Great Moments in Bible History
It was only a little fruit
What’s the Big Deal?
What it looked like I do not know. I am confident it was not an apple. In fact, it was not any fruit that we know of today. I do know that it was a pretty fruit and good to eat. More than that I will simply have to admit, I do not know. But this really does not matter. What matters is that God said not to eat it. In fact, He went so far as to say, “In the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
Why would God make such a big deal over a little fruit? And why, if God didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat it, would He put it right in the middle of that garden? It would seem like He was just inviting trouble. Maybe it would have been better if God had never put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on earth at all.
We can better understand God’s motives in this situation if we examine our own motives in a somewhat similar one. We as parents may tell our young son, “Don’t eat that candy now. It will spoil your supper.” The child goes ahead and eats it anyway. So we punish him (Proverbs 13:24). Why didn’t we take the candy away from him in the first place? Why did we leave it out to tempt the poor creature? Because there was an issue at stake far more important than a mere piece of candy. The issue was whether or not our child would believe and obey us. We did not punish him because he ate a piece of candy, but because he disobeyed our word. We recognize that for his own good he must learn to obey us. The next time it may be, “Don’t drink that. It’s poison.” Although we could very easily have removed the candy from our child’s reach, that was not what he needed. What he needed was to learn respect for his parents’ word.
God is the Father of Adam and Eve. He created them in His own image, which means that they had the ability to make moral judgments and to decide of their own free will what they were going to do. But there is an important difference between God and humans which creates a serious problem for humans. God sees and knows everything, while humans are very limited in their knowledge. It is easy for God to make moral decisions because He can see the results of every act before He makes it. In fact, there is no way that God can go wrong. But with us it is different. How many times have we done what seemed right at the time only to have it backfire in our faces? It would almost seem like God made a mistake when He gave us the ability to make moral judgments.
But it is just at this point that the wisdom of God appears. God never intended for us to make these decisions on our own, based on our own limited vision. He intended for us to work in cooperation with Him. He can see into the future and can tell us how to behave in view of that future.
Now we can begin to understand why God made such a big deal about eating a little fruit. It was not just the fruit He was concerned about. If it had been, He could have moved the tree to a safer place. Rather, it was the entire nature of His relationship with humans. He had created Adam and Eve with limitations, intending to make up for those limitations by working in cooperation with them, by being their spiritual eyes. But would they be satisfied with such an arrangement? Would they let God’s word be final, or would they decide to do things their own way?
Adam and Eve answered those questions by eating the fruit. While God said, “Danger! Don’t eat!” by their actions they said, “We don’t believe you, God. We don’t think it will hurt us.” (In Genesis 3:4-5 the method the serpent used to tempt Eve was to slander God’s character. She showed that she believed that slander more than she believed God.)
And so humans were ruined creatures. They were no longer fit for the work God had planned for them. If they could not trust God, how could they ever work in cooperation with Him? Is it any wonder that God was hurt? Indeed, He was hurt far more than Adam and Eve could have imagined.
She looked at her husband and then back at herself. She could hardly believe what had happened to them. Only a few short hours ago they were living happily—not a care in the world. And now what were they doing? Trying to hide from Him. They knew deep down inside that that was impossible. But they were terrified at the thought of having to face Him. He must surely know by now. What could they say?
How had they gotten into this mess? She knew very well how. “It’s such a beautiful fruit. It won’t hurt to taste it, and it might even help.” How foolish! She had tasted it, all right, and had given it to her husband to taste too. And now their whole world was turned upside down. Here they were cringing in fear, trying to hide from the God who had created them. “Where are you?” God called. Her husband was answering, “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” It was an excuse. She knew it was an excuse. But she didn’t want to tell the truth any more than he did. “Who told you that you were naked?” God continued. “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Well, it’s out in the open now. She wondered what her husband would say.
“The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” She could hardly believe her ears. “There has never even been so much as a cross word between us,” she thought, “and now here he is blaming God for having made me!” How things had changed. But now it was her turn. “What is this you have done?” God asked her. She knew she didn’t have any more courage than her husband. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate,” she said lamely. She knew that her excuse was no better than her husband’s, but it was the best she had. She had never known such fear in her life.
In the old days they had enjoyed talking with God. They had delighted in obeying Him. Now all that was changed. They were afraid to be around Him. They were not so concerned about His will as they were about themselves. Things could never be the same again. She realized they were ruined creatures, useless to their Maker. All that was left was for God to destroy them from off of His earth. She waited for the fatal blow to fall. It did not come. What was happening? Why didn’t God go ahead and get it over with? Yet here He was talking about the future. How could there be a future? Was there yet hope? She couldn’t see how there could be. How could God possibly see any use in them? She couldn’t understand it.
The Great Mystery
Imagine that you are an angel in heaven at the time Adam and Eve were on earth. It makes you sad to see those two people rebel against God. Sad both for God’s sake and for their sakes. You saw such rebellion once before. Satan had at one time been an angel in heaven with you. He and a whole host of other angels had rebelled against God. God had created a place called Hell for those wicked angels and had thrown them into it (2 Peter 2:4). You assume that God will do the same to Adam and Eve. What makes their sin especially sad is the fact that Adam and Eve were supposed to have been the parents of a new race. The race is ruined almost before it was started. No doubt God will wipe out the human race. It is of no use to Him now.
But God did not do things the way you figured. He did send them out of the garden and put some angels (from a group called cherubim) at the entrance to make sure that they did not come back. And since they could no longer eat from the tree of life which was in the garden they would have to die sooner or later. But why did He let them live to propagate a fallen race? And why didn’t He just destroy the tree of life? Could it be that He was going to let the humans eat from that tree again sometime? But how could that be? They had rebelled against God. God had not given Satan and his angels a second chance. How could He do that and still be God?
The rest of the Bible is the unfolding of this great mystery, namely, how God could be a just God and yet give people a second chance. To the angels such a thing must have seemed impossible. Yet God had a plan. The Bible is the unfolding of that plan. Every book, every chapter is in some way related to the unfolding of this the greatest mystery of the universe.