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Apr 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 14, 2013 – Genesis 2:4-25

God, Humans, and I – Thou Relationships

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven. . . . Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Genesis 2:4, 7

INTRO: Where we begin reading today is so different from last week, it’s like we’re in a different book

First, there is clear break between verses 3 and 4
– then, a new theme is introduced in verse 4
• “This is the account” – Hebrew: “generations” and usually precedes a genealogy
• this word is used to separate themes in Genesis
– but the most significant difference between chapters 1 and 2 is hidden in the text

To appreciate what happens here, we will get help from a Jewish philosopher
– Martin Buber pointed out a distinction in human relationships
• he described the way a person interacts with an object or thing as an I – It relation
• the way a person interacts with another person is an I – Thou
– the ultimate I – Thou relationship is between a person and God
I – It is how people relate to God who talk about God, but have not encountered him
• to them he is an “It,” because he is a doctrine, an idea

Looking back at chapter 1, the context is I – It
Elohim, “God,” is the “I” and creation is the “it”
• even when he speaks to the humans, they’re not yet persons
– but immediately in today’s reading, we meet Yahweh Elohim
• it is still “God,” but now this God has a name, Yahweh
○ he is not “a” god, but “this” particular God
○ he is suddenly personal

Martin Buber, “The It-world hangs together in space and time.
The You-world does not hang together in space and time.”

– Genesis chapter 1 is the creation of the It – world located in space and time
• chapter 2 introduces the person of Yahweh
• w
hat transpires between him and the humans moves beyond space and time

The point of this story requires close-up view from a different angle

The first turning point is Yahweh’s name – the second is in verse 7
– in verse 4, God “made earth and heaven,” but in verse 7, he “formed man”
• God rolled up his sleeves and got his hands dirty
• “formed” is used of a potter shaping clay into a bowl or jar
– it’s much more personal than using creative forces to make things
• when working with a tool, it is always between our hands and the object
• here, God’s hands are in direct contact with the object

But the next stage is even more intimate – in fact, radically intimate
– Yahweh bent over the man and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life
• it’s as if God awakens his clay doll with a kiss
• until this moment, the sculpted clay was an It
○ but when God poured the breath of life into it, “the man became a living soul”
○ no other living thing received this kind of intimate attention

Obviously, the material composition of the human is insignificant

Whatever the human is made of, it is neither glamorized or elaborated
– if we ask, “What elements went into making the human body?”
• Genesis says, “Oh, that. Dust of the ground” – mud
○ and it uses a play on words: adamah is ground or soil; adam is man
Adam came from adamah, just as humans are related to humus
– no scientist searching for human origins would be satisfied with that explanation
• they ask, “How did these bodies come together?”
“What are their smallest components and how did they combine to from organs, nervous system, etc.?”
• it’s as if the Bible answered, “Figure that out for yourselves. The only clue you get is that you’ll find it on surface of the planet”

The elements of the clay doll is not the Bible’s main concern
– the Bible is dealing with a different question
• “What makes us human?” “What is our essence?
• “What makes the clay come to life as a living soul? a person?”
– and the answer is: “God’s breath of life”
• this is our essence and it is inseparable from our Creator
• this is where we received the image of God
○ we inhale the breath of God and we have life
○ we exhale and surrender our life back to God

Is it clear to you why the Bible does not do science?
– science travels the low road of human existence
– the Scriptures travel the high road
• What are we really? That we love beauty and thrill at a sunset?
• That we’re outraged over the abuse of a child?
• That we worry about big questions like purpose and meaning? life and death?
• that we make music and art and don’t just have sex, but make love?
– anytime someone tries to feed us bio-chemical answers to these questions, we quickly dismiss them
• because those people can’t tell us what we need to know
○ namely, What am I supposed to do with my life?

Vv. 8-14, God goes back to work

He makes a place for the human
– in the ancient mind, paradise was not in a palace, but a garden

We notice God’s thoughts about the human person
– that when he made trees, he not only made them good for food
• but also “pleasing to the sight”
• machines do not need beauty, but the human soul cannot thrive without it

Vv. 15-17, God brings together the human and his new home

In our earlier view of the earth, there was no human “to cultivate the ground”
– so that is the job God assigns to the human
– he is the earth’s caretaker – he is responsible for its cultivation
• its protection and preservation

We’ll come back to the trees next week

Vv. 18-20, This part is as fascinating as everything else

The human is a very complex creature
– “It is not good . . .” – God didn’t run into this problem with anything else
• not with the sun or stars, plants or trees, birds or fish — only with the human
• the human needs something else – someone else, at his side

So then the parade of animals
– in scripture, to name something is to define it
• to give it a particular kind of existence
○ naming is a kind of power
• once it’s named, we can hardly think of it in any other way
– a God-like activity – God named things in chapter 1
• the human, in God’s image, is given one of God’s powers
• it is not absolute, like God’s power
○ but it is a power that can make or destroy things
○ sadly, with words one human soul can destroy another

This is the sketchy part of being human
– a tree can’t fail to be a tree – can’t fail to achieve its destiny
• the DNA of a cat controls its destiny – it will be a cat
Helmut Thielicke, “This process cannot go wrong”
– but a human life can be twisted, wasted, surrendered to all the wrong things
• a human person can become inhuman

Human DNA carries only the potential to achieve our destiny
– our hope of fulfilling our destiny lies in our I – Thou connection with God

Vv 21-25, The problem is solved

For the first time, Adam’s words are recorded
– it’s as if for the first time, he said something worth writing down
• if he spoke with God, it wasn’t recorded – no prayer, praise or thanksgiving
• if he spoke to the animals when he named, it wasn’t preserved
– his first recorded speech was for the woman, whom he referred to as “this” (this one)

Adam did not just say these words – he sang them – or composed a poem
– God is praised indirectly, but Adam’s eyes are on her
• “This is part of me–my flesh and bones; I am part of her.”
– the poem is followed by a simple, primitive description of their intimacy

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and the woman were both naked and were not ashamed. 

CONC: When we talk about optimum health, we use the word wholeness

We now have a picture of what that looks like
– a human living in
• intimate closeness with God
• intimate closeness with another human
• intimate closeness with all of creation
• and we may assume with one’s self

Can we get there from here?
Of course – this is exactly what Jesus does
• you are never an it or a thing to Jesus
• even when forgiving your sin, you are never a “soul” to save or a “patient” to heal
– and getting us from here to there is exactly what Jesus promises 
• when we come to him and, with our whole heart, place our trust in him,
he tells us, “Go on your way–back to work, or to your chores, or go home–your faith has made you whole”

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