EDEN FLORA | GUEST
While I wish otherwise, I am not a gardener. What a delight it would be to have an herb garden or flowering plants in my back yard. But the only plant I have is one that sits next to my kitchen sink. And its yellowing leaves do not bode well for the longevity of its life cycle. Even so, I am drawn to the garden imagery God uses throughout the Bible. From the garden and its luscious beauty in Genesis to the garden imagery throughout the tabernacle, from Jesus’ teachings on the vine and branches to his comparisons of the poor or rich soil, there are numerous illustrations the Bible uses involving gardens. Now might be a good time to point out that my first name is Eden!
When We Hide from God
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk in the Garden of Eden with God? In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve, immediately after eating the fruit, heard “the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (v.8). As we continue to read, we learn that Adam and Eve hid “from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
I too can find myself hiding in shame like Adam and Eve instead of walking with my Father. In sin, I choose darkness over light. I choose what I want instead of seeking God’s will. I look to myself for strength rather than trusting in Him. I assume I know better than my Father who is the Creator of all things. When I realize what I’ve done and find myself standing there behind the fig leaves of my own making, I see how far I’ve turned from Him. It’s frightening to realize I can’t do life on my own. I grieve the condition of my heart in those moments. Not only that, but as I look around my community, my country, and the world, it seems like far too few of God’s people turn to walk with Him. And when I watch the news, it seems like nearly everyone is digging into darkness instead.
What are we to do when we find ourselves seemingly so far from God’s presence whether by our own doing or other’s actions? What are we to do when we find ourselves hurt, scared, disappointed, or jaded? What are we to do when we don’t walk in the cool of the day with God? Or when we desperately want others to long to be with God too?
God has an answer for us. We are to turn outward.
Look to God and His Ways
Habakkuk was a prophet in the final years of the Southern Kingdom, a time filled with injustice, idolatry, and rebellion against God. This short book reveals to us a conversation between Habakkuk and God where the prophet questioned God’s goodness and failure to act against God’s people’s disobedience. In Habakkuk 1, the prophet cried out to the Lord, pleading for Him to take action. Habakkuk described the sins of the people walking in their own ways rather than in God’s ways. Habakkuk asked, “Where are you, God?” Things look bleak and desolate. This is a question we often find ourselves asking as well.
God responded to Habakkuk in 1:5, “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” God went on to explain that He is at work even when it seems He isn’t, even when it’s not the way we would choose, when we are disappointed, jaded or scared. Our God is sovereign, and He is always on His throne. He is always present. His actions are not dependent on ours. He walks in the garden whether we acknowledge it or not! He calls us to look and see, to wonder, and to be astounded.
A Future Garden of Glory
God’s created world echoes Eden and points us toward the promised new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21:1). God calls us to look and have faith in Him, to be astounded by Him, and to realize His presence. His creation sings of His handiwork and character (Ps. 19:1-4). The gardens, the flowers, the trees, they all sing of God’s presence and power. He fills the earth with glimmers of beauty and encourages us through it, pointing to and echoing His promises to us. Look around! The garden beckons us to turn from ourselves and to see God’s presence.
The Christian life is one of repentance. We will fail to see and delight in His handiwork. We will turn away from God and turn inward yet again. We will wander from Him. By His grace, we confess and repent of our sin, and return to Him. But a day is coming when “the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people…. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore…” (Rev. 21:3-4). In that day, our hearts will no longer be sinful, and we will walk forever with God.
The prophet Habakkuk ends the book in 3:17-19 with an assurance of God’s work for us, our salvation. “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” Habakkuk knew who God was; he trusted in His character and His ways. Even when the future looks bleak, we can trust in the God of our salvation.
Let’s rejoice together that the garden beckons us! No matter how far we wander, our dear Father always brings us back to Him.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash