Archive for January 5th, 2009
Rivers & Marriage
Genesis 2, Luke 3
I’d like to continue my thoughts from yesterday by focusing on the reading from Genesis. I think too much anxiety exists in the world, in the church, about the purpose of the book of Genesis. It’s easy to do that. I have learned to be patient when trying to understand the book; even more patient when trying to discuss it. I have had to in the past avoid discussions of the book because I don’t like arguing about it. Genesis is a beautiful book; the first two chapters are grand.
Notice a couple of features in chapter 2. The first feature I notice is the water. If light played an important role in chapter 1, water plays an important role in chapter 2. It’s kind of strange, I suppose, that of all the things God could have inspired the author to tell us about he chose to inspire him to write about the river that flowed in Eden and the rivers that flowed out of it into the lands beyond Eden. So important was this feature that he names the rivers. This locates the rivers in geography. Gives those who knew them an idea of their significance: they are named in Scripture!
I don’t want to make more of these rivers than is necessary, but I notice that one unnamed river flowed out of Eden and then split into 4 other named rivers that spread throughout the lands outside of Eden. Eden was the place where there was fellowship and grace and provision and life. Eden was the place we are told that God walked with man and man walked with God. Out of Eden this one unnamed river flowed and provided the water for four other rivers. We are not told where this river had its source, just that it flowed out of Eden.
I picture this as God’s provide-ance. It is a picture of the God whose grace is so expansive that he sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike. This one unnamed river that watered Eden also watered other parts of the creation too. There is another time when we are told about a name-less river that flows and provides grace and healing and life. It is in Revelation 22: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.” He talks about the trees, as did the author of Genesis; he talks about the removal of the curse, the curse we learn about in Genesis. Once again a river of God’s grace flows, but now its source is named: The throne of God and the Lamb! Then, a garden; now, a city: both supplied by the gracious river of God’s life. I suspect that as he is the source in Revelation, so also is he the source in Eden.
There’s another image in Genesis 2 also that stirs me to wonder. It’s the picture of a marriage between a man and a woman. It is amazing that of all the things God could have decided to tell us about the beginning that one of the things, besides rivers, was marriage. To be sure, it’s a marriage unlike any we might imagine. No clergy. No legal documents. No Blood tests. No bridesmaids. No mothers. No controversy. Just a man and a woman, united in one act of physical unity; one flesh. Times were much simpler then, I suppose.
I’ve always found it odd that God created man and then decided that something was ‘not good’ after 5 straight days of ‘good.’ It was ‘not good’ for man to be alone. Man had the fullness of fellowship and communion with God and yet man was ‘alone.’ The presence of God did not satisfy man. The presence of animals did not satisfy man. Man by himself did not satisfy man. So God creates someone who would fill the glaring void in man’s life: He gives him his wife. Man thus understands her importance: She satisfies a need in man that God, by his own admission, could not.
Our history begins with a marriage—a beautiful consummation of love and life and flesh and the destruction of alone-ness. But it also ‘ends’ there too. Again, I go to the Revelation, chapter 19:7: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” In the beginning, the marriage was given as a ‘cure’, as it were, to heal our alone-ness; to give us completion; to perfect the image of God on the earth. I suspect the point is no different at the end.
Both images, the River and the Marriage, show us that we are dependent beings. We are dependent upon God’s provision of grace, life, and companionship. We are dependent upon one another in order to complete the purposes for which we were created: To be fruitful, to multiply, to bear the image of God.
It’s beautiful to know that ultimately both of these images, the River (grace) and the Marriage, will be satisfied fully (perfected) in Jesus Christ.
Interesting, very, very interesting.
Another pastoral implication is that human beings are not the source of our own salvation–or anybody else’s. It’s tough enough for me to know that I can’t save myself. But it’s also hard to believe (and perhaps this is a problem only for us pastors) that I am not the source of someone else’s salvation. I can tell the story, I can trot out my little arguments, I can sit with them and try to be a good example to them. I can go out into the night and seek them, but I am not the Christ. I’m only an ambassador. I witness under the conviction that Christ wants this life, that Christ is already active in this life long before I got there, and that Christ will continue to work in this life long after I’ve gone on to whatever Jesus has in store for me next. But only Jesus saves.
Sometimes we pastors try to be the messiahs for our people rather than to the the Messiah save them. In such moments we imply that their salvation is through a competent, capable pastor who enables them to get their act together. No. Salvation is allowing Jesus to intrude among us, as he is, rather than as we would have him to be. In my experience, any pastor who is overworked to the point of disillusionment and exhaustion is probably due for a refurbished soteriology.” (Who Will Be Saved? 130-131)
What, you mean the preacher not only cannot save people but isn’t even responsible to? Wow.