Monday, July 26, 2010

Man as Worker and Keeper

I've just begun reading a book by Richard Phillips called The Masculine Mandate: God's Calling to Men. Trust me, it's not a Wild at Heart kind of thing. In fact, the kind of stereotypes and misinformation presented in Elderidge's book are stripped bare early on. Phillips takes his cue from Genesis 2:15 and begins his book by exploring the mandate given to Adam to 'work it [the Garden] and keep it'.

Phillips rightly points out that this is not just a rhetorical duplication of strictly synonymous terms. Instead, they point to mans dual role in the Garden - to work it and produce good fruit AND to protect it. The word translated 'keep' has the connotation of 'guard' and 'protect'. It is used of God himself as 'he who keeps you' (Psalm 121:3), 'he who keeps Israel' (Psalm 121:4), 'keep you from all evil...keep your life' (Psalm 121:7-8).

It's quite easy to see the implications of that for, say, being a husband. I am to cultivate and tend to my wife - helping her grow spiritually, emotionally, etc. I am also to guard and protect her physically, emotionally and spiritually. The same could be said of my role as father and even pastor. It's quite natural, and right, to see myself as someone who must protect those under me from evil. But in Adam's world, the pristine Garden pre-fall, what evil was Adam to be one guard against. What did 'keeping' it mean in a pre-lapsarian world?

Meredith Kline writes, "He [Adam] was to protect the Edenic sanctuary from profanation" (Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, pg. 85). He points out that same word, shamar, is used of the angel who guards the Garden after Adam's rebellion - the task of 'keeping' was stripped of man and given to a faithful angel (Gen. 3:24). Kline writes, "The conclusion appears warranted, therefore, that Genesis 2:15 contains an explicit reference to the entrusting of man in his priestly office with the task of defending the Edenic sanctuary against the intrusion of anything that would be alien to the holiness of the God of the Garden or hostile to his name. From subsequent developments it is evident that Adam's priestly charge was meant to set him on guard, as at a military post, against the encroachment of the Satanic serpent" (pg. 86). In this, Adam failed even before he ate of the tree. Horton comments, "Instead of guarding and keeping the sanctuary from God's arch-enemy, Adam allowed the serpent safe haven in the temple and allowed him to deceive his wife."

Is it vain speculation or does this have any application to us. I think it does, and Kline mentions two. First, as the church is the sanctuary of God, we have the obligation to protect it (among many NT references, see Jude 3). Second, it has implications for us at the individual level also. Kline writes, "At the level of the individual's identity as a temple of God the priestly office involves this negative, protective kind of sanctification as well as a positive consecration. ...the priestly guardianship of the personal temple of God is brought out in redemptive revelation by the injunction that the armor of God be put on to defend against the hostile, defiling incursions of Satan" (pg. 87).

As the kingdom of priests, we still have the mandate to work and keep, cultivate and protect, the holy sanctuary. It happens to be us now, corporately in the church and individually as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Kline's Kingdom Prologue is available for free here.

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