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.
... On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Being a parent required me to say crazy things like, “Don’t lick your feet,” because toddlers think feet taste just fine. My “do not eat” list included sand, spiders, crayons, toothpaste, and already chewed gum you found on the sidewalk. When my kids were teenagers, I frequently asked, “What did you think would happen if you did that?” The answer was almost always a shrug followed by, “I thought it would be fun.”
Young kids lack knowledge of everyday dangers, and teens lack wisdom. Sometimes, parents must do unpopular things for their kid’s benefit. We ground them, make them take unpleasant-tasting medicine, and refuse to sign inaccurate D.M.V. driving practice records. The short-term goal is safety, and the long-term goal is to shape their character. Hopefully, at some point, kids understand actions they thought were unkind demonstrated love.
God had a “do not eat” list, but it contained only one thing: fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve had a choice. Would they trust God or go their own way? The temptation to gain wisdom independent of God was too great, so they ate. In varying degrees, we share Adam and Eve’s teen-like attitude. We want our wisdom acknowledged and to make our own rules.
As a result of their choice, God evicted Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Truthfully, banishment seemed severe until I saw its benefit. Eden contained another essential tree, the Tree of Life. God banished Adam and Eve because if they ate from the Tree of Life, they would live forever in their fallen state. Temporary expulsion protected them from permanent separation from God. It was kind because it made room for redemption.
Revelation 22:1-5 describes the new creation as a renewed Eden. God’s plan for redemption comes full circle. The Tree of Life is there, but not the Tree of Knowledge. No “do not eat” list is necessary. Never again will we be tempted to be our own gods. Instead, we will share in God’s glory.
Are you having trouble seeing God’s kindness in your circumstances or specific Bible passages? Can you believe there is more going on than meets the eye? Try reminding yourself our imperfect judgment limits our view of God. Then, practice living by faith, not by sight.