by David K. Bernard
“And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).
THE ACCOUNT OF CREATION is significant because it reveals God’s plans for the human race. It was written so ancient people could understand creation without modem science, yet it communicates to every age the ultimate truth about human existence. The description of the two trees is especially significant, revealing both ancient events and spiritual truths.
God created the first humans and placed them in a garden, demonstrating His love and care. He planted the tree of life in the center of the garden, signifying His gift of life and fellowship with Him as the source of life. This tree also pointed to eternal life if they would remain in fellowship with God and follow His plan.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was also in the garden. God told Adam and Eve that they could eat from every tree except this one. This tree demonstrates that God gives humans the freedom to choose a relationship with Him. God wants to have fellowship with us based on mutual love. Love must be given freely, or else it isn’t truly love.
Coerced or programmed love isn’t love. Love requires freedom of the will, or choice.
This second tree also reveals the sovereignty of God. Even in the state of innocence, Adam and Eve needed to acknowledge that God was the Lord. They needed to submit their will to God’s will. Even before sin entered the world, they had a rule to obey. Likewise, even under grace we still have commands to obey. (See Matthew 28:20.)
God gave Adam and Eve many wonderful blessings, including life itself, love, provision, and freedom. With freedom always comes responsibility to use freedom wisely and properly. They had two responsibilities: to love God and to obey God. We have the same responsibilities today. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our being (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:29-31). And if we truly love God, we will obey Him. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
The tree of knowledge of good and evil signifies that God alone defines what is good and evil, right and wrong. Humans don’t have that authority or capacity. When Adam and Eve ate of this tree, they not only disobeyed God’s specific command but usurped God’s authority. They attempted to play God, just as the devil had tempted. Instead of obeying God’s Word, they tried to decide for themselves what was right.
Before eating the forbidden fruit, they knew it was wrong, but they had only experienced good. Afterward, they experienced evil for the first time and recognized the potential for evil to develop out of good. They realized their nakedness and became ashamed. They saw that without God they were without glory, .powerless, and susceptible to wrongful desires and behavior.
Sin broke their connection with God, so they hid from His presence. They were separated from God, which is spiritual death, and they began to die physically through the aging process. God mercifully covered their sin and shame by killing animals and making clothes from animal skins,
Thereby restoring a measure of fellowship. Nevertheless, He banished them from the garden and specifically from the tree of life.
The loss of access to the tree of life demonstrates that we can’t truly live without God. It also shows that God doesn’t desire for our present life of temptation, sin, and trials to be permanent. After we overcome sin and death in the resurrection, we will once again have access to the tree of life, and its leaves will provide healing (Revelation 22: 1-5).
God’s eternal plan for us is not suffering and death, but healing and life.
Ultimately, the tree of life points to Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Just as the tree of life was in the center of the garden, so Jesus must be the center of our lives. Our relationship with Him cannot be peripheral; it must be central. It cannot be shared with other gods; it must be exclusive.
God enabled ancient Israel to choose between death and life. He appealed to them, “Choose life!” (See Deuteronomy 30: 15-20). When Israel sinned, God offered repentance, forgiveness, and a new beginning. Once again, He appealed for them to choose life, “for why should you diet’ (See Ezekiel 33: 1 0-16).
Despite our sin, by grace God enables us to make the same choice today between death and life. The pathway to life is to love God and serve Him. When we make this choice, we can enjoy abundant life, now and for eternity’:’
DAVID K. BERNARD