What happened in Eden?
For this article, we go back to where it all began and ask, what happened in Eden? In our last article, we asked how we can live with God in such a broken world and we laid a foundation of understanding how God lives in our hearts. We are now looking to go back to where this brokenness began.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.Gen 3:5 (ESV)
To gain at least some understanding of God’s will that we have taken into our heart, we should return to Eden to lay the foundation. What happened in Eden? We know the events that led to our fall in Eden. But have you thought about it this way?
Early in the week of the Fall, God could have pulled Adam aside and had this conversation with him :Taken from “Wild at Heart: Discovering the secrets of a man’s soul” By John Eldredge (Eldredge 2010)
God: Now listen Adam, I want you to pay attention to me.
Adam: Yes Lord
God: So on Thursday afternoon at about 3pm, you and Eve are going to be walking, are you paying attention? And you are going to be confronted with a snake. Now, this is really important, Adam, so listen closely…
Adam: I’m listening to you….
See, if God was a hyper-controlling parent, this is how it would have happened. But God wants us to grow up. We don’t seem to understand this, certainly the world does not get this.
Instead, God leaves Adam to it. Adam, you are an adult, you got this, you will pull through!
Facing the Test
Sooner or later, in the maturing process, God leaves us to face the test. He knows the outcome of course, and it’s plain that God knew what was coming, but nevertheless, for Adam to learn and grow, this was an important test of character. This is the key to what happened in Eden.
So, on the Thursday at 3pm, Eve and Adam walk in the garden and a snake confronts them. This was Adam’s chance to step up, to act like a grown up and to come through for his wife. He was standing right with her and according to Paul, he was not deceived. (1 Tim 2:14) That’s the whole point. Eve was deceived but Adam wasn’t. As a good spouse, it was up to one of them to pull the other out of the ditch here. If Adam had been deceived, it would have been up to Eve.
Adam’s choices at this point were myriad. He could have countered the Serpent’s arguments for Eve and tried to convince her not to take the fruit. He could have taken the fruit and thrown it away before Eve got to it. There was no prohibition in touching it, despite what Eve said (cf Gen 3:3 with 2:17). He could have physically restrained Eve from reaching the fruit. Pulled her away, for example.
The concept of death was not unknown because it was the sentence pronounced in Gen 2:17, so it is vaguely possible though very unlikely, that Adam may have even killed the snake. Perhaps it was not a very big snake.
He did Nothing!
Instead, as we so often find when confronted with a difficult decision involving someone we love, he did nothing. Not a thing. Adam, confronted with the loss of his wife to error or the loss of his relationship with God faces a dreadful decision. To act or to be a passenger in her decision. That’s what happened in Eden.
In effect, in an instant, he weighed up the options and by accepting the fruit from Eve, he chose his wife over his God. Even more, in so doing, he questioned the righteousness of God.
Think about it this way. Eve had disobeyed God and this put them in painful territory. Gen 2:17 made it clear that in the moment Eve ate of the fruit “Dying she would die”. She would become mortal and the sentence ultimately proclaimed in Gen 3:19 would have come into effect. Adam clearly should have, and indeed could have, leapt into action to head off this doom. He did not. But having failed to prevent her mistake, he knowingly and willingly joined her in her doom. What happened in Eden involved a choice for Adam and he chose wrong.
The point is, he did not trust God that God was a righteous and just judge.
Eve in effect called God a liar by her choice to believe the snake. Adam in effect called God unjust by choosing Eve over God. She believed the snake before God and Adam did not believe that God could rescue her from her decisions.
What could the Creator do? He is confronted by the two humans He loves and for whom He has provided everything they could ever possibly need, and they are calling him a liar and unjust.
The provocation is extreme. Throughout scripture, the two things that God proclaims of Himself often are that He keeps His promises and that He is unfailingly just.
The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.Exod 34:6-7 (ESV)
In His proclamation of His nature, God is very clear. He is foremost and principally a God abounding in mercy, grace, love and faithfulness. He is just, but keeps steadfast love for thousands.
Adam and Eve might doubt it in that moment and in fact, Adam taking the fruit from Eve demonstrates that he did not trust in the love and mercy of God for Eve, but nevertheless God is about to demonstrate these clear characteristics.
I just want to make a very important point here. The fault for these sins lie entirely with Adam and Eve. Their decisions were influenced by the snake and the snake was subject to just judgement for its part, but Adam and Eve could not offload their responsibility onto the snake here.
Righteousness in Action
Judgement is pronounced as it must be, but immediately, a way back is provided. That’s the beauty of what happened in Eden.
From a human perspective, we often fail to understand how to appropriately apply the twin concepts of Justice and Mercy. Either we provide consequences for behaviour but no way of expiating our mistake, or we provide mercy with no consequences. Our expectations of God often mirror this.
Humans when debating the existence of God point to the consequences of the fall, those things that today comprise a broken world, and claim that there must be no God because He has allowed all these calamities to come upon the earth. In doing so, they fail to see our culpability for these things and the fact that God offers mercy, a way out of this world through His Son. They also ignore their obligation to seek to fix it.
What would you do?
What would we do in this situation if we were in the position of God? Had we been confronted with two beings that we had created, that had entirely disobeyed us and in so doing, called us liars and cheats, what would our response have been? Would we have erred on the side of mercy and allowed this wrong to stand, or would we have destroyed them and started again? Both are entirely human responses and also wrong of course.
Instead, the God of love and justice steers an appropriate middle course. There are consequences that match the offence and there is a wonderful promise of a way back. This way back is appropriate to reverse the offence.
A man would arise who would never call into question the love and mercy of God, who would proclaim the truth of God in his life. When we saw him, we could clearly see that God is light and in Him is no shadow! (1 Jn 1:5) God’s solution was Jesus!
Adam and Eve were faced with a test, a crossroads on the path from the innocence of childhood to adulthood in God. They took the wrong turn and God sent His son to provide guidance back to the right path.
What do we learn therefore from observing the disaster in Eden?
It appears plain that God has set us on a journey from childhood to adulthood. It seems obvious from Scripture generally that God wants to encourage us on that journey and will expect us to play the adult. He will hold us to account for our decisions on that journey, always exercising His wondrous grace. Above all else, He has provided us with an example of how to do it in Christ.
He now expects us to live as Christ, pure and undefiled in a world that does not appreciate us, even hates us. He expects us to set about healing this broken world, broken in the fall and compounded ever since by those who would oppose him.
The task for those who would be adult children of our Father is for us to first, trust and lean on Him and second, to take action at those crucial times that it is necessary to effect the healing of this broken world. In reality, this is to live a life active in living the word of God. Showing the light of the indwelling God in our hearts.