“And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:8-9
This action has always intrigued me. God chose to place man in the garden along with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He chose to place those He created in His image near to the tree from which He commanded them never to eat. It just always seemed to me like God could have left that tree out. This is the only command He gives at this point. So if God just hadn’t included this tree in the garden, we could have enjoyed that unhindered relationship with Him forever.
But I’m beginning to see more clearly why God gave us the choice. It’s because He loves us and wants us to choose Him. He doesn’t want mindless creatures who follow Him only because they don’t know any other course. He wants beings who will freely choose to love Him, choose to obey Him, even in the face of great temptation and trial. So He placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the midst of the garden and commanded His people not to eat of it. He asked them to trust Him enough to obey Him here. He knew that their disobedience would alter everything, that it would break their fellowship, but He loved them too much to eliminate their choice in the matter.
I think it’s important for us to remember that God wasn’t withholding good from them. Even at that early point, He was still the same God spoken of in Psalm 84:11, which says, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” He wasn’t setting a feast of beautiful food before His loved ones, telling them not to touch it, and then handing them something bland and tasteless as an alternative. Within the garden they had every tree that was pleasing to the eye and good for food. All of these beautiful trees with delicious fruit, free for the taking. They had their pick of any of them. Good food provided always by the God who walked with them. They had a life without stress or worry, a life lived in complete faith.
But then they were tempted. And they began to doubt the goodness of their Lord. They started to question whether or not He had been honest with them, and wondered if He was actually holding out. They chose to disobey. This action kick-starts the theme of the rest of Scripture. Because it is at this point that God sets in motion His plan of redemption for mankind. Going forward, we see His steadfast love displayed, His eternal faithfulness toward those who struggle to be faithful to Him, and His amazing grace poured out for us. From the very beginning, God has been fighting for us. Willing to do anything—willing to die—to restore us to Himself and save us from the punishment we’re due. He just wants us to choose Him. He wants us to choose grace. He wants us to choose the beautiful, abundant, eternal life He offers instead of falling for the cheap imitation.
I’m reminded of this call set before us in Deuteronomy 30:19-20: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days.” Choose life. Choose love. You won’t regret the choice.