Live the Story - An Excerpt From Genesis (The Story of God Bible Commentary Series)
The Story of God Bible Commentary explains and illuminates each passage of Scripture in light of the Bible’s grand story. The first commentary series to do so, SGBC offers a clear and compelling exposition of biblical texts, guiding readers in how to creatively and faithfully live out the Bible in their own contexts. Its story-centric approach is idea for pastors, students, Sunday school teachers, and all who want to understand the Bible in today’s world.
SGBC is organized into three easy-to-use sections, designed to help readers live out God’s story:
- Listen to the Story (Read the scripture passage)
- Explain the Story (Exposit each passage in light of the Bible’s grand story)
- Live the Story (Probe how this text might be lived out today in the life of the church)
In his upcoming release on Genesis, Tremper Longman III examines each portion of scripture through this three-step process. This week's excerpt from Genesis is from the “Live the Story” section taken from Genesis 3.
Helping Us Understand Our Experiences: Loneliness, Frustration, and Hostility
As we have already commented, Genesis 3 is an origins text; it does not simply intend to report an ancient event, but to help us understand who we are as human beings. In particular, the punishments directed toward the serpent, the woman, and the man may help us understand why we are often lonely, frustrated, and in conflict.
Why are we lonely and why do we experience pain in relationships?
In Genesis 2, God knew that “it is not good for the man to be alone” (v. 18). Humans are made for relationship with each other. God’s most immediate response to this need was to make a woman who would “become one flesh” (2:24) with the man. Though marriage, according to the Bible, is the most intimate of all human relationships, our loneliness is mitigated by other relationships as well, both kinship relationships as well as voluntary ones like friendship. In a word, “man is not an island” (John Donne), but yearns for, even needs community. At the end of Genesis 2 humanity dwelt in harmony because they had an untroubled relationship with God.
According to our present chapter, human rebellion against God changes the harmonious nature of relationship. Humans asserted themselves against God through their act of pride. Rather than seeking the good of the other, people put themselves first and, according to Genesis 3:16, attempt to control other people for their own benefit.
Sin destroys community, fracturing relationships, both with God and with other people. The biblical narrative is filled with many stories that bear this observation out, but the biblical witness also attests to the possibility of redemption of relationships, first with God and then with each other.
Of the countless texts that illustrate God’s pursuit of redemption of relationship and community, we turn to Ephesians 2 for illustrative purposes. Verses 11 – 13 addresses Gentiles who were separated from Christ as well as from the covenant community (v. 12, “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world”) and happily announces that “in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (v. 13).
Jesus’ death on the cross is not just for our individual redemption, but is for the restoration of human relationships. Christ’s death not only creates a relationship with God, but also allows us to have meaningful relationships with other people. Sin creates barriers between people, but Christ “destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (v. 14), for his purpose was “to create in himself one new humanity out of two, thus making peace” (v. 15).
Our sinful, self-serving nature will always try to put ourselves first, thus destroying relationship. If we have a relationship with Christ, we have the foundation for healthy relationships with other people.
Why is work so frustrating?
Sin is the cause of loneliness and pain in relationships; sin is also the reason we experience frustration in our work. Genesis 2 informs us that humans would work whether or not they sinned, but Genesis 3 explains why work is difficult, frustrating, and sometimes dehumanizing.
We work to survive — literally. Most readers of this commentary will be participants in a currency-based economy. If we don’t work, we don’t have any money. If we don’t have any money, we don’t have shelter or food. But most people want more out of their work than just money; they want a sense of purpose, a sense of accomplishment.
When Adam and Eve worked in the garden, tending and keeping it, they not only provided for their own sustenance, they also were engaged in a noble, God-given task. They reflected their Creator in their work. But sin troubled work and no one, even those with jobs they generally enjoy, escapes a sense of futility in their work. No one captures it better than the Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes as he looks at life “under the sun.” If we live life apart from God, we will experience the consequences of the covenant curses:
So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless. (Eccl 2:17 – 23; see also 4:4; 9:11)
These are depressing words, but most people recognize that they ring true with their experience to a greater or lesser extent. Is there any hope for redemption in our work?
No one escapes the frustration of work to be sure, but we were created to work, thus reflecting in our human way our Creator God. The message of the book of Ecclesiastes is a reminder that the ultimate meaning of life cannot be found in anything, including work, other than in God. But if we put God first and work for this glory, we can certainly find at least glimpses of glory and enjoyment in our labor.
Again, work provides a venue for us to reflect our Creator. We are created in God’s image, meaning that we have creative impulses that can be applied to our work as gardeners, janitors, parents, counselors, politicians, ministers, students, accountants, pilots, etc. (Pgs 73-76)
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