All right, I consider myself to be a pretty intelligent, well read individual. I was raised in the church, going to Sunday School, youth group and choir my whole life. I’ve been confirmed in the Methodist church, baptized, baptized by immersion and legitimately saved by grace through faith. I know all of the Bible stories they teach children, from the story of creation to the fall, to Noah’s ark and David and Goliath. I know about Jesus, the Christmas story, the crucifixion, Paul’s conversion and most of Revelation. All of this, my whole life, and I had no idea that there were two trees.
In the Garden of Eden. There were two forbidden trees in the Garden of Eden. All my life, I have thought that there was one tree restricted in the garden, that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life were the same. I feel like I cannot be the only one who misconstrued this information. I did not realize until last night’s sermon that Adam and Eve only broke the covenant by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So that they did not eat from the Tree of Life (and live forever in their fallen, unredeemed state and thereby damning us to the same state), God placed a cherubim with flaming sword in front of the tree and kicked them out of Eden.
I was always very frustrated with this story as a child, because I thought that I would have done the right thing. I was afraid of getting into trouble as a kid because I was good, followed the rules and did what I was told. The truth is though, that if I were in the Garden of Eden in the same position as Adam and Eve, I would’ve done exactly what they did, and probably faster than they did. My pastor said that some theologians think the were in the garden for 40 days to echo Jesus' temptation by Satan of 40 days. I like that thought, since Jesus is the second Adam.
So the question that some people have are why did God set Adam and Eve up to fail? He didn’t. I understand how people can think that God had a vindictive motivation at first glance (especially if they don't accurately perceive our glorious Lord), but they don’t have the whole story. God owed Adam and Eve nothing because He created them; we don’t owe anything to dinners or art projects we create. The trees were created with restriction to separate the creation from the Creator, just the way I dress up to go to school to separate myself from my students. Adam and Eve were not equals with God, and they could not count themselves as such. By eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they decided to choose their own standards of good and evil, not follow God’s standards of it. That is pride: to look at God's standards of good and evil (Himself and anything that is not Himself) and decide that we would rather determine right and wrong for ourselves. That pride, the foundation of all sins, is what came to characterize human beings, the most slimy and inherent of all sins. Who of us will not slip into pride if we stop concentrating on it for a moment? Even good things we do are done with prideful motives, however small.
The encouragement is that Christ's redemption of us was planned even in the Garden. As man was falling (and not catching God by surprise, by the way), God was already foretelling the picking up of the pieces. And He did not let them eat from the Tree of Life. Eating from the Tree of Life would have made Adam and Eve live forever (Gen. 3:22), but before human beings had been redeemed by Christ's blood. This to me was an amazing thought. Of course I knew the "you will bruise his heel, but he will crush your head" prophecy of Genesis 3:15, predicting that the offspring of the woman (Christ) will ultimately crush Satan. But the fact that God protected Adam and Eve from eating of the eternal-life-giving Tree of Life so that the human race would not be forever doomed shows what a loving, good Father we have. That is our encouragement in last night's message. He knew we would fail, He knew we would be redeemed, and He protected us from ourselves so that we could be redeemed. Amen.