I have now lived long enough to hear the Biblical story of creation screwed up many, many times. But no more so than in recent days, especially since September 11th. Everyone has a version.
The Creation Story, per the Judeo-Christian Bible, is not a long one. It encompasses but the first two chapters in Genesis. To date, numerous mistakes have been made regarding details, however. I'm not referring to philosophical or theological interpretations of certain wording; I'm not referring to translational discrepancies. I am referring to some basic data that is in every Bible, no matter which translation.
When God created man and woman, his helpmate, He created two compatible creatures for the purpose of His own pleasure. He created them to love and to worship Him and to be His gardeners--and He provided them with food from every other tree in the garden, forbidding them nothing, except what was in the midst of the garden, under penalty of death. (Genesis 2:17)
There were TWO trees in the midst of the garden (Genesis 2:9). How is it that so few report this?
Let's look at those two trees for a moment-----one, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; the other was the Tree of Life.
The first (forbidden) tree offered wisdom--the knowledge of the difference between good and bad, and everything in between--concepts previously unfamiliar to the two gardeners. Its "fruit" was the knowledge of sin itself.
God had man later removed from the garden before either one partook of the second tree, the Tree of Life, for its "fruit" would have meant eternal bondage to sin, endless and without remedy.
The Tree of Knowledge was "eaten from" in disobedience to God. The other, forgotten, after His gardener's removal.
As the story unfolds, God's human creations had been given preeminence over every other living thing in the garden and all other creatures who dwelt there, and offered food from every OTHER edible tree and bush. But they too soon found all that God had provided them to be insufficient. A deception, the encouragement to have choices their way, was permitted in that garden long ago in order to usurp God's own authority, and to guarantee His ultimate wrath upon a creation which would be perpetually driven by self-interest. By authoring confusion, spinning God's words around 180 degrees, and offering humanity only that which appeals to our true natures, the desire for autonomy sought to overturn things. After all, forbidding them the tree of Knowledge wasn't really about preventing gluttony. It was about restraining desire. Not the kind of desire to love one's neighbor, or husband, or wife, or children, or God Himself, but rather, the kind that gratifies only self.
Egocentricity--it is what got the whole of mankind into trouble in the first place. Original sin was about desiring more for themselves than they had been given, and about disobeying the first rule in the universe.
And if we really read those words of Genesis, we begin to see yet another pattern emerge. It is a familiar one, too. King Solomon realized this human frailty at the end of his own illustrious, yet ultimately flawed life-- "Man acquires silver, and silver is not enough." Translated: no matter what we have, nothing suffices for long, be it food, praise, salary, size of house, or trees in the garden.
Could this whole thing in the garden have been more about how Father really knew best, that in the hands of self-centered humans, wisdom and/or the knowledge of good and evil were too dangerous a thing for His beloved creatures to possess?
Did not God give His creatures of every other tree and good thing to see and eat in the garden except those two trees. So what happened? Why did they want what was forbidden them as soon as Rule #1 came down from God? Why did they risk everything for more than what they had?
Out here in my part of the garden, the cows graze all day long. Sometimes when I am on my way into town, I pass by this big 5,000 acre ranch where I see those cows standing shoulder deep in some of the lushest pastureland anywhere, but invariably, I see them standing at the edge of the fence with their necks stretched and sometimes bloody over barbed wire, straining to get those few blades of grass just beyond their reach.
We are so like that.
Erect a speed limit sign and suddenly there's a challenge to our reasoning. And, in case you haven't noticed, we do have this seemingly innate resistance to authority. It is called our nature. It is not God's nature. Our nature suppresses and denies the truth of God. It tells us we deserve more, more than God has permitted us. That is why we avoid His book like the plague, or rationalize our lack of need of it. We innately understand that it accuses us of who we really are... self-serving creatures. And we humanistic, idealistic, narcissistic, creatures will grasp at the slightest puff of wind trying to find a way around God to justify our existence apart from Him. Even if we have never heard of the Bible, we possess an instinctive aversion to Him. And even those of us who grew up in churches, delude ourselves that we can't be held accountable by God for running away from Him, if we haven't read all of it. We instinctively veer away from anything holy. And just like Adam and Eve sought to hide their nakedness and disobedience, we seek to hide the reality that we really desire to love ourselves first.
We just plain don't like rules. We object to the concept of God as He is. We don't want to serve ANYONE. If we tolerate God at all, He must be able/willing to serve our needs but he must not interfere with our lives or interpose any demands. Our true nature is to serve ourselves. We are this way from birth. While it is written that we were indeed created in God's image (Genesis 1:27), we were not created with His nature. His nature is holiness, righteousness, patience, justice, mercy, longsuffering, humilty. He sacrificed His own life so that we losers who trust Him could be given hope, freedom from despair, the ability to cope with our lives, and a remedy for God's eternal penalty for sin--death. Our nature from birth, is selfish. We demand total attention from our parents from the instant of our first cries. As children we are the center of the family universe from the moment we arrive. We are neither born knowing how to share, nor born desiring to. We have to learn to recognize our parents. In time, as we grow, we have to be taught to care for others. Caring for others is not instinctive. Many in prison will tell you it isn't. My own children learned three words first, "Mama,""Dada," then "MINE". Another word they learned about that same time was "NO." The fourth word protected what the third word acquired.
We are born neither knowing nor desiring to know God. We have to be taught a knowledge of Him (or something resembling Him). We are born separated from Him by our overwhelming sense of self, our sin--it is our legacy since The Garden. We don't tend to make much room for any knowledge of Him in our lives except on our own terms, unless we can turn Him into a genie, or an invisible friend -- one who is there when we need Him but not One who places any demands on us. We want to believe that we, not God, are the masters of our fate and the captains of our hearts. We're not sinners, or criminals, you say; we simply want to do things our way. We want things on our terms, including our deities. We don't like God as He claims to be. Over the ages man has rewritten His story in ways that are more pleasing, more palatable, more self-serving, less harsh, more gray, less black and white. We rewrite His Book We deny its original truth. We don't want to just be gardeners. We want to own the garden. We didn't want to serve Him then, and we don't want to serve Him now. We want to be more than God. We want to create, to express ourselves, to make the rules, to break the rules, to be top of the heap!!!
This ego-driven desire, a force which has survived the ages, survived against all odds, natural disasters, supernatural disasters---alleges to have existed since the very foundations of the universe, is one which has sought to bruise the heel of faith ever since being ejected from heaven into the primordial mist, one who exalts himself above God, as creator, and one who rewrites creation itself, naming himself as the true architect of the universe, placing his throne above God, and seducing all to join him in displacing the true God, while fallaciously offering that, "you can be as God." Lucifer, the serpent in the garden, is described by God Himself in scripture as one who desired to be higher than God. He, like God and the rest of the heavenly hosts, predates existence. His name means, ironically, light bearer. Coming to us, not frightfully, but as the things we desire most. It really doesn't take much to seduce us, either. The words "you deserve it" are their own validation. We all desire to be deemed competent, successful, admired, esteemed, desirable. At the least we desire to be like those around us. The deception is that we can both fulfill our desire and afford its ultimate cost. Indeed, Lucifer considered himself to be smarter, greater, and was subsequently expelled from heaven itself for his arrogance and pride (Isaiah 14:12-15). Can't we see the ugliest aspects of our own egos all around us? Man's nature in today's world is fueled by self interest, self orientation, self-centeredness in thinking.
Modern psychology is rife with lost adults trying to find and heal the lost "child within us". Make time for yourself. Take the inner voyage. Know yourself. Nurture yourself. Nurture the child within. Be good to yourself. We want to hear these words. We want permission to love ourselves. Self-interest metastasizes into self-centeredness. It's the oldest deception in the book. And our own American society has certainly neither discouraged our desire to "have" nor discouraged the notion that we should "be all that we can be." Capitalism is viewed as a character asset. Success is prized above all things. We worship athletes and entertainment celebrities. We admire a hero. We each desire to be desirable. Psychologists admit that narcissism is one of the most difficult disorders to actually treat because the sociopathic, empathy destroying drug of self-love, is irreversible. And once we really acquire that super high of loving ourselves, we have difficulty sharing it. (Junkies don't give away their dope, either.) Sadly, philosophers and psychologists seem to reinforce the tendency toward narcissism when they observe that "only through learning to love ourselves can we fully begin to love each other."
History has not shown this to be entirely true.
I would further submit that once we do begin to fully love ourselves, it marks the end of our concern for the neighborhood. When humans are given free license to self-indulge, rarely do we tend to govern our greed or share the pleasure. And from that single putrefying well of narcissistic megalomania has sprung a thousand counterfeit religions and underdeities and minions, all serving the thing created, the creature, us and our desires----not God--all purposed with a single agenda---to turn our eyes away from the truth of God, to a lie, a counterfeit, like the one who exalts himself above God, calling himself the bright and morning star.
The Bible, our 'Handbook to Survival,' claims that God left an emptiness in each of us, a fear, a loneliness, a hunger-- left there to help us find our way back to Him. And only by filling it with the One thing guaranteed to satisfy us completely----God's Own love----can we be assured true peace and happiness. But, oh, how we try to fill that void with every other kind of thing we can have. We humans also operate under the notion that in coming to love ourselves, we will fill the void God purposely left in our souls. Why is it that when some people achieve success they become depressed? Why is it the rich can still be lonely? Why is it those who say they have everything, often say they feel like something is missing? Why is it that we'll try anything but the One Thing guaranteed to help us? We try food, success, wealth, sex, drugs, thrills, extreme sports. But what we find is that like every other drug, it takes more each successive time, to just get high. Sooner or later we may die from our excesses, or discover that more isn't better and that the feeling of emptiness will never be filled, no matter what we do. Then, maybe, we will find ourselves so desperate that we are finally ready to hear about the One Thing which can, indeed, satisfy the soul and make life worth living. Until then, we will continue to seek to assuage the emptiness by consuming "things", still wondering why no pleasure taken seems to have lasting value. And Lucifer, the light bearer, not satisfied in his solitary exclusion from God's eternal grace, is working over time at polishing his shine, knowing how easily persuaded we are, perpetually enticing us to join his condemnation through surreptitious means--stroking our vanity, "You deserve it......you can be as god."
And since the garden, we have been too easily won. Misery indeed loves company.
An old familiar blues song claims, "you gotta serve somebody." Every culture on earth responds to this reality, whether we are natives in New Guinea, or just struggling to reach the top of our careers in Babylon--we all gotta serve something; ourselves or somebody else. And still we rebel against true authority. Is this some divine paradox? The truth is, God created this desire to worship in all humans--not to enable our self-destruction, but to help us find Him. And He's left a lot of evidence of His own existence all around the planet for years (See Romans, Chapter 1).
The first four words of the Bible reveal who that is, "In the beginning, God..."
Later, the first verses of the book of John state that , "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God; He was with God in the beginning."
Guess that signifies who were "in the beginning."
(Yes, read Genesis 1:26. Now, whom do you think the "Us" is?)
So why did He place those forbidden trees there in the first place, if we would be tempted?
I believe that the Lord knowingly place them in the midst of His garden for the purpose of showing us the actual limits of our own human capacity, and for informing us of exactly how much we need His help to change our natures. And until our natures change, our world isn't going to change. We don't even have the gumption to change our minds and make it stick, let alone change someone else. We should pause in our consideration of this and find gratitude that God's gardeners partook of only the one tree. For had they touched the Tree of Life, it would have locked the world into a state of perpetual, eternal sin, without hope, without remedy. What about that death consequence God mentioned to Adam and Eve regarding their disobedience to Him and the other tree? As it is, their act of rebellion against Rule #1 resulted in sickness, suffering and, ultimately, the death of every living organism on the planet. Everything in our universe winds down. We are all, everything, finite. But because God, in His wisdom and forbearance, removed the Tree of (Eternal) Life before they touched it in the garden that day, He put the ball in motion for His plan to ultimately remedy the situation...
In our denial of reality as He has provided it to us, in our having ascribed our existence to mere happenstance, random selection, or an act of nature, we rob ourselves of the ultimate inherent benefit of the Tree of Life, eternal existence with God, offered once more again to us through Another's sacrifice made in humiliation upon a tree of death, even as we suppress this truth in order to have things our way. We, now, willfully blind, refuse to examine a preponderance of supporting evidence, in desperation proffer strange theories (i.e., evolution) regarding the meaning of all this, committing ourselves to the flimsiest hearsay--all to preserve our right to have life our way, requiring more energy spent and committing greater leaps of faith than God Himself requires from us--in order that we preserve such futile notions. For, after so long a time, we truly have come to believe in pure vapor--the notion that we are in control of this universe. "All is vanity...grasping at wind." (Ecclesiastes) And currently, the human race is buckling under the weight of its own folly.
Comfortingly, in the end, God promises that He can still see us, that He knew us before He measured the foundations of this earth, that He numbered the very hairs on each of our heads, that He knew who we each would be even as generations of humans deny His existence. And, for the record, there doesn't seem to be anyone in the Bible who ever successfully eluded Him or His scrutiny. Not one. His book claims that even as you read this today, He is with us, even when we are foolish enough to believe in no concept of Him, and will turn no one away who turns toward Him. And in the end, regardless of what path we take, He says that His promises to His creation will be fulfilled. Every one of them. This should give believers comfort, and the rest, great discomfort. For in the end, the God of Creation, the God of the Bible--any and all translations -- the One from "in the beginning, God...," the Alpha and Omega, the One who died for us while we spit on His name, He, alone, and not we, will be glorified. With or without our permission.
No matter whom or what story we choose to believe.
Seek Him while He may be found.
(to be continued...)
~ INDEX to the rest of "A Hillbilly Draws in the Dirt" ~
PART 1 (1/25/02) --"Frogs in the Pot..." PART 2 (2/02/02) --"The Man Who Would Be King" PART 3 (4/24/02) --"Our Search for Global Order" PART 4 (5/01/02) -- "May Day, May Day" PART 5 (5/13/02) -- "Telling Truth by Her Flower" PART 6 (6/03/02) -- "Going Back to the Garden" PART 7 (8/06/02) -- "Heaven on Earth" PART 8 (9/12/02) -- "The Real War Being Waged Against Us" PART 9 (12/31/02) -- "New Year's Eve Memories of 2002" PART 10 (01/12/03) -- "Live Now--Pay Later" PART 11 (02/19/03) -- "Patriot Act 2 and Concentration Camps" PART 12 (02/21/03) -- "Things Have Become All Too Clear..." PART 13 (3/19/03) -- "Not Too Clear for Some..." PART 14 (3/26/03) -- "My Mind is Clearer Now..." PART 15 (4/1/03) -- "Clearly Green" PART 16 (5/20/03) -- "A Constitutional IQ Test"
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