The Goodness of God
As you open up the sacred pages of the Bible, one of the first things you discover is God. As a matter of fact, the very first words of the entire Bible are “In the beginning God...”
Many people don't know God. At least not on a heart level. They don't truly understand His character, His heart! They think He is cruel, exacting, and unjust, or at least, uncaring. They have this strange idea of a “Do or Die” kind of tyrant. -- Choices? They think they don't really exist!
If you read carefully the story of creation and God's pleasure in the beauty of his artwork, you might begin to get a different glimpse of His heart, of His true nature. You see, on the sixth day of creation, God formed man, male and female. After His own image He created them, and they were very good, perfect in every way, healthy in mind and body, radiant in spirit, and full of love for God and life. They were his crowning act. The were the ultimate stroke of his brush. They were an exact portrait of Himself. Best of all, they truly reflected his heart. He could connect with them on a heart to heart level. He loved them “With an everlasting love” the Bible says!
However, built into love is freedom. God risked losing His created replica by the very act of giving them the freedom of choice. They could love Him as perfecty as he loved them or turn their backs on Him. In His own heart he could not even think to force them to love Him in return. It would go against His very nature. It would go against true love! He chose, instead, to take a risk. Can you imagine? As He “brushed the last stroke on the canvas of creation” He included a risk with huge potential for heartbreak, but God would rather do that then to create a beautiful robot. What God wanted in the Human heart was for them to choose for themselves to love Him ----- or not. Only then could it be real!
You see, God demonstrated right then and there, that his heart was completely others centred!! He was completely selfless! He was entirely focused on the needs of humankind. And so, He placed in their hearts freedom at all cost to Himself, risking rejection and pain. He built into the creation picture freedom to follow Him or reject him.
And so it was that God placed one tree, just one, in the middle of the garden and said, “Of all the fruit of any tree you may freely eat, except this one, lest you die!!”
“See”, I can almost hear some people shouting already,” That is not freedom or love! It's “Do as I say or die! Why would a God of love put a tree there to tempt them?”
Think carefully through this. God had just created a perfect world. There was fruit enough of every variety for a crowd. Hunger had never occurred. There was perfect companionship and joy. Lonesomeness had never been felt. There was warmth. No one was ever cold. There was space for many. Nobody was crowded. An over abundance of everything GOOD was provided. There was no anger or competition to be found. It was the perfect world!! They had it all, but he wanted them to have it, and partake of it by choice, and not because they had no alternative!
And so He made it simple.
God placed a forbidden tree in the garden of many, many abundantly available trees to make their freedom of choice viable. They could trust in the goodness of God, or reject it. They were free to choose. In the perfect garden where there were no wrong choices He placed choice in the form of a tree. In an environment where only the goodness of a perfect God was known, mankind was given the opportunity to reject it. It was called the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”.
This was not a hard test. God didn't place many forbidden trees all over the garden. It was not a puppy with sad eyes running at their heals everywhere they went, begging to be petted against God's will. It was not even a complicated, hard to avoid, “Ugh!, the fruit keeps falling in my eyes” kind of scenario. It was a quiet, stationary tree, that God asked Adam and Eve not to eat from for the purpose of giving them freedom to accept Him or reject Him.
And so, God was thoughtful by making the tree as unobtrusive as possible, yet generous enough to provide man with the power of free will.
An Enemy Has Done This
Oh, I wish I could say that the story ended there, that the simplicity and joy of living in the bright rays of the goodness of God were never forfeited.
However, and unfortunately, there was, and still is, an enemy of God, determined to destroy all things good.
Satan did not have the freedom to roam all over the Garden. God restrained him, but he could ostentatiously perch himself amongst the leaves of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. After all, the idea of evil was his domain, truly it was and is still. The Bible says, He is the father of lies. This Enemy accused God of being unfair, unjust, and controlling. He had declared it loudly to all the beings of Heaven and to the universe. And while God disagreed, He, in his wisdom would let this controversy play out and speak for itself.
And so it was that Eve found herself alone, near to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan disguised himself as a beautiful serpent, colourful and wise, he spoke. This caught Eve's attention. She had never seen an animal speak. She listened and moved to better see. She remembered the warnings of God. I imagine she was cautious, but the serpent was wise and appealed to her intelligence, asking her to question God. “Did He really say you should not eat of EVERY tree in the garden?” He used his words subtly!!
Eve was drawn in. She felt a need to defend God and correct the implication of God's unfairness. She said, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden!! Just not this one, lest we die!”
The serpent then held out the fruit and played his favourite trick. He lied, “You will not die!” Basically Satan was saying, “You can live apart from the life giver. You don't need him. He's holding back from you a higher state of being”. Listen to what he said next, “God knows that in the day you eat off this tree your eyes will be opened, and you will be like a god. You will know both good and evil. It will make you wise!”
Was God really holding out on her? Did God really not want her to have a higher state of understanding. In a way yes!! You see, God already knew the pain that sinned caused. He wanted his created beings never to have to experience it. He never wanted them to know hunger, fear, cold, or death. Evil was better left unexplored! It was better left untouched! There was freedom in knowing only good! There was much to explore and learn about the goodness of God. But, Eve was tricked! Was God “restricting” her? She was confused.
The Bible says, “She saw that the fruit was good for food, and to be desired to make one wise!” It made sense!! Hmmmm ...and she doubted the goodness of God!! She took the risk and ate!
With a euphoria from a new sense of “freedom” and discovery, she quickly brought some to Adam also. She was the tempter now! She was the stumbling block. She was tricked and didn't even yet recognize her fallen position. She held out the fruit to the horror stricken Adam. He wasn't tricked! He recognized her position. He had never felt pain,--- but he felt it now. She, had chosen to doubt God, His precious wife, friend, and companion! Trembling but deliberately he chose to join her in her folly! He ate!! Now for the first time in his existence, he felt angry!! Angry at his wife, angry at the serpent, angry at God!!
This was the “knowledge of evil” part!!
All the “restricted wisdom” was now being experienced and known at a heart level.
Those restrictions were, in reality, protections, but Adam and Eve doubted the goodness of God and chose to follow the wiles of the enemy.
After sin, Satan claimed the victory over God's replica, mankind. He was no longer limited to a tree. He claimed the world as his domain, and he set about to destroy anything that could be a reminder of God and His character of love. He set himself decidedly to the task of defacing the image of God in man. He introduced murder, coveting, stealing, adultery, lying, disrespect to parents, dishonour of God, worship of false gods, and ultimately forgetting the one who created them in love.
Today we look back on generation upon generation of painful past, not only from the choices that our first father made, but also our more recent forefathers, and our own Fathers. We can look with regret on our own short years and shed some tears of shame for our own bad choices. Our lives are wracked with pain from enslavement to a world of sin!
Is there no hope?
Thankfully, God didn't throw up his hands in disgust. Love is too big for that! His heart was broken, but He immediately put into action a plan to take that “You will surely die” upon himself because He is love in action. He told our first parents that he had a plan to redeem them. He promised to rescue them and the Earth that had been wrested from His grasp through trickery and deceit.
And thank God, He is faithful that promised. At the appointed time, God came down as a man. He lived the life, with all its heartache with us. He suffered the pain of other people's sinful choices. He was rejected, abandoned, tortured, abused, and put to a cruel death.
And He rose again, and lives to prepare for us a brand new place. All we have to do is choose. Choose to believe in the Goodness of God and be drawn back to Him.
He knows that not all will respond. Not all will look for the goodness of God, but He strives with the heart of every man, and all who would choose to look and see, again, the life of freedom and turn from the enslavement of this world will again live in peace, joy and perfect love.
God stands ready, waiting to be the one who holds you up!! He will give you the power and strength to choose the goodness of God!
“Choose ye this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!!”