God said, “Now let Us conceive a new creation—humanity—made in Our image, fashioned according to Our likeness. And let Us grant them authority over all the earth—the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, the domesticated animals and the small creeping creatures on the earth.”
So God did just that. He created humanity in His image, created them male and female. Then God blessed them and gave them this directive: “Be fruitful and multiply. Populate the earth. I make you trustees of My estate, so care for My creation and rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that roams across the earth.” Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant that grows on the earth and every fruit-bearing tree. They will be your food and nourishment. As for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and every small creeping creature—everything that breathes the breath of life—I have given them every green plant for food. And it happened just as God said. (Genesis 1:26-30)
“The Eternal God planted a garden in the east in Eden—a place of utter delight—and placed [Adam] there. In this garden, He made the ground pregnant with life—bursting forth with nourishing food and luxuriant beauty. He created trees, and in the center of this garden of delights stood the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil... The Eternal God placed the newly made man in the garden of Eden in order to work the ground and care for it. (Genesis 2:8-9; 15)
It is not good for the man to be alone, so I will create a companion for him, a perfectly suited partner… At last, a suitable companion, a perfect partner. Bone from my bones. Flesh from my flesh. I will call this one “woman” as an eternal reminder that she was taken out of man. Now this is the reason a man leaves his father and his mother, and is united with his wife; and the two become one flesh. In those days the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:18; 23-25)
“Then they heard the sound of the Eternal God walking in the cool misting shadows of the garden. (Genesis 3:8)
- Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth ("Make more of you!")
- Be trustees of creation ("Make the earth look like this!")
- Live in shalom with God, each other, and the world
This Hebrew word, shalom, means peace in at least four ways: With God, within, with others, and with the world. That’s what you see in Eden. And God basically said to Adam and Eve, “Do you see what we have here? Recreate it everywhere you go." John Walton says the beginning of Genesis is meant to show how God built the earth as a Temple where He took up residence at the end of His creation. We are given the responsibility and privilege of going into all the world and doing a kind of spiritual terraforming as we show the world what Eden looks like.
We are designed in the image of God to flourish: to live in and help bring about God’s design for the world for our good, the good of everything around us, and for his glory. There is nothing important in life where we are free from asking the question, “How does God want me to use this in such a way that I recreate Eden? How does this show stewardship of the people and things around me, and how does this bring peace to the world?”
The more we live in God’s design, the more the world is good (“tob” in Genesis 1 and 2 is good in the broadest sense).
When we as Christians talk about morality and ethics or things we “ought” to do, we are talking about the parameters and boundaries God has placed into the world and around us so that God’s good objectives can be accomplished for our good and His glory. He never meant them to be – and we should never think of them – as rules meant to rob us of life. “He has shown you what is tob, and what the Lord requires of you” (Micah 6:8).
The more we live outside God’s design, the more the world falls apart (“roa” – calamity, disaster, ruin)
The contrast is seen in Genesis 1-3 in the discussion of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (“tob” and “roa”). It’s God’s way of saying, “I given it to you in the fullest sense of the world. Now, you can learn what roa is. You can gain that knowledge. But don’t do that. If you make that choice, you will die (literally, ‘Dying, you shall die.’) Your life will be characterized by the constant pull of ruin and the approach of death.”
We see in Adam and Eve a part of human nature that is present in all of us: now we will tend to default toward ruin. When we read in Proverbs 14:12 that, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death (ruin)" it’s the same word (tob). That’s the way it is now. What seems right to us is often not good at all. If we don’t know what the right way actually is – if we don’t understand what something is for - we tend toward ruin. Here’s how this looks practically:
- We can become stewards of knowledge or we can ruin things with it (medicine vs. atomic weaponry)
- We can steward the arts or we can ruin the world with them (think of a musician who glorifies genuine love or who glorifies dedgredation)
- Close friendships can pull us toward co-dependency.
- Sex is a fantastic gift of intimacy, vulnerability, and pleasure that can become lustful addiction.
- Meaningful vocations can turn us into workaholics.
- A good microbrew or a fine wine can pull toward the ruin of alcoholism.
- Our speech can bring life…or death. We can build up or we can gossip. We can praise or demean.
- Relaxation can become laziness.
- Ownership can become greed.
Every day, in all kinds of ways, we choose tob or roa. We choose goodness or ruin. There’s a poignant verse in Genesis 3 when God says to Adam and Eve after their choice of roa: “What have you done?” It's not a question because God was ignorant. It’s sadness, because God understands, the consequences. “You chose to die while you wait to die. Do you understand what you have done?”
But we are not without hope.
Psalm 16:11. "You make known to me the path of life (alive and vigorous); in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
God didn’t just kick Adam and Eve out of the Garden and say, “Well, good luck. You broke it. I’m out of here.” No, he gives them clothes to hide their shame. In the very next chapter in Genesis, we see Eve thank God for his help, God looking with favor on Abel, God protecting Cain even after he murdered his brother. The last verse in Chapter 4 says: “At that time, people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”
And as the Old Testament unfolds, you see a God who is present, involved, and who painstakingly makes sure His people know what things will help them flourish and experience God’s favor and what things want. That word for “life” in Psalm 16 has to do with sustenance. “Fullness” means satiated. And then in Christ, we see God offering Himself as the as the ultimate antidote for all that has gone wrong.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes on him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life (active; vigorous; blessed) and have it abundantly (exceeding expectation)." (John 10:10)
Both these verses use the same word for 'life.' Because of Christ, one day all of creation will flourish because of what Christ has done. While we wait for that day, Christ will work in us through His word, His Spirit, and His people. In other words, there is hope even now. We don’t have to settle for being world breakers. We don’t have to settle for ruin.
God has made known the path of life. Jesus came to save a broken world, and the redemption that we will one day experience in its perfection we can even now experience in anticipation of the ultimate, final glory. Christ redeems us, and the Holy Spirit works within us, and God’s Word instructs us… and God can take a life that is prone to ruin the world and use it to bring life to the world in ways we never imagined.