God Planted a Garden
Key Verse: 2:8
“Now the Lord God planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there He put the man He had formed.”
In chapter one, we learned about the almighty creative power of God. Using only His word, God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them. He finished His creation by creating man to subdue and rule over the rest of creation. In this way God set a clear creation order; God first, man second and the rest of creation third. In chapter two the author takes a closer look at the creation of man. Through this study we can learn something about the heart and mind of God; why He created man and how He intended for man to live. May God bless our study and open our hearts to understand His deep love for us.
First, the man became a living being (4-7). Look at verse 4a. “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” Chapter two is a second account of the creation story. In the first account the author focused on the almighty creative power of God. This account focuses on day 6 of creation and how God carefully and lovingly made man. The author tells us that when God first formed the earth there were no shrubs or plants on it. There were two reasons for this. The first reason was because God had not sent rain to water the earth. But the second reason is the more interesting one. The end of verse five says, “…and there was no man to work the ground.” These words are very interesting. They tell us that God’s creation needs man. Today many people think that the earth would be much better off if man did not exist. They blame all of the world’s problems on man and say that we are destroying the environment. They think the earth will be completely extinct in a few hundred years because of man. But this is an unbiblical view. The Bible says that God’s creation needs man to work the ground and take care of it. It is true that because of sin man has lost his original mission and much of what we do is very destructive to God’s creation, but that does not change the fact that in God’s original plan His creation needs man. This was the way God made the earth. We must look at the world from a Biblical point of view so that we can keep our positions in God’s creation order and fulfill the mission He gave us.
God solved the water problem by making streams come up from the earth. Then He solved the second problem by creating man. The creation of man was a two step process. First God formed the man from the dust of the ground and then “He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” The two steps tell us about the nature of man. Man has both a physical nature and a spiritual nature. Our physical nature is nothing more than dust. It cannot last. It will not last. One day our physical nature will return to the dust from which it was made. This fact about our physical nature has caused many people to despair. They despair because they think that man is nothing more than a physical being. But they don’t know the Bible or how God created us. The Bible tells us that it is not our physical nature that makes us living beings. Look carefully at verse 7. “The Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” God formed us from the dust of the ground (this is our physical nature) but we didn’t become living beings until He breathed the breath of life into our nostrils. This is our spiritual nature. Our spiritual nature is far more important than our physical nature. Our spiritual nature is God’s image in us. It is eternal just like God. But ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil man has been paying far more attention to our physical nature than our spiritual nature. This is because of the nature and consequences of sin which we will think about next week. For now it is important to know that we have two natures and the more important one is our spiritual nature. The perfect example of this is, of course, Jesus. Before Jesus began his public ministry He went out into the wilderness for 40 days. He didn’t eat or drink anything, He only focused on His spiritual well being. When He did this He was able to fight off the devil’s temptation and in the end He crushed Satan’s head by rising from the dead. If we focus on our spiritual nature by going to Jesus daily, He promises to give us the same victory. Then the death of our physical nature changes from a source of despair to reason to rejoice - the death of our physical nature becomes our homecoming ceremony in the Kingdom of God.
However, while we still have our physical nature, God has given us plenty of work to do.
Second, God planted a garden for man (8-15). Look at verse 8. “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there He put the man He had formed.” When we think of a garden we think of a quiet, beautiful place where we can relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. But when we image gardens we are imagining things created by sinful men in a fallen world. The Garden of Eden was not like this. God’s garden is far more beautiful and peaceful than we can ever imagine. The Garden of Eden was absolutely perfect in every way. In one word it was paradise. And this is where God put the man He had formed. This gives us some insight into God’s heart toward man. When we love someone, we want to give them the very best that we have. This is exactly what God did for man. God loved the man He created so He took time and much care to provide the perfect place for him to live. He could have put the man anywhere in the world, but He didn’t. He put the man in a very specific garden that He had prepared specially for the man. This garden had everything the man needed to take care of both his physical and spiritual needs.
The garden had food, plenty of work and great beauty for his physical needs. The garden also had something for man’s spiritual needs. Look at verse 9b. “In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” These two trees were put in the most important place of the whole garden - right in the middle. And it was these two trees that provided for man’s spiritual needs. The tree of life enabled the man to “reach out his hand … and eat, and live forever.” (Gen 3:22), and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil enabled the man to keep the spiritual order that God had established for creation. As long as man maintained that order he could live in the paradise God created for him. He could even take walks with God in the cool of the day.
The trees God provided for man’s spiritual well being were right in the middle of the garden. This tells us the importance of our spiritual nature. Our spiritual well being should be at the very center of our life. Unfortunately there are so many things that can take this center position away. Some people put their family in the center of their life. Some people make their job the center of their life. Other people might set sports, gambling, women, men, alcohol or drugs as the center of their life. What they don’t understand is that if our spiritual well being is not the center of our life we will be defeated by the devil. Satan will convince us that living only according to our physical nature is the right way to live. But this is a terrible lie. As we said before, the physical nature will die, but our spiritual nature will not. If we neglect our spiritual well being in this life we will suffer for all eternity, cut off from God in a lake fire (Rev 20:14). So we need to examine our hearts closely and see what is really at the center of our lives - is it Jesus and eternal life together with Him in paradise or is it something else?
God didn’t want the garden he created for man just to stay in that one small location where He created it. He wanted it to spread and fill the whole earth. Look at verses 10-14. God provided a river to water the garden and that river separated into four others that flowed out into all the earth. God wanted His paradise to cover every land. He wanted the whole earth to be one big Garden of Eden. Today God still wants His blessings to flow out into every land. But instead of using perfect rivers in a perfect world, He wants to use us.
Look at verse 15. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” As we learned last week God made man for a purpose. He gave man a mission. In chapter one the author used the words subdue and rule over. Here he says it another way. He uses the words “to work and take care of it.” Either way, it means this:
Man = Mission
God created us with a mission to subdue, rule over, work and take care of His creation. If man ignores this we have no real meaning of life. The meaning of our life comes from our creator - it is to live for the purpose He created us. But someone may say, there is no more Garden of Eden to work and care for anymore, so what is the meaning of my life. They are correct, there is no more Garden of Eden to work and care for, but just like Adam, God created each of us with a purpose and a mission. We are all new creations in Jesus - we are children born of God (Jn 1:13). Our creator Jesus gives us a command which establishes our meaning of life; “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mk 16:15) So we have a new meaning of life in Jesus, but Man = Mission is still true.
Third, Adam’s Bible (16-17). The Bible I’ve been studying for the last 20 years is over 1,000 pages. No wonder it takes so long to study it. But Adam’s Bible consisted of only one and a half verses. Let’s read verses 16 and 17. “And the Lord commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’” Adam’s Bible consisted of one command. It was very simple yet it did several things.
It established spiritual order. Anyone who has ever served in the military knows that superiors give orders to those under them; it is never the other way around. And in this case it was the Lord who commanded. So the Lord is above the man. But the Lord also told the man to subdue, rule over, work and take care of the rest of creation, so man is above the rest of creation.
The command also gives man perfect freedom in the garden. God put man in the garden He created. So the garden belonged to God. God could have restricted whatever He wanted to restrict. But God didn’t keep anything from man with this command. God said “you are free…” Someone may say that God did restrict Adam from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But look closely; God didn’t keep this fruit from Adam. He was free to eat it, God just told him what would happen if he chose to eat it.
This short command also gives man freedom to choose. God didn’t want to simply force man to love Him, He wanted man to choose to love Him. Obedience shows our love for God. Remember what Jesus told His disciples, “If you love me, you will obey my commands” (Jn 14:15) and “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (Jn 15:21) For Adam the choice regarding God’s command was a matter of life and death. The same is true for us today. If we choose to love God and Jesus and obey Them we can have eternal life. If we choose not to obey Them we will surely die.
Fourth, God provided everything Adam needed (18-25). We have already thought about how God provided everything for Adam’s physical and spiritual needs, but there was something else Adam needed. Adam didn’t even know He needed it, but God knew. What Adam needed was a suitable helper. The work that God gave Adam to do and God’s blessing to be fruitful and increase in number, required that Adam have a suitable helper. God also saw that it simply wasn’t good for man to be alone. After Adam had named all the animals, God saw that none of the animals would make a suitable helper for Adam. So God put Adam into a deep sleep and created Adam’s helper from his own rib. When God brought the woman to Adam he was so overwhelmed he composed a beautiful poem right there on the spot. God knows what we need even before we know what to ask for. And God loves us. If we need it, He will provide it for us. All we need to do is do the work He created us to do and He will take care of the rest.
In this passage we looked again at God’s final creation, man. We thought about how much God loved man. God created a perfect garden for man and then gave him the freedom to enjoy it fully. We are also reminded that God wants His blessing to flow out into all the earth. Perhaps most importantly we thought about the meaning of man’s life and what that means for us today. Finally we learned that God knows what we need before we do and if we need He will provide it for us.