Well, we’ve been talking about Hell all week, that’s been fun. I don’t know about you, but for me there’s nothing more rousing than a good discussion about eternal punishment. Nothing sets the mind at ease like thinking about torment and the absolute absence of all things good.
With that in mind, I want to start working back to where we began the week. With God’s goodness. The Bible Project just released a video yesterday called “The Tree of life.” It’s a really astounding video, the graphics on it are absolutely stunning! (And my wife’s cousin did some of the animation for it!) In the article, the shared this narration: “Will humans continue to live with God allowing him to define and teach them what is good and bad, or will they take the fruit and the power to define good and bad for themselves outside of God’s wisdom?”
It’s really fitting that this video would release right now. Chances are no one at the Bible Project will ever come across this devotional and they certainly didn’t have it in mind when they released it. But, it fits so well with our topic for the day.
The tree of life was at the center of the garden, and Adam and Eve were free to eat from it. As they pointed out in the video, Adam and Eve were permitted to eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That means they could freely eat from the tree of life.
But, for some reason they didn’t. In Genesis 3:22 God says, “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.”
Why didn’t they eat from the tree of life first? Why did they choose to eat from the one tree they weren’t supposed to eat from?
I have often asked the question, “What did Adam and Eve know before they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?” I don’t have a solid answer for that, outside of God. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would have been like to just know God without being burdened with the constant weight of wrestling with good and evil. It sounds amazing.
Which brings me to my point for today’s devotional. When I look at this story, I see something about God. God wanted us to trust Him, to enjoy His garden and to receive His life. For God, that’s what it’s always been about. God created this whole creation and it was good. That’s the dominant theme of Genesis 1, God saw that it was good. Adam and Eve were not only a part of that goodness that God created, they were put right smack into the middle of it. For God, it’s always been about giving us the gift of life, his goodness.
Creation was saturated with His goodness. God calls nearly everything good in the Genesis 1 creation account. Nearly everything. One thing He doesn’t call good is the darkness. On the first day, God separated the light from darkness and “God saw that the light was good.” God separated the light from the darkness.
But why would God put the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil right in the middle of the garden if God wanted Adam and Eve to choose His life?
Before we answer that question think about it. Everything around them was good. Everything they knew was good. Everything they could see, smell, taste, hear and feel was good. 99.9999% of their world was good. The goodness of it was so vast that it’s a hard thing to wrap your mind around. As far as their eyes could see, all they could see was the goodness of God.
Why put that tree right there in the middle? Why not hide it in an obscure location so they couldn’t find it? Why even tell them about it? We all know that one of the worst things you can do to a kid is to tell them there is Ice Cream in the freezer. Because then they’re going to want it. And if they eat it, that means there’s less left for you. If you hide it in the back of the other freezer behind the meat, you can have it all to yourself. At least that’s what others have told me about hiding ice cream in my freezer in my garage.
But, if God is good and everything around Adam and Eve is good, and if He just had to make that tree so they “technically” had a choice, why not hide it and forget to mention it? Because God is good. Because God is love. God created Adam and Eve out of love.
Just like with kids, you can try to hide things from them for their safety or you can teach them about the danger of it and do your best to help them make the right decision. You can keep the knives locked up in a drawer so they can’t cut themselves. But what happens if one day you accidentally leave the drawer unlocked, and because you never taught them about the danger, they play swords with one another with them? But, if you teach them about the danger of knives, even though they may want to experiment with them, you still have a chance at keeping them safe.
If God put the trees together, and if as we talked about earlier this week that God is completely good, loving, merciful, kind, just and so on, then His putting the two trees right next to each other was not only right but good.
My theory is, God wanted us to choose Him. God wanted us to be so overwhelmed with the goodness all around us that we would instinctively choose His life over the one option that wasn’t. God so wanted us to choose Him that He overwhelmed us with His goodness. And as we make the choice for Him, yes, we would have to walk past the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. We would have to walk past the only other option. But, perhaps the intent wasn’t as much that we would be reminded of what we are missing out by choosing God. Instead, Maybe it was to be a reminder of how little stands to be gained by not choosing Him.
Just like choosing to surrender our lives to Jesus is the only way to the Father, and as much as we would hope there could be a thousand and one ways, the gracious generosity of God is to provide A way back to Him, this creates an interesting contrast in our rebellion against God.
There were thousands if not millions of reasons to choose God. Everywhere Adam & Eve looked they saw the evidence of God. Having walked with God and known Him from the beginning, they were firsthand witnesses to what God had done for them, how God had given them so much. In a sense, there were thousands of ways to the one God. In a sense, they could look at all the good God had done and it would all point them to their Maker.
And, just as now, there is only one way back to the Father because of our rebellion, in the beginning there was only one way away from God. In the Garden all roads but one led to God, and the one road led to rebellion, separation and the curse. And we chose to rebel against God. We chose to go our own way, we chose the one way away from God.
Since the time we chose to be our own judges, a lot of harm and evil has entered the world. Massive amounts of devastation, murder and injustices varying to the nth degree have taken place because we chose to ignore all the goodness of God so we could be our own.
But, even today, God’s goodness still far outweighs the evil so prevalent around us. Because we think we are the best judge of what good and evil are, we don’t see it that way. Especially today, we see and dwell on the evil, at least in part because we define evil as anything that doesn’t make us as individuals happy.
But, when you really start to see the bigger picture of creation, the bigger picture of God’s nature, you really start to see that we are still surrounded by an overwhelming good.
And, of course it’s that way. Because God is all-powerful, eternal, all-knowing, all-wise, loving, kind and so on. There is no limit to his goodness. Even with as hard as we’ve tried to run away from God’s goodness, tried to drown it out with our worship of ourselves, even to take credit for it, there is no way we could ever overpower the goodness of God. The volume of his goodness so outweighs our capacity for evil.
God wants us to trust Him, enjoy his garden and receive His life. As I shared from 1 Cor 13 earlier this week, right now we only know in part. Right now, we can only know so much, only go so far. But, when completeness comes, when we see God face to face, then we will know fully. One of the things that I am convinced will completely astound us is just how much of this life is saturated with God’s goodness.
Our existence has always been about God’s goodness. In fact, God is so good that He has made the choice back to Him as easy as we made the choice to rebel against Him. As irrational as it was for us to choose to rebel against God in the first place, God counters our irrationality with His own irrational gift of Grace. While we were living in glad rebellion against God, He extended us His grace – there’s nothing rational about that.
And though we are surrounded by a thousand and one options of evil that keep us from God, right in the middle of all that chaos God has put another tree, the cross of Christ. All we have to do is eat of the fruit of this eternal gift that is offered to us in Jesus and our lives are made right again.
But it requires another denial. In the garden and in our lives, we denied God’s goodness in exchange for the opportunity to determine our own. Now, the cross requires that we deny our rebellion, put to death the nature that resists God and His ways so that God can give us the life that is truly life.
If we do eat from the fruit of the tree of Christ, if we deny ourselves and our rights and our right to determine what we think is right and wrong and good and evil, if we eat the fruit of that tree, God will once again open our eyes to see just how eternal his goodness has always been. And we can become those who join with all creation in testifying:
1 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”
5 The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
6 The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return to your rest, my soul,Psalm 116:1-7
for the Lord has been good to you.