Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Cursed Ground

This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” – Genesis 2:4-6

One thing I know from being raised on a farm is that you have to break up your ground if you want a good crop.  Just sticking a seed in some hard dirt won’t cut it.  Dirt can get as hard as a rock, especially if it’s on a hillside where the rain will run off it instead of into it.
It wasn’t always like that.  In Genesis 2:5-6 it says, “a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground”.  There was no need to plow the ground.  Water was seeping through the ground, creating aerated, moist ground, perfect for planting.  God says prior to explaining the mist that “the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground”.  God would not have left the earth He had just created without proper caretaking.  If He needed rain, it would have happened.  If He needed a man to till the ground, He would have one.  But the mist watering the earth from below was sufficient to grow every fruit, herb, grass and grain He had created.

The first part of the curse spoken to Adam after sin entered man’s life was in reference to the ground.  It says in Genesis 3:17-19, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” The passage in Genesis 3 continues in verse 23, saying “therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken“.  From this point on, it had to be tilled, loosened up for planting. The mist isn’t referred to again in God’s word.
The ground itself was cursed, the very material in which we were created from.  Thorns and thistles grow on bad ground, ground that is unattended.  We’re told that the ground would no longer just give us grain, herbs and fruits, but we would have to work for it.  Have you ever weeded a garden with thorns in it?  It’s not much fun!  God describes it with words like “cursed”, “toil”, “sweat”, and “till”. 

How cursed was the ground?  Cain’s offering to God was “an offering of the fruit of the ground” and God refused it, but accepted Abel’s which was a gift of life - the life of a lamb.  When Cain killed Abel, God cursed the ground even further for Cain, saying “So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. (Genesis 4:11-12)”.  Growing a crop isn’t an easy thing, and I don’t know how any farmer does it without a ton of faith!  Only God can provide rain, and allow the dirt to grow something from a seed into a plant. 
And how do we react to that cursed dirt?  I think it appropriate that when we get dirt on us, we tend to want to wash it off as soon as possible.  And when we sin, we often refer to it as “dirty”, or needing to “clean up” our act.  We see dirt as problematic, which is what God cursed it to be.  

Yet, God’s grace continues to shine through as we look at the grass that grows to the point we have to mow it down, the beautiful strawberries red and ripe, corn growing to taller than we are, blackberries growing on a thorn bush, and roses blooming among the thorns.  How beautiful are His creations, which still grow from the cursed ground He gave us to rule over.  When we consider that the flood that came after creation was because God was sorry He had even made man (Genesis 6:7), how blessed we are and how much grace and mercy have been given to us that we can continue to till this cursed ground!


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