In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5 when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up-for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6 but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground- 7 then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. -- Genesis 2:4b-9
In the beginning, after God created the earth (and the heavens), God planted a Garden. Then God placed the human being in that Garden to till it and enjoy its bounty. Everything that was needed was provided (except another human being for fellowship, but that's a different emphasis). The key here is that every plant necessary to eat was present, and everything in the Garden was pleasant to the eye and good to eat. There were also two trees in the Garden, one being the Tree of Life and the other the Tree of Knowledge. There is a warning here about eating from the Tree of Knowledge, but not the Tree of Life. That tree, the Tree of Life, is the important one, because if we follow the biblical narrative to its conclusion in Revelation 22, we will find ourselves in the Garden, with the Tree of Life front and center. In the picture from Revelation 22, there is a river flowing from the throne of God, out through the city streets, with the Tree of Life standing on either side of this River of Life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit (Rev. 12:1-2). The fruit of the tree feeds the people and its leaves provide healing. What a glorious vision it is, and it's a vision that originates here in Genesis 2.
As we begin a journey through Lent, which will invite us to consider bread and wine and meals shared, this opening story reminds us that God is our provider. What God provides is pleasant to the sight and good to eat. Each of our meals, as we break bread and share in the cup, takes us back to the Garden, and forward to the grand banquet in God's realm, where once again we will have the opportunity to share the fruit of the Tree of life, which will sustain us for eternity.
While we experience exile, let us remember, as the hymn writer Maltbie Babcock put it:
Our God has made this world; oh, let us ne'er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. God trusts us with this world, to keep it clean and fair. All earth and trees, the skies and seas, God's creatures everywhere. (“This is My Father's World,” Chalice Hymnal, 59).
Let us give thanks to God, who provides bread daily for the journey until we finally arrive back at the Garden, where the Tree of Life stands, that we might share in its bounty.
Note: This meditation was contributed to the Central Woodward Christian Church Lenten Devotional (for Feb. 27, 2017).