Monday, 29 April 2013

The Fall and the Curse

 14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”   - Genesis 3:14-19 (N.I.V.)

When God confronted the Man and the Woman after the Fall (and one can see that the serpent was also present there), he cursed them for their disobedience. But his curse for each of the three involved in the act was very different. Being a woman myself, I want particularly to understand the part that primarily concerns me, i.e., the curse on Eve. But first, it is necessary to look for the principle behind the curse, so that will be the focus of this blog post. Eve and her predicament will have to be the subject of a subsequent write-up.

First of all, what is a curse?  Especially where God is concerned, I'm inclined to believe that a curse is not so much a punishment as an outworking of cause and effect. Because elsewhere in the bible it is written: “Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, so a curse without cause shall not alight.” (Proverbs 26:2, New King James Version). God respects the laws he himself has put in place.

In the physical world, things must happen according to the laws of nature – whether we know them and believe them or not. Knowledge of the laws makes the outcome predictable, such as: if you drop a stone it will hit the ground; if you drop it in water, it will sink; if you touch a burning coal, it will burn your fingers; and so on. All scientific discoveries and inventions are based on known laws, which do not change and can be relied on to bring forth a predictable outcome if the calculations based on the principles are correct. 

In the same way, God has set in place certain spiritual laws, which also follow the principle of cause and effect. When God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, he was warning them of the consequences of breaking the spiritual law that he had put in place: that evil is harmless if you don't know it, come in contact with it or practice it. But as soon as you know evil by experience, it exerts such power that it takes over your life and progresses until it destroys you. Adam and Eve only had God's word on this. They had no experience of evil, because so far, everything around them and about them was good and they did not know any different.

But the moment they yielded to the suggestions of the serpent, doubted the goodness of God and took matters into their own hands, they experienced the evil of disobedience. This broke their spiritual connection to God and removed them from his preserving and sustaining presence. In one instant, they stepped over from the camp of God into the camp of the devil, who then quickly introduced them to guilt, cover-up, humiliation, anger and blame that further tightened his grasp and mastery over them. Bereft of the Spirit of God, Adam and Eve were helplessly drawn by the devil in a downward spiral of one sin after another, that progressively corrupted their souls and bodies until their ultimate physical death.

This was Cause and Effect in action in the spiritual plane. Adam and Eve painfully discovered that God was right and the devil was a Liar and had tricked them into sinning. But they were responsible for their own actions and had to bear the consequences. And the consequences were unfortunately not limited to mankind alone; the earth itself was cursed and suffered the effects of the introduction of evil in its atmosphere.

But embedded in the curse against the serpent, who started it all, God mercifully wove in a ray of hope. One day, the devil, the initiator of evil, would be crushed by the offspring of the very woman he had used to begin the whole story. The last word would not be his, but God’s.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. - Isaiah 7:14


Friday, 26 April 2013

God's Original Design for Marriage

"The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

As I reflected on this verse, I realized that only as I hold God in reverence and make efforts to know Him and his ways more and more, will I gain true understanding. Keeping this in mind, I decided to study the book of Genesis once again, asking God at the beginning of every day’s study to open up his word to me, help me to absorb and assimilate what I learn into my being and to give me understanding.

As I studied the account of the creation of the Universe, the creation of Adam and Eve and the Fall of Man in Genesis chapters 1, 2 and 3, one thing struck me. Especially in relation to what the New Testament says about marriage (Love God, love one another), it is evident that originally marriage was supposed to be a reflection of the love between the three persons of the Godhead. The unity of purpose ("Let us make Man in our image" - Gen 1:26), the seamlessly complementing one another to complete the work and the harmony in accomplishment that the Godhead demonstrates helps us to discern the "us" within the "I". Just as the three persons of the Godhead communicate, cooperate and act as One with one accord, so the trinity of Man, Woman and God is to function in unison as a harmonious whole. 

However, we see in the 3rd chapter of Genesis, as we read about the Temptation of Eve and the Fall of Man, that when God is pushed out of the equation and disregarded, everything changes in the relationship between the man and the woman. Harmony is replaced by conflict; cooperation by competition; love by blame and fulfillment by discontent. And the man-woman relationships in the world today reflect this fact painfully.

After God lovingly prepared the perfect environment for the crowning glory of his Creation, "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" (Genesis 2:7). In the Bible, often the Spirit is symbolized by 'breath' or 'wind'. After creating Adam, God breathed his Spirit into him and it was God's Spirit that gave him life. The Spirit of God was essential to Adam's very existence.

Initially there was just God and Adam in the Garden of Eden. But then God did something to enhance even more Adam’s experience on Earth. He made a companion for him - Eve.

Genesis 2:21-22  - "So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man."

God created Eve out of Adam; she had been a part of him all along since his creation, but now God separated her from Adam and gave her to him as an individual distinct from him. When Adam woke up, he recognized her immediately as a complementary part of himself and joyfully received her. 

Genesis 2:23-24 - "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.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." 

Both Adam and Eve realized that they were made for each other and only in their union would they find complete fulfillment. The sum of the parts was greater and even more wonderful than the original whole! The three: God, Man and Woman interacted together in a way that was more meaningful than God and Man (who included in himself Woman) alone.

But the inclusion of the original Creator in the whole was absolutely essential. When he was pushed aside as ‘unnecessary’ for making decisions (when Eve and Adam decided to eat the forbidden fruit), the resultant split wrenched   Adam and Eve away from their triune relationship with God and caused humanity to fall with such a crash, that the cry of pain and distress from that fall resounded through generations and is still heard centuries later in the spiritual realm. Only by bringing God back into this equation can the damaged humanity be repaired and restored.

But sinful man is so far away from God that this is impossible, as God and sin cannot exist together. However, the love of God and the wisdom of God manifested in a wonderful plan of God. God sent the second person of the great, vast and eternal Trinity into the world; the infinite God finitely condensed and severely limited in the form of an infant born to a woman, who could exist with sinful man, because he was himself Man. Jesus demonstrated the love and saving power of God by taking upon himself the punishment of the sins of the entire human race, so that men and women who put their trust in him could have their sins cleansed, exchange them for the righteousness of Jesus Christ and be reunited with God.

Through the miracle of the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the broken equation now can be completed and we become united with God again through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Again in the Christian marriage is man, woman and God (the Holy Spirit existing in both the man and the woman) who cements the relationship, and thus the two become complete and can harmonize with one another as God intended from the beginning.