February 21, 2018 Lent 1-Garden to Garden: Eden to Heaven

A beautiful, perfect place—paradise! God created the heavens and the earth. God created all living creatures that crawl on the ground, that swim in the waters, and that fly in the air. God created man; in His own image He created them, male and female He created them. And it was good! Very good. It was perfect.

 He placed man, the crown of His creation, in a beautiful garden called Eden. Indeed, it was beautiful because it was perfect. There was no need to labor and till the ground because it produced all that man needed in abundance.

 There was no need to worry about the weather because the world was perfect and danger did not exist. There was no need to worry about anything because everything was exactly right, exactly perfect, and exactly how God intended for it to be.

 However, the best reality of all was the relationship God had with the crown of His creation. God and man were united together in perfect unity.

It was an amazing relationship. God and man walked hand in hand, talked face to face, lived in perfect communion.

 A beautiful, perfect place with God and man united in a beautiful and perfect relationship. The beautiful Garden of Eden, the place where God and man dwelled together in perfect harmony.

 So it was in the beginning. But man desired to be like God. The old, evil foe tempted Adam and Eve to question the beautiful relationship by casting doubt on God’s integrity. Satan whispered that God was hiding something from them, holding back the ability to be like Him. They believed Satan, and they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—and they tasted death.

 A beautiful, perfect place lost—paradise lost. An amazing relationship severed—a chasm opened up. An eternal immortality exchanged for everlasting suffering and death.

 Adam and Eve sinned and were driven from the Garden of Eden, and their return was forbidden by the flaming sword of the cherubim. They were exiled from a perfect place of light and beauty and thrown into the darkness, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. They were exiled, and their return was forbidden, their access to the tree of life cut off.

 Dust to dust—we are created in God’s image from the dust now only to be returned to the dust in disgrace. We are created to live forever in the presence of God now only to be exiled to a land of darkness and death far from the face of God with its light and grace.

 How tragic for Adam and Eve. How tragic for their children. How tragic for us!

 Exiled like Adam and Eve from the beautiful garden; exiled from before the face of God, from before the presence of God; exiled and driven out into the darkness of a sin-damaged world with sin-filled hearts.

 Sin exiles man from God. Sin exiles us from the courts of heaven, from the courts of everlasting life.

 Oh, if we become perfect, if we resist all sin and walk in absolute purity, if we are found to be righteous in God’s sight by the works of our hands, then—only then—could we return to the garden.

 Its gates would be thrown open, and we would be received with great rejoicing. Once again the garden would be our dwelling place and God would be our constant companion, as we would walk together once more in the cool of the day—if we become perfect.

 But our sin is ever before us. We cannot return from our exile by our own reason or strength. We cannot enter into the presence of God by means of the work of our hands. We cannot.

 We find ourselves helpless and hopeless, wandering in the darkness. We hang our heads unable to look our Creator in the face, unable to see His glory, unable to meet His eye. We are sinners, exiled from the garden, exiled from the presence of God.

 We cannot return on our own. The journey is too difficult, too demanding, too treacherous. We need help. We need a Champion. We need One who will restore us to God’s presence, One who will return us to the garden.

 A Redeemer, a Messiah, the Christ—this is what God promised Adam and Eve as they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. God told them that the darkness would be overcome by the One who would do battle with the evil serpent.

 The Seed of the woman would crush the head of Satan even as her Seed suffered the pain and indignity of bruised flesh. The Promised One would overcome; the ultimate battle would be fought on a cross.

The burden He would carry to the cross would be our sin. The sacrifice would be His body. Christ would suffer what we deserve. He would bear what we could not. And He would accomplish that which has always escaped us: a return from the exile of sin and death.

 The Christ, Jesus, on the tree, removed the dividing wall of hostility. The blood of Jesus, the Lamb, cleanses and returns us to our God. And Jesus, the Lamb, declares, “Today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

 And so, it has come to pass. We have been redeemed and restored by our Champion, Jesus Christ. He has fought the good fight in our place and overcome all that kept us from the garden.

 Paradise lost to paradise won—the gates of the garden of heaven stand open before us. We who were exiled from Eden shall return through the gates of everlasting life.

 Indeed, the day shall come when we will walk through those gates and see the Lamb on His throne. There we shall see the waters of life flowing around the tree of life. There we shall bask in the Light that is the Lamb and dwell in His presence forever. Garden to garden—from Eden to heaven—a return from exile. In Jesus’ name. Amen.