“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God.” – Isaiah 61:10
Sometimes the God of the Old Testament is described as rough and gruff and demanding. He is the one who sets rules and requires obedience. This God is contrasted with the New Testament, where God is described as gracious and loving. These caricatures could not be further from the truth.
At a time of year when we are compelled to be generous and give gifts to others, it is appropriate to spend a few moments appreciating just how generous, gracious, and loving God was when he first created human beings and placed them in the garden of Eden.
When Adam was formed out of the dust of the ground, he was already given everything he needed. Along with breath and the ability to think and speak, he was placed in Eden with all the food he could ever want, and enough work to keep him busy. This work was not hard labor, but made his life meaningful.
When God saw that Adam needed a partner, he created Eve for him and created marriage. This was perhaps the greatest gift of all; Eve was so perfectly compatible and so beautiful that when Adam laid eyes on her for the first time, he burst into song (Gen. 2:23).
Already in the course of a few short paragraphs we can see how the caricature of a rough and demanding Old Testament God breaks down. It is not that God was soft. But God was delighted to give Adam and Eve everything they needed. He did not hesitate to shower them with gifts. He did not first require that they earn their keep, or prove their worth. They were created with worth from the beginning.
As we look around the world today, and reflect on how different things have become now that sin and death have entered the world, the descriptions of Genesis 2 have the power to break our hearts. We all have a longing, deep down, to return to this perfect world. But even in this early stage of the third week of Advent, we should not forget that God is serious about renewal.