He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
– Psalm 1:3
It was cold outside, the perfect wintry day for a visit to the local home and garden store to dream of spring.
We dashed from the car to the store and the welcoming blast of heat inside the door. We separated there; my husband headed toward the hardware aisle as I made a beeline for the indoor plants. Every year about this time, I wander through the lush tropical plants fresh from the hothouse and long for my personal Eden. I’m convinced the booming horticultural industry is a product of our internal yearning to reclaim our lost Garden.
The second chapter of Genesis presents two strange trees in the world God created: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He urged Adam and Eve to eat freely of any tree in the Garden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
We read the story and fixate on the cartoon pictures we always see of the tree with the apple, two naked people standing behind strategically placed bushes, and the snake. We forget Adam and Eve were invited to eat of the tree of life. But they chose, instead, to eat the forbidden fruit, condemning all creation to death from that moment forward.
God then sent them out of the Garden and stationed cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life. If they had eaten from that tree in their fallen state, they would have been immortal humans in rebellion against God. This was a kindness to humanity. Envision a world in which a child abuser, a terrorist, or a Hitler couldn’t be stopped. That would be a place of true torment.
After Genesis, the tree of life disappears from the Biblical account and doesn’t reappear until the last book—Revelation. Between the beginning and the end, we discover when the Law was given, the tree became a symbol of judgment. Deuteronomy 21:22 tells us that a person hanged on a tree was considered “accursed.”
For millennia, we labored under that curse, longing for Eden and the tree of life.
Then came Jesus, the “second Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22; 45). Galatians 3:13 tells us: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE.’”
Upon one man, the full payment of Eden’s sin was unleashed. In one day of unimaginable suffering, the ageless curse was broken. Today, we stand once again before the tree of life. Again, God extends the offer, “You may eat freely….” Once again, we choose between life and death.
Mankind no longer must stand outside the gates of the Garden. If we accept Christ’s sacrifice, we are invited to enter a fragrant new land and dwell in a lush refuge of hope.
Two Adams. Two trees.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.