Reading the creation accounts in Genesis raises provocative, unsettling questions. You might suppose the most difficult one would be “Why did God place the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden in the first place?” Without that tree, things might have been very different. But there’s another question we most commonly overlook that is much thornier and more haunting. “Why didn’t Adam and Eve sample the Tree of Life first?”
Genesis 2:9 explains that both trees were located in the midst of the Garden. What’s more, scripture is clear that only the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was forbidden. All the other trees and plants were readily available to them. Apparently, had they taken one bite of the fruit from the Tree of Life, they would have immediately enjoyed immortality! Why didn’t they? Their subsequent eviction from Eden was not divine punishment. We learn that their removal was a preventive measure to ensure that they could not finally eat from the Tree of Life and exist forever in their fallen, broken condition.
The Tree of Knowledge stood in the Garden as an object lesson in reliance on God. To rely fully on the Lord was to trust his promise that the resources he had made available to human beings would provide all the elements for a productive and satisfying life. The Tree of Knowledge offered an alternative, which signified the fear that God is not enough; that his plan is insufficient; that walking with him alone is not satisfying. Eating that forbidden fruit embodied the impulse to defy God and trust our own instincts.
The presence of the Tree of Life in the Garden evidenced the endless possibilities that come through believing in God alone. To our sorrow, the first humans could not even maintain that trust long enough to get around to tasting the fruit of immortality he had easily placed within their reach. The seduction to rely on themselves and defy God burned so urgently that they too quickly traded away some of the greatest riches God could afford.
It’s still true today: the temptation to trust my impulses can become such an addiction that I miss Jesus Christ and his cross, the Father’s Tree of Life. Christ is both necessary and available, but my lust for experience can drive me recklessly in the other direction. And I think that’s the ultimate message of Genesis 2. God is so generous that he has set eternal life within our reach, but we are so blinded by ambition that without divine intervention, we will miss that life completely.
Lift up the Cross!