"15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”" ~ Genesis 2:15-16
Our first parents' living communion with God has entailed a divine call (v.15). But that living communion has also involved a sovereign command (vv.16-17). And that's what we're going to talk about here.
A Sovereign Command (vv. 16-17)
In verse 15 we are told of the divine purpose for man. In verse 16-17 we can see that this relationship also involves a sovereign command. It reads, “And the LORD commanded man….” Adam’s relationship with God does not only state a comprehensive purpose of work and worship that he has to seek to fulfill. It also specifies a definite command to first, enjoy God’s provisions from the garden (v.16), and second, to keep His prohibition to refrain from eating the forbidden tree (v.17).
The text tells us that man was given the freedom to eat from every tree in the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It does not explicitly tell us the reason why God puts this one restriction. However, it does tell us the result of eating from the forbidden tree. It says that the day Adam eats from this tree he will surely die. This is a very solemn command that Adam has to obey. His life depends on his obedience to this command. Not only that, his continued presence in the garden of God in Eden depends upon his obedience to the command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
I will not dwell on the fine points of this prohibited tree. What I would like to point out here are two observations about the command. First, let’s talk a bit about the content of the command. Second, let’s focus on the giver of the command.
The thing that strikes me about the content of the command is the fact that both in the provision of every tree (v.16) and the prohibition from the forbidden tree (v. 17) the theme of food or the idea of eating stand out. Food is one of the most prominent themes throughout the Bible, even in this passage. This picture of abundant food and delight in eating lead us to look forward to the Messianic banquet at the end of the age (Matt. 22). Furthermore, the image of trees in the garden, especially the tree of life, brings us to the tree of life in Revelation 22 wherein we are told that this tree bears twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month (v.2).
However, in between these trees of life in Genesis and Revelation is the cursed tree in Calvary where the God-man Jesus Christ died. He was crucified and condemned to die in this tree not because He disobeyed God but because Adam and his descendants did. We are descendants of Adam. We were condemned both on account of Adam's failure to obey God regarding the forbidden tree, and our actual sins against God.
But Christ, the last Adam, took upon himself the burdens of our sin and misery, including death, including the most severe punishment of sin which is separation from the blissful presence of God. He bore them all in that tree so that in His death, that cursed tree became a tree of life for us who believe in Jesus Christ.
Now as believers of Jesus Christ in the new covenant by His blood, God allows us to partake of a new food, a new banquet, wherein our souls will be nourished and our faith in Him will be strengthened by His Word that confirms that food. The Lord's Supper and the green pasture of preaching the Word, when they are received by faith, enable us to enjoy and obey God by the Holy Spirit.
Another thing that draws our attention concerning this command is the Giver of the command Himself. God, in this passage, is portrayed as the Sovereign LORD over man. So the command is sovereign because it proceeds from the Sovereign LORD, the God and creator of the heavens and the earth.
It is interesting to note that the name LORD used two times in our text is the same name God gave to Moses when he asked about God’s name (Exo. 3). The name LORD is also the name God used to call Himself when He gave the Ten Commandments to His chosen people in Sinai. The LORD is the Sovereign God. He is the God who establishes covenant with His people. LORD is His covenant name.
In the New Testament, the title LORD is likewise designated to Jesus Christ. Time will come that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. He was with God the Father from the very beginning and He Himself is God. Through Him all things were made and without Him nothing was made that has been made. His disciples call Him Lord. The apostle Paul says that because of Christ Jesus’ perfect obedience, even in his death upon that shameful cross, God has highly exalted Him and has given Him the name that is above every name.
Thus the inspired author of the book of Revelation calls Him ‘the King of kings and the Lord of lords.’ Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Since He is the Lord of lords who gives His command to us new covenant believers to keep and obey we must humbly and gratefully submit to His lordship by faithfully keeping everything He commands to us. He is the Lord worthy of our trust and obedience. His word is our life. His law is our delight.
In Jesus Christ man experiences the ultimate union and communion with God. In Him and through Him, man’s living relationship with God is perfected. No one comes to the Father except through Him. Union with Jesus Christ is the essence of man’s relationship with God. Through Him God fully dwells with man in perfect communion.
Thus let us turn to Christ today and always for God calls us to worship Him in Christ. God desires from us a kind of service that springs from our faith-relationship with Him through Christ. God commands us to look unto Christ. He is our life and our salvation. God has established His gracious covenant relationship with us through Jesus Christ. It started in the Garden of God in Eden and it will consummate in the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, when it will come down out from God in heaven above. Blessed is he who hears this Word and believe, for he will be satisfied by the water of life who is Jesus Christ!