Why Was The Tree There?

Genesis 3:1–5 (ESV)
The Fall
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When we read the story of the Fall, we typically concentrate on the deceptive role of the serpent and the ensuing sin of Adam and Eve. In fact, most commentaries focus on this as well. I think that is certainly wise to do so, but I think we should also step back and ask, “Why was the tree there in the first place?”

From the beginning, God gave us a choice—a choice to obey Him or choice not to. Yes, He could have simply made us obedient robots, but that was never His plan. Without giving us free will, we lose the capacity to decide whom to love and whom to obey, to do good or choose evil. It is in our freedom that we can either accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ or reject Him.

God did not want Adam and Eve to sin. In His sovereignty, God allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve to force them to make the choice. Adam and Eve chose, of their own free will, to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. The results—evil, sin, suffering, sickness, and death—have plagued the world ever since. Adam and Eve's decision results in every person being born with a sin nature, a tendency to sin. Adam and Eve's decision is what ultimately required Jesus Christ to die on the cross and shed His blood on our behalf.

Without giving Adam and Eve a choice, there could be no obedience. The ongoing question for us is whether we will choose to follow, love and obey the One True God. God certainly knew that some would choose to follow their own paths, apart from Him. That is not a failure in God but in us. Had God made us so that we could only love him, then it would be no love at all. Love is at the heart of creation. I was listening to a preacher the other night on the radio and he stated, “God never sends anyone to Hell!” And that is true—it is our own choices we make that create our destiny. His desire is that no one perish (2 Peter 3:9).

Having knowledge of good and evil is not a sin in itself—the question is where should we get this knowledge? The sin of Adam and Eve is that they want to be like God. This means that they do not want to depend on God for the guidance of what is good and evil. Satan’s deception in verse 4 distorts God’s original intention of being a loving Father who wanted to teach His children in His ways. By falling for his lie, Adam and Eve chose the shortcut, to know it for themselves, to become judges who want the option in the future to say what is good and what is evil. By doing so, they usurp the role of God being the only judge in these matters. The Hebrew word translated “knowledge” may imply “knowledge by experience” rather than theoretical knowledge.

One final thought: Recognize and appreciate the mercy of a loving God that kept Adam and Eve from the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). By barring access to the tree of life, God showed compassion in His omniscience. Knowing that, because of sin, earthly life would be filled with sorrow and toil, God graciously limited the number of years men would live. To live eternally in a sinful state would mean endless agony for humanity, with no hope of the relief that comes with death. By limiting our lifespan, God gives us enough time to come to know Him and His provision for eternal life through Christ but spares us the misery of an endless existence in a sinful condition.

See Christ in this story, for He is our ultimate source of eternal life. God’s plan will never be thwarted by man.