The Garden of Eden
Even the phrase “garden of Eden” should make us home-sick. ”Eden” is taken from the word “delight”. And “garden” when translated to Greek is “paradise”.
The highest plane humanity has reached thus far was at the outset. In fact Genesis 2 means to communicate this truth, even topologically! The four rivers flow down from this hill-top garden to bless the whole earth. The prophet Ezekiel confirms to us that this was both the ‘garden’ and ‘mountain of God’ (Ezekiel 28:13-14). The high point for humanity was the beginning. ’The fall’ was very literal.
This garden was planted by the LORD Himself (Genesis 2:8). Again, this is Christ the LORD, (the visible Image of the invisible God). He doesn’t speak a garden into being, He plants it. This truly is the garden of the Lord. Yet He places Adam in charge. What humility and grace!
Often we focus on the one boundary which the Lord sets (the forbidden fruit) and forget what is most stunning – that the garden itself is freely accessible. Surely the garden of the Lord would be His own special sanctuary and the man invited in only occasionally and under the strictest of conditions. But no, man not only has access, but roams freely and in authority over God’s own garden.
This is not a God who loves to set boundaries, but one who grants incredible freedoms. He says:
Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. (Genesis 2:16)
The Lord fills His garden of delights with abundant fruit – all of which was “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (verse 9).
This is profligate goodness. What need is there for beautiful fruit? None. What need is there for tasty fruit? None. Yet this is the way with the LORD. Nothing is necessary. Everything is desired – wanted – and desirable. (I think some more about this on my blog).
We learn in Genesis 3 that Christ the LORD would come to enjoy His garden and His beloved creatures with an evening walk. This is His nature, to create a space, to make it home, to fill it with beauty and goodness, to gift it to His friends. To invite humanity into His life of freedom, fulness and fellowship. This is paradise. And as CS Lewis once wrote, it’s the “inconsolable longing” of our hearts – “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” (The Weight of Glory)
It’s what we desperately want.
And here’s why we can believe in it – in spite of the blood and pain and godforsakenness of our current experiences.
When Jesus came to walk with us in even closer fellowship – to walk with us as one of us - He was on a mission to draw us back. It was a mission that took Him to the blood and pain and godforsakenness of the cross. And as He died, He spread His arms to beckon us in and to bear our burdens, guilt and shame. Whatever would keep us from paradise, our Lord would take on Himself.
And as He died He said to a humbled sinner dying besides Him:
Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)
Paradise is not for the ancient myths. It’s for dying sinners in a dying world. The Lord has come into the very depths to offer us all such heights.