twin towers 911The recent attack on our country was a terrible tragedy. No doubt all good and decent people in our country wonder how anyone could be so wicked as to do such a thing as these men who caused the death of thousands did.

But in times like these, times of terrible calamity, we can’t help but wonder why God didn’t do something about it. Why did He allow such an awful thing to happen? After all, He is God and He certainly could have put a stop to it. Yet He didn’t. Why not?

This sort of “why” question is something that everyone has no doubt asked at one time or another. The atheist responds by saying that this proves that there is no God. Others wonder what God is really like, or if He even cares. But what is the believer to respond to such a question?

Related to this “why” question are many others. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good things happen to bad people? Why does God allow so much pain and suffering in the world? Why did He even create us if He knew it would result in such terrible things happening? Why doesn’t He put a stop to it all and bring deliverance to the human race?

These are difficult and serious questions, and are deserving of our careful consideration and study. I will begin to study the issue here to see what we can glean from the Word of God that might help us in answering these difficult questions.

To really get a grasp on answering these questions, we have to go back to how this whole mess began in the first place. In Genesis 2:7 we read that “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” This is how humankind had its start…we were created from the dust and the breath of life from God.

God took care of Adam after He created him. We read in verse 15 that “the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Then He gave him a solemn warning. “And the LORD God commanded the man saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”

What is this “knowledge of good and evil”? We tend to think of it as the knowledge of goodness and wickedness. “Evil,” “sinful,” and “wicked” basically mean the same thing in English. Yet in the Hebrew mind these words are not at all the same thing. “Evil” is not the same as wickedness or sin. “Evil” means calamity or disaster. Sometimes sin is the cause of calamity or disaster, so the word “evil” can be used figuratively for the sin that causes it. Yet the primary meaning of “evil” is not sin, but rather what are often the results of sin, which are calamity or disaster.

So when we learn that Adam had no knowledge of good and evil, what that means is that he had no experience regarding the difference between good and disaster. For Adam, all that had ever happened to him had been good. He had never had to experience any calamity. Nothing in his life had ever gone wrong. And he could continue in such a state as long as he avoided eating from the forbidden tree. What a situation to be in! Surely we would imagine that if not eating a fruit were all we would have to do to never have anything go wrong in our lives again, we would jump at the opportunity and avoid the fruit at all costs! Adam must have realized that he had it made, and had no desire to ever have anything to do with that fruit.

But now God noticed something that wasn’t right in Adam’s life. We read in 2:18, “And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’”

Often in learning this story in Sunday school and elsewhere we love to picture Adam as having been actively looking for a partner. I’ve heard the story told where Adam was going through and naming all the animals, and all the time he was looking out for one that would be a good match for him, and yet he didn’t find one. Yet this scenario is totally imaginary. We read no such thing here. For all we can tell Adam was perfectly happy just as he was. He had himself, he had a beautiful garden, and he had God and all the animals for companionship, and he was perfectly happy just as things were. But God saw that something was missing. We need to realize this. It was God’s idea that Adam needed a partner, not Adam’s.

So we read in verse 21, “And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.”

Now people argue about the exact meaning of the Hebrew word “rib” here. Some think that this isn’t actually a word for “rib,” but rather for “side,” and that we are learning here that God took a “side” out of Adam, in other words, the female side. Although I am no Hebrew scholar, I tend to agree with this idea. If Adam had originally been created male and there had been no female, then it would have been rather ridiculous for God to just pretend to “notice” after He created Adam that Adam needed a partner. “Oops, I forgot that males need a female to reproduce. What was I thinking?” If that was the case, then His decision to make Eve wasn’t a decision at all, but a necessity.

I believe that it was a decision to make Eve. I believe that Adam as originally created was both male and female, and would have been perfectly capable of existing and reproducing all on his own. This would be rather unique among the higher orders of animals, but is something that does appear in lower orders of creatures, that a being can self-fertilize. This seems a really strange idea, and some people seem to think I’m crazy when I suggest it. Yet I believe that it is the most reasonable explanation, and I think that more Bible scholars over the ages have agreed with this idea than not.

At any rate, a female for Adam was created. Then, upon awakening, Adam finds this wondrous new creature made for him. Look at his response to meeting her in verse 23, “And Adam said,
‘This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

Our Bibles have her name as “Woman.” Yet I don’t think this is how it should be recorded. What Adam called her here was meant to be a name and not a descriptive title, and we don’t translate names. For example, my name means “gift,” but you don’t go around calling me “Gift.” This was meant to be her name, and so it should be given as a name. What the name was was “Isha,” pronounced “EE-shah.” It comes from the Hebrew word for “man,” “ish,” and means one taken out of a man or a woman. Thus we learn that in actual fact Isha was the only real “woman” who has ever lived. Every other female has been born from another woman. Isha is the only person ever who was taken not from a woman but from a man. Yet all her descendants are called “isha” or women after her.

Now how did Adam know that Isha had been taken out of him? We could assume that God told him so, but I think there is a better explanation here. He recognizes that she is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” How did he know this? I believe that he saw in Isha characteristics that had previously been only in himself.

I don’t believe that Isha was the first human form Adam had seen other than himself. He had certainly seen and been with God, and the only form of God that can be seen and fellowshipped with in the way that Adam did with God is the form of the Word or expression of God, Jesus Christ. This was before His actual incarnation as a man, of course, yet Adam was made in His image, and thus we imagine that the Lord looked a lot like a human even then. Then there are the beings we call angels. Adam probably had seen some of these, perhaps in the company of God. In the story where God came and had lunch with Abraham He brought two angels with Him, and we have no reason to believe that He never brought angels with Him when He came to see Adam. And the Bible indicates that angels look very much like men with shining white clothes. They don’t even have wings as so many paintings and illustrations like to show them having.

So Adam would have been familiar with others who looked a lot like him. Yet when he saw Isha there was something different. He saw himself and his own characteristics in her. I suppose we are all familiar with this concept from other members of our families. We know that we share various physical characteristics with the others in our family. Even those of us who are adopted have surely seen this similarity in other families around them and know what I’m talking about.

So here Adam saw someone who didn’t just look like him in form and appearance but who also shared his traits…who had his “family characteristics.” In Isha he recognized the same thing that parents see in their children…he saw himself in one who came out of him. No doubt this was a very fascinating thing for Adam, and we can imagine how quickly he fell in love with Isha and how thoroughly pleased he must have been with her. Those of us who can remember our first crush or the first time we actually met that “special someone” can relate to what Adam must have been feeling at this point. Surely he thought Isha was the most wonderful creature in the world!

But now a new player enters on the scene…the serpent. This is God’s old enemy, called Satan and the Devil. The Hebrew word for serpent is “shining one,” and I believe that this is what is meant here. Many assume that Satan here possessed a serpent. I do not believe that this could be true. We read in the Bible of evil or unclean spirits possessing both people and animals. Yet Lucifer is said to be a cherub, and cherubim are definitely described as having bodies, unlike spirits. Thus we have no indication that they can possess anyone or anything. Others suggest that Satan turned himself into a snake. Yet does he really have such power? God became a man, and we count that as a great miracle. Does Satan have the power to go even further and make himself a snake? I doubt it. I believe that, although snakes are indeed called “shining ones” in Hebrew because of the reflective properties of their scales, that in this case it is not snakes at all that is referred to but rather a name that Lucifer possessed, perhaps before he ever fell from God. Satan is called “The Shining One,” but that is a name or title given to him, and not at all an indication that he was a snake. I realize that he is spoken of figuratively as a snake throughout the Bible, but that doesn’t mean that he was literally a snake here anymore than it means he was literally a dragon in Revelation.

Now the Shining One comes to Adam and Isha and speaks to them. Notice that he addresses himself to Isha. Perhaps in his cleverness he saw a weakness in Isha that couldn’t be found in Adam. At any rate, he says to her, “’Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’”

Notice that Satan twists God’s words here. He knew that wasn’t what God had said, but he was calling it into question. “Has God really said this?” he asks. And Isha responds. “’We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’’”

Now notice what Isha had done. She was faced by this glorious, shining stranger, and was no doubt impressed by his beauty and his amazing and outlandish appearance. Anyone who knows what a cherub looks like can imagine what an incredible thing it would be to see Satan in the flesh. So she eagerly answers his question to show off her knowledge of what God had said. Yet suddenly it seems that the simple truth is not fantastic enough to impress this glorious stranger standing before her. So Isha decides to add to the truth just a bit. She exaggerates, and says that they can’t even touch the fruit of the tree. Now that wasn’t true at all. The poison in the fruit could only harm them if they ate of it. It could not be absorbed through the skin, and would have no effect on them if they merely touched it. Yet Isha is trying to impress this glorious stranger, and herein she makes her greatest mistake. For she has failed to properly respect and hold in faithful reverence the word of God. She has decided that the simple truth of God is not enough for her. She must add to it to make it more interesting, and by devaluing it so she opens the door for Satan to call it into question altogether.

The Shining One is quick to take advantage of Isha’s mistake. He says to her, “’You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” God certainly does know what it means to have His works come to disaster. The Shining One himself had been the cause of one such evil perhaps not too long before this when he as one of God’s glorious creations had chosen to rebel against his Creator! Yet somehow he makes such knowledge seem attractive to Isha. He pooh-poohs the idea that the fruit will kill her, and suggests that God is trying to keep something from her by telling her not to eat the fruit. After all, Isha had already acted like the word of God was lacking in not being exciting enough. What if it was also lacking in truthfulness? What if God was trying to hold something wonderful back from her?

Isha is totally fooled by the Shining One’s lie. She is convinced by this glorious stranger that God is indeed holding something wonderful back from her, and so she promptly takes the fruit and eats it.

Now imagine what Adam had been feeling during this whole episode. Remember that not too long before God Himself had given him this wonderful creature he had named Isha. How many of us who are single wish that God would lead us to “The One” that He has for us. We imagine how wonderful that would be, and what a marvelous person we would have if only God would choose for us. Well, God did choose for Adam. He had given Isha directly to him. So when they faced the Shining One and he lied to Isha, Adam must have not been worried a bit about it. Surely the wonderful creature that God had given to him would not be taken in by so obvious and foolish a lie. Adam knew very well that the fruit was poisonous, and had no desire to eat any of it. He knew that knowing the difference between good and disaster is not at all a desirable knowledge, and he surely must have thought that Isha would know it as well. Surely the wonderful being God had given him would not fall for this lie of Satan’s! Surely his marvelous gift from God would be above such trickery!

So he must have watched in horror as Isha took the fruit and bit into it. Perhaps he did not even imagine that she would do so, and thus was paralyzed by shock too much to stop her. But now he was faced with an awful truth. He was not fooled, as we read in I Timothy 2:14. He knew that Isha had just signed her own death warrant. She would now die, and there was nothing Adam could do about it.

We can only imagine the thoughts that must have raced through Adam’s head at that moment. Only a short while earlier he had been perfectly happy, just him and God. Yet now to return to that life, to a world without Isha, seemed unbearable to him. How could he possibly live without her? What would be the point?

Then there was God. He must have felt cheated. How could God have done such a thing to him? How could He have given him a faulty gift who would kill herself at the first opportunity? It just wasn’t fair!

So Adam decided on his course of action. If he couldn’t live with Isha, then he would rather die. Perhaps he even thought that that would get revenge on God for having let him fall in love with a being who would go and kill herself on him. But he, knowing fully well what he was doing, took the fruit from Isha and ate it. I believe that Adam was the first attempted suicide…he tried to kill himself with the poison fruit.

But then God came into the picture. We read in Genesis 3:8, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” Suddenly the great choice that Isha had made earlier didn’t seem so great to her. It was easy to imagine that God was holding out on her when in the presence of the glorious stranger, but now upon being faced with having to answer to God for what she had done she suddenly found that it didn’t seem so obvious or so wonderful after all. As for Adam, his imagined sacrifice for Isha and revenge on God didn’t seem so wonderful now as when he had eaten the fruit. Suddenly their actions were shown for what they were…the selfish actions of self-centered individuals…and they were ashamed to face their God.

Yet God had not given up on Adam and Isha yet, and so He called to them. “Where are you?” He could have just left them to die, but He didn’t. Rather He gave them hope. He said to the Shining One,
“‘I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.’”

Remember, Adam thought he had killed himself. He had eaten poison fruit, and no doubt expected to fall down dead any minute. Yet what he didn’t know was that God had mercy on him and had given his and Isha’s bodies the wonderful ability to fight the affects of the poison and to live for a very long time before actually succumbing to it. But now Adam heard that Isha would have seed…would have children. And Adam, hoping against hope, decided to believe God. He now expressed the faith that he should have had earlier, and so he gave Isha a new name. He called her “Eve,” which means “Life-spring,” because he realized that she would be the mother of all living. He showed faith in God, believing against hope that they would live in spite of the poison, and God accepted his faith, for we read then in verse 21 that, “Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” This was the response of the LORD to Adam’s faith…He made a sacrifice and gave them clothes to cover their shame. Thus we learn a great Biblical principle…that the response of God to faith is to shed blood to cover sin. This is how it was for Adam and Isha, and this is how it is for us. For when we place our faith in Christ, God responds by imputing His shed blood to us to take away our sins.

So we see from this story the real reason behind all the calamity in the world. Adam and Isha ignored God’s warning. Adam purposely chose death and calamity in direct rebellion against God’s warning and commandment. God never wanted nor intended Adam’s race to have to live with disaster, but He gave Adam a choice to decide whether that was what he wanted or not. And Adam made a different choice, choosing the awfulness of sin and death and the terrible consequences they bring not only for himself but for all his descendants.

Thus we learn our first great answer to the “why” questions, and that is that the calamities that happen to us are not the result of God’s desire, but rather of our own sin. Think how much of the heartbreak and pain that takes place in our world is the result of what others do! We know very well that it wasn’t God who drove those planes into the World Trade Center and elsewhere, but rather wicked, godless men. The pain they caused others was not the result of God’s desire, but of their own sin. And this is the true cause of all the pain and suffering in the world. Our own disasters and deaths are the result of the sin of ourselves or other people. Even what we call “natural disasters” that kill thousands are a result of a world that was thrown out of balance by the terrible judgment of the flood. Many of the natural calamities that take place now…nay, probably all of them…are the result of a system thrown into chaos by the flood. And remember that the flood was not a natural occurrence, but God’s attempt to purify mankind when they were threatened to be overwhelmed by sin. So even natural disasters are the result of sin, not our own, but our long-past ancestors. That is the way it is with disaster in our world…it is either caused by our own wicked contemporaries, by the results of the actions of the wicked men of the past, or by the very first sin of Adam in choosing to bring calamity and disaster upon the entire human race.

So we learn our first answer to the “why” question. The current, messed up system we live in was never God’s plan. He sought to spare us from all the disaster and calamity we have to go through, just as any good parent seeks to shield his offspring from such things. Yet Adam and Isha would not have it, and so we are in the mess we are in now. We cannot blame God for our current situation…the mess we are in was caused not by God but by sinful men!

Yet some would argue that God still could save us from the results of our own folly. Well, that is true. And I believe that that is exactly what God will do some day. I will discuss this and continue our discussion of the “Why” question in my next message.