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Unexpected Mercy

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”? “And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”  

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  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.  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?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”  

Then the  Lord  God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said,  “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”  The  Lord  God said to the serpent,  “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and  dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring  and  her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

To the woman he said,  “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said,  “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and  to dust you shall return.”

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

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

-Genesis 3:1-21

 

I know that that is a lot of text. It is a long verse, so here is the basic idea: The devil told Eve that eating the fruit that God told her not to eat would make her all kinds of smart. She believed him and got Adam to eat it too. Then, they realized that they were naked and became ashamed. Then, God came and asked what happened (even though he already knew). Once Adam ‘fessed up God told them what was up. He said life would be really hard for them now. Eve would have pain in childbirth, children would argue with parents, the husband would have a tendency to rule over the wife, they would work hard and come up fruitless, and a whole number of other inconveniences. 

After all of that, God put them in their place and was all “I made you out of dust and you will return to dust.” 

And then, the coolest thing ever happened. It happened because God is really awesome. 

Notice, I bolded the last line. If you remember, Adam and Eve recognized their nakedness and then they felt ashamed. 

Understanding that His children felt shame in their nakedness, God made them clothing!!!

Adam and Eve did the one thing that God told them they could not do-they had the whole Garden of Eden at their fingertips, and they broke the one rule. Yet God had mercy on them anyway. He loved them so much that, even after they had disobeyed him and he had punished them, he showed them grace. He reconciled their shame. This is the first instance in the Bible of God’s mercy with His children that really sticks out to me. I mean, they were in big trouble. They did everything wrong. But, God gave them something anyway.

Sometimes I have a hard time wrapping my head around the overwhelming patience, love, grace, and mercy that God gives me. So many times I have felt like Adam and Eve probably did. I have messed up. I have felt shame and guilt and regret. I have dealt with the consequences. All of these things have threatened to crush me, but then God gave me mercy. 

Adam and Eve had already made themselves clothing, but God knew that they needed more. He saw their state and gave them real clothing-clothing that would stand up to the elements and be conducive to their lifestyle. He outfitted them well. He provided for what they needed. He was probably angry at them, but I think he was also hurt by them and for them. 

Adam and Eve were in perfect communion with God, and they had ruined it. If you had that relationship with someone and they ruined it wouldn’t you feel hurt? Now here is where God differs from humans. Where we would feel hurt and then get angry and bitter about it God felt compassion.

God knew that Adam and Eve had dug their own grave. Their life was going to be hard. The life of perfect communion that they had, the cushy garden existence, was over. Everything God had created them for and wanted for them was over. In the same way that an earthly parent hurts for their children after they make a life changing bad decision, or they come home with hurt feelings, God hurts over His children’s hurts. 

I know that this chapter of Genesis makes it seem as though God isn’t all that nice (although, with the clothing bit I don’t know how anyone could accuse God of being awful). The reality is that this chapter highlights a moment that says a lot about our relationship with God. God always forgives us, but that does not mean that he will not judge our actions and punish us accordingly. We must reconcile our sin with God, but we must also reap the consequences of what we sow. Just as earthly parents forgive us but ground us anyway. 

Thankfully for us, the episode with Adam and Eve and God is descriptive and not prescriptive. The punishment that they received that would plague all humans forever was not prescriptive of our future relationship with God or with each other. Yes, sin entered our world and we will always be broken people; but, Jesus came and died for everyone while we were still sinners.

The Bible goes on to give us a guidebook for healthy marriages, good parenting, flourishing community, and communion with God. We will never be perfect in our application of the Bible, but God will not give up on us as we try. He did not forsake us after The Fall in the Garden. Instead, he went on to put into play the greatest story of all time. He wrote, orchestrated, and illustrated the most extraordinary love story there ever was.

Instead of leaving us in our sin, He loved us and gave us the tools and the freedom of choice to be in communion with Him once again. This communion is not perfect, but it is amazing and more merciful than we deserve. God does not want to see His children suffer. He wants us to choose to accept his love- a gift we cannot earn- and then he wants to hold us in his hands as we work to get as close to him as we can. 

 

Let God see you in your nakedness and shame.

Let Him give you clothes. Let Him give you clothes that are far greater than any you could create on your own. 

In the Heart of God

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” Psalm 139:13-16 (MSG)

 

The other day I was at church helping out with the youth group, and one of the young women said something that really hit me. She said, “It is ok that I am little and insignificant here on earth because I am large in the heart of God.” Whoa. That is a big statement, and it made me think. How often do we think about what God thinks of us? How often do we acknowledge who we are in God’s great scheme of things?

God is this huge, loving, powerful creator, yet we are large in His heart. He knows how many hairs are on our head, He knew us before we were born. He loved us before we were born. Psalms says that God knit us together in the womb. Knitting takes time and patience and creativity. God lovingly crafted us.

How beautiful that we have a creator that not only put care and creativity and love into our creation, but we have a creator who wants to watch His creation flourish. God wants to bless our lives; He works good things in our lives. When we feel small, defeated, ugly, alone-He is there and we are large in His heart.

Our prominence in God’s heart is so obvious when we reflect on what God did for us. Jesus came and suffered. Not only did He suffer on the cross, but he suffered as we do. He felt all of the everyday sufferings. You become close to the people you share life with. The people you are closest to hold acres of real estate in your heart.  Why are you able to relate to and love these people? Because you know what they are going through. Jesus knows what you are going through, and he wants to love you and tell you “it’s ok”.

God holds his children in His hands and, when all things of earthly significance have forsaken us, He picks up our pieces and reminds us that we are His. We are His and there is no place we can run-there is no depth we can plummet to- that He cannot save us from.

We are HUGE in His heart. He is wonderful and merciful and He wants us to know that we are large in His heart. Once you begin to look at yourself as God looks at you, your whole life will be transformed by the knowledge that your soul is cherished by a great God.

He is El Roi, The God who Sees.

He is El Shaddai, The Almighty and All-Sufficient One.

Allow yourself to be peaceful in His sight and confident that His grace and Mercy are more than sufficient.

 

1 Corinthians

Chapter 15; Verses 12-28 (MSG)

12-15Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there’s no resurrection.

16-20If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they’re already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.
21-28There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man. Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ. But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming, the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father. He won’t let up until the last enemy is down—and the very last enemy is death! As the psalmist said, “He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them.” When Scripture says that “he walked all over them,” it’s obvious that he couldn’t at the same time be walked on. When everything and everyone is finally under God’s rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God’s rule is absolutely comprehensive—a perfect ending!

This is what I read for my study time today. I am currently working through a YouVersion reading plan. Sometimes I like picking a pre-organized reading plan better than making up my own because it allows me to just do it. I can log on to my computer or my phone app and just do the reading at any time. It is already set up. The plans are great for busy busy weeks.

Now, I am partial to the English Standard Version translation. That is the study Bible I have, and it is easy to understand. However, sometimes I like to check out other versions. Bible programs on the internet are great for this. Today, I read the Message translation after the ESV, and I really liked it for this verse. The Message translation is basically a paraphrase-so it shouldn’t be used for serious study. But sometimes it is easier to read and understand. It puts things in serious layman’s terms.

Psalm 139 (My Favorite)

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. 1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,t God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.