We live in a busy world. Getting things done quickly is the goal for most things we do. I think this often carries over into our devotions and even just reading of the Bible. I think we often miss very obvious things because we are in a hurry. Many people don't bother to read God's word at all. Either they are too busy or they don't think it is important.
In this issue of Thoughts to Ponder I want to slow down and take a look at a couple passages of Scripture and see if you find new ideas that you might have missed in the past. I am not trying to make any doctrinal statements or dogmatic statements, I just want to slow down and look deeply and thoughtfully at these passages. I will admit that my thoughts are conjecture, but that is the point, unless we take the time to ponder God's word we will miss the deep meanings and significance of many passages.
As always, I am sure there will be people who disagree with my thoughts. That is okay, as long as you think about them and thereby gain a greater appreciation of God's word. His word is not to be sterile, it is to be living. It is to speak to us, but it can only speak to us if we are listening.
Here is the first passage I want to consider: (Genesis 2:19 NIV) Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
I love this passage for a couple of reasons. I think it shows God's sense of humor. He allowed Adam to name the animals. Can't you just see Adam rubbing his chin, "How about duckbilled platypus?" God would have already known what Adam would name all the animals, but He still allowed him to take the time to do it himself. I think that speaks volumes about God. God wants a personal relationship with us. I see this passage as a very personal interaction between God and His creation.
We know that there was no death at this point in all of creation. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22 NIV)  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. The animals were all vegetarians and so were Adam and Eve. The animals would not have been afraid of Adam nor would Adam have had any reason to be afraid of any of them. I don't think it would be too far off the mark to think of all the animals as Adam's pets. He would be able to walk up to any of them, pet them, play with them, enjoy them.
This brings me to the second passage of Scripture that I want to look at: (Genesis 3:21 NIV) The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. This occurred after Adam and Eve sinned. Before they sinned, they were naked but felt no shame, but after they sinned they did feel shame over their nakedness. Look closely at what God did. He made clothes of skins for them. Where did those skins come from? God would have killed an animal or two to get those skins. This would be the first death in all of creation and it happened because of Adam and Eve's sin.
The Bible does not tell us what animal God killed to clothe Adam and Eve. I don't think it matters, that was my point about all the animals being like pets to them. Whatever animal God killed to cover Adam and Eve would have been one that they knew personally. One that they probably played with and loved.
Let me remind you that the Bible does not tell us these things, so this is all conjecture, but I think if we look at what happened logically we can get a pretty close mental picture of the events. There was no death in the world until Adam and Eve sinned. The animal that God killed to cover Adam and Eve was not the sinner, Adam and Eve were. Can you imagine how they must have felt to see (or if they did not see, to know) that their sin caused the death of an innocent animal?
If you have a pet that you love, you will be able to start to understand my point. What if the next time you were caught speeding for example, the judge ordered your pet be killed? How would you feel knowing that you caused your pet to die by your actions? That is not really a good analogy because your first reaction would probably be anger at the judge and Adam and Eve did not have that reaction, yet I think if you truly think about it, it will help you understand what happened that day in the Garden of Eden.
It is all a very poignant foreshadowing of what Christ did for us on the cross. He was innocent, yet our sins caused Him to die. Now let's go a little further and look at another passage: (Exodus 12:1-6 NIV)  The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt,  "This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.  Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.  If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.  The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.  Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight."
The whole Jewish community was to choose a lamb without defect on the tenth day of the month and take care of it until the fourteenth day of the month. Jewish tradition tells us that the families would take the lamb into their homes and care for it. This lamb would become a pet for those four days. Again God's word does not tell us why He commanded this, but I think it is because this sacrifice was to be a personal thing, not a sterile detached offering that meant nothing to the family.
Are you seeing a pattern? The sacrifice was personal. The death was personal. Sin brings death and it is not death that is easily forgotten or ignored, it is a personal ordeal. The innocent for the guilty. I think God was making sure that the people understood that they were the cause of this death. Yes God was forgiving their sins, but they could not take those sins for granted, because the death that covered their sins was close to them and their hearts. Just like it would have been for Adam and Eve.
Of course we know what this all pointed to. It pointed to Jesus Christ's perfect sacrifice for our sins. That too should not be a sterile detached sacrifice to us. Jesus Christ, who was, innocent, pure, and holy died for us, who are not innocent, deserve to die, and have no purity of our own.
It is way too easy to read the account of Jesus' death and to become detached from it. To sterilize it. We find this with the cross. We wear it as jewelry, we decorate our churches with it, we romanticize it. But in the process we tend to miss the real meaning. It is not what bought our salvation for us, it is just the instrument used to accomplish our salvation through Jesus Christ.
Until we think of the cross in modern terms we will miss the point. If Jesus had died in an electric chair, our salvation would still have been paid for, but would we be so quick to wear an electric chair around our necks, or have a replica in the front of our churches?
I am not saying that there is anything wrong with the cross as a symbol of what Christ did for us, but I think we tend to take it for granted. We tend to give the cross some special power or place that it does not deserve. This carries over into the way we interpret portions of the Bible. Jesus told us that anyone who wanted to follow Him must take up their cross and follow Him. But because we romanticize the cross that does not mean to us today what it meant to the people Jesus was speaking to. They understood that He was saying they had to be ready to die to self to follow Him. We on the other hand preach that a person can't understand God until they love themselves.
We need to slow down and take our time when we read God's word. We won't always get the full meaning and implications of His word until we think about it. Until we put what it says into personal terms we can miss important points. You don't need to speak or read Greek and Hebrew to know what God's word says. You do need to open your mind and your heart so that you can understand what the Holy Spirit is telling you. Really think about what you are reading.
These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.
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