Often I feel like we treat God like this very ticked off being, full of wrath whose greatest desire is to damn his creation to eternal Hell in the Old Testament who finally blew a gasket and let loose on his son and now is just butterflies and sunshine- thus we have no real need for him. He is not a God of grace throughout, but rather his son embodies the grace he so greatly lacks. We’d never say this of course, but we truly believe it- I think, many times. This, however, is a lie.
Genesis 3:22-24 says:
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
Often times, we view the expulsion from the garden as a horrific act of punishment from God to Adam and Eve. However, here we can see it as grace. Read the text again. I’ll get back to it in one moment.
I once heard someone say in regards to predestination that in their mind, grace has to be given to us by God – that their is no prayer we can pray that will save us, God has to call us and save us beyond our will. Why? They said “left alone with grace, we either think we are too good to need it, or too bad to take it.” As humans, we truly do not know what is best for us, even when given to us by God so sometimes, in my view, he has to force it on us. In my view, this is grace.
As the Trinity converses in the text, God says “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” O God, how gracious! We must not be given life in the garden! In fact, staying in the garden, in Paradise was the worst thing for us. Sending us into a lesser, fallen world was greater than leaving us in the garden.
Ending our chance at ever being in the garden again was a gracious act! If we were to find the tree of life and eat of it, our hope should be put into the tree out of our sinful nature, and we would not live for God, but rather live forever in sin!
What grace that God instead would send us out into the world and choose to save anyone through his divine election, whether in Israel of the OT, or in the bride of Christ- the church, today. Should God have damned the world that day and destroyed all- the tree, humanity, the world… his justice would have reigned and he would have recieved the full glory.
And yet, he relented. In his divine sovereignty and grace, God did not destroy us all, but rather sent humanity out of the garden, out of eternal life of sin was such grace that I can not fathom it. I thank God for his gracious discipline today, and on that day, when our forefather Adam was graciously disciplined by a holy and righteous God, and that still today his wrath relents.
Like the Holy Spirit says through Isaiah in Is. 53, it pleased God to crush his Son. It was his will to shame him and not us. Then in Is. 54:4, “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth…” Thank you Lord God for your righteous indignation and wrath, which you willingly poured out on you Son.