The Story of God and Us: Introduction and Chapter One
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Join us as we seek to understand the story of the whole Bible in just eight weeks. For this lesson, we discover how the Bible tells one cohesive story about God’s work to bring shalom to this world, and how that story begins in Genesis 1-3.
Chapter One: Shalom Lost
In the beginning God created everything that is. Nothing existed before God created it; he made all that we see, and everything that we can’t see but is still there. When he first created the universe, it was in a place of chaos, without any form or light. But God made chaos into order, by creating light and a multitude of complex systems, such as the planets and oceans and the sun and the moon, stars and genus of animal species. He did this in an orderly way, by speaking them into existence, according to how he had designed everything to work and fit together.
The pinnacle of God’s work was the creation, out of the earth, of human beings “in his image,” special beings like him who were to relate to the world as his representatives. The whole universe existed in shalom, a wholeness that came from living according to how God designed it. God, people, and the whole creation lived in this state of joyous peace, and God called his work “very good.”
If the story stopped there, we’d be in good shape. But the next thing that happens changes everything. Adam and Eve, the first humans, are tricked by the serpent, the “craftiest” beast made by God. He convinces them that God’s design is really not for their good, and that if they want to live the best kind of life, they’d better take it for themselves. Instead of trusting God to teach them how to interact with good (tov) and bad (ra), they take of the fruit from the tree of good and bad themselves, showing that they don’t believe that God’s plan is good for them.
Because of this, when God shows up for their daily walk through the garden, they hide from him in shame. God finds them out and asks them what they’ve done, but instead of fessing up, they blame each other and the serpent. They’ve taken good and bad into their own hands, and now they can’t even tell the difference. And so, while before God had blessed them in his design of their relationship to him, to each other, and to all creation, now God curses the ground itself and chaos takes the place of order in human relationships to God, to each other, and to creation. God curses the serpent as well, making him the most reviled of all beasts, and the enemy of human beings. Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden, told never to return, leaving not only their home but shalom behind.
We call this “the Fall.”
These first three chapters of the Bible are the first and definitive story describing our need for reconciliation to God, to each other, and to all creation. The Bible places us, not in a place of triumph and advancement, but rather as in a place of cursing and thorns, a place where humans will define good and bad on their own terms and find ruin because they do so. Human beings, bearing God’s very image, are now in desperate need for God to bring back shalom.
And that’s just what he promises to do in Genesis 3:15, when he curses the serpent:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
And between your offspring and hers;
He will crush your head,
And you will strike his heel.” (NIV)
In other words, the offspring of the woman will deal a death blow to the shalom-wrecking serpent. But this blow will bring pain to the woman’s seed as well, as the serpent will “strike his heel.”
And now the question is, when will that offspring come?