God’s commission to humans: take care of the garden

Posted Jan 28, 2020

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Daily Scripture

Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17

4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

On the day the LORD God made earth and sky— 5 before any wild plants appeared on the earth, and before any field crops grew, because the LORD God hadn’t yet sent rain on the earth and there was still no human being to farm the fertile land, 6 though a stream rose from the earth and watered all of the fertile land— 7 the LORD God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life. 8 The LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east and put there the human he had formed. 9 In the fertile land, the LORD God grew every beautiful tree with edible fruit, and also he grew the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

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15 The LORD God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it. 16 The LORD God commanded the human, “Eat your fill from all of the garden’s trees; 17 but don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because on the day you eat from it, you will die!”

Reflection Questions

Genesis’ second creation story was folksier and less structured. It said God created a human first, before any plants or animals. (If we read it as literal history or science, it would seem to refute Genesis 1.) It called God “Yahweh” (translated “LORD”) rather than Genesis 1’s “Elohim” (God). Yahweh gave the newly created human a “garden,” a fertile setting in which to thrive, and charged him “to take care of it.” (Later Israelite poets celebrated God as Creator—cf. Psalm 19:1-4, 24:1-2; 33:6-9.)

  • Scholar John Walton said Genesis 2 used different terms than Genesis 1, with similar import: “In the rest of the ancient world it was believed that humans had been created to serve the needs of the gods….Here, priestly terms are used in contrast to the royal functions given in 1:28–29…. The priestly function involved maintaining… sacred space and providing for the proper worship and obedience to God’s requirements.”* How can you more fully live into your royal, priestly charge (cf. Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6, 5:10) to “take care of” the God’s world?
  • “The Hebrew words for human (adam) and fertile land (adamah) sound alike and emphasize the connection between human beings and their land.”** This connection was natural for Israel’s mostly agricultural people. In what ways has our more industrialized, office-centered, hi-tech setting robbed us of some of that sense of connection? Why does it matter to remember that the land still nourishes our life?

Prayer

Dear Jesus, make me ever more aware of the ways in which my choices can harm the people, the other forms of life, and even the life-sustaining earth around me. Amen.

Did You Know?

(information supplied by the EarthCOR team)

Up to 100 million monarch butterflies migrate every year, up to 3,000 miles each way. Many of them migrate through Kansas City, with peak migration in mid-September. Planting native plants can help sustain this butterfly population, which has suffered substantial loss of habitat due to development.*** Ask your local garden center for help!


* Zondervan, NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook (Kindle Locations 7431-7436). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

** Theodore Hiebert, study note on Genesis 2:6 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 7 OT.

*** From monarchwatch.org.

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Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at Leawood's modern worship services, as well as at the West and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

There’s a story I saw on Reddit (a website where users can post and vote on content) about a high school student who was given a small bank account and some checks in preparation for his upcoming trip with his friends to Colorado. The kid was so enamored with the idea that he could write checks that he decided to write some of his friends “joke checks” because it was just so cool. Well, wouldn’t you know it, some of his friends cashed those checks, and before he had even left for his Colorado trip, he found his account overdrawn and all of the money for his trip gone.

That’s the back-story. The reason the kid posted this story to Reddit was because he was angry at his friends and wanted to know what legal action he could take against them. That’s right, he posted this in the legal advice subreddit. When I found this story, it was the most downvoted (unpopular) post in the subreddit’s history. Posters rightly called out the kid for being irresponsible with what had been entrusted to him and told him that there was likely nothing he could do to get back at his friends for cashing these “joke checks” that were all too real.

In today’s passage about the creation of humans and the Garden of Eden, we find some interesting commentary on why humans were placed on Earth. Growing up in Sunday school, the general notion seemed to be that the Garden of Eden was a place of plenty—it was a place that had everything early humans could ever need to live in a life of relative luxury and ease. But that’s not what we see here. Verse 5 tells us that crops didn’t grow before humans tended the fields and verse 15 tells us that humans were placed in the garden to take care of it, not merely live off of it.

In many ways, the planet God has given us is like a bank account. There are limited resources, and we have to be responsible with those resources or we may find ourselves with an overdrawn account. Just like in the story above, some of us (let’s be honest, most of us) have become so enamored with our ability to write checks from this account that it’s become a frivolous hobby or a joke. Environmentalism has become something of a running joke among many of my friends, with people joking about killing trees when they waste paper or causing pollution when they purchase large SUVs. Each of those choices we make is a joke check—something we never expect to be cashed, but something which will inevitably come out of our balance whether we want it to or not.

The point isn’t that the whole world has to go vegan and drive hybrid cars; the point is that we all have to try, and take our environmental choices seriously. God created humans to tend the garden and make sure crops continue to grow there. We have to confront the reality that the checks we sometimes write so carelessly are not joke checks—they come with a real cost, and we have to be responsible with our account to prevent it from becoming overdrawn.

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