the person’s helper. (Psalm 104:19 will further tell us that God animats all living things with his breath as well.) The only difference in the creation is that God names his first living creation “Adam” whereas it is Adam who names the subsequent creation.
God’s creation of other living things using the same process from the same materials should also bring up the question of why are humans special? At least initially, until our creation is fully complete, we are not that different from any other living thing. As Ecclesiastes observes, the fate of man and beast is the same. Eccl. 3:19. And if our end is a return to the Garden, then we should also expect that the other living things may be there as well. Isa. 11:6.
After God has formed all the other living things out of the ground, however, none was suitable as a helper for his person. All were insufficient to complete his person’s creation. We will talk about the permanent solution next week.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is chicken cacciatore. Discussion about 6:45. Compline at 8.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, they are warm; but how can one be warm alone?Ecclesiastes 4:9-11