As we saw in the last post, humanity was created in God’s image and likeness to be God’s representative in the world (royal-image), and to be God’s very representation in the world (cultic-image).
God’s presence had been given to humanity (indeed, to the entire cosmos since creation is God’s temple-dwelling place), and God’s presence was supposed to spread and fill the earth through the faithful agency of humanity (Gen. 1:28). But all this was lost in the Fall, which is the topic for todays this post.
Failure to Keep God’s Presence: Genesis 3
I’m going to skip the details of what theologians call the Fall, when Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, of why they did it and what it did to them. I’m skipping it not because it isn’t important, but because it is so familiar that we forget that in a sense all of Genesis 3-11 is the record of the Fall, recording the effects sin and death on individuals (Gen. 3) to institutions (Gen. 11).
The most important detail about Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden is not the fact that they are being kept from the Tree of Life. Rather it is the fact that the way back into the Garden is guarded by Cherubim (Gen. 3:24).
Let’s think about this. If I said two security guards are in front of a door you would think something valuable was behind it. If I said two of Secret Service were in front of a door you would think the President was there. If I said two dragons were guarding a door you would think something magical was there. The kind of guards posted tells us about what is there.
So, if who is guarding the door tells us something about what is being guarded, then perhaps the fact that Cherubim guard the Garden tells us something more than merely that humanity was not supposed to eat of the Tree of Life.
Cherubim are almost exclusive found in the very presence of God (around the Ark of God’s presence in Ex. 25: 18-22, and in heavenly visions like Ezekiel in Ez. 10:1-20). We need to understand, then, as every ancient reader would have, that the Cherubim are guarding the presence of God from those who have lost the ability to bear the presence of God. In the Fall, not only do we lose the Garden-Temple and our Image-Bearing mission, but we lose the very presence of God.
In a very real sense, Heaven and Earth are now separated, with humanity being bound to the Earth, and Heaven becoming the primary place of God’s presence.
But this arrangement is not to the liking of those tower builders of Babel. That God is in Heaven and they on Earth is not tolerated. So they decide to build a tower that “will reach up into Heaven” so that they could “make a name” for themselves.
No longer does humanity want to be God’s representatives nor be God’s very representation on earth, but rather they wanted to make a name for themselves (presumably by overthrowing God from Heaven and installing themselves).
Naturally God does not think this is a great idea, not because God is threatened by such schemes, but because this tactic is the most destructive of humanity and human flourishing.
So humanity fails to regain God’s presence by storming Heaven, reinforcing the very real sense that now humanity (on Earth) is separated from God (in Heaven).
All is Lost! Or is it?
As the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to prayer that the things of Heaven will be on Earth (God’s Kingdom and Will), we have been wondering how it is that Heaven and Earth come together and what does the entire story of Scripture tell us about coming together of Heaven and Earth.
So, the question we should be asking ourselves at the end of reading Genesis 3-11 is “How will the presence of God come to humanity?” because it is impossible for humanity to bring itself into God’s presence (barred from the Garden and thwarted at the Tower).
Well, as we turn to Israel’s Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) we find that although humanity has fallen from Heaven God is going to appear and make a way for humanity to be “with God” and to again bear the image of God in the world.
To this we will turn in the next post.
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