DayBreaks for 12/09/15: A Strange Act of Mercy
From the DayBreaks archive, 2005:
Genesis 3:22-24 – Then the LORD God said, “The people have become as we are, knowing everything, both good and evil. What if they eat the fruit of the tree of life? Then they will live forever!” So the LORD God banished Adam and his wife from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After banishing them from the garden, the LORD God stationed mighty angelic beings to the east of Eden. And a flaming sword flashed back and forth, guarding the way to the tree of life.
This past Sunday, one of our members shared with me a new insight into this passage from Genesis. It came from a book she’d been reading and it seems to make sense to me. Let me set the stage for you: man had been placed in the Garden of Eden with two special trees – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. Satan came upon the scene and through is masterful use of language and deception, caused Eve and Adam to want to become like God – to know good from evil. That’s part of the key – up until that moment in time, all they had knowledge of was good! They knew God. They knew His friendship and companionship. They’d had no experience with evil. God knew about evil – but Adam and Eve didn’t. And yet, in their pride and desire to “be like God”, they gave in and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And immediately, they knew evil – they knew that they’d done something wrong. And try as they might have as they looked around the garden, they could find nothing that could turn back the clock and let them undo what they’d done.
Not only did they know evil – but they now knew shame and guilt as well.
God comes walking through the garden, knowing what had happened. After pronouncing the judgments that justice and holiness required, God makes the statement recorded in Genesis 3:22-24. This may seek like a strange thing. Was God really fearful that people would live forever? I don’t think so. After all, that would appear to have been His intent – why else go to all the trouble of heaven, or planning the sacrifice of Christ before the world began? No, God wasn’t afraid of people living forever. He didn’t feel threatened by that idea – it was His idea to start with. But what it appears that God couldn’t deal with was the idea of mankind having to bear that guilt, shame, the spiritual and emotional pain and anguish – forever. And so, God banished Adam and Eve from the garden so that they couldn’t eat of the tree of life and live forever in that kind of torment.
It is no coincidence that the book of God’s Word opens with mankind in a garden living with God, and that it ends in the book of Revelation with mankind eating of the tree of life in a city/garden/paradise while living with God. It is as if God had to separate us from eternal life until His plan of redemption was put into place and worked out. And with the death and resurrection of Christ, the defeat of death and Satan, heaven is within our grasp – as is the fruit of the tree of life. In heaven, we’ll live forever – but it will be without the guilt and shame and pain that Adam and Eve would have suffered eternally if they’d eaten of the tree in the garden.
What may appear as being harsh or cruel (driving the first couple out of the garden), wasn’t meanness – it was rather a demonstration of God’s great grace and mercy and His refusal to abandon us to eternal anguish. Never in the book of Revelation is there a single scene of those in heaven who are burdened by the sins committed in their life. No anguish – just praise for His deliverance!
TODAY’S PRAYER: Almighty and most wise Father, thank you for your mercy that keeps us from eternal suffering and anguish over our sins. Thank you for the kind of forgiveness that can remove all such things from us forever. We look forward, Father, to the tree of life and living with You forevermore. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2015 by Galen C. Dalrymple.