Turning from shalom

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 4 – Deforming the intended direction for creation

[Bible references: Psalm 53:1-3]

Although we try to cling to the hope of God and our final restoration, we, in our sin, face a world that is broken by sin. While waiting for the restoration of creation, we find ourselves continually turning from God and rather towards bringing further destruction into God’s good creation. We seem to be constantly bent on turning from shalom and towards a substitute that gives us pain and despair. The history of the world is filled with the flourishing of evil and injustice. The consequence of choosing to go our own way has put us on a path where we continue to separate ourselves from the source of goodness and shalom. Indeed, we find ourselves on a path of destruction despite God’s continual provision for us as he continuously and unrelenting pursues us and pours out his limitless grace. And so it is, that we find ourselves in a world where both good and evil abound, where the good things God created are corrupted continuing to turn us away from God.[1]

Rampant evil

[Bible references: Genesis 6, 9]

So that we can know what terrible direction we are headed without that intervening grace, God initially allowed his image-bearers to live long lifespans. The long lifespans seemed to postpone the penalty for sin such a long time by delaying the penalty of physical death, that the image-bearers behaved as if there were no consequences for their God-defiant behavior. The result was rampant unrestrained evil that infected nearly everyone, causing God to destroy all but one family. Sadly, even with that severe penalty, it would not be long before our God-defiant behavior would threaten to be our undoing again, but God would continue intervening with grace as He would gradually work out His plan to restore us to Himself beginning with the rainbow as a sign of hope.

Tower of Babel

[Bible references: Genesis 11:1-8; Genesis 12:1-3]

Despite the catastrophic destruction that destroyed all people except Noah and his family, the image-bearers’ defiance would emerge again when, thinking themselves to be wiser than God, they refused to spread out over the earth as God had commanded and then proceeded to build a tower as a monument to themselves. God’s response was very measured. By causing them to speak different languages so that they could no longer communicate with each other, the image-bearers would no longer be able to come together to complete the tower, rather they were now forced to divide into seventy different groups and spread out across the earth as God had intended. This breakup would lead to the creation of different nations – and eventually lead to God’s working out His solution to our predicament by the calling out from one of the nations, one man through whom God would begin His work of restoration.


[1] Brister, Tim. “6 Destructive Ways We Minimize Our Own Sin”

Reflect

Think about some things that should be inherently good but are used for evil purposes.

Observe

Read Gen 3:1. We often know in our mind what God’s instruction is when we are tempted to do our own thing apart from God’s instruction. We somehow find a way to justify our actions by questioning God’s authority. Does this give us a strategy for dealing with temptation?

Reflect

If there were no consequences for bad behavior, what do you think the world would be like?

Observe

Read Genesis 6 and 9. God sent a flood to deal with the rampant sin in the world but it wasnot long after the flood that signs of human rebellion sprung up again in Noah’s family. What kind of trajectory did this indicate for humanity?

Reflect

Even within a family, different experiences cause people to think differently causing conflict. They all use the same words but have different thoughts about what is right. Larger problems occur when people grow up in entirely different environments. When people use different languages, those different languages amplify the differences in how people think. In your own situation, what different cultures do you interact with and how do you process conflicts with people in those cultures?

Observe

Read Genesis 11:4. The construction of the tower at Babel was not a positive development, but God’s plans won’t be thwarted. What confidence does that give us about the difficult situations we see around us today?

Hope in the brokenness

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 4 – Deforming the intended direction for creation

[Bible references: Genesis 2:16-17; 3:14-15, 23; Psalm 4; Hebrews 1:1-4]

Everything was broken and separated from God. Spiritual death, the impaired relation between God and His image-bearers was immediate and would be mirrored by the physical death caused by separation of the people who would no longer have access to the Tree of Life. This was a great tragedy that could not be undone, not by the image bearers. But as we look around us, we can see that, despite the tragedy around us, things aren’t totally bad. Even though evil is very evident around us, goodness is also evident. It is in that observation that we can glimpse the possibility of hope.

God had ordained the penalty of death, spiritual and physical, to be the consequence of turning away from him. Spiritual death, the separation God’s image-bearers from God happened immediately, but physical death, the separation of soul and body, did not happen right away. What God did, was to apply discipline to his image-bearers. He also gave a hint of the solution to the problem created by sin, the first of many other hints that were to come.

There was also evidence for hope in the continued creation by God, as he continued to sustain the universe he created, and within that universe He continued to create new living things, plants, and animals alike. Related to that hope, was that the mandate given to the image-bearers was still in force, although there would now be suffering involved in the fulfillment of the mandate.

There was also hope hidden in God’s very name. The name given to us, which was given to Moses and first revealed in Genesis 2, is “Yahweh” (Hebrew, יהוה). In the ancient Hebrew, the characters would have looked a little different and each character would represent an object or action.[1] In Hebrew, the characters are read from right to left. The first character (י) represents a hand or arm and could also represent work or worship. The character (ה) represents a man with arms raised and could also represent displaying or revealing something. The (ו) character represents a nail or tent peg and could also represent fastening something together. So, embedded in the name יהוה is the message “hand revealed nail revealed” – a foretelling of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

The sacrifice of Jesus followed a life in which Jesus successfully waited to receive those things that His Father intended to give, resisting the temptation to grab those things for himself. In his life and death, Jesus successfully accomplished what Adam and all those who came after Adam had not.

In the beginning, we were eager to grasp for ourselves wisdom and the knowledge of good and evil on our own terms. What we didn’t plan on the consequences that would follow. Sometimes God gives us what we think we want even though it would bring us the suffering that God was trying to steer us from. It’s a continuing pattern we see from the beginning until now, that it is not always a good thing when we get what we think we want.


[1] Benner, Jeff A. “Hebrew Alphabet Chart”

Reflect

It’s not hard to see signs of brokenness around us. Are there any signs of hope that can be seen?

Observe

Read Galatians 3:13-14; Ephesians 1:11-12; Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 1:26; Matthew 17:11; Acts 3:18-26. Throughout the Bible, God has chosen to share his future plans in pieces at a time. Because of that, what exactly those plans are, have been the subject of much debate within the church. What is your understanding of God’s plans for the future?

The plan to restore creation

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 4 – Deforming the intended direction for creation

[Bible references: Genesis 3:13-15; 50:20; Isaiah 53; Micah 6:8; Zechariah 7:9; Matthew 10:28-31; Luke 19:11-27; 1 Corinthians 12; Galatians 3:13-14,23-29; Ephesians 1:11-12; Hebrews 1:1-3]

The apparent penalty for sin, physical death, was actually a blessing. Unlike the angels who rebelled against God, death provided the rebellious image-bearers a means of avoiding an eternity separated from the source of goodness and grace. But for the image-bearers, death would provide a means where not only they but all of creation could be rescued from decay and death.

The plan of restoration would start to slowly unfold in ways that would sometimes be baffling and confusing and on a timetable that is beyond our comprehension. Over time though, God would gradually reveal how he intended to restore our relation to him, to end our pain and suffering, and to overcome the evil that seems to pervade everything.

The process of God’s revelation of hints of restoring creation started right at the beginning. God gave the initial clue in the curse given to the serpent, but the hint must have been a cryptic comment to His newly broken image-bearers. But since we have the privilege of looking back, we can see that God’s then cryptic reference was to the death and suffering of the character revealed in the Old Testament as the Messiah. As time went on, the Creator gradually revealed more and more clues about the plans He had to restore His creation. This gradual revelation was, and still is, a painfully slow time of waiting as we suffer the consequences of broken relations and a broken creation.

Fortunately, as we have waited in our broken universe, God’s grace has continued to intervene throughout history so that things are not as bad as they could possibly be. Our rebellion has not deterred God from providing for our everyday needs nor has he ceased to work on his plan to rejoin heaven and earth.

Meanwhile, God invites us to take part with him in the continued creation of the universe, bringing healing, health and hope directly into the midst of our now broken world, a task that he and we will continue until God fully restores his kingdom. Towards that end, he has provided spiritual gifts, gifts that we can share with one another, to build up one another and to bless the world as his ambassadors.

There are many things about the plans of God that we do not understand. God’s plans for us seem to be drawn out over a long time in which there is much suffering and pain. But even the suffering and pain we endure can be redeemed to help us become more like the Desire of our Hearts, the One who gave all Himself so that we all may become more like Him.

Reflect

What would the world look like if there was no goodness?

Observe

Read Genesis 50:20. This sentence was spoken by Joseph to his brothers in regard to their selling him into slavery. What can we learn from this?

Confronting our freedom

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 4 – Deforming the intended direction for creation

[Bible references: Gen 3:1-7]

To be creatures designed in the image of the transcendent creative, loving God, we needed the kind of independence that could allow us to choose who or what to love – or not love – and to be free to imagine and create wildly new and different things as proper for God’s image-bearing creatures. We were free to do this in a place where everything was very good and designed so that we could flourish. However, that very freedom which gave image bearers the possibilities of independent thoughts, also gave those image-bearers the opportunity to also confront temptation.

While the image-bearers were given the opportunity to meet with God and to walk with him in a specially designed garden, they were also allowed the opportunity for questions. They could even question the motives of the God who made them: 

  • Was something good being withheld from them?
  • Were they being deprived of some power?
  • What would be available to them if they violated the restriction?
  • Would they actually die?
  • What special knowledge were they being deprived of – particularly this knowledge of good and evil?
  • Everything they had encountered had been good, why would their thinking about violating this one restriction not be good?
  • Was the Creator so good anyway?”

Reflect

It seems to be part of human nature, to be suspicious of those things or those people who are different than us. The question is, when does doubting someone else’s motives become an act of sin?

Observe

Read Genesis 3:1-7.

What did the woman choose to trust when she chose to eat the forbidden fruit?

Sins consequences

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 4 – Deforming the intended direction for creation

[Bible references: Genesis 3; 6:5; Romans 8:19-22; Ephesians 2:10]

And so, it happened. The one thing that could create the ultimate catastrophe did happen. The good Creator, who only intended good things, allowed his image-bearers to give into their temptation, to put their own authority above His and violate the one restriction placed before them. This violation by the stewards of His creation broke everything: the relationship between themselves, the relation between them and Him, the relation between them and creation. All of creation was affected and is even now waiting for things to be made right again.

Everything in creation had been designed to be good, to reflect the good character of the good God. Creation was designed to be a place where God and his image-bearers could keep on creating good things and bring increasing glory to God. But now, although the ultimate structure of creation was still good, it was headed in the wrong direction. The broken universe would now cause things to move away from God’s glory.

“Anything in creation can be directed either toward or away from God – that is, directed either in obedience or disobedience to his law. This double direction applies not only to individual human beings but also to such cultural phenomena such as technology, art, and scholarship, to such societal institutions as labor unions, schools, and corporations. and to such human functions as emotionality, sexuality, and rationality. To the degree that these realities fail to live up to God’s creational design for them, they are misdirected, abnormal, distorted. To the degree that they still conform to God’s design, they are in the grip of a countervailing force that curbs or counteracts the distortion. Direction therefore involves two tendencies moving either for or against God.” [1]

The brokenness started with the decision that would be repeated again and again. Even in a time like now, where we can get things so quickly and easily compared to times in the past, we want what we want, and we want it now. And the desire to get what we want now overwhelms our capacity to think of others, as we put ourselves at the center of our part of the universe, replacing God with ourselves. In the case of the first humans, they wanted to grab knowledge and wisdom for themselves instead of waiting to receive it from God.

The failure to resist the temptation to grab what we want instead of waiting to receive what we want from God would only be successfully resisted by Jesus. So, after the rebellion occurred, the earth would remain separated from the Kingdom of God until Jesus began His restoration of the Kingdom. So, until that time the place of human habitation would be separate from the place where God’s good rule and reign is absolute. And it will not be until heaven and earth will be fully reunited, that we will fully experience the overflowing shalom that God has intended for us. Until that time, the broken earth will be separated from heaven and allowed to sink into disorder and chaos. Until that time, the overflowing goodness and shalom that God had provided will be masked by the brokenness of not just Creation but also by the brokenness of the co-creators. Look at what we have done!

We were meant to be in communion with each other and with God. We were meant to be “gardening” with God to make our place, a place of thriving and abundance in concord with the type of thriving and abundance with which God originally made the universe. God intended for us to be connected to Him and filled with His Spirit so that we would be fully enabled and prepared to be co-creators with Him of good works. But our rebellion has separated us from the one who is the source of goodness. In that sense, since the time of Adam, we are less human than we should be.


[1] Wolters, Albert M. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Locations 685-689)

Reflect

In what ways do we replace God’s authority with something else?

Observe

Read Gen 3:14-15, 20-21; Psalm 4:1, 8. The world around us is filled with problems. What signs of hope do we have?