The Garden – What If?

The Garden – What If? [TRANSCRIPT]

Have you ever found yourself asking the question, “What If?” You’re familiar with it.  You say to yourself, “What if I hadn’t done such and such? What if that thing hadn’t happened?” And we play out those thoughts and usually we reach the end of it with a bit of frustration.

It’s sometimes is a part of the verse of the song of regret. We remember the circumstances that have occurred and we ask the what if question. It’s also part of attempting to decide what to do next. And while it’s part of seeking an answer for the why question of life, or maybe the question of some regrettable undesirable situation. It usually doesn’t reach the hoped-for results.

So, what if… what if we take a look at something we had nothing to do with, yet live with its circumstances. It’s something we can’t change and yet, it’s something expressed within us as a deep longing and sometimes nameless hope. So, let’s look at that today on Truth Matters.

We’ve gone through the Creation week found in Genesis. The universe and the Earth are all in place. God created a habitat for man and the creatures of the world. God has created mankind as the unique crown of His creation and given him a task to fulfill and a responsibility to keep. Then in Genesis 2:8 it says, “The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.

God plants a garden in the east in Eden. Now we don’t really know where Eden was exactly. Some have speculated about the location using the rivers described in the verses that follow. But the truth be known, no one really can speak with genuine confidence as to where the location really is because of factors and world changes that follow in the book of Genesis. Nevertheless, it was a spectacular place. The descriptions and the conditions in this garden, they were idyllic.

Sin and death had not yet entered the world. And Adam occupies his time naming the animals and tending to the garden. We’re not even given any time frame as to how long this went on. But there in the garden, God gives Adam a command. In Genesis 2:16-17 it says,
The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

This verse indicates that the command is given first to the man perhaps because the woman has yet to arrive. The next verse tells us in Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” And God formed this woman and so that Adam would have someone corresponding to him.  It goes on to describe how God did that and you can read it in verses 19-21.

But in verse 22 we read about the work by God in forming the woman, “The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.” Now, that must have been some presentation. You can only imagine the beauty that was Eve. As Mary Poppins would say, “Practically perfect in every way.”

Then Genesis 2:23-24 continues and makes a very important point.
The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

There is a manifest unique relationship between man and woman. They share the same flesh. God created them to correspond to one another. This also declares the sanctity that exists in the bond of marriage. This is the joining of a man and a woman in a lasting relationship. The foundation of the nature of marriage is laid out in the very beginning of Scripture.

I’ve gone through all of this to point out the wonderful nature of the situation that existed in the Garden. This is the type of description that usually comes at the end of a story not the beginning. You know, “And they lived happily ever after.

Now, I’m stopping here because…well because we know what comes next. We know what awaits them in just the next chapter. This is a part of the story that’s referred to as Act One. The characters are established. The setting is in place. Everything is going fine, until it isn’t.

Now as a writer, I also know that this is the part in the story where the crisis enters the plot. But the fact is, this isn’t a fictional tale. This is the real thing. Up to this point there hasn’t been a true crisis. Oh, there’s the foreshadowing in the command that God gave Adam. But mankind is still in its infancy and the innocence that accompanies that. But in the next chapter, well, we know what’s waiting. And we’ll get to that next week.

For now, I want to explore the garden for a moment. It’s really difficult for us now living where we are and what time we live in. Our idyllic ideas of this perfect place are informed by several things, some of them are accurate and some of them are not. Each person has ideas about what is perfect place and what’s the perfect place like. There’s no doubt in my mind that mankind longs for a better existence, a place without all of the madness that surrounds us every day.

There have been many attempts to create a perfect world for ourselves. It’s sometimes called Utopia. Interestingly, the word means “No place.” That’s a subtle reminder that the best we can do or conceive of never really gets us there. The main reason for that is that we’re there. We’re not perfect and so it follows that we can’t create a perfect place. But the longing within us for a better place remains, a perfect world.

But, back to the book of Genesis. As much as we’d like to think of the Garden as perfection realized and then lost, there are some observations that I want to point out. First of all, while the Garden was beautiful and it was good, it wasn’t wholly secure. Everlasting safety wasn’t fully realized. Evil existed. It just hadn’t touched mankind yet. We were not safe yet. Our safety was not yet realized. What do I mean? Well, let me move and I’ll come back to that.

Also, the Genesis, the Garden wasn’t the final plan. Man’s story was just at the beginning. What happens in the next chapter did not come as a surprise to God by the way. You need to remember that. God knew. The Bible is very clear about the foreknowledge of God. In Isaiah 46:9,10 it says it very clearly.
Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure';

The Garden wasn’t God’s final plan. And the actions of man do not destroy the ultimate desire and the work of God. And although we have made a royal mess of things both as a group and individually, He had a reason for making us. And so, He already had a plan.

How do I know? Well, because before the blowout, He was always the One who was going to save us. 1 Peter 1:20 says, “For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.” He already knew. God had a plan even before the mess existed.

Like I said, the Garden wasn’t the final plan. The final plan involves us being with Him. First off, the Garden wasn’t our garden. It was God’s Garden. We just messed it up. I know it was His Garden because His Word tell us. Remember, God planted the garden. In Ezekiel 28:13 the prophet even points out and calls it “the Garden of God.” It wasn’t the beauty that made it glorious, it was His presence in it.

You see, the place that we long for is not a place we can create. It’s the place where He is, our Creator. It’s the place where we can be with Him. I often tell people, “Isn’t it strange that we long for a place we’ve never seen and yet we call it home?” It’s a place unsullied by the evil. It’s a safe place. A place that God had in mind from the beginning. Ephesians 1:4 tells us His plan. “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love.” His desire is for those made in His image to be with Him, holy and blameless.

His plan was redemptive. Philippians 3:20-21 says,
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

Also, as I mentioned, although the Garden was a beautiful place and a good place, it wasn’t entirely secure. Evil invaded it. But there is a safe place. That was also in the plan. Go to the end of the story and we see it. He shows it to us in Revelation 21:27, where He says,
and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

This is His plan. It was always His plan. Try as me might, we can’t stop His plan.

Now, you might be asking, “Well what does all of this to do with us and the original question of what if?

You see, the incident that occurs in the Garden is something we had nothing to do with. And yet, we live in the unavoidable shadow of it. And although we weren’t the original culprits, we are accomplices after the fact. We are in fact materially guilty and co-conspirators. You can carefully examine what Adam and Eve did, and yet you can’t walk away claiming innocence. We’re guilty as well.

And yet, there is within us this longing for what is lost. And from the Garden until now, we always look somewhere to place the blame as to why it isn’t that way. Be it circumstances or other individuals, we seek to pass off the guilt. And if that doesn’t work, then we regretfully retreat to the “what if” question.

What if Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned? What if I’d had better parents? What if I had not been passed over or gotten that thing, that promotion, the place? What if I had been taller, prettier, smarter …? What if… what if… what if? Some people I’ve met refuse to accept the reality of the situation. They cling to the what if… they scream it out and then nothing changes. They continue to put up obstacles to make excuses and blame someone else. And while continue thinking that somehow or somewhere we will find out this better place that tugs at our soul. No. But this really never gets us anywhere does it? It’s a no-win road that we see repeated throughout the history and mankind. I’ve lived long enough to see it played out in lives young and old. Maybe it’s your own story.

And yet, all along, God has a plan. He always had a plan. It’s a plan that involves us finding what and who we’ve been looking for all along. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” Somehow the longing within us seems unable to link up to the origin, to the One who placed it there.

What am I saying? First of all, I’m saying that the “What if” game is an aimless and fruitless endeavor. Playing it will only take you further from what you really desire and what you really need. The origin of the unsatisfied longing comes from something that happened long ago and yet exists in the present life that you have. And trying to go back and fix it on your own will never work. It’s like bubble gum in the hair. You can’t unravel it.

Rather than asking, “What if.” Might I suggest asking yourself, “What now?” Recognize the inner sense that something is wrong and you can’t fix it on your own. Why not move forward instead of continuing to look back.

If you’ve listened carefully to me at all, then you’ve heard me tell you that God has a plan. He’s always had a plan. The plan is to rescue you and me from ourselves.

What if… what if you chose to believe Him?

What if you stopped telling yourself all those things you really don’t believe but you just put them up there to hide?

What if you walk away from all those wrong choices that you’ve invested so much time and energy in? Ways that have only taken you to dark and lonely places.

Hebrews 3:7,8 says, “just as the Holy Spirit says, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”

What if you just listen honestly to the voice of God that whispers to you and tells you that it’s true. He’s real you know. He loves you and wants you Home, in His home.

He made you and He wants to rescue you.
I know this because… because He rescued me.
Say yes to truth. Say yes to God.
It’s the truth and it matters.

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