FIRST GOSPEL – THE CHOICE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: I grew up in paradise. What I mean is that my dad had planted a garden around the church and the parsonage which had all kinds of exotic trees from all over India. Everywhere he was invited to preach a revival or a crusade, he would bring some plant or tree from there. People driving past our home and church would stop and admire the beautiful trees, the flowers, and even the fruits hanging from them. It was known throughout our city as the most lush, beautiful, and cool spot. I remember as a little boy walking in the garden, sitting under the trees, and wondering if this is what it was like for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. For the next couple of weeks, with Christmas approaching, we will be going through a miniseries from Genesis called “FIRST GOSPEL.” The first prophecy of the coming of the Messiah was not in Isaiah or even to Abraham. It went all the way back to Genesis 3. Main point: God wants us to simply trust and obey him. Failure to trust and obey God leads to sin. Sin is senseless. It only brings death. Through Christ we have forgiveness and the power to conquer sin.
Genesis 2:8 “The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.”
Context: People often ask me – “Where do you think was the Garden of Eden?” No one knows for sure, but the best possible location is somewhere near the south of modern-day Iraq. The next few verses give us some important geographical markers. Genesis 2 10 “Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.” Moses gave those markers to help the readers of his time have some reference point for where Eden was located. Of course, we cannot pinpoint the location because much has changed since the great flood. In fact, the Garden was buried in the great deluge. We find this in God’s pronouncement against Pharaoh in Ezekiel 31:18 “To which of the trees in Eden will you then be likened in glory and greatness? Yet you shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the depths of the earth; you shall lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, with those slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude,’ says the Lord GOD.” All these trees have now become fossil fuel. So, if you want to know where the trees are from the Garden of Eden, look in your gas tanks! Also, since the tower of Babel was in Mesopotamia, the Garden of Eden could not have been very far from there.
Bottom line: The Garden of Eden and what happened there is not a myth. Since the coming of Darwin’s evolutionary theory, the Garden of Eden and what took place there has become a myth that is considered indefensible in the face of millions of years of evolution. Along with that, Adam is no longer the first man created by God, but he could be a myth, if not, at best, a representative man that was picked as the one from whom the biblical tradition began.
Important point: Christian faith is revelatory at its core. It does not mean that we ignore science and history or stretch or twist them to fit our faith. It means that we subject science and history to scripture. We filter them through the grid of scripture.
Application: Where do you stand? How do you see the Scriptures? How do you see the book of Genesis? How do you take the Garden of Eden?
What happened in the Garden of Eden? For starters, the Hebrew word for Garden is “gan,” which means “an enclosed area that contained a variety of plants, water sources (streams and ponds), and animals” (NIDOTTE). The LXX translated it as “paradise” from the Persian “pairi-daeza,” meaning “walled enclosure” like a royal park. The word “Eden” is the Hebrew word meaning “delight.” So, the Garden of Eden was the “garden of delight” or the “paradise of delight.” Genesis 2:9 “And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food…” Does that sound familiar? Those are the first two justifications by Eve for eating the forbidden fruit. Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” Everything was easily accessible to them. Genesis 3:22“…And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.”
Important point: God gives us everything we truly need, and he makes it easily accessible.
Application: Do you know what it means to be content? Don’t misunderstand this for a lack of ambition. There is nothing wrong with wanting more, as long as God is leading you. Then, he will also make that easily accessible. It may require hard work, but it won’t be a struggle where you lose it all.
Back to Genesis 2:9 “…The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The first tree – the tree of life – is found several times in the Old and the New Testament, but the second tree – literally, the tree of knowledge good and evil – is found only here and in verse 17. Let’s look at the second one first:
- Tree of the knowledge good and evil: It is one phrase. Some scholars have suggested that it has sexual meaning. That does not make any sense when God says in Genesis 3:22“Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil…” Others have suggested that it implies that Adam and Eve had all knowledge like God. That is impossible. God can become man, but man can never become God. There are other suggestions, but the one that fits the context best is “moral autonomy.” An example of this phrase is found in Deuteronomy 1:39 “Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” It represented moral innocence. Unlike their parents who saw the wonders in Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, drank the water, ate the manna and the meat, and saw the cloud of smoke and pillar of fire and still didn’t believe, they were innocent.
Illustration: Little babies and toddlers have this sense of moral innocence. They rely on their parents to guide them and make decisions for them. They simply have to follow their parents and obey them.
Victor Hamilton, “Man has indeed become a god whenever he makes his own self the center, the springboard, and the only frame of reference for moral guidelines. When man attempts to act autonomously he is indeed attempting to be godlike.”
Important point: God wants us to trust and obey him in childlike faith.
Genesis 2 15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” By the way, we know the event in advance – Adam and Eve did not die immediately. The Hebrew construction is “mot tamut,” which is literally “dying you shall die.” Like a branch cut off from a tree begins to die, so also Adam and Eve were cut off from God. It took 930 years for Adam to die, but he surely died.
Why did God even allow all this tree choosing business? This was a tangible way for them to show their childlike faith, trust, and love in and for God. Because God wanted the man and the woman to choose freely to trust and love him, he gave them the choice. They were truly morally free spiritual beings, but the choice should have been clear and simple!
Important point: God wants us to choose to love him and know that he is not holding out on us.
Application: Isn’t that the same with us? God gives us free will, but the choice is clear and simple – Love and Trust Him. What do you choose?
In this message, I don’t want to get into who Satan is and why he did what he did. Here, the point is very simple – Satan came and tempted Eve and then secondarily Adam and they both chose to eat the fruit. Eve was deceived and Adam disobeyed. Still the question is why. The answer is “Sin doesn’t make sense.”
Here’s the consequence – We are now corrupted by Adam’s Sin, and we are also guilty of Adam’s sin. We will also look in the weeks coming up what that means.
- How about the Tree of Life? It is mentioned a few times in the Old Testament, but it comes back in the book of Revelation. He bars them from reaching it so they won’t be locked into their sinful state forever.
- We need another tree in between – the Cursed Tree.
Acts 5:30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.
Acts 10:39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree.
Acts 13:29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.
Gal. 3:13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),
1 Peter 2:24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.
Once we have accepted the Savior on the Cursed Tree, then we can have access to the Tree of Life.
Revelation 2:7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ’
Revelation 22:1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 22 12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” 14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.
Invitation: Have you been to the cursed tree? You have both the nature and guilt of Adam. Only Christ can remove both? Are you saved?