Parasha Beresheet – In The Beginning
Foundations For A Successful Life In This World Followed By Eternal Life In The World-To-Come
If the truth sets us free, and it does, then ignorance and error keeps us enslaved to the deadly forces of Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, and death. For us to have successful lives in this world, followed by eternal life in the World-To-Come, we need to build our lives on truth. We must build our lives on the foundational truths of the divinely inspired Book of Origins, known as Genesis, or in Hebrew, Beresheet – In The Beginning.
There are millions of books in the world. Of those millions of books, the Bible is far the most important book – by far. It is without comparison. If a book, which has organization and structure, is compared to a building, then the first book of the Bible, is like the foundation of the building. Genesis gives us foundational truths which are essential to understand the rest of the Bible – and we want to understand the Bible.
Genesis, which was written by Moses, around 1500 BC, starts with the most foundational truth of all – the reality of God: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. God is real. He is a Person. He is extremely intelligent. He is powerful. He is creative. He created the Heavens and the Earth – this amazingly large and beautiful and complex universe and everything in it, out of nothing but His own mind, will, thought, word and power. A successful life must begin by accepting the truth about the reality of God, who was in the beginning and before the beginning.
God is an Intelligent Designer. He brought form out of formlessness, order out of chaos. He separated the atmosphere from the waters below and the waters above. He separated the dry land from the oceans. He created plants and animals and human beings with the ability to reproduce on the land; sea-life to fill the oceans; birds to fill the skies; sun, moon and stars to inhabit the heavens. The more we learn about this amazing creation, the more we see a great engineer, mathematician, physicist, chemist, a great biologist at work.
God is spirit. He is not made of anything that is part of the physical universe. But, He can take on a physical form if He wants to – and the Tenach records that on several occasions He did so; and the New Testament informs us that He took on a physical form in an even greater way through the Incarnation of the Son of God.
Not only is God spirit, God has a Spirit. The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. The Spirit of God is the invisible presence of God. The Spirit of God is present everywhere throughout the universe – and beyond. The Spirit of God has no body, but He is nevertheless a Person, with the essential attributes of a person – mind, emotion and will.
God speaks. And when He speaks, His words are powerful and effective. God said let there be light and there was light. And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so … God reveals Himself and what He wants by means of words. He did this in the greatest way through His Son, who is the perfect revelation of God and the will of God. That is why Messiah is called the Word of God. Since God speaks and His words are powerful and effective, and since they reveal who He is and what He wants – we should want to know and live by every word He has spoken.
So, in the first three verses of the Genesis, we have God; the Word of God through which the universe was made; and the Spirit of God. This is a hint of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Genesis 1:26 reinforces the singular-yet-plural nature of God. Eloheem, God, (a plural noun) said (a singular verb): Let Us (plural pronoun) make man in Our image (plural noun), in Our likeness (plural noun). This singular-yet-plural nature of God is more fully hinted at in the Tenach and fully revealed in the New Testament.
Another truth is that God wills. He wants some things and does not want other things. His will is revealed when He made the universe and everything in it in the way He did, and in the order did. God has a will, but not any will – He has the supreme will that can’t be overcome by any other will. What He wants to happen will happen. And a time is coming when everyone and everything will submit to His will. Better to end our rebellion against Him and submit to His will now, and willingly, rather than later and unwillingly – don’t you think?
Another truth is that God made human beings so that we are very special. He created us in His image – with the God-like abilities to think, reason, speak, choose, will, design, order the world, rule the other creatures, be creative, be artistic, have a relationship with God, and reproduce others made with those abilities so that they too can have a relationship with God.
Human beings have inherent worth – not because of anything they do, or how successful they are, but because of who they are – made in the image of God. That makes human life, which beings at conception, special, precious, sacred. Every human being is amazing. Every human being is exceptional.
When a nation rejects the truth about God and humans being made in the image of God, bad things happen. Our national rejection of God is a large part of the reason for the huge increase in the breakdown of the family, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual immorality, abortion, senseless violence and suicide.
Another truth is that God is good. He created different environments for His creatures, and then provided water to drink, and plants and trees and fruits and vegetables and grains for human beings, animals and birds to eat. We need to know that God is good – especially when we are going through difficult times or when bad things are happening. Even then, we need to know that God is good.
Another truth is that God is the originator of sexuality and reproduction and marriage and the family and order in the family. God made us male and female. And there are only two genders. Male and female differences go beyond the obvious gender differences. Males and females are different at the cellular level. Our DNA is contained in 23 pairs of chromosomes. The twenty-third pair determines whether we are male or female. Females have two X chromosomes, and males have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. Every cell in the human body is either male or female, and there are a lot of cells in our bodies – as many as 30 trillion of them. That means that at a very deep level, you are male or female.
Male and female gender is God’s design for us to bond with the opposite sex, have life-long companionship and reproduce others who bear the image of God. Because of this, sexual activity should only take place within the male-female marriage relationship. Any sexual activity before marriage or outside marriage goes against God’s design.
Moses teaches us that in order to experience a successful and God-blessed marriage, the man and the woman need to leave their parents, becoming independent from their mother and father so they can establish their own family. And the man must be united to his wife. That means that marriage is an exclusive union between two individuals, a sacred covenant which is to be permanent. And they must become one flesh: The union of a man and a woman is more than a union of bodies – it is a blending of lives. They need to be united – physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, united in every way that is necessary. The only thing that breaks this marriage covenant is sexual immorality or when a non-believer abandons a believing spouse.
God designed the family so that the man is the head of the family. Adam was created first, showing his primacy. Eve was created out of Adam’s body, again demonstrating his primacy. Adam named Eve, again demonstrating his authority over her. And it is explicitly stated in the Lord’s words to Eve: Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. Male leadership in the family is taught throughout the rest of the Bible. And since Messiah’s Community is an extended family, male leadership is God’s will for Messiah’s Community. Men are to be the leaders of the Community – not women.
Genesis gives us the truth about time. God created the Earth, sun and moon so that we can have days and nights, weeks and months and seasons and years. From the beginning, God designed a seven day week so that the Chosen People could rest on the seventh day; so that the Church can learn the principle of resting in the work of salvation that the Lord of the Sabbath accomplished; and, if possible, gather together to worship one day every seven. And, just as seven days make a week, it is likely that there will be 7,000 years of life in this world – the first of 6,000 characterized by toil and hard work, and the final 1,000 characterized by peace and rest.
Genesis provides us with truth about the origin of beauty. The Lord made trees that were pleasing to the sight. He made beautiful stones like bdellium and onyx and beautiful metals like gold. He gave us the ability to appreciate shape, color, form, symmetry, design, order that we perceive as beauty. God created beauty and is Himself beautiful. Just as He is kadosh, kadosh, kadosh – holy, holy, holy, He is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful – infinitely beautiful.
Moses gives us the truth that it’s possible to live forever. God is alive and He is eternal, and He made it possible for those made in His image to live forever by creating the Tree of Life. Those who eat from the Tree of Life will live forever. The knowledge that we can live forever with the eternal God prevents us from thinking that life is meaningless. The knowledge that we can live forever with God keeps us sane and happy.
Genesis gives us truth about the nature of man. The Tree of Life teaches us that eternal life is external to the nature of man. Eternal life is not inherent to the nature of man. Human beings are not born with an immortal soul that will live forever. Only the one who goes outside of himself and eats from the fruit of the Tree of Life can live forever. Rabbi Paul teaches us the same things: Messiah Yeshua destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:10). Believing the Good News about the Messiah is like eating from the Tree of Life.
Another truth is that God is righteous. He made the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil means that there is good and there is evil. And it is God who determines what is good and what is evil, and He does so based on who He is, based on His nature – which is one of pure goodness. That means that there are moral absolutes. There is right and there is wrong. And God has the right to command us to be good and punish us if we do evil. And, since God is perfectly righteous, and is offended by evil, those who want a relationship with God must believe what is right and do what is right on a consistent basis.
God provided for the moral needs of His human creatures with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. When he was created, Adam was physically mature but morally immature. Adam was given a very precious gift – free will, but he needed to learn how to use his will. He needed to learn what is good and what is evil, and choose what is good and reject what is evil. As part of his moral education, the Lord commanded Adam not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If he did, the consequences would be catastrophic. He would be alienated from the Creator and would die spiritually and then die physically (the First Death); and then die eternally (the Second Death).
As Adam passed by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which was purposely placed in the middle of the garden so that Adam would see it frequently, and as Adam trusted God and chose to obey His command to not eat from the tree, Adam would learn good and evil. He would learn that obeying the word of God is the basis of good, and disobeying the word of God is the essence of evil. If Adam used his free will to disobey God and eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would also learn good and evil – but from the perspective of falling into evil and experiencing the harm that evil brings – which is what happened.
In chapter 3 we have other truths. We are informed about an ancient rebellion against God that is led by the Adversary – a powerful fallen angel who has many other fallen angels on his side. We need to know that there are good angels who serve God and fallen angels – demons, evil spirits, unclean spirits who are in rebellion against God and who are trying to harm us.
In chapter 3, Moses gives us the truth about the Fall of Man. The Fall of Man is the reason why the world is in the awful condition it’s in. The leader of the fallen angels recruited Eve to become part of his rebellion by causing her to doubt the goodness of God. Satan suggested that the Lord was withholding good things from her because He didn’t have her best interests in His heart (the Lord doesn’t want you to be like Him, knowing good and evil). The Tempter contradicted God and caused her to doubt the Word of God (you will not die). Eve believed the devil’s lies and ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. By doing that, she sided with the Adversary and transferred her loyalties to him and joined the rebellion of the fallen angels. Then, Adam knowingly joined his wife and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, and he too joined the rebellion of the fallen angels.
And, to keep us alienated from God, and to keep us part of their rebellion, Satan and the demons use the same tactics today that Satan used on Adam and Eve. They twist the Word of God and cause us to doubt the Word of God and doubt God and His goodness.
That one sin brought Adam and Eve and all of their descendants under the authority of the fallen angels. Satan is now the god of this world. That one sin ruined Adam and Eve. Immediately, they felt different, inadequate, naked, shame.
The ruination of the first man and woman was passed on to all of their descendants and has affected every aspect of who we are – body, soul, spirit; mind, emotion and will. The Fall of Man has harmed our morality and our sexuality. It has damaged our relationships with each other. It has damaged our relationship with nature. Our most important relationship – our relationship with our Creator, is ruined. When Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, instead of going toward their Creator, they hid from Him. And, humanity is still hiding from God, avoiding Him in so many ways – including much of what is known as “religion.” Yes, a person can hide from God using religion.
Genesis gives us the truth that God is not only wise, powerful and good, He is also gracious and merciful. The Lord could have destroyed Adam and Eve for their sin and joining the rebellion of the fallen angels, but didn’t. He could have made another world with new human beings, and started fresh with them – but He didn’t. He chose to redeem a remnant of humanity, blessing them with salvation and life – not because of their merits, but because of His grace and mercy.
Genesis gives us the truth of the way we can be redeemed – by confession – agreeing with God that we have sinned; and by repentance – turning back to God and His ways; and by offering the blood of atonement – the sacrifice of an innocent life. Instead of their own inadequate efforts to cover their shame and nakedness with fig leaves, in the pristine Garden of Eden, animals were killed, their blood was shed and their skins were used to provide a better kind of covering for Adam and Eve. An exchange of life took place. The innocent animals received the sin of Adam and Eve and died; Adam and Eve received the innocent life of the animals and were able to live.
This temporary and partial atonement made possible by the death of the innocent animals was combined with the promise of the coming of the Seed of the Woman, a man who would provide complete, full and final atonement. The Messiah would defeat the Adversary and undo all the damage that the Evil One had caused; but in the process He would be wounded – a reference to Messiah’s death. The coming of the Seed of the Woman is the first Messianic prophecy and the main theme of the rest of the Bible.
God is willing to forgive our sins. However, while sin is forgivable, there are consequences for our sins. The Lord punished the serpent, and the Adversary who was speaking through the snake, and Adam and Eve, with punishments that fit their crimes – loss of limbs and humiliation for the snake; a promise of final defeat for the Devil; pain in childbirth for women and a reaffirmation of the headship of the husband; a cursed Earth, and hard work and a difficult life for men, followed by the First Death – physical death.
Adam and Eve were not fit to live forever in their ruined condition. And the Lord knew that they or their descendants would be tempted to eat from the Tree of Life in their fallen state, and that would be disastrous. So the Lord, in His wisdom and mercy, exiled Adam and Eve from Eden and stationed a special order of angelic beings – cherubeem, at the eastern entrance of Eden, to prevent anyone from returning to Eden and eating from the Tree of Life.
But, the desire to return to Eden and eat from the Tree of Life remained in our hearts. There is something deep within us, some longing, some desire to return to the peace and beauty of Eden and eat from the Tree of Life. The good news is that those who end their part in the great rebellion against God and believe the Good News and transfer their loyalties to the Father, Son and Spirit will be allowed to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in Paradise!
Chapter 4 gives us truths about false religion and the violence that our fallen nature is capable of. Moses introduces us to the first human beings born into this world – Cain and Abel. The ruinous consequences of the Fall are seen in their lives. Cain was a farmer. Abel was a shepherd. Cain ignored the truths given to his parents. He offered the Lord fruit of the ground – a convenient but inadequate, bloodless offering which could not provide an exchange of life and atonement. Cain’s offering is the forerunner of all false religions and philosophies – not coming to God on His terms, but creating man-made teachings and ways that do not satisfy the Lord.
Abel was different. He understood the truths given to his parents. He sacrificed some of the first and best animals from his flock. His offering had the blood of innocent animals and provided the exchange of life that resulted in atonement. Both righteous Abel and his sacrifices were accepted by God.
However, both Cain and his bloodless offering were rejected by the Lord, and Cain became angry and depressed. The Lord warned Cain if he didn’t turn from the direction he was headed, he would be overpowered by sin, which was like a dangerous animal trying to kill him. Instead of taking the Lord’s warning to heart, Cain unleashed his anger on his brother and killed him. The righteous God punished the man who grew things by exiling him from his land, and promising him that wherever he might try to grow things, the ground would be cursed.
Chapter 4 gives us truth about advances in human development. Over the next several generations, humanity multiplied. Advancements took place in the arts and sciences – in building, in animal husbandry, in music and poetry and metallurgy. We advanced technologically but worsened morally and spiritually. The one man-one woman principle of marriage was ignored. Men began having more than one wife. People became more violent. In the first poem of the Bible, Lamech bragged to his two wives about getting into a fight and killing his opponent.
Meanwhile, a smaller number of people who came through Seth and Enosh called on the name of the Lord. This remnant was faithful to God. So, the truth about the remnant – that in each generation, only a minority of people will serve the Lord – is revealed. Therefore, in our generation, we are not to go along with the faithless majority, but be part of the faithful minority.
In chapter 5, Moses gives us truths about the 10 generations between Adam and Noah. Life-spans before the Flood were much longer than ours. All of these people lived a long time. They all had children. They all were affected by the Fall. They all died. Two men between Adam and Noah stand out: Methuselah and Enoch. Methuselah, because he lived the longest – 969 years! Nevertheless, he still died, because death dominates fallen humanity.
However, Enoch had a different experience. He walked with God. He lived in such a way that he was close to the Creator. And instead of dying, the Lord took him. That revaels the truth that there is another place, a place where the faithful remnant who walk with God will be taken to. Heaven is real. The World To Come, the New Jerusalem is real, my friends.
In chapter 6, Moses teaches us that the “sons of God” had sexual relationships with women. If these were fallen angels, and I think they were, this was a terrible transgression (see 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6).
If the “sons of God” were people, this means that the descendants of Seth, the righteous remnant who had been serving the Lord, intermarried with the descendants of Cain who were rebelling against God. Either way, the result of this union wasn’t good. The n’feeleem – the “fallen ones” were on Earth in those days – meaning demi-god-like people (think Hercules) who came from the union of fallen angels and women; or ordinary people, but “fallen ones” in the sense of tyrants who fall on those they oppress.
By the tenth generation from Adam, humanity was completely corrupt. So much rebellion against God and His ways, so much sin, so much violence pervaded the world that the Lord was sorry He made us. He decided to end this situation by destroying humanity with a world-wide flood. But not all of humanity would be destroyed. There was a faithful remnant – Noah and his wife and their three sons and their wives – they would be saved. With this faithful remnant, humanity could repopulate the Earth while waiting for the arrival of the Seed of the Woman, the Redeemer, the Messiah.
If the truth sets us free, and it does, then ignorance and error keeps us enslaved to deadly forces like Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, and death. For us to have successful lives in this world, followed by eternal life in the World-To-Come, we must build our lives on the foundational truths of the divinely inspired Book of Origins, known as Genesis. And, we must teach others these truths, so that they can have successful lives in this world, followed by eternal life in the World-To-Come Amen?