WHO AM I?
Genesis 2:7 and 8
7 Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. 8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.
Last week we had a Sunday message on Genesis chapter 1 by Pastor Phillip. I really enjoyed one of the examples in the message. It was the three interview questions given to Bob Dylan when he was entering European country customs. What were the three questions? “Who are you?” “Where are you from?” “Where are you going?” And I want to continue to speak on answering these questions today. Who are you? Who am I? What are we?
There are more questions like these questions. “How does the universe work?” Science can answer many questions like this. But this question “How did the universe come to exist from nothing to something?” won’t be answered by science studies. To answer the question, faith is required. The Scripture (Hebrew 11:3) says,
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
Today I want to speak about God’s intention and purpose when he planted the garden of Eden and when he created the first man. And after that I will talk about the creation of the first woman and the first marriage. May God bless you and me today to realize who we are and respond to God in worship!
“THE EARTH AND THE HEAVENS”
Let’s read verse 4,
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
This Bible verse is given as a marker to begin a more detailed account of certain things in chapter 1. Chapter 2 is not a different creation account from that in chapter 1. Today’s passage zooms into God’s creation activities for mankind. Have you noticed that the second part of verse 4 says, “the earth and the heavens” rather than “the heavens and the earth”? The latter is a more typical expression appearing in the Scripture. But the author flips the order purposefully to focus on things on the earth.
The preconditions before the creation of mankind are described in verses 5 and 6. The author stages these conditions to build an expectation of man’s appearing.
There were no shrub and no plant yet. Verse 5b says, “(for) there was no one to work the ground.” Certain plants needed man’s care to grow. There was no rain yet but the whole land had moisture from the streams came up from the earth. In other translations, the word “streams” in verse 6 can also be translated as a mist or a (thick) fog. Imagine a foggy woodland. In my mind I tend to think the nature was preparing itself to welcome its new residents.
Formed from the Dust
Let’s read verse 7.
“Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
The first man’s name Adam appears in verses 20 and 25. The name Adam is a pun on another word “Adamah” which means “red clay clods”. Like a potter the LORD God formed a man from the dust. The physical body of the first man was precisely designed and formed out of clay.
Mankind shares similar characteristics with animals. Animals are also living creatures. (Gen 1:20, 24) From verse 19 we learn that God also formed wild animals and birds out of the ground. Both have similar physical features such as eyes, nose, ears, arms and legs. We feel hunger, eat food, yawn, sneeze, rest, reproduce, and so on, just as animals do. We have emotions and so do animals. Gen 3:19 says, “for dust you are and to dust you will return.” After Adam’s fall, man began to die and return to dust just as animals do.
The Breath of God
In today’s passage verse 7, we can find a unique description when God created the man. Verse 7b reads, “(The LORD God) breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” I know it’s a poor example and illustration. But in the movie “Chronicles of Narnia” Lucy was sad seeing at the stone statue of Tumnus. But when the Lion Aslan gave his long breath toward the cold and lifeless stone statue, Tumnus comes back to life. And Lucy rejoiced at it.
By the breath of God, the first man Adam became a living being. But verse 7b in KJV says, “and man became a living soul.” Man became a living soul. So, it is more accurate to say, “man is a soul” than “man has a soul.” I am a living soul and have a body.
A Living Soul with Authority
Even though we share similar characteristics with animals, we are very different from them in terms of the creation order. God created a man and a woman, and made them rule over the sea creatures and every living creature that moves on the ground. Mankind has authority over the dominion of living things on the earth. And this authority is not to exploit them but take care of them.
A Living Soul with Incredible Inner Qualities
We are also very different from animals in terms of inner qualities. God did not made mankind physically stronger than many animals like a lion. However, he endowed us with such incredible inner qualities that animals do not have. For example, man’s intelligence and ability to think is far greater than that of animals. We naturally ask questions, reason, and answer them. We remember, understand, analyze, evaluate, apply, and invent things. We document and publish to exchange our thoughts and collaborate with others. We make cars, build bridges, ships, air planes, space shuttles, and even smartphones. We make advanced medicines. We compose and play music. We draw pictures and take selfies. We also meditate, seek life’s meaning and purpose, and worship. And I can go on and on.
The LORD God created us as a spiritual being. What does it me to be a spiritual being? It means that we bear the image of God that we can have fellowship with Him. In fact, God is spirit. And it was he who created us in his likeness in order to make us compatible with him and to have a harmonious fellowship with us. I will talk more on this when I mention about God’s planting a garden in Eden and the two special trees.
We all have flesh. We are souls. And at the same time, we are also spiritual beings. God formed us out of the dust and gave us the breath of life. The core blueprint of mankind is God’s own image. These creation activities of God are sung in the book of Psalm in this way.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
God did not create this world as a zoo, an animal kingdom. But he created mankind in his image and place him on the earth to do his work. And there was a spiritual order in that dominion of living things.
Who are we? Who are you? Why are you sitting there? We came here to worship God because we are God’s workmanship recreated in Jesus Christ. (Eph. 2:10.) We bear the image of God. We are the children of God as people sang the special song this morning. You are amazing. (Is it right?) And there are works, good works for you that God prepared in advance for us to do. I pray that God may bless all of us, especially college students here, to know they are God’s workmanship and do his good works.
God Planted a Garden in Eden
Let’s read verses 8 through 10
8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.
My Backyard Garden
God planted a garden. Have you planted a garden for yourself? Planting a garden and maintaining it requires a lot of work and a lot of creativity. I have a small garden in my backyard. I think I first planted the garden more than five years ago. Then each year I expanded it little by little. I grow various vegetables, shrubs and flowers in that small space. If you come to my place Saturday afternoon, you will find me overturning a compose pile, digging and planting, and weeding and pruning. The most exciting season to me is early spring when I plan what to plant and where to put them. Every Saturday early morning, I grab a coffee from Panera in Beltsville and go to a plant nursery. It’s my happy hour of each week. I so much envy those gardeners working at the nurseries. In my garden, I know exactly where each plant is and their status. I also find various animals such as unwanted squirrels, fat sluggish groundhogs, rabbits, cats, and some signs of dear visits. They behead the top tender parts of all plants. They create a disaster. I have also counted that there were at least seven different birds coming to my garden. A couple years ago I luckily encountered a hummingbird that came to see my Giant Zinnias. The bird was still in the air, my eye level, looking at me straight for more than ten seconds. Such a little creature left me an awesome memory. Robins hatched three times in my backyard and I saw two tiny small baby Robins left the nest. I find multiple kinds of beautiful butterflies, different kind of bees and other insects.
Descriptions of the Garden
God is the ultimate master Gardener. He planted a garden and the garden must have been something we’ve never seen. This passage gives some information about the garden. It was located in the east, in Eden. The Hebrew word “Eden” means “delight” or “happy land.” However, be aware that Eden was not the garden’s name but a geographical location. The garden in Eden is also called as “the garden of YAHWEH” in the Scripture. (Gen 13:10; Isa 51:3) The presence of God was in the garden where Adam and his wife dwelt. In the garden there were all kinds of trees. They were aesthetically beautiful. There were also various fruit trees good for food. And most importantly, at the center of it, there were two special trees, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (I personally think these two trees were probably very distinguishable from other trees in appearance.) Also, the garden had a river that became the beginning of four headwaters for the four rivers.
Rivers nourish the land for trees, shrubs and plants to grow. They also provide drinking water for mankind and other living creatures. It is a must condition to exist for any big civilization to begin. Major cities around the world have something in common. They have rivers flowing through. You probably know the river names for London, Paris, Cairo, Beijing, Seoul, New York, and Washington D.C.
The garden of Eden was the originating place of the four rivers: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates. The garden of Eden was the very source to provide life, beauty, and prosperity for the entire land. And in the middle of the garden there stood two special trees which symbolizes God’s sovereignty over all the created things. From the descriptions of the garden in this passage, we learn about God’s intention and desire for the world. When God is honored and becomes our priority, real prosperity and happiness begin. It applies to each person individually and every community and every nation.
A wise man gives us an advice in Proverbs 3 (Proverbs 3:5-7).
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
I pray you and I learn to acknowledge Him in all our ways during this week!
Adam in the Garden
After completing the garden, the LORD God put Adam in the garden. The garden was made for Adam and his wife. God’s work is always comprehensive with a clear purpose. He does not leave things half way done. Thus, we can safely think that God prepare the things Adam and his wife exactly needed. And today passage touch them precisely.
We can find two outstanding aspects of this garden to meet the need of the man. First, the garden provided food and beauty for the man and his wife. There was enough food from various trees. He did not need a refrigerator. Fruits and vegetables were always there fresh and tasty when they needed. They did not need to go to elsewhere because they could have breakfast, lunch and dinner enjoying the beauty of the place. The garden had full of things that were interesting, exciting and dynamic. Second, the garden had two symbolically important trees for their spiritual need. I am going to address more on this topic in the following sections.
A Bowl of Hot Rice (Slide)
It was probably late 1970th when I was an elementary school student. It wasn’t the time when Korea was rich. When evening came, my mom cooked rice, just the amount for the whole family of eight. When the rice is done, the first thing she did was looking inside of the hot rice pot. Then she scooped the best-looking portion into a stainless bowl. When the weather was cold, the rice could lose its temperature quickly. So, to keep the bowl warm a couple more hours until her husband comes home around nine, she placed it at the hottest spot on the master room’s hard floor, and covered it with a blanket. Sometime my leg or foot accidentally touched the hot bowl while watching TV in that room with my siblings. It was just a bowl of rice, but every night the bowl of rice became a reminder of my hardworking father whom the family respected. It is still a warm memory in me.
The Two Special Trees
In the garden of Eden, there stood two trees where Adam and his wife could easily see. As you know, the trees were the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. These trees were a constant reminder of their Creator and His authority.
In verse 16 we see God’s generous offer to the man. He said,
16b “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;
“Any tree in the garden” obviously included the tree of life which was a really important resource. God cared the physical need and health of Adam and his wife. He made the tree of life available to them to support and maintain their natural life for ages. We do not know much about this tree. The scripture mentions about it in a couple of places only beside this chapter. (Ez 47:12; Rev 22:2) The Book of Revelation tells us that the tree of life will be available to God’s people in the new heaven and new earth.
Let’s read verse 17.
17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
People think the tree of knowledge of good and evil very negatively. It seems that the tree is a bad tree that should have not existed. This is because of many tragedies happened in our human history and happening even now. The tree of knowledge of good and evil is like a double-edged sword. Let’s briefly try to see what this tree really meant to Adam and his wife.
First, this tree bears an indication of the man’s freedom and ability to independently choose to obey or disobey God. God did not force the man or programmed him to automatically obey him like an impersonal robot. Rather, He chose to respect mankind and their decision.
The consequences upon man’s disobedience have to be real so that the freewill may be tree freewill, not a fake one. This becomes the hint to understand why evil exists and why we suffer from various pains.
Second, this tree in the garden was a reminder of God and His authority. God provided everything for man’s need. He also gave mankind the authority over all the living creatures on the earth. He even made them in his image. What a privilege and grace! Yet Adam and his wife needed to acknowledge God’s authority over them. God gave them a clear warning, “for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
AI Humanoid Sophia (Slide)
Third, the tree bears the deep desire of God to have true fellowship with mankind. (Slide) Do you know recognize this figure? People call it “she” or “her.” Well, “Her” name is Sophia created by Hanson Robotics of Hong Kong several years ago. It is a humanoid not a real person. This humanoid can recognize faces and voices, imitate gestures of humans, and speak. Saudi Arabia has given “her” (the first ever non-human) a citizenship.
Can we really have a real fellowship with Sophia? Well, “she” has a pretty name but definitely no. The robot is not compatible with us even though it talks and acts like a real human being. It is not a soul but a mere machine. We cannot degrade ourselves to consider her like one of us. Compatibility is a very important thing for two entities to interact with each other.
God made us in his image and gave us a complete freedom to make independent choices just as he does. Last Friday our daily bread passage was from Revelation 3. Jesus the Risen King says,
Revelation 3: 10
Here I am! I stand at the door and know. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
If we were not created in the image of God and/or if we do not have freewill to make our own decisions, Jesus would not even have to ask us to open our heart doors. Rather, he will treat us just as we do to Sophia.
It is extremely important to know that we are created in God’s image. It determines our world view and life destiny in the long run. We all should appreciate God our Creator because of the fact that God made us in his image. We all should join the Psalmist’s song in Psalm 8:4.
What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Praise God our Creator who created us in His own image and who granted us freewill so that we can love him back! God still wants to have fellowship with us. God sent his son to remove the huge roadblock of sin so that he can have fellowship with man again. And the roadblock was already and completely removed two thousand years ago.
Creation of Woman and Marriage
Let’s read verse 18.
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
God was concerned about Adam because he did not have someone who can work together and who can help him. What did God do after this? He did not ask Adam about his opinion or any preference. Rather a strange thing happened. God made a such an animal parade. God brought living creatures both on the earth and in the sky so that Adam could name them one by one. Adam looked at each animal, took some moments, and named it. “You are Lion and you are a Lioness.” “You are Tiger and you are Tigress.” He went on and on naming all the animals God brought.
After the animal parade, the author of the book adds his comment in verse 20b.
20b But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
This verse seems to have a nuance. It sounds to me that the parade had a second purpose to search for Adam’s suitable helper. The end result was no good. There was no animal suitable or compatible to Adam to be a companion.
The English words “suitable helper” can be misunderstood, when it’s used out of context, such that women are secondary or less important and men. A better or exchangeable translation of its Geek expression may be “a counterpart helper”.
Wives are counterparts of husbands to fit their husbands’ needs. My wife sometime says to me, “Oh, you are so needy.” “Follow my words, ‘I am a needy person.’” Yes, I often become in need of something and need her help. I rarely see that she is in need of something except the day she comes back from Costco with a lot of stuff in her car trunk.
God created Adam and his wife to work together and to complement each other. He created the woman from the side material of Adam rather than from man’s head or feet. Husbands are different from wives, and wives are different from husbands. Many of you have already read this book published more than a couple decades ago, “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus”.
Dr. Michelle A. Cretella is the President of the American College of Pediatricians. In her interview on “Transgenderism: A Mental Illness is Not a Civil Right”, she mentioned the following:
• Human sexuality is binary.
• This binary is the genetic markers imprinted in our DNA.
• A physical change doesn’t change this binary.
• There are also 6500 genetic differences between a natural man and a natural woman.
• Gender is linguistically engineered term. It has no place in medicine.
• Biology is reality
I’m not sure if she is a Christian or not. She received threats from multiple social groups because of her teachings as a medical doctor. What she says is quite related to today’s passage.
God created a man, and a woman from the man’s material. And he instituted marriage by uniting a man and a woman as a husband and a wife. Verses 23 through 24 says,
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Today we have learned about how God created the first man and his wife. We are living souls formed out of dust of the ground. Even though mankind shares similar characteristics with animals, we are very different from them. God created us/mankind with incredible inner qualities. He also made us as spiritual beings.
We learned the garden of Eden was created for man. God not only provided food and aesthetical beauty for man, but he also placed the two special trees in the middle of the garden for man’s spiritual need and happiness. We learned that true happiness comes when we acknowledge God and his authority in all we do. Think about what some practical ways are to acknowledge Him in our daily lives. It may be as simple as doing daily bread each day by reading the scripture, meditating and praying. It will be the hour of having sweet fellowship with God. Remember you and I bear the image of God.
We also learned about God’s creation of woman and the first marriage. A marriage is a divine union between a man and a woman. The scripture declares that the husband and the wife become one flesh upon marriage.
Happiness comes from having healthy relationships. Happiness doesn’t come from watching many movies. Recently someone shared her past experience. One day she watched four movies in a row with her friends. After watching all the movies for hours, she felt really gross. When we indulge ourselves in entertainments and become pleasure seeking, the end result is weariness and emptiness.
Technology provide convenience. But convenience doesn’t necessarily provide happiness to us. Rather it often spoils us and makes us more impatient and distracted.
Happiness does come from having healthy relationships with others, primarily our relationship with God our Creator. You and I are living souls created in God’s image. Your spouses are your counterparts to compliment them. May God richly bless you and your family with happiness by renewing your relationships.