God made the world perfect to begin with. The very first chapter of the first book in the Bible, Genesis, tells us that when God created this world it was good, was perfect. And indeed, when He made humanity God declared His creation to be very good. Humanity had a beautiful garden home with abundant food, no sickness, no problems, no fear, greed or shame and they met openly, face-to-face with God as His children. You see, God “chose us to be his very own, joining us to himself even before he laid the foundation of the universe!” (Ephesians 1:4a TPT) “for the same love he has for his Beloved One, Jesus, he has for us.” (Ephesians 1:6). When we were just a idea in God’s mind, a twinkle in His eye, He had such a love for us that He made us part of Himself, part of His family in the Trinity. It is a beautiful picture of the perfect family life we were created to be part of, a complete and loving union with God and each other. Is it any wonder we spend our lives searching for united loving relationships?
So if God planned for us to be perfect and made this world and us perfect what happened? Why is this world no longer perfect? Have God’s plans failed?
Even when Michelangelo had finished carving his statue of David, although it was beautiful, it was still lifeless. Sure it looked very much like a human but it was not human because it could not do anything. It could not move, breathe, talk, or love. Carved from rock it cannot do anything that we would expect of a human because it is not alive.
So to make us His true children, not just robots or lumps of stone to be carved like Michael Angelos statues, we had to be given free will like God, the ability to decide what to do and act on it. In particular, we had to have the ability to choose to be part of God’s family or not.
The agents for that choice of whether or not we would remain in God’s family were placed in the middle of these first people’s garden home, the heart of their home. This is not surprising as, our decision to be God’s children or not, is first and foremost a decision of the heart, the very centre of our will. So in this ‘heart’ location there were two fruit trees. One tree God had told them was the tree of ‘life’ and the other the tree of the ‘knowledge of good and evil’.
In Genesis 3:22 God says of the tree of life that if humans ate the fruit they would have eternal life, live for ever. This marks that tree out as Jesus Presence in the garden because, as Jesus said, “I give them [His disciples] the gift of eternal life” (John 10:28a). , and “it was always in his [God’s] perfect plan to adopt us as his delightful children, through our union with Jesus” (Ephesians 1:3a TPT). So had the people in the garden eaten this fruit they would have lived eternally in whatever state they were in when they ate it. When everything was very good and perfect, that joining to Jesus as a source of eternal life by eating that fruit, would have been the fulfilment of God’s plan. We could’ve been united as one with each other and God forever. But that is not what happened. That is not what they chose.
The other tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, would enable humanity to have a knowledge of good and evil that was completely independent of God. The problem being, God is the very definition of what is good and whole and right, so choosing independence from Him, the central relationship for which we were created, is the very definition of evil. God warned these first people that choosing to eat from that tree would cause their death. And, at least initially, it appears they stayed well away from that tree.
It is worth pausing here to take a look at what they had in this garden. They had a beautiful home with abundant provision of food, work to do, and a completely open and loving relationship with each other and God. It is a picture of peace, harmony, provision, blessing and intimate relationship that is better than anything we have ever experienced. This is what we were created for and what we spend our lives seeking.
Now there was one being who was decidedly unhappy with God’s plan that we be One with Him. He was a powerful angel sometimes called Satan, the Accuser or the Father of Lies. It is believed he was a very powerful and beautiful angel who tried to make himself greater than God (Isaiah 14:12-16). He was ejected from his position of power in heaven (Luke 10:18) and appointed himself as a witness to human actives (Job 1:7) enticing us to be like him and reject God and go our own way (Genesis 3#1-5). All that he does on earth is destructive, encouraging us to use our God-given power and authority to destroy ourselves and our world. Revenge is his game and he will use any trick, lie or subversion of power to damage what God loves.
In the early 1980’s my husband and I received job offers in West Germany. We were excited and keen to go but the West German embassy declined our job visa application. Not only that but were were told that they did not know and could not find out why our applications were declined. Only the police in German who processed visa applications had that information and they did not share it with the Embassy staff. We suggested we could go to Germany as tourists and sort it out there and we were told in no uncertain terms that that was not allowed and we would be sent straight home again. Seriously doubting that it could be that difficult, and with all the confidence that two well educated young adults can have, we decided to disregard that advice and headed off to West Germany anyway. Once there we contacted the police and found they had doubted our application for visas was serious given where we had proposed living so it was declined. But we also found out that the embassy staff in Australia were correct in saying that the rues were that we could not re-apply for work visas without coming back to Australia again. Fortunately we were blessed to find a policeman who became our police contact was very reasonable and helpful and in the end we were given our work visas without penalty or the need to travel home. The validity of doubts can often only be truly resolved in the court of experience.
When Satan came into our Garden home, he came bringing doubts about the goodness of God. And those doubts were the first thing he shared with those first people: “Did God really say you must not eat fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1 NLT) This question is so clearly an outrageous lie it makes you wonder why he would ask it. There was only one tree God had warned them not to eat the fruit from and the fruit of EVERY other tree was theirs to freely eat. They knew that and Satan knew that. But Satan does not care about the truth, all he was trying to do was introduce the idea that people could question, could doubt God’s provision for them and hence his goodness. Because once they grasped they could question and doubt God, they would see a need for being able to judge God’s goodness independently of God, and the only place that knowledge was available to them was from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Once they had chosen independence from God they would be very vulnerable to Satan’s manipulation and lies. And this is what we see happening. Having introduced them to doubting God, Satan then told them that eating the forbidden fruit they would NOT die but become like God, knowing good and evil. The fact that they did not detect Satan’s direct contradiction of God, his lie, demonstrates how doubt in God and separation from God makes us vulnerable to Stan’s lies. Instead of calling out the lie for what it was they now looked at the forbidden fruit and saw it as something desirable, something that would fix their problem of doubt and help them judge God.Their unity with God was already broken by doubt and they were fully trapped by Satan’s lie, believing him instead of God. So they obeyed Satan’s suggestion and ate the fruit, directly disobeying God.
When my husband and I were planning to go to West Germany we had a choice. We could trust the wisdom of the consulate staff and remain in Australia trying to sort out the problems, or we could trust in our own wisdom and go to Germany to sort out our work visas. We choose the latter and were blessed with success but it could have (and probably should have) very easy gone wrong resulting in us being sent home.
These first people had choices too. They could doubt God or trust Him. They could ask God for wisdom and understanding about good and evil, or they could seek wisdom that was independent of God. And their choices had consequences. Once they entered into questioning and doubting God, they felt a new and sudden need to be able to judge good and evil independently of God. And that desire and it’s fulfilment in eating the forbidden fruit broke them as people. For once they knew what was good and evil they could see that what they had done was evil because to seek independence of God, to disobey God, is evil. Instead of finding greater freedom to be like God, they realised they had chosen to do something God would never do. God chose to unite us with Him from before we were born. These people had chosen to break that unity by seeking independence and having done that realised they had no way back, no way to correct it. They were sinners, broken people and had no power to fix it.
As a child I was brought up going to a Christian church and Sunday school, and because of the teaching I received, by the time I was heading into adulthood, I had no doubt at all I was a sinner and unacceptable to God. While I wanted to be different, wanted to know God’s love, I knew I did not have within me the power to change. The shame of knowing I was a sinner and unable to fix it was gradually driving me away from Christianity. I had no hope of change and no reason to expect God would accept me.
The shame of what they had done and the fear that they were now broken people, unacceptable to God, drove these first people to hide for the first time in their lives. They hid from God and from each other, wanting to cover their brokenness and shame in any way they could. And when God came to find them and challenged them about what they had done, they struggled to admit their sin and tried instead to blame it on each other or Satan. They were now so broken that lying and blame shifting were their solutions, further braking their relationships with each other and God.
And we are still doing that today. We think if we do ‘good works’ or follow a whole list of ‘don’ts’, or are successful in our careers, have money, go to ‘church’, or can blame our mistakes on others, we can cover our brokenness and be acceptable to God and others. But it does not work like that. True and love and intimacy require openness and honesty and yet that is what we now fear the most.