Before we explore further, I want to take a minute to reflect on a couple of very important verses. They are so important that they basically set the tone for the entire rest of history. It’s really true.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’”. Genesis 2:16-17

What do you see? What stands out to you? Usually the only thing people want to see about these couple of verses is that God says not to do something. Let’s mature that approach and try to see what is really being said.

Well, for starters, we see ‘LORD God’ again. The God Who is with you is the true God. God has just given man dominion over the earth, but the author wants us to remember that God is sovereign.

We read about the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I wish there was something witty I could nickname these two because typing out and referring to both is more tiresome than you might suppose. There isn’t anything clever, though, and perhaps that would be offensive to a lot of people anyway; they might consider that it would ‘cheapen’ the story, and we couldn’t have that. While these trees were actual physical objects, growing up out of the earth and spreading their branches and casting shadows, like any good old tree will do, they are, most essentially, symbols.

Return to the romance of the Bible with me for a moment.

I have been learning a lot lately about how the Bible has been broken down to formulas and blacks and whites, when the one who actually wrote it wasn’t even that type of person. God didn’t use formulas for creating His amazing masterpiece of the world: I can’t even begin to list His ingenuities and intricacies. Jesus Christ didn’t speak or teach or live in blacks and whites. He told stories. He drew people out of themselves and into Himself. You could actually get really sappy thinking about how wonderfully romantic it all is.

The Bible is God’s way of speaking to us and through us, and I think we forget about that because we are reading the bullet points for our lives, making notes, and referencing the dos and don’ts so that we can think we are better than Adam and Eve.

I’m not supposed to read these two passages like this:
“And then, Rebecca, the Lord God commanded these people, under penalty of death (I say again, death!), to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They could eat from the tree of life, and all of the other trees, but most certainly not the other. He would have commanded the same thing of you, if you had been Eve, and so what are the trees that you should not be eating of, Rebecca? I can think of a few. You eat them under penalty of death and you are bad at life.”
The story of Adam and Eve isn’t a subliminal message, it’s just a story. It is history, and we should be aware of history. For sure to offer us guidance and guidelines, too, but, for crying out loud, the whole entire Bible is about REDEMPTION and not about how Adam and Eve weren’t supposed to eat from one stinking tree but they ruined everything for all time because they were idiots and so then there had to be murder and 10 plagues and lots of famines and the Romans took over anything and lambs were getting their throats slit all over the place, dogs are eating their vomit, and everybody has to buy a plot of land years in advance so people don’t have to max out their credit cards on your behalf when you die.”

I LOVE, love love love, that the Bible is a book about knowing God and being known by Him and that it’s NOT a textbook. This idea lends perfectly to the concept of the trees being symbols.

Life is all about choices. Red shirt or blue shirt. Chocolate cake or a jog. Grand Canyon or Disneyland. God’s plan or my plan.

Let’s hone in on the very first words that God speaks in Chapter 2 verse 16, “You are free…”.

Enter free will.

Technically free will was ingrained in mankind when we were created, but this is where we are seeing it for the first time. Free will. What is it? The dictionary says that it is the ability to act at one’s own discretion. According to the Bible, we could say that free will is the ability to make choices that may or may not align with God’s will. We were created in His image, and in our innermost beings we understand what His will is, both by the helping power of the Holy Spirit, and by the guiding light of the scriptures. We must decide if we want to align ourselves to that, to reach for the outstretched hand of the Spirit or to ignore it, to shine the truth into our lives or cover it up. Perhaps most beautifully, I heard it said that we cannot make someone fall in love with us. No matter how much we may reach out to them, we cannot make them feel the same way in return. And what a glorious, amazing, wonderful thing it is when they actually come to love us in a genuine and real way.

I have always wished that I could give a better response to the dogged approach that humankind never asked to be created. I kind of just have to accept that nothing I can think of will appease someone who marches under this banner. I don’t really want to appease someone like that, anyway. These are the type of people that like to be disgruntled about something, even if they are trying to negate their own existence. I didn’t ask to be created either, and neither did my husband, and neither did my children, but I am so glad that we were. In these people my joy is complete, and in my heart I know that God feels that way about all of us, about humankind. I was reading a book the other day and the author was talking about this idea that his friend had, and idea that was actually pretty revolutionary in its simplicity. It goes like this: if God is really so powerful, so perfect, so amazing and majestic as He says He is, than the most loving and merciful thing He could possibly do would be to create a people that could also share in it.

Chew on that a minute, why don’t ya.

Please do not be mistaken. God did not put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to be a temptation. Adam and Eve knew that they had free will. It isn’t about just the tree. The choice is always there. God isn’t a beating-around-the-bush kind of guy. He is direct, and He should be. Free will is a reality, and it needed to be addressed. He stood more chance of Adam and Eve wandering off and finding some other way to get into trouble than if He hadn’t said, “Life is made up of choices. I’ve designed it to be beautiful, please choose my way.” We don’t just cross our fingers and hope that our kids never hear about drugs. Not at all. We say, “Drugs are out there. People will try to make you do them. It might be fun to start with, but they can get you into a lot of trouble. They can ruin your life. Your life can be so easy if you just say no to drugs. I will do everything in my power to help you, but eventually the choice will be up to you, and I hope you are strong enough to make the best one.”

At least, I hope that’s what we’re saying.

We need to stop being mad at Adam and Eve.

They knew that Satan was out there. Seriously. Satan and his cronies weren’t some kind of huge secret. Adam and Eve knew about the angels, and therefore they also knew about some angels who lost their minds and were separated from God and Heaven and became the devil and the demons. They knew that being separated from God was the worst thing that could possibly happen. God told Adam and Eve to guard the garden. He didn’t say guard the garden and then walk off. He said guard the garden because He had a reason to. It’s not like God just wasn’t going to not create anything because Satan was out there. That would have given Satan all the power; that would have made him the beauty thief that he so desperately loves to be. Satan can’t stand anything beautiful. He used to be beautiful, and in trying to become more beautiful he became the most hideous. God knew that Satan would be after the garden, and He warned Adam and Eve. He actually warned them!
Someone, somewhere in time, would have committed the first sin. It would have been you. It would have been me. We have all given in at some point, even when we knew it wasn’t right. And not just a society’s-standards wasn’t right, but a deep, in-the-pit-of-our-gut wasn’t right. We see God knowing what is good over and over and over. God knows what is good. We can enjoy this good by trusting Him and obeying Him. This isn’t as bad as it sounds. It’s really not.

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.”

Obeying God doesn’t mean we can’t do something: it means we can do SO MUCH. Instead of focusing on one tree it’s not a good idea to eat from, let’s focus on the entire garden that we are free to take part in. An entire garden! Who cares about one tree when we have an entire garden?! But we do, don’t we? Somehow, we always seem to care about the one tree. I would like to challenge you to stop it. Just stop it. When you feel that rising up inside of you, that ‘what if’ and that ‘but but but’, just stop it. Just say, “Stop it.” Because the story isn’t over yet.

When we decide that God doesn’t know what is good we must decide what is good on our own, and that actually doesn’t work, because only God knows what is good. From the beginning He made only what is good. Not okay, not bad, not average, but good. It was all ALREADY good. And then came humankind, with free will. Would they say, “Yes, this is good. It is good for me.” Or would they say, “Wait, I want something else.” The creation of woman is the absolute pique of God’s goodness, and Him bestowing that on us. Same as God made man for Himself, He made woman for man. If Adam were alone there would be no one to share with. And sharing is a joy. That’s what this is about, people! Not taking! It’s about sharing!
God is eternal, and He was willing to share that with us. When man decides what is good for himself he sacrifices that longevity. In every sense of the word. Even though God said that if they were to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would surely die, it didn’t mean that they would drop dead in an instant. It meant that they would move into their own autonomy, which would be outside of God’s original plan, which included eternity. Death, decay, destruction, those were the alternative. Man didn’t really know that, but they were willing to take the chance.

It seems that we are always willing to take the chance.

My favorite author said that God created Adam and Eve with minds that could be so easily deceived because they were innocent. In one second he is saying that the two fell for a trick, and also that they committed a betrayal against their Creator. I guess this is all true in its most basic form. But Adam and Eve weren’t gullible. Imagine this scene: I tell a 2 year old that I will give him a million dollars if he gives me his piece of candy. I actually don’t have a million dollars, I just want his piece of candy. He doesn’t know that. So he gives me the piece of candy, and I run away laughing and yell, “Suckaaaa!” while he starts to cry. This is NOT what happened with Adam and Eve. They weren’t simple and pathetic. They were given the ability to make their own choices, which meant that they were sharp, and mentally sound. They had been warned and well-equipped. They were strong, inside and out. They just made the wrong choice. They allowed themselves to be deceived. After all, they were created in God’s image, so they already had all knowledge.

We have to think back to the simple thing the author of Genesis doesn’t draw attention to: Satan wants to be God. This is his obsession. This very moment he wants to be God, and he actually thinks that he stands a fighting chance. Still! He wanted the key to the earth, so he made it sound like Adam and Eve would get something when they ate the fruit, even though he was really just stealing from them. Adam and Eve already had everything, so it boils down to the really heart-breaking truth that they allowed themselves to be conned.

This is basically the worst thing I can possibly imagine. I have grown up being separated from God. I know what it feels like, and I don’t like it, but I have never known anything else. I have heard people blind from birth say that they don’t mind being blind so much because they have never known anything else. Being blinded after seeing is something totally different. Adam and Eve must have been so completely terrified and horrified when the presence of God went from them. We went from God being in us and through us, like light beaming through a window, and then the curtains are drawn. Sin doesn’t mean we are all born serial killers, it means we are born in the dark, and we can’t function properly because we were designed to operate in the light. We can’t behave appropriately in the dark because we need the light to see, and to act how we were designed to act. Eating the fruit, betraying God, must have been the coldest, loneliest, scariest choice that ever was.

I am so thankful that God sent His Son for us. He didn’t want to give up on an eternity with us. He made us to share time with, and He wants us. We just have to choose if we want Him. I do, and I choose Him, and there is not a single day that I regret it. Of course I am constantly practicing my free will, but I am so grateful for the Son, who made it possible that I can still enjoy fellowship and spend eternity in Heaven with my Creator.

Why do we always act like God is crazy? We are made in His image. These feelings that you and I feel, longing, love, connection, friendship, joy… They are all His feelings. Let’s stop acting like God doesn’t know what it’s like to feel anything. The pain of Adam and Eve choosing the fruit is the pain of your spouse wanting a divorce, it is the pain of your child saying, “I hate you”, it is the pain of a friend choosing a different friend. In any age or stage of life, we can always know the heart of God because His heart is in us. Let’s stop acting like He is some grandiose, egotistical bullying manipulator. That’s the serpent. Anger, jealousy, shame…those feelings didn’t come until after that original sin. That is the ‘knowledge’ that Adam and Eve thought would be so cool. Those feelings exist because of the fallen angel, who actually was grandiose, who was the introduction of egotistical, who has bullied and manipulated all the days since his exile. Let’s start looking at how things really are. These aren’t just CGI-inflated, PG-13 rated, imaginative tales. They are real flesh-and-blood chronicles. When you take the time to open your mind, to break them down, you can really start to see that, and apply it to your own life.

If you are anything like me, you probably get embarrassed when you think about Adam and Eve being naked, but not just that, they weren’t embarrassed! They weren’t even trying to hide from each other. They weren’t trying to play it cool, posted up behind some bushes. They weren’t even exasperated, like, “Man, I’m still naked?” The disturbing part is that they could have been hanging out at Starbucks, totally and completely naked, and when they stood up you could have seen the chair marks where you normally can’t see anything, and they would have been acting like nothing was out of sorts. This is a really important bit of foreshadowing, because later, after sin had entered the world, Adam and Eve were suddenly ashamed to be naked. This wasn’t the Emperor’s New Clothes here, where they thought they were prancing around in a cute sundress and a comfy pair of shorts and breezy v-neck, only to realize to the screech of a baboon that they weren’t. It’s not like a naked dream, the kind where everything starts to fade in and realize you are sitting on a toilet in somebody’s living room and have to act like you actually aren’t. What happened was that these people realized they were naked under God’s judgement. They realized that their good wasn’t actually good at all. The fruit didn’t open their eyes to goodness and enjoyment after all. The coveted knowledge that was to make them like God actually caused them to see that they weren’t even like each other, and they didn’t like it.

They actually took off the glory of God, and this is what left them feeling so exposed. This is why it is right to wear clothes. It is a symbol of how we have taken off God’s glory, and how we can no longer be in our original state. Our bodies must be covered until that time we can trade in these jeans and band shirts for a robe of splendor and righteousness. Only a husband and wife are meant to know the entirety of eachothers bodies because the marriage relationship is a symbol of the relationships God has with us. This is why I get really annoyed when people want to take liberties with their bodies. They want to obey the rules of wearing clothes, but not really. They want to show as much as they can. Let me tell you what, there are a lot of natural things our bodies were designed to do, but because of how man took off the glory of God and traded it in for the knowledge of things like shame and insecurity we must remain covered and modest regardless of our personal beliefs about breast-feeding and bikinis, for starters. I, for one, am SO glad toilets aren’t just like garbage cans, set up where the most traffic goes by, with easy access.

Here is where where my favorite author got it so right. Adam and Eve got all of their security from God shining through them. He gave them their identity, and when He was around they were naked but not ashamed. As soon as they committed that betrayal the light inside of them died, and they became insecure. They had sold their identity. They didn’t know who they were anymore.

They wanted to hide.

It seems that no matter how hard we try, we can never hide from the truth.

They tried blaming each other. They tried blaming God.

I think people tend to imagine God getting very angry, and hurling apples at Adam and Eve. Heck, hurling fireballs We tend to feel sorry for Adam and Eve because we know what shame feels like, and that guilt causes us to imagine a scene of violence and horror. We think that Adam and Eve ran skittering for the gates, with God screaming after them like the Beast screaming after Belle when he finds her in the forbidden West wing: “Get out! Get out! Geeeeet ooooouuuuttt!”

I wonder what we would imagine if things hadn’t become so visual in our society.

Would we be able to see what is actually written?

Of course God knows what has happened, but He is kind enough to help these foolish humans through the process. Adam and Eve have hidden. Normally, they would be in communion with God. “Where are you?” God calls out. He knows where they are, of course, but He is drawing them out. He asks them what happened. The spectacular part is that He listens, and He already has a plan. Before He even says anything to Adam and Eve, God curses the serpent. He says that the offspring of the woman will crush his head, and from that day on the serpent, the devil, is against the woman. He is trying to kill every baby, trying to demolish that offspring before it can demolish him. However, we know what happens: Jesus came as a baby, and through His death He conquers death, and the serpent is defeated. After Jesus dies on the cross He literally descends into hell and takes back the key to the earth. But Adam and Eve don’t know that yet, and neither does the serpent. It is all just beginning for them. Again.

Everything has changed.

Childbearing was at the center of Adam’s and Eve’s blessings (“be fruitful and multiply”). After the fall, the betrayal, childbearing becomes the means of restoring the blessing- bringing about the offspring that will crush the serpent’s head. Each pang of childbirth is not only a reminder of their foolishness, and how it is always better to choose God’s way, it is also a reminder of the hope to come.

Marriage was the first gift, and it too has changed. Since man and woman are now used to making their own choices, for their own gain, this will be at odds with the sacrificial design of marriage. Man and woman will struggle with one another, each one trying to assert their place in the relationship, whereas before they didn’t have to worry about such dynamics.
Before the fall, Adam and Eve were “free to eat”. After they ate of the fruit, however, eating would no longer be free. They wanted their own way, which meant that God could no longer divinely provide for them. They had cursed themselves into providing for themselves all the days of their lives. And it would not be easy. The luscious earth that had blossomed under the hand of its Creator would have to be coaxed to fruition under the unskilled hand of the man.

It wasn’t that God took His staff and pointed it at the man and woman, laughing as they began to foam at the mouth. He didn’t grow bigger with heaving clouds boiling behind Him, green mist coming out of His mouth. He got down on their level. He made them clothes. Even in the folly of their own choices He was helping them get established. He said, “I’m going to make a way.”

And He did.

First things first, Adam and Eve had to get out of the garden.

God couldn’t take the chance of them eating from the tree of life. If they did they would live forever in their fallen state. God was not okay with that. He needed to provide another way; He needed to offer another choice. There is always a choice. Verse 23 of chapter 3 says that God ‘sent’ them out of the garden. In verse 24 it says that He ‘drove’ them out. Maybe they went peacefully. Maybe they grabbed onto a tree and refused to let go, and needed to be escorted off the premises. I wouldn’t want to leave Eden either, and all that it represented. Either way, it was for their own good. And to seal the deal, to protect the unreliable humans, the tree was guarded by a high-ranking angel, and a flaming sword to boot. It was mercy and love at work; tough love, maybe, but I won’t let my son drink poison just because it breaks my heart when he cries. One day he will understand that poison means death, but until then he is just going to have to take my word for it.

Let’s go back to the beginning, when God knew what was good. Let’s take His Word for it, too.