The older I get, the bigger these early chapters of the bible figure in my thinking. Chapter two covers some of the same ground as chapter one but there are a number of differences. Perhaps the most important difference is that whereas the first chapter focuses on creation in its entirety, the second is focused on the creation of human beings.
- Dust – “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground”. We know that mankind is made in the image of God but here we see that we are formed from the dust; we are made up of the same chemical elements as everything else in the universe.
- Breath – “Breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”. We are made from dust and yet we live. Only God can cause something to live, science can only alter something that is or has been alive.
- Work – “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it”. We have seen in the previous chapter that God commanded our first parents to rule, here we see that God provided work for the first man.
- Limits – “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Any parent knows that allow children to do whatever they wish, is not love, its neglect. God set a clear boundary for Adam and told him the consequences of disobedience.
- Relationships – “It is not good for the man to be alone”. The simple truth is that God saw something in his creation that was not good, a person on his own. God dwells eternally in a perfect relationship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and he has created us to live in relationships. Not everyone is called to marriage but we all need good relationships with other people.
In Acts, the church began to suffer persecution very early on. In response, the believers met to pray and quoted the second Psalm: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain”. It’s a question many of us have asked about opposition to the gospel, why?
- Rebellion (v1-3) – As we have seen, God sets boundaries for mankind yet people have consistently exceeded the limits set by God. We live in a world that is overwhelmingly opposed to God and the Lord Jesus.
- Rule (v4-9) – The forces that are opposed to God are very powerful yet the divine response is clear; he laughs. God is in control and one day Jesus will return in power.
- Response (v10-12) – “Therefore” since God is all powerful, the only wise thing to do is to submit to him. The kiss here is an expression of submission. “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11)
A careful study of the birth accounts of the Lord Jesus shows that some of the traditional ideas of the first Christmas are some way off the mark. We learn in Matthew of the visit of the Magi, they were not kings, there is no indication that there were three of them, they came to a house (not a stable) and saw a child and not a baby. Herod’s command to murder all of the male children under the age of two suggests that the visit took place many months after the birth of the Lord.
- God loves those who are excluded. The experts knew exactly where Messiah would be born, yet they didn’t travel a mere five miles. The Magi may have travelled from as far away as Iran, and were following the sign that God had sent. They may not have understood everything, but God spoke to them in a way that they could understand and they responded with worship. God still loves the excluded.
- Jesus was himself excluded. Herod is a figure well known in history outside the bible. He was known to be utterly ruthless and cruel and there are is some evidence that his behaviour became increasingly cruel as he grew old. The holy family were forced to leave Israel and dwell in Egypt. The Saviour of the world knows what it is to be an asylum seeker and a refugee.
- Jesus grew up in obscurity. Even after the death of Herod, the holy family were not safe in Judea, forcing them to live in a backwater. Jesus did not grow up knowing the ‘right people’, nor did he have the connections to enable him to move easily through the corridors of power. He was an outsider.