Every story has a beginning; a place that reveals the setting, the characters, and provides the foundation for all that follows. God’s story is no different. It all begins with God creating the heavens and the earth and all they contain. In the midst of His creation, God places His ultimate creation: Man. Male and female they are made in the image of God with the capacity to know and interact with God. All of God’s creation was good. Everything flowed together in perfect harmony under the benevolent reign of the Creator-King.
One of the components of any great story is conflict; something that poses a problem that must be resolved. Regardless how the story unfolds, the characters in the story are always seeking to move toward a resolution of the difficulty.
God’s story is no different. Early on, a crisis took place that began a conflict, the effects of which we are still feeling to this day. Let’s take another look at the beginning and watch as the conflict unfolds.
8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 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 die.” Genesis 2:8 – 9, 15 – 17
Love has to be by choice or it is not genuine love at all. God could have made robots who could do nothing other than love and serve Him, but what value would there be in that? God wanted creatures who would love Him and voluntarily carry out His will.
This answers the question as to why God placed two trees in the Garden of Eden. A choice is only valid when there is more than one alternative. The alternatives placed before man is represented by these two trees, both of which have great significance.
The Tree of Life represents a life united to God where, through total submission and dependence, man would become God’s apprentice and grow into His likeness as he interacted with God and governed creation under His rule.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil represents a life of independence in which man would cut God from the equation and use his own knowledge and experience to decide for himself what life was all about.
Besides placing these two trees in the Garden, God also commands man not to partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of God & Evil, and clearly outlines the consequences of his disobedience. With all these components in place, all of heaven and earth waited to see how man would respond. Would he lovingly obey God, or would he rebelliously disobey? This was a crucial question. For man to obey God would be for him to fully enter the Kingdom of God and rule and reign with Him forever. The choice should have been easy…
God has an enemy. A wicked, twisted, foul, evil, fully malevolent enemy. The ultimate self-for-self, he is the polar opposite of God, corrupting and destroying everything he touches. Because he has no particular power of his own, he seeks to undermine and oppose God’s agenda through subtlety, deceit, and suspicion.
This malicious being enters the Garden and engages the female in conversation, questioning her about the trees in the garden. When the females speaks of God’s prohibition of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, God’s enemy begins to weave his web of deceit. He casts suspicion on God’s character, suggesting that God is holding out on the couple because He knows the man and woman will become His equal if they eat of that tree.
At this point it must be remembered that the woman had not yet been formed when God issued the command regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil. It can be safely assumed that the man shared God’s instructions with her. The moment the enemy questioned what God had said, the woman should have immediately gone and told her husband about it, and together they should have gone and discussed it with the Lord. Instead
She then gave the fruit to her husband. Instead of recoiling in horror and refusing the fruit,
The Wheels Come Off
Everything is suddenly turned upside down and the harmony of God’s beautiful creation is shattered. The first thing that happens is the man and woman notice they are naked. Something that made no difference in their innocence now became repulsive in their guilt. They try pitifully to cover themselves.
Next, they are forced to tell a heartbroken God what has happened. God justly pronounces judgment on His sinful creation. In pronouncing judgment on His enemy, God assures him that one day a Champion will come through the seed of woman that will crush his skull underfoot.
There is mercy, however, in the midst of all the judgment.
In mercy God takes the life on an animal in the place of the man, thus initiating the sacrificial system.
In mercy God’s makes clothing that is better suited for the man and woman from the skins of the animal.
In mercy God drives the couple from the Garden of Eden lest they should partake of the Tree of Life and live forever in their fallen condition.
As mankind begins to procreate and increase in numbers, so their wickedness begins to increase in intensity. It finally reaches the point that God regrets having ever created man. This results in a flood that wipes out nearly the whole of mankind. In mercy God spares eight people so the race of man can continue. As mankind begins to recover from the flood, they decide to make a name for themselves by building a tower that reaches to the heavens. Rather than destroying mankind again, in mercy God confuses their languages and drives them apart from one another over the face of the earth.
Not What God Intended
This was not at all what God intended. His desire was that mankind live with Him and for Him, filling the earth with the culture of Eden’s Garden. Man, however, thought he knew better than God, and in defiance of God went his own way, incurring God’s judgments again and again. Though the conflict would continue, God would not be defeated. He was absolutely determined to have a people who were living in the Reign. And so the story continues…
The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.