God’s place – Eden

Photo by Mudrik H. Amin on Pexels.com

I’m continuing to explore the theme of God’s people living in his presence and picking up on the three themes that Graeme Goldsworthy and Christopher Wright both emphasise of people, place and rule.

At the moment we are talking about place -about where God’s people are to dwell in his presence. In Genesis 1, we see that the whole of creation is God’s. In fact, God’s place goes beyond and transcends the Universe. God is not constrained by time and space. In Isaiah 66:1, God describes heaven as his throne and the earth as his footstool. In other words, whatever we might consider a large and vast space is barely enough for God to rest his feet on or to take a seat. God is infinite and omnipresent.

However, when we talk about God’s place and presence we are talking particularly about how he chooses to manifest his presence with us. It’s not that God changes place but that where and how we are specifically aware of his closeness to us.

So, in Genesis 2, God chooses to place Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. That’s where they were to dwell in his presence. It’s where God met with them and walked with them.

I just wanted to highlight three things about that place. First of all, it had a centre. Right at the centre of the garden were the two trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The theme of life and death, blessing and curse is demonstrated at the centre. In other words the Gospel was at the centre. The Tree of life prefigures Christ and so we want to emphasise that Christ needs to be at the centre of everything for us too.

There has been some debate about whether churches and networks should focus more on having a strong centre or on boundaries. I’ve been told that some denominations focus more on keeping their boundaries secure by focusing on doctrine. Others claim to be not worried about the boundaries, they are inclusive and welcoming. They say they want to focus more on Jesus at the centre. However, we see with Eden that it is a little bit nonsensical to talk about a centre without talking about boundaries -and vice versa. It’s only when you have limits that you can work out where the centre is. In fact, I would push so far as to suggest that if you haven’t defined your boundaries, then you may discover that something else (whatever takes priority for unity) has become the centre and Jesus has been knocked off to the side.

The boundaries of Eden are represented by the rule that restricted what the man and woman could eat but there were also physical boundaries because God set a guard over the entrance at the end of Genesis 3.

Thirdly, there is work and worship in the garden. Adam was to obey God, he was to look after the animals by naming them. He was to tend and keep the garden which as we have often mentioned here represents both work and worship because the same terminology is applied later to the work of The Levites in The Tabernacle and The Temple.

Of course, Adam and Eve’s sin resulted in banishment from this place.

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