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Biblical Gardens (1): Eden

I Affleck, Lossiemouth

I am not a gardener but, like most, I do enjoy a beautiful garden and often pay a visit to the Biblical Gardens near where I live. There the designers have planted many plants named in the Bible together with their Bible references. As with all gardens it is a place of beauty and tranquillity and all who enter feel near to the Creator of heaven and earth.

In a similar way I have enjoyed meditating on numerous gardens found in the Bible. Their beauty and spiritual significance have been a blessing to my soul and it is my prayer that every reader will be so blessed.

Most of the gardens we will visit will be well known to all who are acquainted with their Bible, but I trust that wonder and worship will still fill our hearts as we walk through each beholding their beauty afresh.

First, let us consider the Garden of Eden as found in Genesis chs.2-3. This is a garden as it ought to be, not as it became, cursed and marred by thorns and thistles, but coming from the creative genius of God. Nothing man could do could enhance it in any way. I see six very important principles that are established in this garden and we shall consider each one in turn.

Ownership (2.8)

The garden was divinely planted by God eastward in Eden. Eden simply means pleasure, delight or paradise. We conclude that God planted the garden for His own pleasure since He put every plant and tree exactly where He wanted it to be as He was the designer and the architect. Men speak of garden designers today and, by their creativity, they can work wonders in any place that has been left to grow wild. But when we speak of God creating Eden’s garden it is more than that. He made the petals, leaves and stems, giving to each a distinctive shape, colour, texture and fragrance which appeals to our senses of sight, smell and touch. The fruit of this garden would be delicious to the taste and the herbs would give flavour and a sense of well-being to the eater.

If God is the owner by right of creation then everything about it should be as He desires. Men might have other ideas and think that all this happened through blind chance and the evolving self-development of simple life forms, but creation, and more particularly the garden, declares the glory of God and clearly demonstrates the necessity of a creator and designer.

Worship (2.9)

God placed man in the garden and He made to grow "every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food". So everything Adam looked at would speak of the glory and majesty of God. When he walked about the garden and surveyed its beauty, and the fragrance of different plants and trees wafted by, surely his heart would bow in worship. He would consider where every plant had been placed with each colour blending perfectly - what a pleasant sight to the eye and how delightful to the heart. Imagine awaking the first morning and watching the sun rising over this breathtaking scene. Adam did not know the hymn but I am sure he would have appreciated its sentiments:

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul my Saviour God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Stewardship (2.15)

The Lord God gave Adam a twofold responsibility in the garden: he had to dress it and keep it. The word "dress" simply means to serve or cultivate: i.e. not serving the garden but God whose garden it was. He ensured that everything in the garden was, as it should have been, for the honour and glory of God - and it truly was his worshipful service. He was also responsible for keeping the garden, that is, protecting it and watching over it. We may well ask what he was protecting it from. The answer is highlighted in ch. 3, for the enemy would come in and seek to destroy what belonged to God and brought pleasure to His heart.

Lordship (2.16-17)

The Lord God commanded, and I cannot imagine even in my wildest dreams that Adam would have asked God for a reason. I realise that Satan is kept out of the picture at this point, but Adam accepted that God had sovereign rights over him and could command what He wished, and his response had to be that of obedience. As Adam viewed the handiwork of God in everything around him he would understand that God did not need counsellors, for His work was perfect. The command was simple; it needed not to be explained or expounded further, and at this point he accepted it for what it was.

Headship (2.18-25)

This principle is clearly seen in these verses and I judge no other truth is as misunderstood as headship. The very fact that God established it in the sacred ordinance of marriage should teach us that it is a truth that ought to express our joy. In Lordship we serve God because we have to, whereas in Headship we serve Him because we are happy to. One is a duty, the other a delight. In our passage we are introduced to the very first marriage, and it was arranged and established by God for His glory and pleasure and for the blessing of mankind. God stated, "It is not good that the man should be alone" (v.18), so He made the woman to complement him perfectly.

God formed every beast of the field and brought them to Adam for him to name, but none of them could be Adam’s soul mate. They were unlike him physically, spiritually and emotionally. Surely this gives the lie to the myth that "a dog is a man’s best friend". So God formed the woman and brought her to him and Adam said that she was now "bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh", she is just me (v.23). God established the principle of headship in marriage, for He stated, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (v.24). So we understand that Adam was not only responsible for his environment but also for his wife, to care and provide for her as his own self. That he should do out of deep love and affection and with joy flooding his heart.

How marvellous to observe that in creation God made two out of one, but in marriage He makes one out of two, for "they two shall be one flesh". It is worthy of note in v.24 that it is the man who leaves his father and mother, for he moves from being under the headship of his father to establish his own headship, whereas the woman moves from the headship of her father to that of her husband.

Fellowship (3.8)

"And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day." God’s desire was that they would not only enjoy each other’s company but that they would also have fellowship with Him. I can now visualise Adam and Eve walking together through the garden before the Fall and everything they looked at would bespeak the glory of God. They would marvel at the colours, the shapes, the scents and praise God for His wonderful works. Then, as the shadows lengthened and they lay on a carpet of green surveying the wonders of the heavens with stars lighting their sky, they would feel God very near to them. They would know no fear, for the atmosphere was one of perfect love. For God to visit them and commune with them must have been a most blessed experience. Here the Creator delights in His creation and enjoys, more than they, these moments of perfect bliss. How sad that sin would disturb this wonderful harmony and sow discord in this beautiful garden scene.

To be continued.

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