Perhaps one of the saddest scenes of the Biblical narrative is in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden. We read:
…the Lord God sent Adam out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
As Adam and Eve face the barren world before them, they know that something has been broken—their lives will now be full of toil, sweat, and pain. Their relationship with God might never be the same; they might never walk with him in the garden again. The world was broken now, they knew it, and they hoped for something different.
In God’s mercy, they had been given a reason for hope before they were cast out of the garden. When God curses the serpent that deceived Eve into sinning, he says that Eve’s offspring “…shall bruise [the serpent’s] head, and [the serpent] shall bruise his heel.” This means that the serpent will not have the last word—just as he deceived Eve into doing something that would lead to her death, he too will die (Genesis 2:17). Thus, even as Adam and Eve looked upon their hostile new world, they did not have to look upon it as people without hope. They knew that there was more of the story to come.
However, if Adam and Eve were to take hold of this hope—that they didn’t yet know the end of the story—they would have to believe God’s word would come to pass. Perhaps this should not have been an issue. In the first chapter of Genesis, we see that God’s word affects what happens in the world. He says, “let there be light,” and there is light (Genesis 1:3). His word is proven to be true at the foundational level, and from it comes the world itself and everything in it.
However, even though Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden, a literal testament to the power of God’s word, they still sinned against Him. Perhaps this is because the serpent knew the most effective way to tempt Eve into sin—making her question God. Indeed, the serpent begins his conversation with Eve, he immediately brings into focus the question of God’s word, saying, “Did God actually say?” making Eve doubt what God said as well as why he said it (Genesis 3:1).
However, even if Adam and Eve disobeyed God, his word could still be a source of hope. They did not know how the serpent’s head would one day be crushed or what it meant that the serpent would first strike their offspring’s heel. They did not know how their union with God might be restored, but they could hope that God’s word would be fulfilled.
On this side of the resurrection, we know how Jesus Christ fulfilled God’s word. Jesus lived a perfect life, and he took on the sin of the world when he died an innocent death on the cross. He took the promised serpent’s bite on the heel upon himself; he was struck by the sin of the world, and he died. Three days later, he rose from the grave in a literal resurrection. Death itself—and all the serpent represented—was defeated. The serpent’s head was crushed; Jesus was alive!
When Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of Eden, God put a cherubim with a flaming sword to guard it. Much as a serpent bite to the heel meant death in their day, an attempt to reenter the garden would prove fatal. Perhaps, then, it is no coincidence that in the gospel of John, Mary Magdalene is the first to see the resurrected Jesus, and she mistakes him for a gardener (John 20:15). The garden is no longer walled off, no longer impossible for us to get into. Jesus paid the price with his death, and now, just as the curtain to the Holy of Holies was torn into two, so now God is in communion with us through Christ.
This is the very real and tangible hope that Adam and Eve had to cling to as they left the garden. They did not know how the serpent’s head would be crushed—they did not yet know the name Jesus—but they knew that even as they turned their backs on the garden of Eden, they still had cause for hope.
Although Christ has come, the world is still in the process of restoration. The kingdom is here, but not yet, and creation groans for its redemption (1 John 3:2; Romans 8:19-23). We hope for these things, for the promise of a new heaven and a new earth, for the day when every tear will be wiped from our eyes and when we dwell with the Lord forever (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:3-4).
And, just as it was for Adam and Eve, our hope in these things is grounded in God’s word. As David writes, “My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word” (Psalm 119:81). When we anchor ourselves in God’s word, when we believe that his promises are sure to come to pass, we can look upon our world, in all its brokenness, and be, as the prophet Zechariah writes, “prisoners of hope” (Zechariah 9:12).
If you are struggling for hope, remember what God has said. Nothing—even our own rebellion and unbelief—threatens his promises. Even in our self-created exile, we can look to the promises of God, the promises that we once doubted, and be filled with hope that the world that we broke is being restored by God himself. There is hope after Eden. As Martyn Lloyd Jones once put it,
When he lived in paradise, he turned it into a place of shame….O No! Man can never put this world right, but God can, and He will.1
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