A Place for Communion

A Place for Communion

SUNDAY AM SERVICE – 3/17/2024 – Revelation 21:1-27; Genesis 2:4-14

Introduction

Whenever you make plans to spend time with your loved ones, you need to know the time that you will meet.  Although it can be difficult, we have to make time in our schedules for this time together. Still, we can put all that effort into managing our schedules, and overlook something just as important as when we meet, which is where we meet. For fellowship together, we must remember that we need both time and place.

In Genesis 2:4–14, God meets that twofold need in order for us to have communion with him. We previously considered from Genesis 2:1–3 how God made us in his image to be properly ordered toward the time that we spend with him according to his consecration of the sabbath. Having established that time for us to commune with him, in Genesis 2:4–14 God builds a place for us to commune with him as well.

Genesis 1–2 continues to elaborate how God created us for communion with him. As the story builds, we see how God takes special care to attend to every facet of what we would need to know him and live with him.

The main point is that God provides a place for his people to have communion with him.

  1. The Provision
  2. The Priest
  3. The Promise 

The Provision

The significance of God building a garden in Genesis 2:4–9 is astounding in how its construction and placement marks God’s abundant provision in providing his covenant people with a place for communion with him. Each successive verse builds the story to this point. Verse 4 reads,

These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

The phrase “these are the generations of” appears ten times in Genesis always signaling the start of a new section, for example at 5:1, we read “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” These were the original chapter headings. Genesis 2:4 rewinds to give more detail about the sixth day of creation.

Verses 5–6 narrow our attention from the whole universe to a particular land to set context for next events: “When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up.” God had made the plants, but they had not sprouted in this land. They had not yet grown here.

There were two reasons why plants hadn’t sprouted there yet: “for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground.” First, God had not yet caused it to rain on this land. In Genesis 1:6–8, God created the clouds as the upper waters, meaning rain is a normal part of creation, and plants need rain. The sixth day was apparently during the dry season though. Second, people had not irrigated it. After all, God had not created them yet.

God has a twofold solution for the twofold problem of no rain and no farmer. The wet season was coming as “a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground.” This Hebrew word for “mist” occurs only one other place, Job 36:27–28:

For he draws up the drops of water;
    they distill his mist in rain,
which the skies pour down
    and drop on mankind abundantly.

This “mist” is a raincloud to water the ground. God fixed the lack of rain. 

With the first problem fixed, we ought to be on the edge of our seats for the second. Verse 7 satisfies our anticipation as God creates the first man Adam. Then in verses 8–9, God planted a garden in Eden, and put Adam there.

Interestingly, God made Adam somewhere else, Eden is a larger place inside which God made the garden, and God took Adam from the other place and put him in paradise. The helpful point is that God didn’t leave Adam to make his own dwelling, but made one for him, made it abundant for food and provision, and guided him there. Adam was a real person and so would need a real place to dwell. God was good in making that place for him. The provision was God’s gift of a wonderful home for his people to dwell.

The Priest

Having seen that God made this garden for Adam, we need to think about how that garden was a place of special fellowship between God and Adam. Although perhaps seeming odd at first, the description of Eden’s location in verses 10–14 provides the evidence that the Garden was a place of special communion with God.

The description of Eden’s location marked it as a real place somewhere, but even more show its purpose. The rivers around Eden mark a place with abundant flowing water, and Ezekiel 47:1–12 makes a clear association between abundant water and God’s temple. The presence of these four real rivers, even if we don’t know where the Pishon and Gihon were, link Eden to temple imagery so that we see it was a place to meet with God.

Further, the gemstones in Genesis 2:11–14 show the same connection. In Exodus 28:6–10, God commanded Israel to make the priestly garments using gold and onyx. Undoubtedly there were many natural resources near Eden, but Moses recorded gold and onyx, which forges a link between Eden and the priestly role. The only other place besides Genesis 2:12 where Scripture mentions bdellium is Numbers 11:7 as a description of manna, which was God’s provision as he traversed the wilderness with Israel.

Lastly, in Genesis 3:24, God appointed cherubim to guard the Garden of Eden after Adam’s fall, but cherubim function throughout Scripture to guard God’s presence in the tabernacle (Ex. 26:1; 36:35), in the temple (1 Kings 6:22–24), and even atop the ark of the covenant itself (Ex. 25:17–22; 36:8; 37:7–9). 

In other words, the description of Eden’s location marked the Garden as a place of worship where God met his people, spoke directly to them, and walked with them in perfect fellowship.

Adam was then a priest in God’s first temple. Priests could enter directly into God’s presence and commune with the Lord, but were also meant to work and to keep the temple, as was Adam in Genesis 2:15. God built Eden not just to give Adam a home, since that could have been anywhere. God built Eden there to mark it with his presence, and put Adam there to be the priest who had communion with God in the first holy of holies.

The Promise

This first special place of God’s presence in the garden contained an opportunity. Remember in Genesis 1:28 that God gave a task to Adam as the priest working and keeping the garden temple: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” The task to work and keep the garden included expanding the garden to cover the earth. In other words, the place of God’s special presence was meant to fill the world. It was opportunity for Adam’s ministry in multiplying God’s image with Eve, and turning the whole world into sacred space for God’s image to commune with their God.

The problem is that rather than making the world into a place for the sacred, Adam made it a place for the sinful. God, who is infinitely holy, cannot justly stand to allow those who are wicked into his blessed presence. Just like Adam should have killed and cast out the serpent who wickedly invaded the sacred space, so too God owes death and ejection to everyone who violates the terms of his covenant with his image bearers. For the God who is inherently good, his righteousness demands that he end the presence of any wickedness before him.

For all of us who have broken God’s law and sinned against him, we need rescue. Thankfully, God is merciful. Instead of killing Adam and throwing his corpse out of Eden, he exiled him back into the world. We today also wander the same wilderness of this world as exiles and pilgrims outside the garden. 

But there is a promise of restoration. Even in Israel, God renewed the promise of a place for communion with him. Psalm 46:4–5 describes Jerusalem in Edenic terms: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,  the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her.”

In the fulness of time, God sent forth his Son to bear the curse of the law and redeem us who were under that curse. In Christ, God has made communion with him globally accessible. God provides a place for us to commune with him in the church. As the church is made of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, his presence is not tied to one city, one temple, one building, or one garden. 

The church is the place for communion with God not as walls or a steeple, but as the formal gathering of God’s people in worship. God consecrated the time of the sabbath to promise his communion and marked a place for communion with him as we meet in Christ’s name under the means of grace. 

In that respect, isn’t it interesting that God still marks the place of communion with him by the presence of water? Just like the rivers surrounded Eden, streams made Jerusalem glad, and Ezekiel’s vision of the temple left water running everywhere, God has drawn the borders around his people today in baptism. He sprinkles us with clean water so that you, believer, would know that you are the special place of his dwelling and that when we assemble in Christ’s name, our combined baptisms mean that abundantly flowing waters surround this assembly, marking us as the place of God’s presence in special communion with us.

Christian, God has always built a home for his people, and God still builds a home for his people. No matter where you are from or what your biological family is like, God builds the church so that you would be among your everlasting family. God has made a place for communion with you by meeting you personally in the church, but that place is among other believers. God shows you that he is with you by placing other Christians with you.

The place for communion now is then very literally a community. In this place for communion in the church, together as God’s new creation garden we may be individual trees, but like in any garden, we are meant to grow together, feeding off the same nutrients provided by the same gardener, and lending a hand to one another as we grow in the same place.

Still, the promise for a place for communion remains ahead of us. Our current place is spiritual and so able to be present anywhere. One day, God’s people will again have a spiritual and physical place for communion, but it will also be universal. As Exodus 39:8–14 describes, when Israel made the priestly garments, they included additional gemstones beyond gold and onyx. In Revelation 21:18–21, all these stones are in the New Jerusalem – the global new creation. God’s dwelling place will be with his people, but his people will inherit the earth.

Adam was supposed to fill and subdue the earth, to extend the garden across the world. God’s presence, initially limited to Eden, would fill the globe. Where Adam failed, Christ succeeds. When Adam should have killed the serpent, Revelation promises that Christ will kill the dragon. Those who remain in their sin will be thrown into the lake of fire with the devil and his angels. But those with faith in Christ, those who have run to the Savior for the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God, for us the world will be God’s temple. The whole earth will become the sacred space where God dwells with his people, the place for communion, so that everywhere we will bask in the full splendor of our God’s loving presence.