The One Constant
Sermon 1735 Genesis 1.26-2.25 March 7, 2021
I am really looking forward to the schools reopening. There are things you just can’t pick up in front of a screen. Class interaction is a lot more personal in-person. Ideas percolate. Aha! Moments are contagious. “Do you remember the time moments” are few and far between in front of a computer screen. So hats off to the teachers and students, parents and staff as we move into this next phase. We are rooting for you all to succeed.
One of those aha moments for me was in, of all places, a physics class. No, the teacher wasn’t burning his fingers on a heated metal rod, though he did, with alarming regularity. And no, we weren’t making some awful smelling stuff so the school administrators would shake free a few bucks to buy hoods for the labs. We did that our Junior year in Chemistry! It was formulating constants. Yes, constants, as in mathematical equations. I told you it was physics. Well you decide there are some things in your problem that are going to be there no matter what happens. Constants. I (and everybody else) thought once you got a constant you could rule it out. “No!” the teacher emphasized. “You depend on it.” In a crazy way, he was right. Without the constant, nothing would work. With the constant everything would work, no matter which way it worked out.
As I go through life, I realize there is
The One Constant
1. Don’t rule God out.
2. Depend on God.
Today’s text is a huge portion of Scripture, the story of “God Creates Adam and Eve.” It not only covers a lot of verses it covers so, so many basic theological points, too many to even list! So don’t expect me to be thorough. That would be as unrealistic an expectation as thinking you’d see everything significant that happened today on the evening news. But I am going to be true to my promise to follow the one constant.
The one constant is God. Almost every single verse in this section of my Bible starts out with God or the Lord.
Then God said.
So God created man
God blessed them
Then God said.
God had finished.
The Lord God formed the man
It goes on and on like this. The only time God is not the agent was when Adam names the animals and then we finally hear Adam speak when he sees Eve. That’s a sermon in itself, but not this sermon.
God is all over in the creation of Adam and Eve.
God is the one constant.
Don’t rule God out.
“Now the Lord had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die (2.8-9, 16-17).’”
Why do you suppose God did this? Why did God give them the command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Well, what is the danger with a constant? You ignore it.
How easy would it be to ignore God in the Garden of Eden? Think of our prayer life. What do we pray for? Stuff we need. A raise at work. Our offer on the house to be accepted. A healthy baby. Not catching COVID. Getting to the day we can ditch these masks without getting the stink eye from people, like we are Typhoid Mary. Hard to ignore God when you have so many wants, so many fears, so many things that are beyond your control or, really, beyond the control of any one person who walks the face of this earth.
What did Adam need? He had everything. It was literally growing on trees. As far as God putting him in the Garden of Eden to work it, there were no weeds. There were no thorns! At least not where Adam didn’t wanted them to be. All he had to do was decide whether he wanted to plant something here or there.
Adam never prayed a “gimme” prayer. I think that eliminates about 85% of our prayers. And if we try not to think all that much about our problems, or have resigned ourselves to whatever may come, we don’t pray that much to begin with.
What could Adam fear? Everything was good. Everything was in perfect harmony. The animals ate plants. There was no death in the world. How many times didn’t our mothers, well, maybe not yours, but mine certainly did, send us out of the house on a weekend with a cheery, “Don’t get killed!” She knew I was a risk taker. Adam could have played an oboe in front of a cobra and have no fear of getting killed. No wildfires. No floods. No earthquakes.
One of our celebrity pastors of a past generation recounted how, after a smashingly successful pastorate in one location, he failed miserably in another. “When people live in Santa Barbara, it is hard to believe in another heaven.” Even though Adam and Eve lived in Paradise, it would have been easy for them to rule God out. We seem to do it all the time living as we do, in the good old US of A.
The one constant is God. Depend on God.
The question still remains. Why the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? It has a weird, but very accurate name. We name trees by their fruit. You can look at a botany book and there you see pictures of a plant’s leaves and flowers and fruit. By their fruit you will know them. A kumquat tree. A navel orange tree as opposed to a Valencia orange tree. This tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden was aptly named the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It would give Adam and Eve the knowledge of good and evil.
We remember that God gave a command to Adam. All the other trees in the Garden were fair game, including the tree of life. One a day from that tree and you’d be twenty-three until the day you graduated to heaven on that golden escalator into the clouds. But the Lord God (capital L-O-R-D) told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And it was right in the middle of the Garden, not off to one side or on the very property line. Right in the middle. It was unavoidable. By depending on God Adam would have the knowledge of good and evil. By trusting in God’s promise, Adam would not eat from that tree and would know what good is. Good is doing what the LORD says. A man who can name all the animals has a pretty good imagination. It was not hard to imagine what would happen if he ate from the tree. He would die. Everything he knew and loved would end. That would be evil. And Adam, by his actions, would be the cause of it. Smart cookies would know not to eat from that tree. Adam depended on the LORD’s words to him.
The weather could change. Animals could come and go—hopefully the elephants would stay out of the vegetable garden. Eve could be pleasant or really pleasant. But there was the one constant—God. Depend on God. By Adam’s relation to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would show his dependence on God. People much wiser than I have remarked this was Adam’s way to worship God. We have church. He had the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We have Ten Commandments (which we can’t keep). He had one commandment (which he could keep). He had a constant reminder of the Lord’s goodness to him. He could depend on it.
Things have changed a lot since the days of Adam. The plants are still around. Sun, moon and the starry hosts? Check. The same standard of measurement remains true and solid—the speed of light. (I got that from an engineer in Pastor Kolander’s Adult Information Class). Day and night. Male and female. But they have all changed because of sin, man’s sin, Adam’s original sin, and our sins as we follow in his steps every single day. Chips off the old block we are. But that is a sermon for another day, too. The LORD is the one constant.
You know what that special name LORD means. The LORD is “the gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin (Exodus 34.6-7).” The LORD is the God who promises a Savior from sin. The LORD is the God who works that promise out so that, even though the people of the Promise stopped believing in him and lost their land and the security that came with it, the LORD is the God who brings his saving promise to fulfillment in spite of it all. Against all hope, a virgin gives birth to a shivering child on a cold winter’s night in a cattle shed in Bethlehem. The LORD is that promised Savior. The LORD is Jesus, our LORD. He is our Good Shepherd. He is the Friend of Sinners. He is the Word who reveals the way to heaven. He is the Way who opens heaven to us by his death on the cross. He is the Life as he gives spiritual life, the first resurrection, to us on earth as we believe in him. He is the Life as he will give us eternal life, the second resurrection, on Judgment Day as we enter heaven for all eternity.
Jesus is the one constant. Depend on God.
Isn’t that what faith is? We depend on Jesus. We do pray those “gimme” prayers and those “keep away” prayers. We pray in Jesus’ name. For the sake of Jesus, because of his suffering and death on our behalf, we pray that God would not look upon our sins or, because of them, refuse to hear us, but instead graciously grant our prayers and give us even more blessings than we dared or imagined to ask! We depend on Jesus. That’s why some people always end their prayers, “in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
We depend on Jesus. Unlike Adam and Eve (at least before sin entered the world), we daily sin much and deserve nothing but punishment. When I was a kid, I got a spanking every day and my mom didn’t catch me for half the stuff I was doing. And that was before I got really good at sinning! God catches every sin. I know that because the Bible says so. I also know that because my conscience tells me so. And I think you were and are just as big a stinker as I am. We depend on Jesus for forgiveness of sins. Isn’t that part of the prayer he taught us? Forgive us our trespasses? He taught us to pray that every day.
In a world where so much is changing, we realize Jesus has the whole world in his hands. He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, ruling this world for the benefit of his people. The more we learn of Jesus, the less we take him for granted. He keeps my physical life as well as my spiritual life going. Every faltering beat of my heart beats at his command. Every tottering step I take is because he is holding my hand. If I am brave, it is because he is my bodyguard. If I am strong, it is because he has given me strength. If I pass through the waters, it is because he has made a way. He keeps the sun from falling out of the sky. He makes sure seedtime and harvest, cold and heat will never cease, though they may vary a terrifying amount. And as I bear the consequences of sin in my body, as hair becomes gray, bones brittle, skin wrinkled, strength spent, the LORD still holds the promise that means the most to me. I believe in the life everlasting. That has remained. That endures. From decade after decade, generation after generation, the LORD is
The One Constant
1. Don’t rule God out.
2. Depend on God.
In that high school physics lab we weren’t trying to find the Law for Everything. We were just kids. Not a care in the world. Not a burden on our minds. We were working on the little things. Acceleration. Wave interaction. Friction. Force over time. We had to depend on the big stuff, the constants, the stuff we didn’t have to explain, couldn’t explain, to focus on what we could handle, what we could explain.
I think my physics teacher was trying to get across to us an approach to life. We are not trying to find The Answer to Everything. We are just trying to be godly human beings, showing love and compassion in situations we cannot control in the face of forces we cannot manage. Yet there is the one constant in our life, the LORD. Depend on God as we discover how far and how fast this wild, little cart will go.