Why did God do that?

In our Sunday morning youth class we’ve been walking very slowly through the opening chapters of Genesis. It’s been 6 Sundays and we’re just now into chapter 3. There’s just so much there!

Anyway, it’s incredible how we often have those aha! moments in passages that we’ve read and read and read and have even taught and written about.

I had one of those last week.

I have often heard the question: Why did God put the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” there in the first place?

The assumption is that the tree itself was bad. The first humans were not allowed to eat of it. Ever. Never ever were they supposed to touch or eat of this tree because it was bad. God must have put it there because there could be no free will where there was temptation, i.e. God created temptation…?

But throughout the first chapter of Genesis, EVERYTHING God created was declared “good.” In fact, the only thing that was labeled as “not good” was the fact that the first man was alone. So follow this: 1. God created everything; 2. Everything God created was good; 3. God created the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; 4. The tree itself was created GOOD.

God did not create anything bad or evil. So the Tree was good. But how can that be?

Listen to the language used to describe the first humans. They were naked and they felt no shame. They had no knowledge of good and evil. Their understanding of cause/effect and action/punishment were not highly developed. All of this sounds very child-like.

And notice in God’s command concerning the tree that he does not say, “For if you eat of it,” but “when you eat of it.” When the woman relays the command to the serpent, her version is very different. She says they aren’t supposed to eat it or even touch it or they will die.

So our first false assumption is that the tree was somehow bad or evil itself, thus God created temptation. Our second false assumption is that the garden was meant to be a permanent dwelling. We assume that the humans were never supposed to eat of the tree and thus live a blissfully ignorant, childlike existence forever in paradise.

On this assumption we fall more in line with the woman’s understanding of the world and less in line with God’s bigger picture. There would come a time when the humans would be ready to eat of the tree, leave the garden, and face the world on there own. Much like there comes a time when it’s up to the child to leave his parents and make it on his own out in the world.

So the tree was good, and there is indication that they would one day be ready to eat of it and leave the garden. The real problem came when they were enticed by the serpent to eat of the tree before it was time. They didn’t fully understand the consequences of their actions. They didn’t truly grasp cause and effect. They weren’t ready.

The good news is that the garden makes a reappearance. All the way at the end of Revelation, John describes his vision of a city coming down from heaven. The tree of life was at its center. The garden has now become a city. So not only was the garden not intended to be a permanent dwelling place, but the garden itself had changed and grown and evolved into a city – which is a permanent dwelling.

The tree of life is there, but not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This city is built for those who have eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge but have proved themselves worthy to eat of the the tree of life once again.

In the Garden

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that there is a big push to “Go Green.” Environmentalism has entered into mainstream pop culture. Now with oil prices on the rise and sky-high energy prices, more and more people are jumping on the eco-train. And why not? Using less energy = saving more dollars.

What’s more, Americans are becoming more aware of the long-term environmental impact that everyday decisions can have. Global warming has become a household term and a serious concern for many people. We understand now that if we continue on the same track, there won’t be much of an earth left for our grandchildren to enjoy.

This is all good in my opinion. The only unfortunate part about this whole green revolution is that it has begun and is primarily sustained from a secular angle.

Let me explain. In response to the whole global warming issue, I’ve heard many Christians scoff, brush it off, and say that it’s all bumpkis. I’ve heard things like, “The earth can correct itself,” or, “Humans can’t destroy the earth. That’s up to God.” Then there are those who think that Jesus is going to come back and destroy the earth sometime in the next century, so it doesn’t really matter how we treat the earth.

Think about it. When was the last time you saw recycling bins in a church building?

Creation-care has not been the top priority of the church over the last couple centuries. If anything, it has been a passing thought or a footnote. But should it be that way? Should God’s people keep focusing on everything besides the environment? Or should the church be at the forefront of this environmental revolution?

I think it helps to look at God’s intended plan for His creation. In Genesis 2 we see God’s original intention for His prized creation. Just after God made man, He placed him in the Garden with a job.

“The LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it.”

The first job mankind ever had was tending to, working, and caring for God’s creation.

So you tell me. Does creation care matter? Can’t God just clean up the mess that humans have made of this world? Or is it up to us to take care of the earth, take responsibility for the mess we’ve created, and take measures to correct it?

From the beginning, God has left it up to us to make use of the land and tend to the land. The earth takes care of us, and we take care of it.


Yeah, can you believe someone actually made a movie about dirt? I started watching it the other day, but didn’t have time to finish it. The filmmakers and the interviewees shared some very interesting insights about the ground beneath our feet.

Did you catch the one guy in the trailer who said, “We are dirt”? As a matter of fact, fertile top soil contains pretty much all the building blocks of human life–carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, water, and various other elements and minerals. When any living organism dies, it is broken back down into these fundamental elements to become…dirt.

[This is where I’ll throw in this week’s eco-tip: Composting! Is simple, it’s green, and it will help replenish parched dirt or fertilize your own gardens. For some helpful ways to get started, check out these websiteshowtocompost.orgcomposting101.comcompostguide.com]

When God made humans, Genesis 2:7 says that He formed man out of the dust of the earth. When a person is dead, they are molecularly the same as when they were alive. Yet, the moment their heart stops beating, their bodies begin the decomposition process, which turns them back into dirt. It’s really the breath that makes all the difference.

God formed the first man from the dust of the earth, and then He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Breath. It’s a simple, unconscious action that we take for granted. We can live without water for a few days and without food for a few weeks. Yet we can only live a few minutes without breath. That breath you just took is the most essential thing we take into our bodies.

Okay….duh? So what’s the point?

In nearly every ancient language, be it Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, etc., the word for breath is the same word for spirit. English has two different words – spirit and breath. Yet to ancient peoples, spirit and breath were the same. When a person died, their spirit and their breath had departed from them. We think of it as a double meaning, yet to them, it was the same. It is the spirit that sustains life. Our physical bodies cannot survive apart from our spirits.

So what is it that separates us from dirt? Our spirits. The breath we just took is a taste of the divine, it is a gift from God. It is a physical manifestation of our spiritual reality. Apart from God’s Spirit, we have no true life in our bodies. The same held true in the valley of dry bones found in Ezekiel 37. And again, the same language is used in Acts 2 when the Spirit of God fills the room like a violent wind.

Breath is essential for our bodies to survive. But it is just as essential that our lives be filled with the breath of God. If not, then “all we are is dust in the wind.”

High Five Thursday!

Interesting turn this week. Here is my list of my

Top 5 Not-So-Preachable Bible Verses

WARNING: Reader discretion may be advised.

Genesis 1:29-30
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Wait…so, every animal was originally created to be strictly vegetarian? Apparently so. I guess this means that in God’s original design, humans were not encouraged to eat steak, hamburgers, or chicken nuggets. I suppose this also applied to lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

A world in which every creature is vegetarian, thus eliminating the need to kill any other living being. Try preaching that right before the monthly pot-luck!

Genesis 6:4
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

Angels came down to earth, had sex with human women, and those women gave birth to what some interpret as “giants”?? Some even go so far as to say that Goliath descended from these Nephilim. I challenge you to try and find a way to preach this verse without sounding completely off your rocker.

Exodus 4:24-25
At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said.

First of all, why would God set out to kill Moses, whom He just commissioned to lead His people out of Egypt? Secondly….eww? Of all the severed body parts to have pressed against my foot….gosh.

Judges 19:29
When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.

This just sounds like straight up inspiration for a horror flick. The priest lets his mistress get gang raped, and then he hacks her into pieces, inciting an all out civil war. Yes, folks. This is in the Bible.

Ruth 3:8-9
In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet!
    “Who are you?” [Boaz] asked.
   “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.

To be honest, I have heard lessons on Ruth before. But for the most part, the preachers/teachers try to skirt around the issue. But I think any average reader would automatically assume the implications of “lying at his feet” and “spread your garment over me.” Well, whatever Ruth was trying to do, I definitely did not get this type of dating advice from any trusted Christian source….

Beginning, pt. 2

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

So begins the creation story. From there, God goes on to create light and land and stars and everything else. As a child, and on into adulthood, when thinking about creation, I always pictured God sitting in his throne room which resembled something like the bridge on the Enterprise from Star Trek. I imagined God sitting atop his captain’s chair, handing out marching orders to the angles around him, and watching it all take place before him on a 72″ LCD screen.

But look what it says:

“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

Formless. Empty. Dark. Deep. This sounds like a place I would never want to be. This sounds downright hellish. This sounds like the opposite of where God would be found, thus the made-up image in my mind of God creating from afar.

But God was right there. His Spirit was hanging out right in the middle of the darkness, the emptiness. Before there was light, or stars, or sky, or even love, God was there. When there was nothing but chaos and mayhem, God was there.

YHWH has never been one to rule from afar. He is and has always been an on-the-ground type of leader, one who would command from the trenches, one who would lead His army from the front lines. Creation was no different. He faced the void head on and watched the universe take form all around Him.

He created structure out of formlessness. He fill the void with the fullness of the universe. He vanquished the darkness with His light. And He raised up mountains from the abyss.

How’s that for a powerful God?

And the best thing of all is that He is ready and willing to do the very same in our own lives!

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

(For more on this topic, you can listen to the sermon I preached a while back under the “Sermons, etc.” page.)


It is my general understanding that almost everything we need to know about God can be discovered within the opening chapters of the Bible. Genesis 1-11 are some of the most controversial, most hotly debated chapters in Scripture. Are they literal 24 hour days during creation? Was there really a Garden in Eden? Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? How could Noah fit all the animals on the ark? Could there really have been a global flood?

Many of these narratives have been passed off as Sunday school flannel board stories. Rarely do we revisit these chapters as adults to try and figure out why are they in the Bible? Why did God choose to open the most important book in all of human history with such outrageous sounding stories? Or maybe they’re not so outrageous if we just tweak our own modern/postmodern worldview a bit.

So let’s begin in the beginning.

Genesis 1:1 — “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Thus begins the greatest story ever told.

Now for a little English lesson. The verb in this sentence is “created.” The subject of the sentence is “God.” The Bible begins by letting us know that God’s first act in history was creating. Now, I can go outside, nail some wood together, and build a birdhouse. Then I can come inside, mix up some flour, sugar, etc. and bake a cake. I can then proceed to pick up and clean up around the house to get things in order. But at the end of the day I have not “created” anything.

When God creates, He is intentional, He is purposeful, and His creation is perfect. God’s act of creating brings to mind an artist who slaves over mixing just the right color and using just the right brush stroke until his masterpiece is completed. Hours upon hours may be spent in the tedious labor, but the end result is a priceless work of art that can never be replicated.

If you look back into other creation stories at the time this was written, you’ll see a themes of chaos (roaring oceans and terrible storms) or battles between other gods or some other way in which the earth was simply an accidental by-product of some disaster.

But in this story, a singular God took his own time to create, purposefully and intentionally, the heavens and the earth and everything between and within.

Just reflect on this verse for a moment.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

In the beginning

God created

the heavens and the earth.

Our God is not a god to be feared and appeased but one to be worshiped and embraced. He is not up there somewhere looking for an excuse to strike us down or destroy the world. That would be as absurd as Leonardo da Vinci throwing darts at the Mona Lisa or Michaelangelo taking a jackhammer to David.

In Ephesians 2:10, Paul tells us that we are God’s poiema, from which we get our word poem. We are his workmanship, his creation, his masterpiece. Every single person is God’s creation. That means that you and I and everyone of the 6 billion people on this earth has value, has meaning, has a purpose.

If that’s not good news, I don’t know what is. All I know is that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and you and me.

The heavens and the earth

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

The phrase “the heavens and the earth” is a prime example of a Hebrew literary device in which two opposites are mentioned but the implication is that everything in between is included. Another way of understanding that verse is to say, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…[and everything contained therein] or [and everything in between] or [and everything else we see]”

A common question is raised, however: Why did God bother going to such great lengths to create a seemingly infinite universe when the small pebble called earth is all that really matters? It seems like God went a little overboard with the whole creation thing.

But when you think about the purpose of the universe and all of creation, what seems like wasted space actually testifies to the awesomeness of God. The purpose of creation is to reflect the character and the glory of the Creator. Think about it. A Creator whose glory is infinite would naturally create an infinite universe to reflect that glory. Why hold back? Why not create an awesome universe for humans to study and explore? From the smallest atomic particle to the largest galaxies and nebulae, God’s glory, holiness and awesomeness are readily revealed. All creation testifies to the majesty of the Creator.