CONTRAST AND COMPARISON

We have had occasion to consider the beauty and brevity of life recently.  It is something that no one wants to ponder for long, it is too sobering; but, it is an inevitable fact of life.  We are born, we live, and we will experience physical death.

English field
Idyllic English fields that symbolize the Garden to me

We read of creation in the very first book of the Holy Bible.  God created man to live a life that was fulfilling — he had work to do and food for nourishment.  Man was not created to sit and do nothing, he was to work the Garden of Eden and keep it. 

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26

However, there was one test in the Garden for Adam and Eve … God asked for obedience.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:15-17

They could eat of any tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they could not eat.  God said if they disobeyed, they would die.

Of course, we know what happened.  Chapter 3 begins with the serpent testing Adam and Eve by twisting the words of God and telling them that they should not believe God’s threat of death, rather they should believe the serpent’s words that they would not die and the fruit was good to eat.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 

Genesis 3:6-8

They disobeyed, and there it was – death arrived, sin entered the world, and a gradual disintegration of creation began.

Physical death was not the only result of their disobedience.  Prior to eating the fruit, Adam and Eve enjoyed a close relationship with God, something that we cannot comprehend in our fallen condition.  God walked in the Garden in the cool of the day and He communed with His creation.  After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve heard God walking in the cool of the day and they hid themselves because they, then, knew that they were naked and they were ashamed. 

But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”  And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”  He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?””

Genesis 3: 9-11

I love this passage – if you have had children, or been around children, you will undoubtedly relate to this picture.  You see the child hiding under the blanket or in a corner but you call “Where are you?” anyway.  You know where they are, but they don’t know that!  Then the conversation continues as you determine if there is something amiss or if they are simply playing hide and seek.

Our Creator God did not need to call Adam and Eve to find out where they were.  He is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent … He knew exactly where they were.  And He knew exactly what they had done.  He wanted them to admit to it.

Spiritual death, separation from God, occurred when they disobeyed the Creator and nothing Adam and Eve could do would change that.  Praise God that He did not leave us without hope, however.

In the first recorded shedding of blood in the Garden, we read that God did not leave His children hiding behind fig leaves.  Rather, He made clothes for them.

“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

Genesis 3:21

Then, on a hill called Calvary, blood was again shed, this time it was the precious blood of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son.  His blood was not shed because of any sin that He had committed; rather, He shed His blood on the cross of Calvary as the atonement for the sin that Adam and Eve committed and for the sin that you and I have committed.  This was done so that we could be reunited with God through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We would escape eternal death by faith in Jesus’ atoning work on our behalf.  We have eternal life with God through Christ our Lord.

End of the Road
The end of the road sign in Denali National Park.

We all come to the end of the road when death stares us in the face.  The reality is that this will happen to each one of us; but physical death is not the end.  Our soul will live eternally and the end of the road leads to only two destinations, Heaven or Hell. 

Just as God clothed Adam and Eve in the Garden after their sin, God will cloth us in the righteousness of Christ if we have faith in Jesus as our Savior and if we trust in Him as Lord of our life.  Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

Christ shed His blood for His children … come to Him in faith and repent of your sin, claim Him as your Savior, and the end of the road here will open the door to an eternity in Heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I pray that these words would have full effect and that You would send Your Spirit to quicken hearts dead from sin so that faith can bear fruit in the lives of Your children.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – GOODNESS

Another one of God’s intrinsic attributes is His goodness. We read about it in the opening verses of the Bible where we read of creation done by God simply at the power of His words.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good.”

Genesis 1:3-4. 

Waimea Canyon Kauai mountains
Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

This continued throughout creation and then, in verses 26, 31 we read: 

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  … And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

When the Triune God was done with the creative work on the sixth day, He looked at His completed creation and said not only that each of the component parts were good, He declared that “it was VERY GOOD” and that statement included mankind, created in His image, for fellowship and relationship with Him.  God is good, and we were created in His image. 

A short look at the newspaper tells us that we are not good, however.  Sin entered the world and contaminated that which God had created.  But sin did not change the character or nature of God.  He is still Good.

For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 100:5

God is not good because it is attractive for Him to be so, and He does not strive after following some standard for goodness that is outside of Himself.  God IS good.  J.I. Packer says that God’s sovereign redemptive love is just one facet of God’s goodness. Goodness underlies virtually all that He does.  [J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, p. 46]

He is the Source of all goodness.  In other words, goodness is not an abstract concept – it is personal – it is WHO — it is God.  The only reason we know anything at all about goodness is because God, who created us in His image, IS good.

The Jews knew that to call yourself good was to take an attribute of God and apply it to yourself, something that was clearly within the definition of blasphemy, as is evidenced by Jesus’ response to the man in Mark 10:18 where He says:

“Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.” 

Goodness is one of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul identifies in Galatians.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” 

Galatians 5:22

Due to sin, we have no inherent goodness within ourselves.  But, the believer has the fruit of goodness due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is part of the Triune God-head and thus the Spirit has the same nature as the Father and the Son.  Since goodness is intrinsic to the Father’s nature, it is also part of the Holy Spirit’s nature, so that it is a fruit that will grow within the believer as we give more and more of ourselves to the Lord.

Dr. R. C. Sproul notes, in the Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series from Ligonier Ministries, that when God’s goodness is evidenced in our lives as a fruit of the Spirit, there is a new ability to appreciate excellence and beauty because it is evidence of the beauty, order and exquisite detail of God’s nature and character.

 We have already spoken of God’s joy in His beautiful creation. A further example of God delighting in beauty can be found in Exodus 28:2 where God tells the people how to make Aaron’s garments for use in worship:

 “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty”.

Even though they were in the wilderness, God did not want the priest to be clothed with normal garments.  Exodus 28 details what was to be made, including what materials were to be used.  A very partial listing includes: blue, purple, and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen; two large onyx stones engraved and set in gold filigree; chains of pure gold; twelve gems for the breastplate – sardius, topaz, cabruncle, emerald, sapphire, diamond, jacinth, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx and jasper – each one being put in gold filigree settings.  And there is much more!  Clearly, Aaron’s garments reflected God’s glory and beauty!

Another example God’s goodness is appreciation for music.  Music was an integral part of worship in the Old Testament. 1 Chronicles 15:28, 2 Chronicles 7:6.  David talks of making music and singing to the Lord in many of the Psalms.   Psalm 101:1, Psalm 92:1.

More recently, Johan Sebastian Bach [1685-1750] composed his music to give glory to God.  Bach wanted his music to point to the existence of God when, during the “Enlightenment”, people were arguing that man was the be all and end all and that God was unnecessary.   Bach himself said:

“Music’s only purpose should be the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” 

Listen to “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” as composed by Johan S. Bach and performed by the Choir of Sommerville College, Oxford. 

God’s goodness is just one of the intrinsic aspects of His nature, it is one of God’s attributes.  Goodness is truly the foundation for all that He has done for us. We should praise Him continually for the mercy, grace, and salvation that has been extended to us through Christ our Lord, all because of His goodness.

OUR PLANS AND PRAYER.

 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”  Proverbs 19:21 [ESV]

I am a self-admitted planner. It is difficult for me to just “go with the flow”. Even when I am “going with the flow,” I am planning what I will do whenever the “flow” gets to wherever we are going.  Digression from the task ahead is difficult for me to allow … but praise the Lord that my planning confronted  divine guidance through prayer today.

praying hands
Praying Hands.

I was scheduled for surgery and a number of beloved friends and family members said they would be praying that all would go well, that I would be protected from complications, and that healing would be sweet. As usual, there is a great deal of preparation for surgery and we did all that stuff, as directed, including packing the overnight bag, taking the book and Bible along with the Ipad, etc.

 “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 [ESV]

 

The hospital directions were that I could have nothing to eat or drink after midnight, but a note stated that I should take my morning medications before coming to the hospital with a sip of water. I drink milk with the medicine due to the taste if I use water: so, I took the meds with 2 sips of milk, much less than ¼ cup, and we were off to the hospital.

At the hospital, we were conducted into the surgical wing and I received the beautiful gag-green hospital gown to replace my clothing. Then I was placed under a warming blanket and was getting ready for the IV and monitors, etc.  That’s when my plans went awry but God intervened in His providence and answered prayer.

The anesthesiologist came in and asked what meds I had taken. I told him, and he said, “ok”.

Then the nurse came in and went over most of the same questions again and confirmed I had taken the morning meds at home.  She then asked when I took them. I responded “my husband poured the milk about 7 and I took them right after that.”

The nurse’s head popped up from her clipboard and she said “Milk?” and that was the beginning of the end of the surgery as planned.

She left the prep room saying that she needed to talk with the anesthesiologist about the milk. I was stunned – all this havoc over 2 sips of milk?

The answer to the prayers for protection and no complications became apparent when the anesthesiologist came in and told me that even a small amount of milk causes acid in the stomach. When you go under the anesthesia, all muscles are relaxed and that includes the muscle that keeps stomach acid in the stomach.  So, if you have acid there (like from milk) when laying on the flat surgical table under the anesthesia, you can have reflux of the acid into your lungs without anyone knowing it is happening. [Without getting into the science of it, even I know that this is not something that would be considered a good thing!]

I don’t know if God directed me to take the meds with milk so that surgery could not be done on the day that was planned, but I am confident that He answered prayers in prompting me to mention the milk so that I would be protected from adverse consequences otherwise.

The surgery is now rescheduled and I will not be using milk for my meds.

Praise the Lord that He answered prayer by bringing to mind the milk that I had consumed at just the right time so that unwanted complications could be avoided. God has been in the business of hearing and answering our prayers since the beginning.

Back in Genesis, Isaac prayed for his wife:

“And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.” Genesis 25:21 [ESV]

Many years later, David said:

“O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth.” Psalm 54:2 [ESV]

“But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.” Psalm 66:19 [ESV]

 

Then, in the New Testament, 2,000 years ago, we have the church praying for Peter.

“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”  Acts 12:5 [ESV]

As a result of those prayers, God sent angels to the prison and released Peter at night. He went to the house where the church was praying for him and almost did not get in because no one believed that their prayers had been so miraculously answered!

Prayer at Westminster Cathedral (C)
Prayer at Westminster Cathedral, London, England

 

In speaking of prayer to God the Father, the writer of Hebrews 4:16 tells us:

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” [ESV]

Beloved, the same God who answered Isaac, and who answered Job, and who answered David, and who heard and answered the church’s prayers for Peter, hears and answers the prayers of His children today when we come boldly to Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Think praying is only for old people?

Think praying doesn’t do anything?

 Think praying is a boring waste of time?

 THINK AGAIN!

 

Father, forgive me when I take lightly the gracious gift of prayer. Forgive me when I fail to recognize the awesome privilege of coming in prayer to the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. Forgive me when I forget that I can only come to you because of Jesus Christ, my Savior, who covers me with His righteousness and has forgiven me of my sins. Thank you Father for hearing the prayers of your children, even those raised on my behalf. Praise your Holy Name!