“And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground — trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” ~ Genesis 2:9
My church family is beginning a year-long study of the entire text of the Bible together, using The Daily Bible (NIV) as arranged and commented by F. LaGard Smith. I hope to blog along with the study, and am posting those thoughts with the tag The Story. Today’s reading (Genesis 1-3) starts, as you might guess, at the very beginning.
In that beginning, God creates. He creates in an order. He creates mankind. And because the more general introductory account (Genesis 1:1-2:3) places the creation of man in a different order than the more specific account about Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:4-25), we have one of our first quandaries about scripture.
(Personally, I think it’s possible that God hand-made Adam (“him” – 2:4-7) in that pre-“third day” time when there was land but no vegetation, then planted a garden specifically for him; then created mankind (“them” – Genesis 1:26-30) in an image of dominion in the later “sixth day” period. Perhaps He wanted Adam to watch Him create.
I hope you’re not hoping to read the definitive, incontrovertible answer to the question of how long those “days” of creation lasted. There isn’t one. God could have created it all in six 24-hour days. He could have taken millions of years of His time to perfect each liquid brushstroke of ocean and each chiseled craggy bluff and each hand-sculpted breathing body. He could have spoken it all into perfect existence in a moment. He did it His way and He described it His way. If you think you have to understand everything about Him to believe in Him and serve Him, you haven’t read Job. Get over it, will you?)
Of course, there’s the matter of God speaking in the royal plural, too: “Let us make ….” I have my thoughts about that, too. He might have been speaking to angels who witnessed creation (Job 38:7). He might have been speaking within Himself, a Personality that is both One (Deuteronomy 6:4) and more than One (Genesis 1:1-2; John 1:1-4) – to a part of Himself, the Word, through whom and for whom He created … and who would later become flesh as His Son (1:14). I can’t explain that. I can’t describe it. I just believe it to be true. (See The Really, Really Big Picture for some of my further thoughts.)
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’ “~ 2:15-17
No, I also don’t know why God planted a tree in reach of His crowning creation that would bring pain and suffering and death to that creation. I have some thoughts about it, though, as you might have guessed.
Did you notice that there was no prohibition to eat from the tree of life? What would you imagine that a tree of life would do for you? If you’ve read ahead to verse 22, you know:
“And the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ “~Genesis 3:22
But if you’re Adam, you might not know. We know that God balanced the poisonfruit tree with the tree of life. He offered a choice. After Eve is created, she finds the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil “good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom.” Perhaps the fruit of the tree of life wasn’t as good-looking and pleasing to the eye. (Just as life itself isn’t, always.) Perhaps it didn’t have fruit like the groves of the tree of life in Revelation 22:1.
God doesn’t offer encouragement or prohibition to eat from it. One tree is enough for Him to offer a choice: eat or don’t eat.
I’m not going to go into all the ramifications of choice in God’s plan or argue against Calvinism or refute universalism. I’m just saying that God, from the very beginning, even before there was a helper for Adam, offered him a choice.
He also offered life. Perhaps He described to Adam what the fruit of the tree of life would do for him; perhaps not. Perhaps that tree’s proximity to the poisonfruit tree made him cautious about trying it. We don’t know. Of course we’d like to. We’ve always thought the answer to life was the fruit of the tree of knowledge, haven’t we?
When the answer to the questions of life is life itself.
The answer to the questions about God is God Himself.
The point I’d like to make – at the beginning of this new year – is that Adam missed an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He had a second choice.
He never tried to eat of the tree of life.
Perhaps he was too busy living life – working at his job tending the garden; cherishing his new helper Eve – to accept the free gift that was just standing there, arms open and full of the promise of eternity.
Okay, sermon’s over.