Monday, July 21, 2014

Three Gardens

     God created the heavens, the earth, all life and then mankind.
     Next, He put man into a garden:  "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. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads...Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 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. 3:8-9, 15-17)

     Why in a garden?   Why not in a house?  Why not in a forest?  Why not at the seashore?  Why would God put Adam in a garden? 

 I have several sisters in the Lord who have beautiful gardens.  They lovingly plant and tend their gardens with dedication, knowing they will have beautiful strawberries, melons, lettuce, cucumbers and all sorts of wonderful things to harvest as the season rolls along.  They have to know what to plant when, and they have to keep an eye on what is growing.  They have to water the plants just so, and know how much fertilizer to apply.  They have to deal with deer who want to sample their wares.  They face an endless parade of bugs.
    When I visit their gardens, they have such joy on their faces!  They pull aside large leaves and show me baby fruits and vegetables.  They eagerly talk about what is coming to fruition and when, and what lies ahead.  It's almost like sneaking into a nursery to spy on a sleeping newborn baby.  

God put Adam in a garden to teach him the fruits (pun intended) of obedience.  The garden was an embodiment of God's ordered universe:  everything would grow and produce seed after its own kind.  Adam would tend the garden but it was God Who provided everything that Adam needed:  water from the rivers to water it; the seasons arriving each year with wind, humidity and sun to help it grow; the soil from which Adam himself sprang and from which each seedling would spring as well; and Adam's two strong hands to till the soil.  Every aspect of the process was provided for and when Adam proudly picked the bounty and ate, he could truly thank God for His care over His creation.   
     God asked one thing of Adam:  "tend and keep it."  Adam needed to be dedicated and committed to the garden.  God gave him a task and He knew it would mature Adam's character.   Our character comes when we must work for what we have--we value it more.  If we are given everything, with little to no work on our part, we start acting rather entitled to what we think is rightfully ours.  
     God wanted a mature man walking in His garden, so He gave Adam responsibility.  He loved Adam enough to provide all he needed; He wanted Adam to serve Him out of love and gratitude and demonstrate that by tending the garden.
     But we know what happened.  Adam's disobedience caused him and Eve to be driven out of the garden.  The garden was now off-limits to the sons and daughters of Adam, due to sin.

But wait...let's walk into another garden.  We see a second Adam:  the Son of God, Jesus Christ. God had given Jesus everything he needed:  the power to conduct a ministry that would impact not only his generation but future ones as well.  The Father expresses His pleasure in His Son, who left the courts of heaven to walk in the streets of an exiled humanity:  "This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased."
     God gave Jesus a task: 

     "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!" (Phil. 2:6-8)
      The "bounty" given to the Son by the Father was: 
     "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
(Phil. 2:9-10)
     The Father gave the Son the strength to endure the cross.  The Father loved us so much He was willing to pour all His wrath upon His Son's shoulders, even to the point where Jesus cried out, "Why have You forsaken me?"  

 The Father wanted a redeemed humanity walking in His garden--mature and responsible sons and daughters of Adam, cleansed from sin and obedient to their God. The only way He was able to achieve that was through His Son's death: "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Cor. 5:19-20). 
     Remember how God walked with Adam and Eve in the first garden?  Today, He is now walking with those He has redeemed, dwelling in their hearts and empowering them through the Holy Spirit.
     But a Day is coming when He will once again walk with His children, on a restored planet, in a new garden. 
     Now, let us travel to this last garden:  "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." (Rev. 22:1-5)    

The very tree that God feared would be eaten by a disobedient Adam and Eve, the Tree of Life, is now accessible.  Its leaves heal and its fruit of life is abundant.  
     In order for us to return to the garden, and walk with our Father, His Son had to walk in the Garden of Gethsemane.       

     Let us never forget what our restoration cost Jesus and let us till the soil with diligence and obedience, until that Day!


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