Chapter Three: The Tree of Opposites
“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” Joshua 24:15
It’s time to go to The Tree. Having presented the opposites that God manifested and manipulated when He brought the world into existence and order, it’s time now to look at the Tree of Opposites, better known as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is a very important tree which God placed in the Garden of Eden. In fact, Genesis 2:9 informs us that it was placed in the center of the garden, at the heart of God’s garden. It is the only tree God told Adam and Eve to avoid; of all the trees in the garden, there was only one that was off limits: the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. That’s it. Eat from any other tree, eat from every other tree, but don’t come near the opposite tree!
While the size of the Garden of Eden is unknown, it couldn’t have been too small. After all, within it ran four rivers, and within it God brought Adam all the animals he was to name, and within it God walked with Adam and Eve…and I just can’t picture God in a garden that “hedged Him in”. I may be way off course here, but I’m picturing something like Yosemite National Park. It’s not the largest national park in the U.S., coming in at 761,266 acres, but if you think that’s too large, then let me offer up the smallest national park: Hot Springs with its mere 6,000 acres. Either way, here’s where we land: there were a lot of trees in the garden. If we go with the smaller number, 6,000 acres, and if we continue on the sparse side and say there was only an average of one tree per acre, that would still put the ratio of “edible” trees to “non-edible” trees at 5,999:1. That’s quite the ratio, and here’s my point: there were plenty of trees to pick from (literally) and only one to avoid. And, to top it all off, the one that was off-limits was surrounded by the thousands that were on-limits. To get to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, one had to purposefully pass by and through a myriad of other trees; one had to move to the center of the garden, to the center of God’s plan.
And just what was God’s plan? Why did He place a tree in the garden if He didn’t want His creations to eat from it? Why would He put such a temptation in their midst if succumbing to it would result in their being banned from the garden? These are difficult questions and the answers, like the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, will bring forth a revelation of their own.
To understand why God would plant such a tree of opposition, a tree that would drive Adam and Eve outside of paradise and the human race outside of perfection, we must remember God’s creative pattern of opposites. Once again, in the Tree of Knowledge, we see God’s formation of counterparts. It was in placing the tree in the garden and in commanding Adam and Eve to not eat of it that God gave His created beings a choice, something He gave only to them. Rocks don’t choose; rivers don’t choose; reptiles don’t choose. Only to mankind, with his lungs that were stretched by the breath of God, was there given the opportunity to choose. Only to mankind, the creatures God made to glorify Him and to worship Him (Col. 1:16), did the element of choice come into play. Why was this necessary? Because mankind cannot praise that which he did not pick. Praise erupts from our innermost awe, respect, and reverence for that which captures our heart. Man cannot be mandated to admire something or made to love someone; it must lay hold of him and he must agree to let his mind and his heart follow after it; it is a choice. The God of opposites established it to be so; to turn toward one thing is to turn away from another thing. For man to choose God, he had to turn from something else. God could have hard wired mankind to choose Him, but in doing that He would have gone against His nature, the only thing that God cannot do; He cannot be less than who He is. And so God released that which He loved, that the creature might choose his Creator; that the created might praise His Protector; that the praise-giver might glorify his God.
And so God placed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the midst of the garden…and we know the rest of the story. Eve, upon listening to the voice of Satan, looked upon the tree and saw that it bore fruit: attractive fruit, temptatious fruit. Apparently, from the wording in Genesis 3:6, Eve hadn’t previously given the Tree of Knowledge a good “once over”; at Satan’s prompting, she seems to be examining the tree for the first time:
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.”
And there we have the first choice; the first directional shift; the first letting go of one thing in order to lay hold of another thing, the first step of mankind into the world, and rule, of opposites.
Through Eve’s choice, and then Adam’s as well, the event known as The Fall set into motion the physical and spiritual law referred to in the last chapter, also known as Newton’s third law of motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And man, oh man, was there ever a reaction to this action! Physically, there was no more garden, no more walks with God, no more working with ease, no more lounging with lions or picnicking with pumas; spiritually, there was no more wholeness, no more wholesomeness, no more holiness. When Adam and Eve ate the choice fruit they also ate the fruit of choice. When Eve put her hand out toward the tree, she reached away from God, and sin entered the world by one for all (though God would later cover sin for all by One).
But God is a God of law, and for that we should all be thankful! That which He created, He inhabits; so, when His nature reveals that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, we can trust that the choice that catapulted mankind away from God will be offset by the choice that catapulted God’s Son toward mankind. Because, as beings created in God’s image, we must acknowledge that just as we have a choice, so too does God; and He chooses to recaptivate, and to restore, and to redeem. God was not surprised by Eve’s choice. He already knew what she would do; He already had His “clean up on aisle 7” plan in place. We know, because He revealed it in Genesis 3:15.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
Just moments after Eve’s choice chew, God revealed His plan of correction, or to be more precise, His plan of Calvary. After telling Adam and Eve what their consequences would be (in verse 14), God then told the serpent (Satan) what his consequence would be: he would contend with mankind but God would contend with him. While Satan would bruise the foot of Christ (the Seed), Christ would bruise the head of Satan; a mortal blow…a final defeat. Eve chose the fruit; God chose the Vine (John 15:1); Eve chose the sin; God chose the sinner (Eph. 1:4).
Choice. It’s what God gave mankind because it reflects His nature. God chose to create man with the ability to choose that He might receive that which was merited and not mandated. If man were not given the ability to choose God then God would not have had the opportunity to choose man…even in his sinfulness, through which He demonstrates His great love for us (Romans 5:8). To appreciate the depth of being chosen by God, look at the opposite of the word choose: to reject, ignore, dislike, refuse, neglect, not want. But God chose us. We are not rejected nor neglected; we are not disliked nor disowned. In creating Adam and Eve without sin, God showed His value for mankind, but in choosing them after their sin…while still in their sin…God showed His deep love for humanity.
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Opposites. The Tree of Choice. Beside it, Satan tempted; from it Eve ate, through it God chose. Through man’s choice, sin entered the world; through God’s choice, love saved the world. The tree in the midst of the garden is the cross in the center of Calvary; it’s where God chose to forgive; it’s where Jesus chose to die.
So, what will you choose? Will it be to submit to the God who first chose you, or will it be to go in the opposite direction? One way leads to acceptance, the other way leads to rejection; it’s up to you because you too have been given the choice fruit of choice. “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts…who chooses…Him; but as for me and my house, we will choose the LORD,” (Psalm 34:8, Joshua 24:15; italics mine).