Choices have consequences and some choices have more consequences than others.
As I wrote about in the last post, when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they were doing more than just breaking a rule. They were removing God from his throne and setting themselves in his place. They were saying they had the right to determine good and evil for themselves instead of trusting God’s judgment. The consequences to this decision were both immediate, long lasting, and even eternal.
Immediately after taking the fruit they begin to make their own judgments (Genesis 3:8-24). They judge that being naked is a bad thing though it was the way God made them and they didn’t mind it before. They judge that encountering God in the garden is a scary thing even though they had been made to live in and enjoy his presence.
The really interesting thing is that their judgments aren’t all wrong. They do have things to be ashamed of and they should be afraid of God. What is so messed up is that even in the things they are correct about they are still wrong in how they are thinking. Adam says they were hiding from God because they are naked. Really? That’s why? Not because you did the one thing you were told not to do by the all-powerful God who made you and gave you everything you could possibly need ?! No, it couldn’t possibly be because of that! Evidently Adam felt the lack of appropriate clothing was a much bigger issue in this situation.
Do you see how their judgement is warped and twisted? But it doesn’t stop there. Adam judges that he is innocent because the whole situation is God’s fault for making Eve and Eve’s fault for giving him the fruit. Eve judges that she is innocent because the situation is the serpent’s fault. They aren’t exactly shining examples of determining right and wrong, good and evil, are they?
But the consequences don’t stop there either. Everything God made them for now is twisted. God made them to increase, multiply, and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28). God’s purpose will still be fulfilled, but now it will be at great pain for women (Gen. 3:16). God put them in a garden where food was abundant and they were to rule over creation and to care for it (Gen. 2:15), but now instead of joy this will be a difficult labor and food will only be gained through difficulty (Gen. 2:14-19). This is not God losing his cool and throwing a punishment at them – this is what they chose! They wanted to be in control and when we take control from God the world becomes twisted and warped. But there is one other consequence that is even worse.
Cast out of the Garden
Genesis 3:22-24 says:
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 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.
The Garden was a place for humanity to live in God’s presence. The Tree of Life was a symbol of the life giving presence of God. To be cast out of the Garden of Eden is to be removed from the experience of the presence of God that Adam and Eve (and all of us!) were created for. They are now cut off from the one thing that was to be their greatest joy – living in God’s holy presence – and all of future humanity is born into this situation. Why? Wrath…judgment…punishment… all of these words are used throughout Scripture for God’s perspective on sin and are certainly appropriate here, but I want to add one more… MERCY.
Look at the passage. God says Adam and Eve must not be allowed to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. Why? Because for a sinful person to come into the presence of God is not joy, it is absolute misery. For a sinful person to live in the presence of God forever and ever would be unending misery. We cannot fully understand the power of God’s holy presence because we live on this side of the Garden Gate, but throughout the rest of Scripture and the rest of history, God shows us what it is like to be sinful people in relationship with a holy God. The rest of human history is lived east of Eden, the wrong side of the Garden Gate, cut off from the full manifestation of the glory and the holiness of God because if God did not cast Adam and Eve out from the Garden they would have been immediately consumed by his holiness and killed.
God Comes through the Gate to Us
By casting us out of the full experience of his glory, God was being merciful and allowing time for him to come to us in ways we could experience and understand without being wiped out. Ways like a tent that was set up as a meeting place between God and his people to teach us about sin and holiness. Ways like a baby born as Immanuel – God with us – who lived and showed us who God is and died in our place to pay the price for our sin so that we could be restored in our relationship with God and have God dwell in us. Ways like groups of people throughout the world and throughout the ages being a living temple of God as God’s presence dwells in them and they take the good news of salvation to a world living on the wrong side of the Garden Gate. And all of this to give time for people to accept God’s way back through that gate – through Jesus Christ – before the full manifestation of his presence will come again which is exactly what the book of Revelation is about.
photo by Flickr user Bonnie Natko