In the first book of the Bible we read in Gen 1:31-2:1, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and be-hold it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.”
As the sixth day of the creation week began to fade into the evening twilight of the seventh, God considered the work of His hands, from the delicately beautiful petals of the lily to the fin anatomy of the great whales plying the vast ocean depths, from the clouds to the heavens itself. With a deep sense of purpose and satisfaction, His thoughts are summed up with the phrase “behold it was good.” We also agree, “behold it was good.”
Considering God’s stated satisfaction in His creation, how then do we reconcile the extreme contrast in the picture that faces us today? Today we are confronted by the many bones of both man and beast, which lie buried beneath the soil of a world marked by suffering. Suffering by disease, violence and predation from birth to death, both man and beast struggle to survive. This pattern has played itself out in a myriad of ways for at least six millennia. The weaker become food for the stronger, from the smallest members of the food chain to the largest of carnivores. even the large intimidating lion or bear fall prey to the more efficient carnivore, man. As the Apostle Paul stressed in Romans 8:22, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” Faced with such disturbing examples of dysfunction and apart from any other explanation for the current conditions, what might we conclude? One might say that the Scripture text is either inaccurate, or corrupted in a way that makes it incorrect, and that which was created on days one through six of the creation week wasn’t really good after all. Another may conclude that it is God Himself who was not good, perhaps even cruel.
Thankfully we do have another explanation – his name is Adam. It is Adam who explains how a world where all is good quickly degenerates into one where good struggles to express itself. In Adam, we identify what went awry so long ago. Genesis chapter three records Adam’s fall from grace. Both he and his wife, Eve, partook of the one tree in the garden that was forbidden. Consider God’s charge, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” In time this warning became distant in their memories, and from a motivation, which is unexplained, Eve found herself by the forbidden tree in the company of the serpent, (Satan). Shortly thereafter, both she and her husband consumed the fruit of disobedience and for the first time felt the sting of guilt and the loss of innocence.
The breach that this decision would make in their relationship with their Creator God became clear as God descended, as was his custom, into the garden in the cool of the day, to fellowship with man. Adam heard the Lord calling, “Adam, where art thou?” Adam knew in his spirit that all was not well between him and his Father. He was now the servant of sin, knowing the fruits of evil as well as of good. It is for this reason that fellowship with Adam and His Creator lay broken along side the leaves of the forbidden tree, because God is Holy and can not abide in the presence of sin (1Pe 1:16).
For this reason we struggle. Fellowship has been broken between us and our thrice Holy God. We have received the Adamic nature successively from one generation to the next, because as Adam yielded his authority to Lucifer and rebelled against his good God, the umbrella of God’s protection was shattered, exposing the world and all in it to the harsh reality of a world without God. It is for this reason that the whole of creation groaneth and travaileth. Thorns, heartache, disappointment, and death are all fruits pollinated and grown on the tree of self-will.
In Adam, we discern the roots of suffering in the human family. They are 6,000 years long and terminate in a place were they should never have been allowed to take root, in Eden, the garden of God. What was “original sin” to Adam has become personal sin for all who follow him, because we too continue the pattern of disobedience. Just as a stone cast into the water causes ripples to move in ever greater circles outward, in like manner as Adam and Eve cast the boulder of self-will into the lake of time, the ripples continue to move ever outward in larger and larger circles, touching the whole human family as well as the creation itself.
In response to this daily struggle to survive many animals have adapted (or rather corrupted) their physical anatomy, using the tools God gave them in a world where there was no violence or bloodshed in a way that is both violent and bloody. The lion is 400 pounds of sinewed muscle, teeth, and claw. The spider catches her prey in a web of silk and then uses poisons to paralyze her victim. As I consider these and other acts of predation, I have no difficulty believing these same teeth, muscles, and chemicals had a peaceful purpose in securing vegetable based food in Eden. For one present day example, consider the panda bears of China. They are of considerable size, and are strong with formidable teeth, yet they subsist on bamboo; they are vegetarian. I have no trouble believing that all animals, like the panda, could live exclusively as herbivores, eating only plant based foods.
Consider also Romans 8:20: “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope.” Hope in what? In Christ, for it is He who has “made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Col 1:20). We also hope, in that we look for a “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2Pe 3:13). This hope was expressed prophetically as God spoke to the serpent: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15).
Pause to consider the benevolence of God; it was in the very midst of moral failure that God consoled eve with the promise of redemption, i.e. that one would come of her seed who would utterly and completely defeat the seed of the serpent. Although the day was yet distant, a son of Eve would come and set aright the terrible wrong that had been committed. That promise found its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1Co 15:22).
In all of this, is God cruel or unjust? not in the least; were there not two special trees in the Garden, not only the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but also the tree of life? In these two trees our parents were given a choice, one legitimate, for the fruits of the tree of life were pure and free for the taking, conversely the other was illegitimate. By choice, Adam willfully opposed his creator God. One may ask, can God, who is Holy, become guilty because of the actions He allows others to do? The answer is “no,” because today, just as with our ancestors, the choice is before us; it is our responsibility to choose to do either that which is good or that which is evil. God cannot be held liable for allowing bad choices to produce bad fruit. God has allowed man the gift of free will; may we use it to His honor and glory. And as only He can, God allows the sufferings of life to work to the benefit of His lambs. God is able, with our cooperation, to bring good from something that naturally is very bad (Rom 8:28). As Hosea said in Hos 14:9, “For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them.”