Wednesday @ Westminster: God's Abundant Providence to Adam
Jun 1, 2016
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 136:1). God in his goodness and covenant mercy has created and continues to provide for all that his creatures need. What a good God he is! If we know the abundance providence of God after the Fall of Adam into sin, how much more so did Adam in the Garden of Eden? This is essentially what question answer 20 of the Westminster Larger Catechism asks us:
Q. What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?A. The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.
We read of this providence in Genesis 1:26–2:25, where the Lord God sets before Adam his blessings, goodness, and favor. The Puritan preacher, Thomas Watson, described it like this:
He was placed in the garden of God, which for the pleasure of it was called paradise…He had his choice of all the trees, one only excepted; he had all kinds of precious stones, pure metals, rich cedars; he was a king upon the throne, and all the creation did obeisance to him…Man, in innocence, had all kinds of pleasure that might ravish his senses with delight, and be as baits to allure him to serve and worship his Maker. He was full of holiness. Paradise was not more adorned with fruit than Adam’s soul was with grace…Adam had intimacy of communion with God and conversed with him, as a favourite with his prince” (A Body of Divinity, 130–131).
A Provision of Abundant Life
The first aspect of this abundant providence to Adam is a provision of abundant life. God took dust from the earth and gave it life by his breath, making it him (2:7). Then we read of God’s putting him in the garden that the Lord himself planted (2:8, 15). In that paradise garden Adam was called to care for it (2:15), which the Catechism describes in seventeenth-century English “to dress it.” He was given care for and dominion over the animals (1:28). He was given the fruit of the earth to eat: “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food…And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food…You may surely eat of every tree of the garden” (1:29; 2:9; 2:16).
A Provision of Abundant Help
The second aspect of this abundant providence to Adam is a provision of abundant help. Adam would not be alone. So God brought Adam all the animals to name (2:19). Yet none of them was suitable for him to be a true helper (2:20). In response, the Lord created a woman out of Adam to show her closeness to him (2:21–22). Adam responded by joining himself to her alone (2:23), leading to the proverbial saying, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast [“cleave;” KJV] to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (2:24). This is why the Catechism says God provided for Adam by “ordaining marriage for his help.”
A Provision of Abundant Fellowship
The third aspect of this abundant providence to Adam is a provision of abundant fellowship. We see four ways in which man has fellowship in the garden. First, in man’s creation he is related to the earth in being made from the earth (2:7). Second, when God made Adam he spoke personally to him: “And the Lord God commanded the man” (2:16). Third, we see it in the fact that the Lord brought the animals before Adam (2:19). Yet the most clear way this is seen is in the fact that the “cleaving” of the husband to his wife is the term used later in the unfolding of revelation of Israel’s cleaving to the Lord. The close, intimate, loving, and vital fellowship between man and woman is a picture of a much closer and much more important relationship—communion with God. Here is how the King James utilizes this word “cleave” throughout Deuteronomy of Israel’s fellowship with the Lord: “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave…Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him…That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days (Deut. 10:20; 13:4; 30:20).
A Provision of Abundant Rest
The fourth aspect of this abundant providence to Adam is a provision of abundant rest. At the end of the creation narrative we read of the Sabbath. Its original intention was stated so clearly later in redemptive history by our Lord when he said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). The Lord God gave the Sabbath to Adam as a beneficial day, for his refreshment in the presence of God after six days of hard labor.
A Provision of Abundant Glory
The fifth aspect of this abundant providence to Adam is a provision of abundant glory. Summarizing a history of exegesis, the Catechism says God provided for Adam by “…entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.”
The very fact that the Creator entered into a covenant with his creature by “voluntary condescension” (Westminster Confession 7.1) shows us the abundant provision of the Lord. But even more, we see the overwhelming abundance of the Lord in promising that if Adam was personally, perfectly, and perpetually obedient to God’s law, he would inherit life. And God even gave a sign of that life in the tree of life. Whether this life was continued earthly life in the presence of God or eternal life, the Catechism does not answer, as this was a serious debate of the time (see Mark Herzer, “Adam’s Reward: Heaven or Earth?” in Drawn Into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates within Seventeenth-Century British Puritanism, ed. Michael A. G. Haykin and Mark Jones [Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011], 162–182). Yet what all agreed on was that the reward for Adam’s far outweighed the obedience; the blessing super-abounds beyond all Adam’s obedience.
Nevertheless, we know how this story turned out. Adam was disobedient. As Watson said of Adam and us, “His teeth watered at the apple, and ever since it had made our eyes water” (A Body of Divinity, 131). Yet thanks be to God for his abundant provision in Jesus’ promise: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).