God is love. Pure, unadulterated, raw, and reckless Love permeates every aspect of His Being. It is the foundational principle on which His created universe rests. But in order for love to exist, there must be relationship. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit lived together in this inseparable bond of love and fellowship for all of eternity, before anything else was ever made. But one day, out of this love, the Godhead decided to create. Of course, the Godhead could have simply created controlled, programmed beings who could not think for themselves – they would simply serve God forever and ever and never run the risk of disobedience. But God didn’t want robot slaves. He wanted friends – free-will beings who could receive His love and voluntarily return it. But love involves a certain inherent amount of risk, doesn’t it? When a husband and a wife choose to have a child, they do so knowing that there is no guarantee that the kid will “turn out okay” – there is always the risk that the child will one day rebel and spurn his or her parents’ love. The kid could fall into drug addiction, become an abusive alcoholic, or even eventually take his or her own life. But LOVE makes the risk worth it. That’s the decision God faced when the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit decided to create Adam and Eve, humans in the Godhead’s own image. God gave the man and the woman everything they needed to be happy for all of eternity. Together, they were given the beautiful paradise of Eden as a gift:
15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— 17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” – Genesis 2:15-17
“Except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” – this tree was the one limited access point from which the man and woman could be tempted. From this tree, Satan was allowed to take the form of a cunning serpent in the garden. We understand this serpent to be Satan because Revelation 20:2 identifies him as the “ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan” (NIV). I like to think of this tree as a sort of “voting booth” for Adam and Eve. God wanted them to continue trusting and serving Him out of love and perfect obedience for the rest of eternity, but He would not remove the opportunity for them to act out their distrust of His commands if they so chose. God had to allow the couple freedom of choice. After all, love that is forced is not really love at all.
Our next lesson will explore the tragic fall of mankind. But I pray that we learned something together by doing a little more “stage setting” for the most intense drama in all of human history.