Genesis 3, another recap.
The key motifs of choice, consequence and grace that we see in the preceding several posts permeate scripture. Grace, in one sense, is God’s continued involvement in our lives despite our conscious choice to go our way—to direct our own lives. It is His refusal to abandon us—at least for a season (a “very long” season if you ask me)—even when we choose to abandon His prescribed bath. It is His willingness to accept us when we turn from our ways. This, for me, is the story of the garden. It is also the story of the Prodigal son. It is the story of the wealthy young man and Jesus, whom the Bible says Jesus continued to love even though his choice was for self-determination rather than submission.
This feature of God’s nature—His obstinate love for His creation during this long epoch of grace (God will not strive with man forever), never ceases to amaze, humble and move me. Perhaps, He loves creatures as unworthy of this love as you and I because he knows our nature, and perhaps it is because, like Jesus said, we do not fully comprehend what we do. I don’t know. I just know I am grateful for this all-encompassing love that seeks me out even when I turn my back. Wouldn’t it be great if we loved each other that way, loved our spouses and our kids and co-workers that way?
The trees in the garden, in one sense, can be seen as metaphors for choice; choice for Life lived in subjugation to God, or Death from a life lived for self. Seen this way, the serpent merely brought to a head what man had probably been pondering a while—the opportunity to run his own affairs. It is indeed strange that after the act of disobedience, Adam and Eve did not immediately grab hold of the Tree of life. This suggests to me that perhaps the choice was never theirs to make (since God immediately forbade it). From a practical standpoint, then, it seems their choice of one path precluded the other. I say this because it is implausible to me that God would have left the tree of knowledge in the garden even if man had wisely chosen to eat first from the tree of life. Why, because the end result would have been the same. The two choices, therefore, and irrespective of the order in which they occurred must have been mutually exclusive.
The garden, then, is to me a metaphor for the continuing basic choice all men through the ages and today are asked to make—a life of trust in God, and His wisdom, love and goodness versus a life of trust in our own abilities and discernment. Proverbs 3:5-6 makes this case clearly. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. The key word is trust.
I see now that true Wisdom is not to be found in the fact that we see the “sense” in or the reasons for a particular instruction given by God. Rather it is to be found in the fact that we see the “sense” in following the Giver of those instructions—even when the instruction itself appears “nonsensical” to us. Wisdom is not a discernment of the reason for a rule but instead a mental attitude, a moral inclination, a conscious choice to order one’s life from a position of fundamental trust in God’s will and love and wisdom. The fear (reverence for) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
God does not call us to be zombies, but rather men and women who having weighed the evidence of His character, have chosen to trust Him in all of our affairs, rather than to rely on ourselves. This is what compels us to obey even when God’s instructions do not make sense to us and to follow even when our intellects scream a different path. I believe this is one of the lessons to learn when we read that Jesus said “my food (perhaps even an allusion to the tree can be found here) is to do the Father’s will”. I believe, He is saying, at least in part, that true life is to be found only in a life lived according to God’s guidance. For this reason, He has chosen to subjugate His own understanding to the Father’s. This is the true meaning of obedience and the reason why it is those that do the will of the Father who will enter the Kingdom. Incidentally, brothers, this is a key reason, why we as Father-types need to be trustworthy when it comes to our kids; we are their first image of what our heavenly Father is like.
Finally, Jesus as a human must have inherited Adam’s propensity to think. If so, it is probable that His intellect would have suggested paths different from what the Father had chosen for Him. Jesus was no “zombie”. His free choice is evident when we recall His prayer in the garden. The words that He spoke during that anguished hour prior to His arrest and torture are especially telling. He said in essence, I would like to be spared what is to come (indeed my whole human experience—a fear of pain and separation from you—demand that I take a different course), but not as I will but as You will. His every human instinct must have screamed the ensuing events were not going to be pleasant—far from it—yet He knew His Father’s heart and intellect were unmatched. Yes, God is good and wise, so He trusted.
Trust is not blind; it is based on evidence—even if that evidence is one that is not directly experiential but instead impressed on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. To obey we need to ask the Holy Spirit to convince us deep in our own spirits and in our minds, that our God is good, wanting the best for us. That best is only to be found in submission to His expressed will for our lives even if we don’t always fully understand it.
Today, as through the ages, we are faced with this fundamental choice; to eat from the tree of our intellects and emotions or to eat from the tree of obedience—the one that implores us to subjugate our thoughts, emotions, and wills to that of our all wise and all loving Father. “For it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in and through me”, is a paraphrase of how Paul puts these truths. We do well to do the same. - G Columbus
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