Category Archives: Hebrews

Adam’s Rest

 

In a recent post we looked in depth at God’s rest, which occurs at the conclusion of His creation on the seventh day (see Genesis 2:1-3).  Among several of the observations and summary conclusions that we reached was that God’s rest may be viewed in terms of an enthronement, rather than a physical rest and that the arrangement and relationship of Creation-Eden-Garden appears to resemble the tabernacle/temple arrangement of Outer Court-Holy Place -Holy of Holies.

With this passage on God’s rest firmly established in our minds, Genesis 2 shifts the focus back to creation, more specifically to man.

“These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” 

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:4-9

In verses 5 and 6 we are brought, back in time as it were, to the period between Day 5 & 6, just prior to the creation of man.  Here we find more details concerning God’s creation of Adam.  On this day we read of God creating him from the dust of the ground, God planting of a garden in Eden (perhaps East of Eden), God placing Adam in that garden, then God causing trees to spring up, including the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Additionally, it is in this narrative that we find our description of a pattern similar to the tabernacle layout: earth (vs. 5), Eden (vs. 8), and garden (vs. 8).  This geographic distinction is obvious and noteworthy.

Also it should be pointed out that the earth (vs. 5 – ground) had no one yet to “work” the land, which will be a significant point developed below.

As the passage moves to a description of the land and surrounding area, verse 15 brings us back to God and his purpose for Adam

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 

On the surface, verse 15 sounds like a simple restatement of verse 8 from above where God “put” Adam in the garden.  This verse is often used as a proof text for Adam’s purpose, namely to work.  Following this interpretation is usually a discussion on the doctrine of vocation, concluding that man was created for the purpose of work, God’s design for him prior to the fall, therefore we should embrace our toil and labors in our individual vocations.  That sounds good and I don’t disagree with the destination, but I do disagree with the starting point.

First, verses 5 and 15 are not referring to the same piece of ground.  Verse 5 clearly speaks of the earth in general while verse 15 specifically refers to Eden, more specifically the garden that the Lord created East of Eden.

From the vocation view highlighted earlier, it is commonly taught that Adam was placed in the garden in order to til the land and reap produce or vegetation of some kind, concluding that he was the first gardener or farmer.  Perhaps he set the pattern for a farming lifestyle, right?

Not so fast.

In this passage, we are informed that God is the One who brought forth the vegetation in the garden, “And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”   This statement is prior to Adam’s placement in the garden.  Adam was placed into a garden that was already lush with vegetation, which God had provided for food (see also Genesis 1:29).  It seems clear from this passage that food was not dependent upon Adam’s labor, but instead was a blessing from the hand of God.

Which brings us to the meaning of the following, “Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden”.  Prior to the declaration of man’s purpose in the garden, to work it and keep it, we have the straightforward statement that God took him and put him in the garden of Eden.  The word translated as “put” actually has the following outline of biblical usage:

  1. to rest
  2. (Qal)
    1. to rest, settle down and remain
      to repose, have rest, be quiet
  3. (Hiphil)
    1. to cause to rest, give rest to, make quiet
    2. to cause to rest, cause to alight, set down
    3. to lay or set down, deposit, let lie, place
    4. to let remain, leave
    5. to leave, depart from
    6. to abandon
    7. to permit
  4. (Hophal)
    1. to obtain rest, be granted rest
    2. to be left, be placed
    3. open space (subst)

With this in mind, perhaps a better translation would be that the Lord God “rested” Adam in the garden of Eden.  This translation would seem to be at odds with the remaining portion of the verse, “to work it and keep it” that has so often been used as the basis for man’s purpose of work.  It simply wouldn’t make sense to say that God rested Adam in the garden to work it and keep it

Unless of course work it and keep it mean something else.

The idea behind the Hebrew word translated as “work” conveys the idea of serving or tending while the Hebrew for the translated word “keep” conveys the idea of guarding or obeying commands.  Collectively when these two verbs are used together they are often found in the context of a priestly service in the tabernacle.  Note their usage in the passage below

They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle. They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. ” Numbers 3:7-8

Let’s summarize what we’ve seen so far.  Adam was “rested” in the garden to be in the service of God functioning as a priest for God to both minister in and guard the garden, His earthly tabernacle.  Adam’s purpose was not to be a gardener or landscape architect in the garden of God.  His purpose was to worship and commune with God as he fulfilled the duties of a priest that God had assigned.   This included obeying several commands as well: the command to be fruitful and multiply, to have dominion over creation, to eat of every tree, avoiding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

As we know, Adam failed his probationary test.  He failed to guard the garden and he failed to guard his wife.  He failed to guard the garden and he failed to obey the word of God. Ultimately his disobedience led to his being placed outside the garden, where the curse of labor was given.

Humans have the responsibility now, post-fall, to work.  However, our original design was to worship and commune with our Creator.  The connection between God’s rest and God resting Adam in the Garden cannot be overlooked.  This perfect communion with our Creator, resting in Him, is what we were made for.  Sin disrupted this union and broke this rest, yet through our Lord Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, this is the end towards which believers will one day return.  At the moment of repentance and faith this communion is restored and we experience the rest from our efforts of trying to earn salvation, but communion and rest will not reach its fullness until the return of Christ, the establishment of His kingdom on earth, and the inauguration of eternity.  We have already been restored to this communion with the Creator, but it is not yet what it will be.

May He come quickly!

Tempted and Tried

 

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

In the fourth chapter of Hebrews, the Author signals for us a transition out of the latest warning and exhortation and into a discussion of Christ as High Priest.  As is typical in Hebrews, concepts are often introduced several chapters in advance of their actual exposition.  This is sometimes referred to as a “hook”, where they serve as an introduction to a topic which will be discussed in greater detail at a later point.  Such is the case with Christ as our High Priest, which was first introduced in chapter 1, “…After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….” Hebrews 1:3b

The verse cited above from chapter 4 is conveying three primary concepts concerning our Lord’s priestly ministry.  First, He is a sympathetic High Priest. Second, He has been tempted as we are.  Third, despite these temptations, He has remained sinless, a point which the Author will use as a contrast, in chapter 5, with earthly high priests who ministered under the Old Covenant.

It is the second observation that will be the subject of our meditation in this post.  The ESV Study Bible highlights the significance of the Greek Word peirazo, translated as tempted.  It states that this particular word can be used in either or both of two ways.  The first is a reference to temptation, which seeks to bring down an individual’s faith.  The second is a reference to being tested or tried, which seeks to build up a believer’s faith.  Both are likely in view in this verse.

Our Lord was subject to the temptations of the world and the devil, yet resisted without sin.  This is certainly true through His day to day life, but most obvious during His 40-day fast in the wilderness where His flesh was weakest and all advantages, such as those given to Adam in the garden, were removed.  It was at this point that the Devil brought three temptations to our Lord, each one resisted by the power of God’s Word.

As to His trials, there can be none greater than that of His own Garden experience, where He shed drops of blood and pleaded with His heavenly Father for the cup to pass, a trial which culminated in His own death on the cross.  It is this trial that the writer of Hebrews has in mind as He approaches chapter 5, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”

Our Lord faced both temptation and trial, in every way that we have, yet He is without sin.  Because of this, He is able to “sympathize” with our weaknesses as we are tempted and tried.  Temptation and trial is the heart of the Christian experience.  Yet our chief difference between our own experience and that of our Lord’s is our besetting weakness of a sinful flesh.  Not only are we faced with temptation from without, but evil desires from within which conceive with temptation  to produce sin.  God works through our trials to purify us of our weaknesses and conform us more to the image of our faithful and sinless High Priest.

In the midst of of our temptations, “let us draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  In the midst of our trials, let us keep our eyes fixed on the Captain of our salvation, the One who blazed the trail for our suffering yet was reverent, obedient, and submissive even to the point of death.

God’s Rest

 

The Creation account in the opening chapters of Genesis is probably familiar to most people who have at any point come into contact with the Scriptures.  Genesis, or origins, is foundational for understanding how and why we were created and gives purpose to life these thousands of years later.  While Adam and Eve often garner the majority of the focus in these opening chapters, it’s clear that Scripture places the primary attention upon God from the very opening words, “In the beginning God”.  From there, it’s not man who is the main actor, but God.  We are introduced to the God who sovereignly creates, orders, and sustains, not merely an accumulation of particles that randomly formed the universe, but a purposeful creation by a detail oriented God intent on creating man in His image for His own glory.

After the introduction of creation in chapter 1, and before providing a more detailed focus upon the creation of man in chapter 2, we are given the following description of this all-powerful, creating God

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

At the outset, this might generate a few questions concerning the nature of the God who was just introduced to us in chapter 1 of Genesis, namely, if He is all-powerful and certainly the Creator, why is it that He needs to rest?  Did the 6-day creative process tire Him out?  Or perhaps is He a father-time figure that wound creation up and now must minimize energy by simply observing His work from a high or distant perch?

These questions, while they may seem simplistic and perhaps even juvenile, are nonetheless legitimate given the sentence, And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”

In answering these, we must first start with God as Creator and more specifically how God created, namely by divine fiat or decree.  God literally spoke creation into existence, from nothing, i.e. ex nihilo.  In Genesis 1, we encounter the statement, “God said”  ten times.  Seven of these were declarations bringing various creations into existence while the 8th was an intra-Trinitarian statement and the last two uses were commands to man.  Would God need to rest on the seventh day after “simply” speaking creation into existence?

Hardly.

We may conclude that God did not need to rest, as though He were exhausted from His creative work.  As God has progressively revealed Himself throughout the Scriptures, we are informed elsewhere that rest is not a necessity for God.  For example, Isaiah 40:28

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.

And Psalm 121:4

“Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.”

The Second observation is that while man was created on Day 6 and rest occurred on Day 7, we are informed that it was God’s rest.  Similarly, we have no indication of which calendar day this rest may have occurred, because, well, calendars had not yet been developed.  We simply know at this point that it was the Seventh Day of creation.  This is a crucial point because frequently this passage concerning God’s rest in Genesis has been used as a proof text to argue for the existence of 1. A perpetual day of Sabbath rest (Saturday) or 2. The transference of the Sabbath day to the Lord’s Day (Sunday).  Despite these interpretive efforts, there is simply no indication nor command for man to observe a particular Sabbath day in this passage.  All we have thus far in God’s revelation is that He rested from His work on the seventh day.  While this occurrence in Genesis 2 certainly informs and provides a framework for the later institution of a Sabbath Day commandment given at Sinai, there is not one single passage that prescribes or describes any person from Adam to Exodus 16 commanded to set aside a particular day for rest.

Third, this rest came at the conclusion of creation.  In other words, God’s rest was the consummation of creation.  It’s at this point that the action of God as Creator becomes the action of God as Sustainer.  The preparation for this role is particularly evident in the creation accounts and in the passages that immediately follow Genesis 2:2.  For further biblical evidence, we may draw upon Colossians 1:16-17, John 1:3, and Hebrews 1:3.

Fourth, God blesses or sanctifies this Sabbath Day to make it holy, literally He sets it apart from the other days.  This function of sanctifying a particular day speaks to God’s authority and also towards a priestly role. Related, some have concluded that this rest of God speaks less of actual rest or ceasing from effort, as we concluded earlier, and more of a Sabbath-Enthronement.¹  Several passages throughout Scripture speak to God’s enthronement over His creation and the earth as His footstool, Isaiah 66:1; 2 Chronicles 6:18, 41; Acts 7:49.

Similarly, there is compelling evidence that the creation of the earth in general and the garden in particular as God’s place of habitation or dwelling, i.e. His temple.  In Genesis 3:8 we read, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day….”  Some commentators have pointed out that this same Hebrew verbal root stem occurs elsewhere in relation to God’s presence in the tabernacle, see Lev. 26:12, Deut. 23:14, 2 Samuel 7:6-7.² Further we may consider the geographic layout of this early scene from Genesis with the earth, Eden, and the garden as a parallel to the tabernacle layout of the Outer Court, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies.  This theme will be further drawn out when we consider Adam’s rest in a future post.

Fifth, while the other six days have the concluding statement, “and the evening and the morning were the ______ day”, the seventh day deviates from this pattern suggesting that it is open ended.  In other words, that it was, or perhaps even still is, on going.

The pinnacle of the creation narrative is not the creation of Adam and Eve, rather it is the rest of God.  Simply observing the structure of Genesis 1 and 2 and this becomes evident.  As we’ve seen, God did not require rest, rather it was pointing towards greater significance.  From our passage in Genesis 2, we may summarize the 3 specific actions words that serve as links in a chain.  God finished.  God rested.  God blessed.  As we will see in future posts, God’s rest is both anticipatory and archetypal of future fulfillment.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Kline, Meredith G. Kingdom Prologue.
  2. Alexander, Desmond T., From Paradise to the Promised Land. G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission.