Paul has an enthusiasm for exploring the world of faith and spiritual well being, which he wishes to share through all that he writes.
Life Is Hard! Those of ancient times knew this well. By the sweat of their brows, the men toiled, tilling the ground. Thick with thorns and thistles was the ground they tilled. But it was good ground. It provided the food and drink used for sustenance and enjoyment. The women had to endure great pains any time a new life entered the world, but the children were joys to them, and the parents thanked and praised God for them. Together man, woman and child moved through a world full of hardship and danger. They had to beware of wild animals who would strike them if threatened or trod upon, and of corrupt men who would harm or take from them. They also had to endure events of nature - plagues, famines and floods. But they felt strength in their endurance, and they felt God's goodness in their labors as well as in their joys.
There were stories told about these times, stories full of suspense and drama, stories about relationships, relationships between man and woman, between father and son, and among brothers. Yet at the same time, they were, and continue to be, about the relationship between God and his people.
Adam and Woman
Adam was a gardener. He was God's gardener. He worked it and took care of it. Adam was permitted to eat any of the fruit from the trees that grew in the garden, including the tree of life. He was instructed however, not to eat from the tree of knowledge which stood in the center of the garden. But he and the woman, his mate, ate the forbidden fruit and that seems to be when all the difficulties began.
Noah and the Flood
Noah lived during a time when the world had become corrupt. The earth was full of wicked and violent people. Noah, however, was not one of the wicked nor the violent; he was a good man in the eyes of God, and he was asked by God to build a boat - an ark, and bring onto it, pairs of all the animals of the earth, and with them, he, with his wife and sons, and with the wives of his sons, were to escape the floodwaters sent by God that were to be used to bring an end it all.
Abraham and His Son
Abraham and his wife Sarah had been blessed in their old age with a son which God had promised them. The boy was a joy to them. Years later when the boy who they had named Isaac, was old enough to help his father with important tasks such as the burnt offerings, which were sacrifices to God, Abraham was told by God to take his son and make a sacrifice of him. Abraham and the boy went to the place where God had told them, with wood and fire to prepare the offering. Abraham built an alter and placed the wood on it. He bound his son and laid him on the wood. Abraham then picked up the knife.
Image and Likeness
God is good. We have been told that we share God's image and likeness, so at some level we must also be good. This is at the level of love.
The apostle Paul tells us what love is and what it is not. We feel God's goodness when we are being what love is: patient and kind, unselfish and forgiving. We also feel the goodness within ourselves when we live in loving ways, and we recognize and acknowledge the goodness around us in the loving ways of others.
We may sometimes find ourselves living outside of what love is. We become envious, angry, speaking and behaving unkindly. We are unforgiving. It is at these times that we do not feel the good that lies within, and we make the mistake of using the idea of image and likeness to believe that God could also behave in these ways, as if God could be angry, impatient, unforgiving. This is not so. God is always what love is and we know that when we are in a loving state, God is near.
We turn again to the stories, and it may appear that God does indeed share some of our lesser qualities at times, but as we read on, we find the good that is God making its way onto the stage and find love shining through the ever-increasing opening in the curtain.
God Is Good
On a mountain in the region of Moriah, Abraham had in his hand the knife with which he would use to give up his son for God. God said no. The boy was not to be harmed, and these kinds of actions were not going to be part of man's offerings to God.
God told Noah that the earth and all the people on it would be destroyed. When the floodwaters receded, the earth was still there as evidenced by the mountain top, the plants survived as shown by the olive leaf, and the people and animals were there in the form of Noah, his family and his cargo. God was not to destroy all life because of the corruptness of man, and never again was God to curse the ground. But it was Adam who was told that the ground would be cursed. It was Adam who was told he would surely die if he ate from the tree.
With a little coaxing from one of God's creatures, who Adam had named serpent, the woman, who had already felt the desire for it, ate the fruit, and the man ate the fruit. They ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and their eyes were opened to the knowledge of their own mortality, and that life was hard, yet the knowledge of God and the garden remained deep within them.
Life is hard. We grow old. We suffer illness. Nature happens, sometimes at extreme levels. Wrongful, even hateful acts are committed by those who live outside of love. But when we experience a bit of beauty like seeing a rainbow in a watercolor sky or savoring the freshness of a crisp winter day, we are reminded that the garden is near. It surrounds us as we live. It is where God is, and it is where we are when we are in a state of love. And while we are there, we just might find life to be a little less difficult, feeling peace and comfort in the moment, aware of the reality of the good that exists in each and every one of us.
The toiling continues, the labors and the hardships. But the joys continue also and keeping our eyes on the joys and on any and every little thing that is good, we continue to trust; we hope and persevere. Life is hard, but life is good. Life is good because God is good.
Author's note :
This article expresses my own views on these biblical matters and is not intended to challenge any traditional views or any beliefs based on them.
© 2013 Paul K Francis