Jul 20, 2008

Life in the Garden

By Jack Kelley

There was such peace and harmony in The Garden. Every need was met, every desire of the heart fulfilled. Scholars speculate on the length of time Adam and Eve enjoyed Life in the Garden, but no one really knows. I believe it was long enough to give them a very clear perspective on the differences they experienced after the fall. Life in the Garden is so deeply imprinted in the memory of man that it's been the stuff of mythology and the subject of books ever since. Sir Thomas More's book "Utopia" is just one example, although perhaps the most famous.

Whose Decision Was It?

What took Adam and Eve out of the Garden? Nothing more than the substitution of their own will for God's. He had given them everything, including the freedom from worry. He had accepted full responsibility for their well being, providing for and sustaining them, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

When they began making decisions for themselves He let them, but He also let them share some of the responsibility for their decisions. This shared responsibility brought them feelings unknown in the creation until then. The Hebrew word describing these feelings is translated sorrow in the KJV and pain or painful toil in the NIV. It's used only three times. Two of those are in Genesis 3:16-17, verses that outline the consequences of their decisions.

To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.

The only other time it's used is in Genesis 5:29 where it describes how the Lord would bring relief from these feelings.

He named him Noah and said, "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed."

Lamech named his son Noah, which means comfort. But how did Noah bring the world comfort from the curse? Well, one way was that he preserved the purity of the Messianic line, avoiding the attack on humanity that produced the Nephilim and contaminated the human gene pool. This made the coming of the One who really would give us comfort possible.

But I believe Lamech also knew that Noah was to be the last of the 10 Patriarchs from the time before the Great Flood, and because he named his son Noah, their 10 names could be formed into a single sentence that summarizes the complete Gospel story. "Man (Adam) is appointed (Seth) mortal (Enosh) sorrow (Kenan), but the blessed God (Mahalalel) shall come down (Jared) teaching (Enoch) that his death shall bring (Methusaleh) the despairing (Lamech) comfort (Noah)." It's a prophecy of the Messiah that took 10 generations to write, but it has brought much comfort to the world, because it had to have come from God. What kind of coincidence could have produced it otherwise?

But the most important point to remember is this. Adam and Eve learned that sorrow and painful toil came into their lives as the result of seeking independence from God.

Shared Responsibility

When I say the Lord let them share some of the responsibility, here's what I mean. Even though they had just made the second biggest mistake in the history of Man (the biggest was Israel's murder of their Messiah) and even though God could have made them disappear and started again with another handful of red dirt (Gen. 2:7), He still watched over them and cared for them as His children.

His first act of kindness after the fall was to provide food for them, even though they had to work for it. His second was to clothe them. His third was to send Cherubim to guard the way to the tree of Life, preserving their way back to the Garden once the consequences of their actions had been reversed at the cross (Romans 8:20-21).

In no way could Adam and Eve negate the outcome of their decision, but because of His great mercy they could learn from it and voluntarily yield their will back to the Lord who was still their Provider (El Shaddai). When they did, He blessed them with long life and many children, signs of His favor. And though their circumstances were forever changed, they again walked and talked with God and were at peace with Him in spite of those circumstances. In other words, even though they could no longer physically live in the Garden, they could achieve a Garden state of mind.

Lessons from History

The German philosopher Hegel once said, "The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history." But in Romans 15:4 Paul wrote that "everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope."

In other words, lessons that began in the Garden still apply today. We're to learn both from Adam and Eve's mistakes and the Lord's response.

Like Adam and Eve we're God's people. As long as we submit ourselves to His will our every need will be met and He will assume full responsibility for our well being (Psalm 37:4 & Matt. 6:31-33). But when we start exercising our own prerogatives He begins sharing that responsibility with us. The more independently we act, the more responsibility He shares. Along with shared responsibility come sorrow and painful toil.

When we surrender again He takes the responsibility back. Since He hasn't given us full use of the dimension of time, we can't go back and negate the consequences of our independent decisions, but like Adam and Eve we can learn from them and voluntarily yield our will again to the Lord who is still our Provider. All He requires is confession and a willingness to start over. His mercies are new every morning, so we too can achieve a Garden state of mind in spite of our circumstances, just like our first parents.

It's All in Your Mind

One day soon, the Lord will lead us all back to the real Garden, the one in heaven. But until then, there's the Garden state of mind. These are perilous times and every indication is that they'll become more so. If you're all stressed out about them, maybe you're assuming too much responsibility, trying to impose your own will on things you can't control instead of trusting God and living according to His will. If so, you're living outside the Garden, where it's full of sorrow and painful toil.

Jesus said, "Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28)." Give your life to Him again, and relieve yourself of the responsibility. You may not be able to reverse the effects of your past decisions, but if you draw near to Him, He'll draw near to you and lead you safely through them. Just like Adam and Eve did, you'll find that life's better in the Garden, even when it's only a state of mind.