Have you ever wondered what it would be like for life to be perfect? And what exactly would make life perfect? Adam and Eve knew. Once upon a time, life was perfect in the Garden of Eden…
“The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food…” – Gen. 2:8-9a
The chapter goes on to describe in greater detail this paradise God created and given to man. Yet there is something that rivets me in these verses, more than the depiction of the idyllic location:
‘The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil….And the Lord God commanded the man, saying “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”’ – Gen. 2:9b, 16
Often, when we sermonize about the Creation Story and the Garden of Eden, we zero in on the forbidden tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We think about the perfect life Adam and Eve had, their sin in disobeying God’s command, and the consequences of the Fall. But to think of that alone is to miss the heart of God in this passage.
What WERE God’s intentions in the Garden of Eden?
When we consider only the temptation represented by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, our perspective of God’s intentions can quickly become muddled. As we read above, every tree that the Lord caused to grow was pleasing and desirable. Was He simply taunting Adam and Eve with something they were not allowed to have (knowledge of good and evil)? God displayed His righteous and just nature by following through on the promised consequences for eating from this forbidden tree – but what about His goodness? And this is where we must recall the fullness of the story: the two trees. Though we often forget this crucial detail, glossing over it with eyes jaded by repeated exposure to the story, it is the key for understanding the intentions of God in the Garden of Eden:
“The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” – Genesis 2:9b
The two trees: the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Two distinctly different trees, the first offering life and the second offering death. This is fascinating in light of Genesis 2:16, which permitted Adam and Eve to eat from any tree’s fruit except that of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Any other tree, including the tree of life – oh, can you see the implications of that? Adam and Eve were given unrestricted access to the tree of life – this is the mysterious comingling of free choice and predestination within the framework of His love. This is the sort of love that brings me to my knees. Just as when I read in Ephesians about the grace of God (check out Intentional Grace), I am drawn again to the idea of God’s intentionality:
It has always been God’s intention to provide life.
The vastness of His plan, the eternal nature of His intentions, astounds me. When Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, they could no longer have unrestricted access to the tree of life (Gen. 3:22-24). God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden and set angels to “guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24). Now that humans know both good and evil, He has made a Way for us to choose Him: Jesus Christ. The Lord is good – only good and the only Good – and we must choose Him to have access again to life. In the first chapters of the first book of Scripture, He reveals His intent to offer the tree of life – and He does the same in the last book of Scripture. Revelation 22 is describing heaven, and this is what will be there:
“In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations….Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” – v. 2, 14
His intentions have never been secret, and all His mysteries are revealed to us through Jesus Christ (check out Ephesians 3:8-12). Though too often we focus on that which brought death, His focus has always been on that which brings Life. Before He rolled out the heavens and hung the planets, before He ever created mankind, He was prepared to provide deliberate grace, offering the sweet Life that comes only from Him. He is the Giver of all good things, and every good and perfect gift comes from Him (Jas. 1:17) – deliberately, intentionally, purposefully. This is love from the very beginning.
“And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you.” – Isaiah 30:18