Work and keep…

So I’m pouring through Hamilton Jr’s “God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgement” and I cannot put it down.  It’s a doctorate level Bible study straight through the Bible.  It’s a clear read, straight forward, well structured, yet keeps me turning to the dictionary plenty.

In his working through Genesis, he talks about the Primeval Temple – or namely, Eden.  He draws upon the all-to-often-missed parallels between Eden and the Tabernacle.  Both of them had a particularly unique element.  They both were governed by a man who was charged to “work and keep” the dwelling place of God.  “This language,” Hamilton says, “is used for no other purpose.”  (Gen 2:15, Num 3:7-8, 8:26, 18:5-6)

Hamilton explains that the whole of creation was intended to be a cosmic temple of sorts.  God created the universe to display His glory and wonder.  He specifically created the earth to be His dwelling place.  Num. 14:21, Isa. 6:3, 11:9, Hab.2:14 all talk about God’s glory covering the earth as the waters cover the sea.  But everything started in Eden.  Eden had definable boundaries.  Eden also had endless possibilities.  And Adam was the man who was created and commanded to take Eden where it was meant to go.  Imagine the Creator of the Universe asking you to develop and design His home.  Adam was equipped to do it though.  He named animals in response to the wonder of God that he saw in them.  He worked with the plants, nurturing them into a magnificent display of God’s beauty and imagination.  God’s original intention was that Eden expand to cover the earth.  God’s original intention was that His image bearers cover the earth.  God’s original intention was that His dwelling place, His throne, His realm of worship cover the whole earth.  Every corner of creation was meant to be a place of perfect worship of the Lord.

So Adam was meant to perpetually oversee the worship of the Lord in creation which he was given dominion over.  Eve was meant to help him in that process.  After the fall God created Israel and gave them a new, yet obviously much diminished Eden called the Tabernacle.  The high priest was called to work and keep the Tabernacle, to oversee the rituals and sacrifices, to care for the structure and properties, etc…

But one piece of their call, perhaps the most important piece, was central to who they were as men.  That was their call to protect the purity of God’s dwelling place.  What a wondrous thing it is to consider that the Sovereign would choose to establish His home in such a way that man could “make it or break it”.  Why did He leave that up to us (setting aside the specific language of His sovereignty over sin for the moment)?  He created a perfect home, then said to Adam, “Do not let sin enter this place”.  He didn’t say those words to Adam, but He said them by giving Adam the command to not eat from the one tree.  What you don’t hear God specifically say is, “Make sure no one else messes this up either.”  God doesn’t have to say that though.  God built it into Adam’s DNA.  Adam’s command to “work and keep” includes the command to protect.  It’s all the same.  We know this to be true because God blamed Adam for his failure to protect.  Adam saw a threat in the serpent, and did nothing to stop him.  Adam saw his wife succumbing to the threat and he stood by silent.  He “fails to keep the realm of God’s dwelling place pure.”

The priest was also tasked with keeping Israel pure.  He did this by strict dogma and action.  Blood was the most common part of the priest’s life.  Animal blood to atone for minor sins against a holy God.  Human blood for more despicable acts of rebellion.  He protected by killing and by rule keeping.  If he got lazy in that task, if he stood by and said nothing at the sight of sin, if he failed to hold his people to the highest of standards, God’s dwelling place would not be kept pure.  Two things happen in Scripture when God’s dwelling place is not pure – 1) God leaves (which is bad), or 2) God kills (which is bad).  Neither option lend towards God’s plan of filling the whole earth with His glory.

Finally the Christ arrives and changes everything.  The church’s task today is still to fill the whole earth with the glory of God, but in a different way than before.  The man, the husband, is still called to the same task of working and keeping the house of God.  But now God’s abode is the human soul.  Therefore the man is to protect that soul.  He is to nurture that soul.  He is to direct that soul back to a place of purity.  In the process of sanctification, the husband is the front line of defense against sin and belial.  He is the primary care giver, peace keeper, and goal setter.  He has been given an Eden called his family.  He is called to tend to that garden with all of his strength, mind, heart, and soul.

What a weighty task this is!  Man was created to need challenge, to need to have work to do.  God designed this life for us so that we would have a life long task of the greatest importance.  Most importantly He equipped us to do this task.  The equipping comes in the form of God’s Spirit Himself.  Sin is our biggest problem, so God took sin out of the equation.  He lavished us with grace and promised to complete the good work that He started in us.  We don’t look to ourselves to work and keep this garden.  We look to the cross.


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