“Cursed is the ground because of you…By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:17-19
In 1915 a young Milwaukee couple built a beautiful house on a new boulevard of fine new homes that, in the words of one historian, represented an image of comfortable bourgeois prosperity. Hand-built with the finest of German craftsmanship, the original home had fine detail, leaded stained-glass windows, hardwood floors, and built-in oak cabinets.
One hundred years later, rife with mold, water damage, broken windows, and a leaky roof, that same house is but a shell of its original beauty, charm, and craftsmanship. Yet something of the original intent and beauty, obscured amidst the ruin, beckoned rescue and restoration from its state of dilapidation, emptiness, and decay. The “oughtness” of the old house cried out.
The first two chapters of Genesis unfold the creation of the world and the human race. With great poignancy, the text says that God saw what he had made and “it was good.” And, finally, of the whole creation: “It was very good.” This one word good sums up the beauty, excellence, harmony, perfection, and flourishing of the whole creation. Man and woman, the crown of creation, were naked yet unashamed. They showed a pure and holy innocence as they dwelt in a flourishing garden. This is the way things ought to be, as God intended.
In Genesis 3, sin and brokenness enter through the rebellion and disobedience of Adam and Eve, and the results are disastrous: Pain becomes a reality in our world—whether in work or in childbearing. Chaos is evident as the perfect harmony and beauty of Genesis 1 and 2 are ruined. Decay and death become normal in life. One word sums up the result of sin: alienation.
Things are not as they ought to be and “oughtness” cries out. Deep within our souls there is a longing for order, beauty, health, life, harmony, and reconciliation.
This longing or sense of “oughtness” points both to God’s original intent for this world and the effect that sin and rebellion have in our world—and, indeed, in our own personal lives.
PONDER: Where do you see or experience the results of sin or alienation in your personal life or community?
[SPECIAL – Watch the video or listen to the audio of Pastor Jason Webb’s sermon, “Be Reconciled to God.”]
* * *
What Does “Reconciliation” Mean?
To “reconcile” or bring about “reconciliation” is to restore harmony or friendship between two entities formerly divided. In the biblical tradition, reconciliation denotes the fundamental fact of a restored relationship, either between human persons, among various elements in the cosmos, or between humans and God. This biblical idea assumes that relationships have indeed been broken, as the narrative of Gen. 3 so poignantly relates. In that story, moreover, all relationships of human existence stand in need of reconciliation: relations between creatures and their Creator, gender relationships made hostile by the effects of sin, and the relationships between human creatures and the earth itself which have been marred as well by the sin of the garden.
Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible
Comments welcome below.
To receive RECONCILE and later Elmbrook devotionals in your inbox, sign up HERE.