The Failure In Eden
In the beginning when God created the heavens and earth, he created man in his image. He gave them one purpose: multiply and fill the earth. He spoke and gave them paradise on a silver platter. Adam and Eve had food, gold, each other, and fellowship with God. They lacked nothing. We have asked an important question from the beginning of our study in Genesis: why? Why does God give man numerous blessings and tell him to fill the entire earth? Solomon captures this perfectly in Psalm 72 as he speaks about God’s reign of glory.
Psalm 72:8–19, “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! … May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! … May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field! May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!”
Solomon understood how God’s purpose was being fulfilled through Israel’s kingdom in his day. Solomon’s prayer was for all peoples to experience God’s blessings so that the Earth would be filled with flourishing people who recognize God as the good giver. God desires the supremacy of his name to be proved to all through the display of his faithfulness, wisdom, and power. God pours out blessings and tells Adam and Eve to fill the earth so that Earth will be filled with his glory.
Instead of spreading God’s wisdom and fame, they listened to their own wisdom and rebelled against God by eating the fruit. Though God showed them his glorious nature in the garden, they thought it small. Notice how God reacts to this type of attitude with Israel in Numbers 14:20–23, “Then the LORD said, ‘I have pardoned, according to your word. But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it.'”
God punishes those who reject his word and despise his glory by seeking their own. This is what many in Israel did. God sent the same message to Adam and Eve by stripping away their blessings. Adam and Eve sought their own glory in seeking to become like God by eating the fruit. Eating the fruit gave them the burdensome knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:18) and removed the purity and eternal life that comes with bearing God’s image. Though they were purposed to fill the earth with God’s glory, they profaned his name by disregarding his word. Pain and death resulted. Sin has such unforeseeable consequences. As God said in Numbers 14, God will forgive, but the consequences of sin can’t be swept under the rug. Genesis 4-11 is a powerful testimony to that fact. Unfortunately for Adam and Eve, they live to personally see much of the pain their sin caused.
Adam and Eve’s Legacy
Following Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden they had two children, Cain and Abel. The brief years of joy in the world’s first family soon turned to sadness. Cain grew jealous of Abel’s acceptance before God and slaughtered him. When the Lord sought remorse from Cain, Cain showed the opposite. Cain was cursed with difficult labor and expelled to be a lonely wanderer. Cain’s realization in Genesis 4:12 is saddening, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” Cain recognized what we wish we all personally understood before we made irrevocable mistakes. How painful sin is! Lamech’s song in 4:23-24 about killing a man shows us that the growth of Cain’s descendants only means the spread of evil. Adam’s image of dust spreads through chapter 5 as the death of everyone following him is emphasized in the genealogy. No genealogy emphasizes death as this one does. All bear Adam’s curse and image – dust. Sin has made life miserable.
Mankind continued to fill the earth as God had commanded. As opposed to filling the Earth with the glory of the Lord, mankind filled the earth with wickedness. Genesis 6:5–7, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.'”This picture is a sad contrast to God’s intended purpose of his glory and righteousness filling the world. The earth was instead filled with violence, sensuality, and pure evil. God delights in blessing his children, but in his righteousness he decided to judge Earth with a flood.
The story of Noah and the ark is often boiled down into a Sunday school tale about Noah getting animals on the ark. A proper portrayal of the flood is anything but a children’s story. Low estimates put the population of the world at this time around one billion people. Only eight are saved in the ark. Genesis 7:23, “He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.”The flood was violent. Families would have run for higher ground in sheer terror. The scene would have been full of panic as the entire population ran for their lives. Husbands and wives were separated. Parents were separated from their children. Everyone died; men, women, and children. This is the result of sin.
When God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, I wonder if he knew it would come to this. What can God say to Adam and Eve that will cause them to realize the importance of their obedience? Death wasn’t enough of a deterrent. If only they could have seen the pain their sin was going to bring the world ahead of time. If only we could see the pain our sin will bring the world ahead of time. When I think how Adam and Eve’s sin led to an evil-filled world, I wonder what legacy my family will leave in the future. Two people grew into at least a billion people – all of whom were evil. Whether for good or for evil, my family will multiply. Sometimes my grandparents speak of their siblings and other family members’ sinful decisions and lack of passion for God. The pain their decisions caused their children is heartbreaking. Even worse is the legacy of sin and idolatry they passed on through their family. Our sin and household idols will transfer to our children and grandchildren. A hundred years from now our family tree will have grown exponentially. What consequences will they have to live with because of our sins?
Babel’s Great Name
God’s plans to be glorified in all the earth cannot be thwarted by man. He saved a remnant for himself – a theme continued throughout the Bible. God originally told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” but in 9:1 God gives that charge to Noah’s family. God’s glory will fill the earth. But, Noah and his family were not perfect. It is clear from the stories we hear in chapters 9-11 that Noah and his descendants are still affected by the sinfulness of the world pre-flood. As the Earth’s population grew from Noah’s three children, God’s purposes were still not being fulfilled. God charged the people to fill the earth so that his glory could spread throughout it, but notice what they did in Genesis 11.
Genesis 11:1–4, “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there…Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.'”
Notice how their goal in building the city is the exact opposite of God’s desire for them. God desires that they disperse and fill the whole Earth with his glory. They desire to build a city and a tower so that they can make a name for themselves and not be dispersed. Notice God’s response.
Genesis 11:5–8, “And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.”
God again disrupts mankind’s plans to accomplish his own. How stubborn we are! No matter what God tells man to do, man outright rejects it. Even today we read this story and miss God’s message by thinking God intervened because they were trying to build a tower to reach to God in Heaven. Our corrupted hearts are blinded from the true message of this story. God desires all people to make much of his name and his glory – not their own. If God condemned people for building a city and tower to make a great name for themselves, what must God think of our world? God’s message through Babel is countercultural, but we are no different when we want to make a name for ourselves. Companies, rock stars, cities, countries, and athletes are so often concerned about making much of themselves and their legacy. What about a legacy for God? We can’t just point the finger at the rich and famous either, our pursuits for our glory in our own small spheres accomplish the same thing. God is not interested in our success and legacy in this world. The riches, fame, and glory are only a corollary to pride in God’s eyes. These pursuits are all about getting people to look at us and give us glory and respect for our abilities. We need to look at Christ. In everything he did and said he pointed the glory to the Father. Are we trying to bring praise to the name of God, or ourselves?
Abram and God’s Great Name
After the flood God promised to never destroy all flesh through a flood because of the evil constantly in man’s heart. The beginning of Genesis 12 starts a new story and a new plan for God to fill the earth with his glory. He calls to Abram to have faith in him. Abram is nobody by the world’s standards; he is perfect for God to do his work through him.
Genesis 12:1–3, “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'”
God desires to glorify his name in all the Earth through mankind. God didn’t choose a great powerful king on Earth to be the beginning of his people. He chose a simple man named Abram and told him to leave his land so that he could make a great nation out of him. Abram is eventually blessed with great wealth and a great family, but Abram can’t point to himself. He can only point to God’s faithfulness. Through Abram God eventually brought Christ into the world to establish his body of saved people, the church. What is the church’s purpose? To spread the knowledge of the glory of God throughout all physical and spiritual realms through people who experience God’s blessings and give God the glory (Ephesians 3:10). God certainly deserves all the glory. The nation and savior of the world that came from Abraham didn’t start with man – it started with God. The rest of the Bible is not a story about man, but a story about what God is accomplishing through man. The Bible is not a book of rituals that get people into Heaven. It is a book that reveals God’s plan for his glorification through us.
God is still writing the rest of that story today through Christ’s redemptive work in us. We are nobody without God’s redemption of our souls. We must stand firm in a world that tells us otherwise. The world tells us that we are wonderful just as we are and that God will be happy with us no matter how we decide to live our lives. That is foolish talk! God wants to offer us life and purpose beyond our small ideas about true living. He wants to do the same thing he started in the garden. He wants to abundantly pour out his blessings of mercy and grace on us and change us to show all that our joy and hope come from God. All who are in Adam are blind to this. Christ implores us to open our eyes and see the great joy in making much of his name by multiplying his image of love and purity throughout the world (Ephesians 3:21; 1 Peter 4:11). Adopt a worldview of God’s glory. Be a living testimony to the world of God’s great love and mercy.
Adam and Eve created a legacy of evil throughout the world. Spread the legacy of Christ through your family and children, not a legacy of apathetic “Christianity.” Babel tried to make much of themselves. Make your life all about making God famous through the story of his mercy in your life. On our own, we fail at making more than a mockery of his name. God made much of himself through Abraham, and he can do the same through us if we trust him. Let us not be the people whom God bemoans in Habakkuk 2:12–14, “What sorrow awaits you who build cities with money gained through murder and corruption! Has not the LORD of Heaven’s Armies promised that the wealth of nations will turn to ashes? They work so hard, but all in vain! For as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the LORD.”The earth will be filled with the Lord’s glory. We are nothing more than servants created to spread that glory. We must stop living life so that people worship us and are impressed with our ability and accomplishments. Make God the object of your worship and cause others to join you through your example.