From the Garden to the City, Trees along the way
Series
There was more than one Tree in the Garden
Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17, 3:1-24

(c) Copyright 2007 Rev. Bill Versteeg


We begin our series from the Garden to the City - Trees along the way. In it we will be following the trees in scripture as we discover major themes in the story of scripture from beginning to end. Let me in just a couple of sentences remind you of the truths of trees we discovered last Sunday.
Trees mark places and because they last so long, they served as witnesses to what occured at those places. Secondly, we found that the entire story of scripture, though it looks like many stories, is like this Tasmanian Huon pine tree - it looks like many trees, but in reality, the entire story is about 1 theme - Jesus.
Most of us know the account of scripture, how God created the universe, the world and everything in it and it was good. And most of us know the story surrounding the first trees specifically mentioned in the scripture. To refresh our recollection, lets look at it together. Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17, Genesis 3:1- 24.

4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens— 5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground— 7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life 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 work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Genesis 3
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all the livestock
and all the wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 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.”
17 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.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, “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.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Many trees - all of them were good to eat from - including the tree of life which in this passage appears - but it is in the background. It appears that Adam and Eve, if they ate from it, they could extend their life indefinitely. It stands, silently in the garden witnessing the events that take place. In this part of the story, it seems to take a back seat to the plot.

Then there is another good tree. Its fruit is good. Its fruit looks attractive, not poisonous - after all this was the good garden of Eden. It may have been identical to some of the other trees in the garden. For all we know, it may have been an apple tree. The only distinctive about this tree was that it was in the middle of the garden close to the tree of life, and secondly, it was the tree about which God commanded you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

We need to understand what is happening here if we want to understand the rest of scripture. If we misunderstand this beginning of the story, our understanding of all of the story of scripture will be distorted. What is it that is happening in this passage?

Well there are clues.

First of all, everything that God created was good. Which means that Eve perception of this tree was accurate - When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom... she saw rightly.

Second, God gave a warning not to eat of this tree. Now that is obvious, but the simple truth is - God was the one who set the rules, God was the one who decided what was good for them.

Third, the consequence of eating from the tree was not only that they would die, it was also that they would become like God. We live in a society that pictures death in physical terms.

We watch CSI, we watch the Bone Collector, we love these who done it shows where dead bodies reveal truth. But in scripture, repeatedly, rather than looking at death as a physical reality, death is pictured as a consequence of sin. The wages of sin is death. Christ died for sin, once and for all. Adam and eve would die, not because the tree was inherently bad, but because they sinned.

And then there is the fourth clue - the consequence of eating of the tree was that like God, Adam and Eve would have a knowledge of good and evil. What does that mean? We see what it means in their actions.

God gave an instruction, God set the rules as to what was good for them and what was not. That’s what God does. Its his role. But Adam and Eve still take and eat, in effect, they are saying to God, I will be my moral center, I will decide what is good for me, I am wise enough to know that my actions have consequences, I will be the judge of what’s best for me. And so Adam and Eve choose to be like God by becoming their own moral center. And when they choose to become their own moral center, they took the place of God in their own lives.

So if we are to understand this passage, we discover that at the heart of this story is that humans refused to be human, they wanted to be more like God, they wanted to decided for themselves, they wanted the power to decide what was right and wrong. And they did this because they started listening to the deceptive rationalizations of the snake, the evil one, the author of all lies. Now we have looked at the anatomy of his temptations in the past, we won’t do that again this morning. What I do want to do with you though is to see how this theme, this pride filled fall into the sin of being our own moral center is the core of sin throughout all the scriptures.

The very next story - God reminds Cain of what is right, but Cain goes ahead and kills his brother Abel anyways.

By the time of Noah, this power to choose right and wrong for themselves has gone to humanities head - they choose and every inclination of their hearts was toward evil.

By the time of the tower of Babel where people in pride were out to make a name for themselves - evil and self determination is mushrooming again - this time so that it would not mushroom, God confused their languages.

By the time of Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah have become places where people decide for themselves what kind of behavior is right and wrong, and so even today we have the term Sodomy.

By the time the Judges, everyone did what was right in their own eyes, or as he saw fit. They weren’t concerned about what the Lord saw as right, there was little fear of God in their hearts. And the book of Judges gives a specific reason - Israel had no king - and so everyone did as he saw fit, everyone was their own moral center. They did not have God as their king, they did not have a human king.

So the Lord gave to them human kings. Under the kings of Israel, now a king ruled and gave rules in a sense in the place of God, and so as the king, so went the country. When kings were faithful, Israel returned to the Lord and to obedience. But they were few and far between. When kings did evil in the sight of the Lord, the entire country did the same. And so during this time and after, we get the laments of the major and minor prophets who are compelled to call the human heart desperately wicked, beyond understanding, reminding them that where people choose for themselves rather than listening to the will of the Lord, the consequence is death. And so Israel as a nation died.

We come to the time of Jesus, the Messiah, the King of the Jews, the descendant of David, what do we notice? Jesus did the Father’s will. Jesus said,

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me.”
5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
5:30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
8:28 “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”

Jesus knew that the issue was not what he thought was right in his own eyes, he knew the issue was to do the will of his Father in heaven. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, as the trees of the garden witnessed what occurred, Jesus said, not my will but your will be done. Jesus was acting in exactly the opposite way that Adam and Eve had in the garden of Eden, and in the process, even though he was God, he was not choosing equality with God something to be grasped.

Now notice something - whereas Adam and Eve choose to be their own moral center and in the process lost access to the tree of life, Jesus choose to obey only his father in heaven even to the point of death on a cross, but in obeying completely, he regained access to the tree of life, he arose again to live forever. And scripture concludes with the tree of life for the healing of the nations, the picture of that closing chapter is that every quality of the Garden of Eden is there again - except now it is a city, with not a few people, but myriads and myriads of people who live eternally obeying the will of the Lord.

Now the question is - what does this have to do with me and you?

It has everything to do with you and me. It has to do with this question: Who is your moral center? I suspect you have noticed, but if you interview the average person in the street, or your average next door neighbour, they will all think of themselves are pretty good people. Oh, they have a few flaws, but nothing serious. And if you go to those who are in prison because they have broken the law, you will discover that they too think they are pretty good people, either the law is faulty, they were incorrectly charged, or they’re not as bad as the child molesters. Even the mother of the young man who shot 20 people in Montreal thought that her son was a basically good kid and that his guns were a hobby. People who are their own moral center always think well of themselves. They have decided what is right to do and they go ahead and do it. And the rationalizations, the justifications for our actions are amazing.

So who is your moral center? Who is your moral center when it comes to living for God - is it the status quo around you, or is it Jesus? Who is your moral center when it comes to how you treat those around you? Who is your moral center for the words and stories that come out of your mouth even about your enemies? Who is your moral center for justice? Who is your moral center for what you expose your eyes and ears to? Who is your moral center for what you eat? Are you just another person who does as they see fit? Theologically, its called self righteousness and it’s the attitude that Jesus cursed when he saw it in the pharisees.

There is a reason why we as Christians listen again and again to the will of God for our lives - as found in the 10 commandments, as found throughout the scriptures. By definition, a Christian is a person who has chosen to let God and God’s will for our lives be our moral center. At the foot of the cross, seeing Jesus in all of his glory, we have bowed before our one and only eternal triune king, and we acknowledge him as our moral center. What does Jesus command? What would Jesus do? That is our center - and when we put our trust in him, he gives us access to the tree of life which is for the healing of the nations.

 

 


From the Garden to the City - Trees Along the Way
Immanuel CRC's Theme for 2006-2007
The complete Series

  1. Acts 10:34-48, text vs. 39 FROM THE GARDEN TO THE CITY:
    TREES ALONG THE WAY: Introduction

  2. Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17, 3:1-24 There was more than one Tree in the Garden

  3. Genesis 12:1-9 The Great Tree of Moreh

  4. Genesis 13:14-18, 18:1-5 The Evolution of the Presence of God

  5. Isaiah 6:1-13 Jesse's Stump (Advent #1)

  6. Isaiah 55 The Pine and the Myrtle

  7. Isaiah 11:1-5 Jesse's Shoot (Advent #4)

  8. Galatians 3:1-14 Those who Hang on Trees (Lent)

  9. Luke 19:28-40 The Trees Bowed Before Him! (Palm Sunday)

  10. Genesis 22, Mark 15:33-37 The Ram Caught in the Thicket (Good Friday)

  11. John 20:10-18 They Met Under the Trees in the Garden (Easter Morning)

  12. Acts 2:1-4, 42-47 Pentecost - the City has Arrived

  13. Matthew 6:13 (footnote)  “For Thine is the Kingdom, Power and Glory - the New Jerusalem - Focus of Desire”

  14. Revelation 17, 18 The Great Babylon

  15. Revelation 21 The Bride has Made herself Ready

  16. Revelation 22 The Tree Stands in the City



 


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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