by Bruno Borges, Men’s Minister
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.'” (Genesis 2:15-17 – ESV)
One of the things I enjoyed doing in my early twenties was fishing. Although I didn’t get to do it much, I was super excited every time the guys from my church invited me to come along with them during the short New York summers. Now let me say that even though I enjoyed fishing, I wasn’t any good at it. I don’t recall ever catching a fish myself. Nonetheless, I loved being out at sea, watching others catch all these fish, and enjoying them for dinner later.
But one thing that caught my attention was how much a fish struggled out of the water. They would flap around the boat floor in desperation, and shortly after, they would die. My sensitive soul felt terrible for the fish, but my stomach always spoke louder. However, as I pondered on that scene, I realized that the reason that fish struggled so much and eventually died was that it was no longer within the environment it was created to live within. The same is true for us!
In the last couple of years, I have had the opportunity to dive deep into the first three chapters of Genesis to wonder how life was before sin. And I must admit that I have fallen in love with God’s order of creation. Everything was created at the right time, in the right place, for the right purpose. Throughout creation, we see God creating the environment first, and then he creates the creatures to live in it.
In the first chapter of Genesis, we see God creating the heavens, the earth, and the sea. He then creates the birds to fly and roam the skies, the fish and sea creatures to swim in the depth of the oceans, and the plants and animals to populate the dry land. He then creates an exclusive garden where His presence would be and puts the man there to live in fellowship with Him.
God first creates the environment, and then He creates the creature to live and thrive in it. When you take an animal out of its proper environment, it struggles and eventually dies. You prohibit a bird from soaring and flying; it struggles and dies. You take a fish out of water; it struggles and dies. You take a plant or an animal out of dry land; it struggles and dies. You take Man out of God’s presence; he struggles, it malfunctions, and slowly but surely dies spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
The Garden of Eden represented God’s atmosphere where God established His presence. In Hebrew, the root of the word Eden is uncertain; however, the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, relates the word to the Hebrew verb eden or (ayden), which means “delight.” Therefore, Eden is translated as the garden of delight. Other occurrences of the word Eden in the Old Testament equate Eden with the garden of the Lord. Genesis 2:15-17 tells us that “God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.'” It’s important to point out that the Woman has not yet been created at this point in scripture, and God is directing these actions and commandments to the Man. There are four essential lessons directed towards Men in this passage that have been a guiding compass to the Men’s Ministry at Living Hope.
1) “God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden” – First and foremost, Man was created to live in God’s presence. Therefore, God’s presence needs to be PRIORITY over any man’s life. It is only in God’s presence, in our unique garden, that we learn “to be with” and “to have” a relationship with the Almighty God. As men, we must seek to go back to our garden with God. Outside of this environment, we struggle, we malfunction, and we eventually die.
2) “… to work it” – Amid establishing a relationship with our heavenly Father, we discover what we are supposed to do in this life for Him. The Hebrew word for work utilized in this text is the word (abad), a verb connotation to the act of “service.” The term (abad) is also used throughout the Pentateuch to describe acts of service provided by the Levites. In other words, this command to “work” implies “service in God’s presence.” In modern vernacular, the Church would refer to this type of service as “calling,” or “ministry,” or “vocation.” As Men, we need to comprehend that we have been created to live a purpose-driven life in God’s presence through a higher and purposeful vocation and that we do not get to choose whatever we want to do. God has created each of us with a very specific calling in pro as part of His Kingdom. But We only honestly know what that calling, or “work,” is when we prioritize His presence; in our garden with Him.
3) “…and keep it.” – The command to “work it” is immediately followed by the command to “keep it.” The Hebrew term used for “keep it” is (Shamar), which translates into the verbs “to cultivate” and “to guard” or “to protect.” Cultivating involves a series of actions, such as preparing, developing, and maintaining for the purpose of usage, which engages the instinct to guard and protect such a thing or person. This (Shamar) is a definition of biblical masculinity. Those of you who have been around LHM for a while have probably heard Ricky define biblical masculinity as “the authority God has given Man (males) to speak God’s truth into chaotic situations and give identity and direction.” In other words, as Men prioritize and spend time in God’s presence, they will understand who they are and what God has called them to do. Once a man understands this, he will do it or keep it through biblical masculinity. Consequently, he will then be able to fulfill Man’s greatest struggle; to honor God’s commandments.
4) And the Lord God commanded the man saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.'” – Notice how God only asked the Man to keep His commandments AFTER making a habit to live in His presence, knowing his identity and calling, and exercising it productively. This order in creation shows us that it is only through fulfilling the first three that we are empowered, as Men, to do the other.
All the men who come to LHM do so thinking they are merely struggling with their sexuality. However, the struggle is plainly in keeping God’s commandments in His design for sexuality. What I have found as I meet with them are men who struggle to prioritize God’s presence, who have no idea what they are supposed to be doing with their lives, or often participate in jobs with no Kingdom-driven purposes. They attempt to solve their life’s chaos by their knowledge and understanding instead of through God’s Word. No wonder we struggle to obey God’s commandments.
We are blessed by the Lord who enables us to journey with men and point them towards the presence of the Lord, establishing their garden with Him. In God’s garden, the Lord speaks His truth into the chaos of our struggles, bringing healing, identity, and directions on how to live for Him. Slowly but surely, we become strengthened and empowered to obey God’s commandments and embrace His unique design for sexuality.