The Garden

I am struck by the parallel of the story of Adam and Eve, and the story of Jesus.
The very first example of disobedience happened in a garden – the Garden of Eden.

garden-of-eden

Adam and Eve went against the will of God and decided to do things their way.  Because of their choice, they were banished from the place of peace and harmony, where their every need was provided for.  Because of their choice, they were subject to pain and death.

The ultimate expression of obedience to God also took place in a garden – the Garden of Gethsemane.

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Jesus knew what God wanted him to do.  He’d read the words of the prophets and knew that this is what had to happen.  He didn’t want it.  He said “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42, NIV).  He was hoping that there would be a way out, like the ram that appeared when Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac due to God’s command. He was hoping that there would be another way, that he would not have to suffer and die.

And yet, he accepted what had to happen. Knowing what was going to occur, yet trusting in his Father, he submitted.  He was fully obedient, knowing that it would cost him his life.  Because of God’s love, he gained his life back.

Because of his example of total obedience to God, we now have a pattern for how to live our lives – trusting, without fear, knowing that even death has no hold over us if we are following God’s commands.  The doors to heaven are open to us if we follow his example.

 

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Fear of God?

The Hebrew word יִרְאָה that is translated into English as “Fear of God” means something entirely different. It is spelled phonetically as “yirah” and pronounced as “Year-uh”.

“Fear” is an improper and misleading rendering, because God does not want us to be afraid. It is said that the phrase “Don’t be afraid” appears 365 times in the Bible – one for every day of the year. We are told repeatedly that “God is love”, so why should we be afraid of God?

According to Strong’s, the word actually means “reverence” or “piety”, not fear.

It is to indicate respect, to know before Whom you stand. To not take God for granted, but remember that God is your Creator. It is the same feeling you would have for a good parent or a wise teacher.

However, it is not the feeling that you would have for a friend. You must always remember that God is greater than you and existed long before and will exist long after you. You must remember that God created you and the rest of the universe. There must be some humility because of this.

But it isn’t fear.

Consider what other words that we have been told about God and Jesus that are not true, that were given to control us.

Snakes, again. Trust the process.

There is a part in the Gospels where Jesus says that if you are acting in accordance with the will of God, you cannot be harmed by snakes or poison. There are a tiny number of Appalachian churches that take this seriously and make handling snakes and drinking poison part of the worship service. Personally I find this missing the point.

It is taking the message far too literally, and in far too small a way. The message is for us to not be afraid of anything. If we are in alignment with God, nothing will harm us.

This doesn’t mean that we will never be hurt, never suffer, never be sick. Cancer kills Christians the same as atheists. Tornadoes flatten Christian homes the same as anybody else’s.

But remember the story of Daniel in the lion’s den? He refused to worship the king as his God. He didn’t obey the law of the land and was thrown in a pit with a hungry lion. He didn’t get eaten. He didn’t even get harmed. He was ok with the idea of being killed by the lion, however. Better to die obeying the heavenly king than to live following a mortal one.

Remember the story of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego? They were thrown into a hot furnace because of their refusal to serve anyone but God. It gives me chills to read how the observers saw an angel in there with them.

Jesus is constantly telling us to not be afraid, constantly telling us that he will never forsake us. He tells us that he will be with us to the end of the age.

Are you afraid whether you are able to follow Jesus? He tells his disciples, then and now, to not worry about what to say, because the Holy Spirit will provide the words. He tells his disciples then and now to not worry about what we are going to eat or wear.

Remember the story about how they needed to pay the temple tax and Jesus tells Peter to go fish? What a crazy story. But it is to let us know that our needs will be provided for.

So if nothing can harm you if you are doing God’s will, how do you know if you are? How do you know if you are walking on the right path? You are. It may not seem like it sometimes, but if you are seeking God, you are on the right path.

Paul tells us that all things work together for good for those who follow God. This doesn’t mean that it is all wonderful. It means that everything is part of God’s plan. It may seem like you are being held back in some area – but in reality, God is keeping you from something worse.

Trust the process. The more we try to define that something is “good” or “bad”, the more trouble we make for ourselves. Try not to define it. Let it be. We humans have a hard time with perspective. We only see things right here and now, and how they affect us. God sees things in the eternal and the universal.

Isaiah tells us that whether we turn to the left or the right, God is with us. God is constantly with us, and for us. No matter where we go and what we do, nothing can separate us from the knowledge and love of God. Nothing.

Know that everything is going as it should, and that you are part of this plan.