The Gift of Life
February 4, 2024

The Gift of Life

Passage: Genesis 2:4-17

Got Questions?

Ever since the beginning of the new year, we’ve been taking time on Sunday nights to look at the beginning chapters of the Bible. The beginning of the Bible is important, because right away it speaks to some of the most foundational questions of human existence – Is this world all there is? Where did it come from? What's the purpose of my life? Is there a God, and if so, why should I care about him? What does he think of me?

Tonight we’re going to continue engaging with some of these questions as we look at Genesis, Chapter 2. If you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Genesis 2. I’ll be starting at verse 4, and will be reading through verse 17. But before I read our text, let’s ask for God’s help. Please pray with me:


What's So Great about God?

So far in Genesis, the Bible has asserted that God exists, that the material universe exists because God brought it into being, and that the world God made was good. We’ve also seen that God did something astonishing when he made humanity. The human race was given a remarkable honor that nothing else in the universe received. God created human beings to resemble him – to radiate the same sort of truthfulness, loyalty, and goodness that He has. He made us to shine like mirrors that reflect the light of the sun. This is all laid out in Genesis 1.

And as we turn to Genesis 2, we see an explanation of how God created mankind in more detail. Some people have claimed that Genesis 2 contradicts Genesis 1 because they describe the creation of man in a different way. But Genesis 2 is simply telling us about the same event from a different vantage point. Genesis 1 focuses on God’s purpose for humanity. But Genesis 2 focuses on God’s provision for humanity. Genesis 1 shows us the good design of God’s work. Genesis 2 displays the deep generosity of God’s heart.

So here in Genesis 2, we’ll see three gifts God gives to humanity that display his goodwill and kind-heartedness. There’s actually a fourth that shows up at the end of this chapter, but we’ll deal with number four next week. So here are the three key gifts we’ll look at tonight: First, in verses 4-7, you’ll see that God gives the breath of life. Second, in verses 8-15, He gives a place for life. And third, in verses 16-17, he gives a covenant for life.

The Breath of Life

So first, God provides the breath of life. Up until this point in Genesis, God has exclusively been referred to by the generic Hebrew word for god, the word Elohim. But here in Genesis 2:4, for the first time in the Bible, God tells us (what you might call) his personal name. The LORD God – Yahweh Elohim, specifically – is the one who has made the earth and the heavens. And this is a fitting time for the personal name of God to be revealed in Genesis, because in Genesis 2, God demonstrates his care for mankind in a uniquely personal way.

I’ll come back to verses 5 and 6 soon, but notice in verse 7 what God does as he forms the first man. It says “the LORD GOD” – notice again, the personal, relational name of God is used here – “the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

Verse 7 tells us that God laid out the anatomy and functionality of the human body – he formed the man out of the dust – every last muscle and tendon, every strand of DNA, every aspect and ability of the human brain, everything – God took special care to plan it all out. And I want to emphasize this, because we often take our abilities for granted, or we take credit for them, as though we’re the ones responsible for how balanced and functional our bodies are. But we really can’t brag about what we are, or about what we’re able to do. Because the master architect and engineer of mankind is God, not us.

Our bragging is also limited because of what we’re made out of. The Bible says that God formed us out of the dust of the earth. It’s ridiculous for us to pretend that we’re on the same level of sophistication and majesty that God is. Who are we to judge God’s decisions? We’re made of dust. Who do we think we are, that we would demand God to do things our way – to squeeze into the jello mold of our expectations?

And just imagine, for a moment, that verse 7 ended early. What if verse 7 simply said, “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground,” and that was all. Well, there would be a body. But it would be a lifeless body. Forever and always, there would have been nothing there but a pile of well-formed dirt.

Yet in Genesis 2, what does God do with this lump of dirt? He draws near to the man, and the text says that God himself breathes into the man, and gives the breath of life. So absolutely everything we are – everything we have as human beings – life, breath, and everything – it’s a gift. The immortal, undefiled God of Eternity didn’t have to stoop down into the dirt and bring us into being. But he did. And he does. The life you have – the life I have – life is given to us as a gift from God. It’s not something we earn – it’s not something we can claim in any sense to deserve. But before humanity did anything, good or bad, God gave the gift of life. So that’s gift number one.

A Place for Life

And here’s Gift number 2: God gives A Place for Life. And there are three attributes of this place I want to briefly point to. God makes this place for life a place of bounty, a place of beauty, and a place of bonding – a place where God and mankind can have a relationship with each other.

We know this was a place of bounty – a place of fruitfulness – from verses 8 and 9. These verses tell us that God prepared a garden paradise for his people to live in. And he filled the garden with all sorts of incredible plants that were good for food. God basically laid out an all-you-can-eat buffet and said, “here you go. This is for you.”

And again, this is striking because God takes the initiative to do this out of his own kindness and generosity. The food that mankind eats here is not the fruits of human effort. But mankind is fed from the fruits of God’s benevolence and compassion.

I want to go back briefly to verse 5 and underscore this point. Some people get confused by verse 5, because if you go back to the days of creation in Genesis 1, it says plants were created on day 3. People were created on day 6. But the text here says that human beings are being made on day “when no bush of the field was yet in the land, and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up.” So some people get confused and think that the Bible is contradicting itself.

But when verse 5 speaks about “bushes of the field” and “small plants of the field,” it’s talking about farm plants and farm fields. Verse 5 is pointing out that there aren’t any manmade fields around – because the idea of people working out in the field to grow food for themselves – that isn’t what’s happening here in Genesis 2. God is growing the food. God has established the garden. God himself provides the fountains that water the garden. And the water is so abundant, it spills over to form four different rivers. And in verse 16, God invites humanity into this paradise to eat, drink, and enjoy, because God himself has prepared the table. So God clearly gave a bountiful place.

He also gave a beautiful place. God could have been strictly utilitarian. He could have invented a world where all our fruits, vegetables, and whatever were nutritious, but were just the same old shade of grey. He easily could have invented a world where everything tasted like week-old French fries. But instead we see that God designed things with beauty and flavor. Verse 9: “And out of the ground the LORD God” (notice again He uses his personal name) “the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” And he doesn’t do this for his own benefit – God isn’t homeless. He doesn’t need fruit to eat. No, he’s doing this for his people.

The glory and goodness of the garden draws our attention to the glory and goodness of God. He didn’t just give the bare minimum of what his people needed. Everything that we find pleasing and pleasant is a gift from God. He gave color, music, laughter – sunsets, poetry, waterfalls, fine architecture – the reason all these things exist is so we fall on our faces before God and say, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” If we think of God as a kill-joy, we’ve got it all wrong. God is the one who makes joy possible.

But the greatest joy for humanity wasn’t just to enjoy the garden. This garden paradise was especially a place for enjoying the gardener. This garden was a place of bonding – a place of relational bonding between God and man. In this garden, there was nothing around that drove a wedge of separation between God and mankind. In this place, God and man walked together. In this garden, we see God, identified by his personal name, establishing a personal connection with his people. And this was by far the greatest part of the garden. The opportunity to know and worship God here is what made the garden paradise.

A Command for Life

And the connection God established with his people here was unique. God gave a covenant for life. (This is my third and final point: God gave a covenant for life). When I use the word covenant here, I’m talking about something like a contract or agreement that exists between two parties.

I’m aware that the word covenant doesn’t appear here in Genesis 2, but Hosea 6:7 indicates that God, indeed, made a covenant with the first man, Adam. And here in Genesis 2, the arrangement God makes with Adam has key features in common with covenants that God makes later in the Bible. There’s a blessing for obedience – the blessing of life. There’s a curse for disobedience – the curse of death. And there are physical objects that stand as visible signs of this covenant. The tree of life confirms that obedience will lead to life. And the tree of the knowledge of good and evil confirms that disobedience will lead to death.

We shouldn’t miss how amazing it is that God, as the Master of the Universe, as the one who is to be worshipped by every creature forever – he takes the initiative. He stoops down to our level and connects with us. And as God lays down the terms of this covenant with us, he doesn’t place any harsh demands on us – he’s nothing at all like a slavedriver. Instead, God’s covenant is clearly aimed at the life and happiness of mankind. In verse 16, God draws attention to the vast expanse of the garden, and he says, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden” – There’s an emphasis here on God’s permission and encouragement for Adam to eat and have life – you may surely, absolutely, of course eat from any tree! EXCEPT­, verse 17 says, there’s one you need to avoid. Just one. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why? Because it’ll bring death.

God’s expectations for Adam here are clear. He doesn’t leave Adam guessing. Instead he warns Adam about death, in order to point Adam toward life. Just as a mom or dad show love for their kids by setting up house rules, God shows his love for Adam here. This covenant is an act of God’s kindness. This is a covenant aimed at life.

But in a couple weeks, we’ll see how Adam repays God for his kindness. Adam breaks God’s command. And that agreement between God and mankind – that agreement that offered everlasting life and closeness with God – it’s all lost. And ever since, mankind has been separated from God and subjected to death. And if God would have left us there, we’d be hopeless. Because, we’re command-breakers, just like Adam. We are covenant-wreckers. Under the covenant of Adam, we’re dead.

But this generous, kindhearted God of Genesis 2, who shows himself to be a covenant-making God – he has made a SECOND covenant for life. And this second covenant doesn’t depend on Adam’s moral perfection, or mine, or yours. It depends on Jesus Christ – it depends on his work to pay the death penalty for our sin. It depends on his sinlessness – his moral perfection. And anyone, from any race or nation or education level or socioeconomic background – absolutely anyone who comes to God through Jesus will regain the life that was lost. So as we close, let’s pray, and thank God for his kindness.