A New Year, and I begin again to read through the Bible. I listened to it last year, on my iPod, as I walked, and loved hearing the themes and images swell, gain resonance, repeat, amplify.
There are so many mythologies, so many sacred texts that have come down to us. I know the Greek and Roman Mythology, Norse Mythology and the Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The gods are, well, human–rambunctious, vain, vengeful, vindictive, angry, capricious, susceptible to flattery, having favourites. They don’t always play fair; they, well, sin.
While, of course, Yahweh does not come across as perfect to modern sensibilities—we are puzzled by all those commands in Leviticus; we are puzzled by the sweeping genocide he commands—there is an austere beauty, a sense of holiness in the Old Testament, ushering in the ethical and moral sublimity of the New Testament.
* * *
I have just read the first 5 chapters of Genesis with pleasure.
A world of fresh starts and second chances.
God gives Adam a beautiful new world, and a beautiful new wife. Every chance of happiness.
As we have–more often than not. The goodness of God shines insistently on us, and happiness and holiness is within our grasp. We have but to reach out and take it. Decide to be happy in the day and the world that the Lord has made. Decide to thank God who gives us all this goodness—this lovely world.
* * *
Adam’s beautiful world has prohibitions and boundaries. He is free to eat from any tree in the garden, except from that which brings death.
But what brings death is also appealing to the senses, “good for food, and pleasing to the eye.” And it is hard to trust God. To believe he really, really has our good at heart in his boundaries and prohibitions
Eve eats, and they are banished from Eden. As we so often blow it, and have to leave our Edens, the lovely fresh chances offered to us: new friendships, new opportunities, financial windfalls.
We can blow our opportunities, our shiny new chances—but we cannot blow away the goodness of God.
* * *
There are dreadful consequences to Eve’s nibbling—the earth becomes recalcitrant; work will now never be devoid of pain; they are banished from Eden. It is called the Fall, and without the true myth of the Fall, the whole Christian story does not make sense.
And yet, and yet, the goodness of God still trails and shadows Adam and Eve.
Children come. The land produces fruit for Cain, and flocks for Abel, whose careful offering God favours.
Cain enviously kills Abel. And the consequences of homicide—the curse—hang heavy on him. The ground will no longer be fruitful; he will not be able to find a place to settle and be happy in. “You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
And, while suffering the disabling effects of his sin on his character, and even his countenance, Cain is not entirely cut off from the goodness of God—he marries, has children, lives under the protection of God (Gen 4:15), protection which, inexplicably, was not offered to the righteous Abel.
* * *
Our first parents bear the consequences of their sin, the land stubbornly yields thorns and thistles which they prune by the sweat of their brows. Eden remains a memory, but still the earth yields its abundance; they enjoy marriage and family life; they get to taste the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, as we, the flawed, taste it.
The goodness of the God of the Second Chance; the God whose goodness we cannot outrun; the God in whose presence Paul found he could rejoice even in the dank Mamertine Dungeon.
And though we too weed out thorns and thistles by the sweat of our brow, our earth still yields abundance; the daily impressionist painting of skies and stars and seasons continues to stagger; we experience the love of people and the goodness of God from which nothing shall separate us, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation.
Nothing that shall happen in 2016 or 2061 can or shall separate us from the insistent love of God showered on us through Jesus. And for that I am grateful!
Blog Through the Bible Project, Genesis 1-5