Between the Trees Part 2: The Tree of Life
What is life between the trees? It is our framing story – the BIG picture. (Scroll down to read part 1 for more on that). Understanding this big picture can help us understand our roots, deal with our present reality, and look ahead into the future. For me it has changed my perspective and revolutionized my understanding of God’s Story. More than that, it helps me find to find my place in HIStory. Let’s dig back to the beginning and unearth the roots of what I believe is a stunning connection that weaves its way from start to eternity.
In the beginning of the Story as we know it, we find our literal roots in a tree in the Garden of Eden. Imagine the beauty of Eden. God named this place just what it was to Him – “delight.” The Garden of Delight. A place of unbroken intimacy between God, man, and all of creation. Adventure. Exploration. Limitless possibility. Perfect love. Perfect health. Perfect harmony. It’s all there. It is a One ruled world and a world with one rule. The Garden. Pure Delight. A custom made home for God’s custom made people.
This was the plan that God started with. Yes, He knew the future, but this was the original blueprint, God’s intent, His desire, His Delight. Our story, the Story, began with glory. And in the middle of it all? The “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
In the beginning, Adam and Eve lived between those two trees. Why were these two trees there? To put it simply – the gift of free will. God desired a relationship with His creation that was real and for it to be real, there had to be a choice. Two trees. Two choices. These two trees served as Adam and Eve’s framing story.
I believe God intended for mankind to live forever. How? By allowing them to eat from the tree of life. It is this tree that literally gave them life. While they could certainly eat and enjoy other food in the Garden, eating from the tree of life gave them just what its name implies – LIFE. Obey God, eat from the life giving tree, and live in His Story forever. But what about the “other” tree, the one that was forbidden? Love is only real when chosen. It simply cannot be forced. It may make you uncomfortable to say that there’s something God could NOT do but I believe that there is one thing. He could not, He would not, and He does not force His creation to love Him. So God gives His creation an opportunity to choose. Choose life and live fully in the pure, unbroken reality of God’s Story, or choose the forbidden tree and have your eyes opened to an alternate reality, an alternate story of your own fabrication. Creation or fabrication? It was the original choice between the trees.
So what really happened in that tragic choice that we refer to as “the Fall?” I must have heard it a hundred times. “And so God punished them by kicking them out of the Garden.” Okay. Technically, that’s true. But there is so much more. To get it, we have to look carefully at exactly how God responds. It’s typically an overlooked yet crucial part of the Story. Gen. 3:24 says:
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
Did you see it! What was really lost? Access to the tree of life! God’s plan has been marred. Man chose an alternate reality, a different framing story of his own design. And what is the result? Mankind will no longer have access to the tree of life and will no longer live forever as God has originally planned. They…WE…will now experience pain, loss, agony, disruption, conflict, sickness, disease, labor, and death. These are results of not eating from the life giving tree. HIStory has been changed forever. Sin has broken in. Life as God planned it has been altered. And the way back to the tree of life has been blocked by God Himself. Only those in an unbroken relationship with Him can experience the fullness of His reality. That fullness of life came through the tree and it’s first and only partakers have now given it away.
A story that began with delight and glory is now stained by one tragic decision. But in the midst of it all, there is hope. And that hope comes…through another tree.
God calls a people. In a sense, it is His new creation. And He calls this new creation – Israel. And what metaphor does God use to describe His covenant people? A tree. In speaking of Israel the prophet Jeremiah describes this metaphor.
The LORD called you a thriving olive tree with fruit beautiful in form. Jeremiah 11:16
One tree lost, another planted. Hope arrives through a people with a purpose. They will be a tree. God’s tree. A tree shaped by the Creator to give life. Israel’s purpose was to walk with God and to offer life to the world. Listen to God’s own description of His people:
I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles… Isa. 42:6
Sound familiar? You can almost hear the echo of the footsteps of God walking in the Garden with His newly created and beloved children. He takes them by the hand. He walks with them. He talks with them. He cares for them. And they threw it all away.
And so we turn our eyes to Israel. A new people. A new tree. Hope has arrived. Beauty is upon the horizon. And the Story between the trees is just beginning.