This sermon is number 1 in a series of 5
The Presence Of God - Part 1
"In The Garden"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2010 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Let's bow again in another word of prayer, and I ask you to pray with me that the Lord will bless us and really meet with us tonight. Father, we come again - we keep coming, Lord, because we have great need. We long, Lord, to meet You like the Psalmist, 'As the deer pants after the water brook, so pants my soul after Thee, O God'. We long that we should appear before You in the temple, in Your meeting place - and so, Lord, we invoke the name of the Lord Jesus, Your meeting place with men, and we ask in His name, and on the merits of His precious blood, that You will meet with us tonight. O God, we long for You, we just long for You, Lord - and we pray that You will not disappoint us tonight, but that You will come, and that, Lord, we will have liberty in the Spirit to linger on in Your presence if You should come. We're trusting You, and believing You, that You are going to come and bless us tonight and meet with us. O God, we pray that You will break whatever bondage may be in each of our lives that might prevent or clog up the communication from Yourself. Lord, we pray that we will do business with God tonight, and that we will be conscious that we are hearing the very voice of the Almighty. Lord, we pray that everyone gathered here would know what it is for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. O God, we pray that they will be given fresh visions of Christ in all His glory. Lord, we long for that, we long to see Jesus, and we long to know what it is to commune with Him, to dine with Him, to sup with Him and He with us. So Lord, we open the door and we invite Him in - and, O Lord, we pray by the power of the Holy Spirit that His manifest presence will be revealed to everyone here tonight. So Lord, hear us we pray, in Jesus' name we ask it, Amen.
I want you to turn with me please to Genesis chapter 2. If you received one of the cards about the meetings, you will know that we're going to look at 'The Presence of God' these nights, and we're going to trace it through the Bible effectively, from Genesis to Revelation, some of the highlights of when the presence of God was manifest. Tonight we're looking at the presence of God 'In the Garden', and that is the Garden of Eden, of course. Now we're not going to do an initial reading just at the beginning, but I want to do a general introduction first of all concerning 'The Presence of God'.
Before I do that, let me just say that there's not really much of a format to these meetings, I think, other than we have a hymn and a prayer and then launch into the Word - but what I felt led, at least, that we should do (I've spoken to Bertie about this and he was actually led independently, and was going to mention this to me) is that after we deliver the message, that if you feel exercised - and there's no pressure on anyone, I know there are commitments, and people have to go home and do certain things and you can't get out of those things - but if you should feel moved of God to just wait in the presence of the Lord (and I believe the presence of the Lord is going to be here after each of these messages in a very definite sense, we will be conscious of that), if you want to linger on, and certainly that's what I like to do when God shows up, is to linger on in His presence and enjoy that, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to my heart and life and see what He's going to do. Well, you're at liberty to do that - and, in fact, we would encourage you to do that - don't feel under pressure, but do wait behind if you can.
Now there is more written in Scripture about God's desire to dwell with His people than there is about man's desire to be with God. Let me repeat that: there is more written in Scripture about God's desire to dwell with His people than there is about man's desire to be with God - and that is profound when you consider the whole of Scripture. The great passion of God's heart, as He has revealed it to us from Genesis to Revelation, is to dwell in the midst of His people - not just to dwell, but to have a manifest presence among His people. Now that has always been His heart's passion, it is presently His heart's desire, and it always will be into the eternals: to dwell with His people, but to manifest, to manifest His revealed presence among them. This is a predominant theme from Genesis to Revelation, and that's why I've taken the headings that I have this week: 'The Presence of God in the Garden'; 'The Presence of God in the Tabernacle and the Temple'; and this is the pinnacle of God's revelation of Himself 'The Presence of God in Immanuel', God With Us; 'The Presence of God in Pentecost', or alternatively in the Holy Spirit and His work, His person, and His ministries; and then Friday night, God willing, we're going to look at His manifest presence 'In the New Jerusalem', in the eternal state. All of that, I suppose each of them anyway, are just examples of how generally this is the gamut and weight of the message of the Bible: God wants to dwell with people, and He wants to visibly dwell with them.
Now, if that is the predominant theme of the word of God, surely then it follows that this must and ought to be the pre-eminent focus of our personal Christian experience? God's presence, and God's manifest presence - to know the presence of God in our personal lives. So let me ask you right at the outset of this series: how much of the presence of God do you know? Or how much of the manifest presence of God do you know? Now, some will say: 'Well, surely God is omnipresent?' - and you know what that means, don't you? He is all-present, He is everywhere present - and, of course, that is true. Psalm 139 is often used to prove that, and rightly so: 'Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?', the Psalmist says, 'If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me'. You can't escape the presence of God, He is everywhere - but if that is the case, and it is, surely then that applies to unbelievers as well as believers? Does it not? If He is beside us in His omnipresence, He is beside them wherever they may be tonight in all sorts of places, even immoral places, God must be there in the same sense as He is with us in His omnipresence - but here's the great question: do they know His presence? Of course they don't.
Then some will say: 'Well, there's the omnipresence of God, and then there is the presence of Christ within His church'. There is the oft quoted verse in Matthew chapter 18 and verse 20: 'Where two or three are gathered together', Jesus said, 'There am I in the midst' - and it's in the context of where the Lord was talking about church discipline, but nevertheless I think there is a broader principle there that the Lord Jesus is the sole and only Head of the church, and when we gather together as a church we gather to Him, unto His name and His presence in the midst. So Christ is present wherever two or three believers are gathered - He is there - and yet, though we believe that He has fulfilled His promise, yet we read in the book of Revelation of a church called Laodicea, and we read that it was His church, 'to the seven churches', it's called a church, Christ is addressing it as His church, as the Head of the church, as the Judge-Priest moving among the candlesticks of His churches, His local assemblies in Asia Minor - and yet Christ's presence, in some form, is shut out of that church. So, it has to be the case that Christ's promise is fulfilled - where two or three are gathered together there He is in the midst - but there is another sense in which the presence of Christ, manifest, revealed in power, was shut outside; and that's why He said: 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him', or dine with him, 'and he with me'. They were not enjoying the full extent of God's intent that we should know in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, and we'll not look at this passage in any detail, you know that He threatened to spew Laodicea out of His mouth because they were neither hot nor cold, but they were lukewarm. Yet He hasn't, at this moment, spewed them out of His mouth yet; and yet Christ is still outside the door. He hadn't spewed them out, but they had shut Him out.
Now, how then are we to understand the presence of God? Well, let me compare it with the work of the Holy Spirit for a moment. When you're born-again you receive the Holy Spirit as a gift, you can't be born-again without the Holy Spirit and receiving Him as a gift. Romans 8 verse 9 says: 'Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His' - and that, in a sense, is a bit like the omnipresence of God, or indeed the presence of Christ in the church. What I mean by that is: when we're born-again the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives, He is there, He is resident. But that is not the self-same thing as having the whole character of the Holy Spirit manifest in our lives, and indeed His holy persuasion in our everyday experience, which the New Testament in Ephesians 5 verse 18 speaks of as 'the fullness of the Holy Spirit', where the Holy Spirit becomes President of our lives. So when we're saved He becomes resident, He's there; but when we're filled with the Holy Spirit, He becomes President, He's in control - in other words, we are aware of His all-pervading presence in our lives, and other people become aware of that as well. Now that is very similar to what I'm talking about: there is the omnipresence of God, we know He is everywhere, and He is everywhere even adjacent to unbelievers this very evening, but they are not knowledgeable of it, they are not in the experience of it. We know He has promised to be in the midst of His church as the Head, and even operative in dead churches, pruning them - and yet what we are speaking of here is a personal and conscious knowledge of God's presence. Let me go further to say: even an intense experiential knowledge of God's presence over and above the mere acceptance of facts.
Evangelicalism is plagued, particularly conservative fundamental evangelicalism, is plagued with facts. It was Vance Havner who once said: 'Evangelicalism has all the facts, but makes the wrong conclusions'. He is right in this regard: we believe in the omnipresence of God, we believe Christ is present where two or three are gathered in His name, but we must not conclude that that means that we are experiencing everything of the presence of God that God intended for us - because we're not! We ought not to be kidding ourselves that we are, irrespective of what our theology may tell us!
Now sometimes this is a characteristic of revival: God manifests His presence very definitely. I have heard people express this in the record of revival: 'God was everywhere' - what must that be like? Brian Edwards has a wonderful book, a synopsis of revival, and it's entitled 'Revival: A People Saturated With God' - that's really what we're hitting at tonight. So you may call this 'The Revival Presence of God', but that's not really where I want to go because my emphasis tonight and in these meetings is not just something that happens like a flash in the pan when there is a great awakening or revival of God's people, but I would rather call this presence of God 'His Abiding Presence'. Someone once said, 'In revival God comes down, but we want a God who stays' - I think that's a profound statement. It's not that we despise what God does in revival, but the great blessing that we ought to have in our everyday - what ought to be a normal Christian experience - is the abiding presence of God with us, and I mean by that a conscious, perceived sense of God that must be practised and has to be preserved, and I believe it is one of the blessings of what John speaks of in 1 John as 'fellowship', and what John speaks of quoting our Lord Jesus Christ in John 15, the gospel, 'abiding in Him', the vine.
I hope I'm narrowing this down for you, and you're understanding now what we're getting at when we're speaking of, in these meetings, the presence of God. But let me go a bit further and say to you that this is more than just knowing God. Let me illustrate it to you like this: imagine you have a friend from childhood, you've known them all your life up to now, and one day you're in the centre of Moy, or Armagh, or Portadown, or wherever. It's a stormy day, the wind is blowing and there is blinding rain, and you're all wrapped up with your hat, or your scarf, or your hood up, and you bump into that friend, walking along the street you bump into them - but you don't recognise them. Now do you still know that friend? Yes, you still know them, you've had knowledge of them from your childhood, but the benefit of their presence has eluded you simply for the reason that you failed to recognise them. Do you understand? You know them, you've always known them, but that day you did not recognise them. Now, you can know the presence of God, and you can even know it is there, and you can even experience it intensely at certain times of your life - but what we're speaking of in this series of meetings is perceiving God's presence, and the secret of perceiving God's presence is recognition. It's alright to understand what it is intellectually, and to have experienced it from time to time in your life, but if you're going to know that abiding presence of God every moment of every day, you're going to have to recognise it - and I would vouch to say that most believers today don't recognise the presence of God. One of the reasons why I know this is: whenever I, at times, move about, and God's presence comes, and I sense God's presence in a meeting, people just get up at times and blabber about the weather, the football scores, the politics, the finances, everything - and they're not conscious one iota that God is there. That's why I like to encourage people to sit still at the end of meetings, I find myself more and more disposing of closing hymns, because sometimes the closing hymn is the bird of the air that snatches away the seed of the word of God and the presence of Christ.
Recognition: do you recognise? Hebrews 11 verse 6 says: 'He that comes to God must believe that He is', and you've got to believe that God is here, God is here! If you're going to experience an intense manifestation of His presence, you've got to first of all believe He's here - then you'll be expecting it, then you'll be seeking to recognise it. Such perception of the presence of God comes, therefore, by faith: 'He that comes to God must believe that He is, and is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him'. Faith is the evidence of things not seen. We can't see Him, but we must have faith. It says in that same chapter, Hebrews 11 and verse 27, of Moses that 'he endured as seeing Him who is invisible'. Are you getting it? God is omnipresent, Christ is there where two or three are gathered in His name, there is a sense of the revival presence of God that comes at very special times, but what we are speaking of is the abiding presence of God and Christ that we can know moment by moment, and it is almost tangible by faith when we recognise God in the midst of the church and in our everyday lives and we seek Him.
Now, the first record of man experiencing the Divine presence is in the Garden of Eden, Genesis chapter 2 and chapter 3. In verse 8, and I'll not be reading a whole long reading, we'll just be jumping in from place to place, in verse 8 we read these words: 'The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed'. Now, it seems that there was a special Garden in the vicinity of a place called Eden, not just Eden itself but a locality called Eden, and in Eden somewhere there is a garden. In Ezekiel 28 we read that Eden is the garden of God, so that simply means that this is a garden made by God for man - Adam. Now there is much speculation about the geographical location of where Eden was, but of much greater importance is the meaning - what does 'Eden' signify? 'Eden' may be related to a Hebrew verb which simply means 'to luxuriate', or 'to delight' - alright? Now that gives us an idea of what Eden is all about. In fact, the Psalmist put it like this in Psalm 16: 'You will show me the path of life', and you remember there was a Tree of Life in Eden, 'and in Your presence is fullness of joy; and at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore'. If ever there was a definition of the garden that was in Eden, it is that: 'to luxuriate', 'to delight' in God's presence.
It actually stands parallel with a description of what is called 'The Garden of Jehovah' or 'Yahweh' in Isaiah 51 verse 3. You don't need to turn to it, I'll quote it to you: 'For the LORD will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden', and this is what it is to be like Eden, 'And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody' - that's what Eden is like, 'Joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody'. Now it is obvious, right from the very beginning of the record of God, that Eden, this garden idyllic paradise in the midst of the locality of Eden, was a trysting place for God with man, for Adam to meet God. It was a personal and private retreat where Adam the first man, and Eve the first woman, could rendezvous with their Lord. It's no surprise, therefore, that the name is given perennially to it as 'Paradise'.
Can I ask you before we go on any further: do you have a paradise? Do you have a retreat? Do you have a personal private rendezvous with the Lord? Do you have an Eden? Do you know what it is to draw to the right hand of God and know fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore? Do you know what it is to go down the path of life? Do you know what it is to have joy and gladness, thanksgiving and the voice of melody? That's what God intended from the very beginning.
In chapter 3 of Genesis we're given a more intimate indication of how this fellowship may have developed. If you look at verse 8 of chapter 3 this time - and of course this is after the fall, but nevertheless it gives us a clue or two into the relationship with God - it says in verse 8: 'And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden'. Now this tells us a little bit of how this fellowship with God developed between the first man and the first woman. It appears from verse 8 that they heard God approaching - that's what it says: 'they heard the sound', or the voice, 'of the LORD God walking in the garden'. The implication is that when they heard God approaching their direction they instinctively knew that God wanted to be with them. That is the way it was from the very beginning: God approaching them - and we have got this concept, don't we, rightly or wrongly, of us always coming to God? Here it is: God was coming to them continually. They would hear, if it was, His footsteps, and they would know: God wants to meet.
Now, of course, they had sinned now - and it's very interesting to me, and I only saw this earlier today, look where they hid themselves. At the end of verse 8 it says that they hid themselves 'among the trees of the garden'. So it appears that when they heard God approaching, they used the provisions of God that He had given them in the garden to hide themselves from the presence of God. Now think about that for a moment: in Eden, the trysting place for private and personal intercession and communion with the Almighty, the gifts that He had given them to feed them and sustain them, they actually use those good gifts, perfect gifts, to hide themselves from the presence of God. I can tell you: that's what a lot of Christians are doing today! They're using church as a substitute for experiencing the abiding presence of God. They're using their doctrine - some of them right, some of them not so right, but it doesn't matter - substituting with doctrine a real living presence of God in their lives. You can see this in many people who have hobbyhorses, doctrinal hobbyhorses, it's all they ever talk about - it's substituting a living vital relationship with God in His presence.
It's fascinating to me that they actually used the things that God had given them. I hear people talking about 'quiet time', and I don't talk about 'quiet time' any more because people have a conception that if you read a couple of chapters for the day, and you pray down your shopping list of prayer, that you've met with God. The Bible is from God and prayer is from God, but you're using the gifts of God to hide yourself from the presence of God if that's the superficial level of your walk with God.
Now, this verse 8 seems to indicate, even before the fall I believe, how the Lord fellowshipped with Adam and Eve. You can see that it's very natural, isn't it? 'They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day' - it's close fellowship. Leopold, the commentator, says: 'The almost casual way in which this is remarked indicates that this did not occur for the first time just then. There is extreme likelihood that the Almighty assumed some form analogous to the human form, which was made in His image'. There's anthropomorphism here, that simply means references to human faculties concerning the Divine: He's walking, His voice is heard - and I believe that this is a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, who was with God and was God from the very beginning. Now this is beautiful: Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, in this private personal trysting place of joy, gladness, fellowship and life, walked with the pre-incarnate Christ - and yet now we find them hiding from His presence.
It's 'the cool of the day' - in the margin of your reference Bible it might show you that that simply means 'the breeze of the day'. From Hebrew geography and culture, we hazard a guess that this is probably late afternoon in the day. I want you to think about this, this is painting a picture: late afternoon, Adam has worked a day - there's nothing sinful in work, that was before the fall! - he had worked a full day's work, the blood is pumping through his veins, his muscles are smarting. He comes in and he sits down in his trysting place with God and, I hazard a guess, here late in the afternoon he rests in God's presence - does he have a meal with God? There's a lot about us dining with God and dining with Christ, isn't there? That's fellowship, isn't it? I don't know, but it's a wonderful picture, isn't it? Certainly Adam knew what it was to say:
'I come to the garden alone,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
He walks with me, and He talks with me,
He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known'.
The presence of God in the garden. Here's something more we know, back to chapter 2 and verse 9. There were many trees in the garden, chapter 2 and verse 9, 'out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food' - there are two trees in particular that seemed important in God's original creation, 'The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. One tree of life, and the other of the knowledge of good and evil. Now without getting bogged down in things that are not relevant to our subject, let me just say this much: the message that God was sending out right at the beginning - and there are great questions over the problem of evil, and why did God put the knowledge of good and evil before Adam and Eve and all the rest, we're not getting into that tonight, but I'll tell you this much - at the beginning, what God was giving mankind was the choice between His presence and self. That's why these two trees are in the garden: the choice between communion and intimacy with the Godhead, and there was a test in the Garden of Eden right at the very beginning - God wanted man to choose freely Himself over self. Can I say to you: that is always the choice. Every day of our waking lives that is the choice. The test in the Garden of Eden has always been the test: will I be God's, or will I be my own? Please note also that the first sin was that very choice that was made in the presence of God, the first sin was a choice made in the presence of God - and every decision that takes us out of God's presence is sin.
Adam made this grave mistake, and can I say to you also that this trend was repeated in his son's life, Cain. Look at chapter 4 verse 13: 'And Cain said to the LORD, 'My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me''. Then verse 16, now look at this: 'Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod', look where he sojourned, 'on the east of Eden'. Now here are two lessons, very simple: one, we must make the choice to be in God's presence - is that the choice you're making? Two, it will be a choice of disobedience that will take you out of God's presence. It's very simple, isn't it, but profound? Every day of your life, every moment of every day of your life, you make a choice to be in God's abiding presence or outside it - and that will determine how much of God's manifest presence you're experiencing. Equally so, it will be a choice of disobedience that will take you out of God's presence. Look at verse 15 of chapter 2 for a moment, with the choice, and this is a choice, there is great responsibility - verse 15 of chapter 2, now this is before the fall: 'The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend it', to dress it, to cultivate it, 'and keep it' - that's simply what 'dress it' means, to tend it, to cultivate it and keep it. Now we, when we commune with God, are in a gracious, merciful relationship - and it is a free gift, but it's got to be cultivated, it's got to be worked at. So this garden - this is before the fall - when God gave him this trysting place, he had to work at it, he had to keep it.
So, with the choice to be in God's presence, there is a responsibility - but something else: Eden was not just a responsibility and a privilege, but it was something that benefited others. If you look at verse 10 of chapter 2, out of this communion with God we see blessing flowing, benefiting others - verse 10 of chapter 2: 'Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads'. Do you see it? A river flowing from the midst of Eden, and the picture is that outflowing this trysting relationship and communion of God with mankind came a life-giving, a fertilising river that blessed the whole of creation. Now that's literal, but it's also a spiritual picture of what the Psalmist said in Psalm 46: 'There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High'. We'll see this on Friday as you go to Revelation 22 and verse 1, and we go to the New Jerusalem, John was shown 'a pure river of water of life, as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb'. I'll tell you better than that: now, presently, in the life of the believer, we are to know rivers of blessing outflowing from our inner being. Jesus said in John 7: 'On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water''.
You see, there are great blessings - this is basic stuff, really basic stuff: God made us to meet with Him, God's desire has always been to dwell in the midst of His people, a greater desire than we have ever had to be in His presence. When we are with Him, it's a responsibility, you've got to work at it, it's a choice that's made every day and every moment of every day to abide in His presence, in a million choices that are facing us every single moment of our lives. Yet, if we are in that place of paradise, rivers of blessing will outflow from our lives that will fertilise and bring life to many!
But, of course, this story doesn't have a happy ending. In verse 10 of chapter 3 we see the tragic consequences of Adam's choice. He made the choice, and in verse 10 of chapter 3 he said: 'I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself'. Now, I hope you question the word of God - I don't mean you question it from the point of view of authenticity, but you ask questions when they arise. Don't just skirt over things and try to say, 'Well, it's the Bible and it must be true'. We know it's true, but we've got to try and reconcile many of the things within the word of God. One thing that pops up at me when I read that statement in verse 10 where Adam says 'I was naked', is that he senses a shamefulness in his nakedness. In verse 7 we see this: 'Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings'. There was a shamefulness in the nakedness, but to me that just grates a wee bit with something we read in chapter 1 and verse 25, if you look at it, it says - now this is before the fall into sin: 'They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed'. Now I can't be dogmatic in this, and I want to reiterate that - I'm not saying that you can prove this from Scripture - but there seems to be something has happened here. They're naked in chapter 2, and they're naked in chapter 3, but all of a sudden they feel shame about their nakedness. Now I know that the depraved and fallen mind has a lot to do with that, and the connotation of what their nakedness now meant to them in their depravity - and there's still nothing wrong with nakedness, He formed the body, God did, and it is pure and perfect, it's what our minds and our hearts do when we see that form - but I think there may be something else here.
You don't need to do it, but if you turn to Psalm 104 verses 1 and 2, you read there these words: 'God covers Himself with light as with a garment' - God covers Himself with light as with a garment. When you go to the Transfiguration account in Matthew chapter 17 and verse 2, when the glory of the Lord Jesus came forth to the three on the Mount, it says: 'He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light'. Now, what am I trying to say through this? Well, the Bible definitely does suggest that light can be a garment for the righteous, 'Lucifer' means 'light bearer', and it was his responsibility before he fell into sin to reflect God's glory. Now, that was man's reason for being created, created in the image of God to glorify God, to do what Lucifer failed to do. I'm only suggesting that perhaps one of the ways man did this in the beginning, as Lucifer did, was being clothed with God's bright glory light. So he was naked, he was naked, but he was clothed, perhaps, with a bright glory shining forth, reflecting the glory of God that he bathed in in his communion with the Almighty. I'm not being dogmatic, but when you think about it, it seems strange to me that the birds of the air should have feathers, the beasts of the field should have fur, and the pinnacle of God's creation and reflector of His glory should be running around stark naked, or at least without a covering of some kind. It's only a suggestion. Donald Gray Barnhouse says: 'It is more than probable that they were clothed in light before the fall and, when they sinned, the light went out'. Well, one thing is certain, when they sinned, whatever light there was, it went out. The glory departed.
Look at verse 24 of chapter 3, the tragic consequences of Adam's choice: 'So He drove out the man', what a statement! 'He drove out the man'. I wonder did that mean that Adam went reluctantly, perhaps fearing that that was the last time he ever would be in the presence of God in that trysting place of Eden? 'He drove out the man', and then what did He do? 'He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life'. Now, as you scour through the whole of the word of God, you will discover that cherubim are always associated with the presence and the glory of God. I could give you a number of examples: Isaiah 6 is a very well-known one. But do you see in Scripture, whenever cherubim (which are angelic creatures, if you don't know that) are represented as being on Earth, sometimes we see them in Scripture as being in heaven, but whenever they are represented as being on Earth the significance is - like the Tabernacle, and the Temple, and so on, like Isaiah 6 with the cherubim in the Temple - they're indicating, they're marking God's meeting place with man, that's always the significance. When you see cherubim on Earth it's signifying God's meeting place with man - and that's why there are cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple and the Tabernacle, we'll maybe look at that tomorrow night. But we see here in verse 24 the phrase: 'He placed cherubim', and the phrase 'and He placed', has the same root in Hebrew as the word 'Shekinah' which means 'the dwellingplace of God'. We're going to look at this as we go through the week: the Shekinah glory of God is the manifest dwelling of the presence of God when it takes visible form - and sometimes it takes visible form as flame, or as cloud, and there are other ways, as darkness. But here you see God now driving the man out of that trysting place, that Eden in Paradise - and what does He do? With the cherubim signifying now on Earth God's meeting place with man, He puts a demonstration of His Shekinah glory, His visible presence.
Now, I don't know about you, but it seems to me that when man fell God did not destroy Eden. Is that not interesting? He didn't destroy it. He still marked it as a meeting place with man with the cherubim. His Shekinah glory was there, but man was separated from His presence, and would be forever separated from that intimacy unless a redemption price could be paid. But I want you to notice this: God didn't destroy Eden, what He did was He left it to the effects of the curse of sin. So I want you to think of it like this: God didn't shut down Eden, Eden deteriorated because of neglect. How Eden is deteriorating today because of the neglect of God's people among whom He wishes to dwell! The great theme of the Gospel is: this is why Jesus came; this is why the Christ of God came; this is why the One, perhaps, whom Adam and Eve walked with in the cool breeze, the breath of the late evening, whom they talked with and dined with, why He took upon Him permanently human flesh - and He said it Himself, John 17 and verse 3: 'This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent' - that's eternal life. It's not pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die, it's not just getting saved and knowing you're getting through the pearly gates. Praise God for our salvation! Praise God for deliverance from hell! But my friend: this great redemption plan that God has purposed has always been in His heart, that we should know Him and know Him through His Word, through His Son, and through Christ, and through the Gospel that we have had imparted to us by grace in the Spirit - Paradise is restored! More than that: we have redemption! We have something that Adam never knew! Isaac Watts put it like this:
'In Christ the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost'.
I want you to grasp this: we can know God better than Adam ever did or ever could! Do you believe that? Do you really believe it? We've seen how God met with him. We've seen the relationship, the intimacy, the casual, natural way that they would hear God walking toward them, and they would know that He wanted to be with them. All because the Lord Jesus Christ, this same One - and this is profound - He wept in a garden, John 19 says He was crucified in a garden, and we read that He was laid in a garden tomb; and He broke the bands of death, hell, the grave, and sin in a garden to reverse everything that was done in that original garden - that we again might know the Paradise of God in our everyday life. Where is Paradise now? Well, it's in the third heaven. Some people are erroneously teaching that when the child of God dies today, that they go into 'soul sleep' - that is not biblical. We go to the third heaven, where Paul was taken. He says he was taken and he was shown things that were unutterable, he couldn't share them. It says that he went to the Paradise of God.
We will see on Friday night that this Paradise of God is found in the New Jerusalem, and we read that the Tree of Life is there. Can I say something to you: I believe that the Tree of Life is available now to sustain every believer spiritually, His people. Let me show you how, turn with me - and we're almost finished - to Revelation chapter 2. We start at verse 1, and we're not going to read the passage, where the Lord Jesus now - this same One who wishes to fellowship intimately with His people, this has always been His objective - and He's writing now to what we know is the loveless church of Ephesus. He commends them, in verse 2 He says: 'I know your works, your labour, your patience' - they are very active in great labours for the kingdom of God, and that's not a bad thing. Also He commends them for their doctrinal orthodoxy: 'You cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars' - doctrinally true, right, correct. But we know that their problem in verse 4 is: 'I have this against you, that you have left your first love' - they are the loveless church. They have lost their trysting place with God, they have lost their communion, they have lost their intimacy, they have lost the abiding presence of Christ in their everyday life in the midst of the gifts that God has given them: works, service and doctrine - the trees of the garden - they have lost the presence of God! Imagine it!
In verse 7, now mark this, He says to this church and to us: 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes', who overcomes the conditions that prevail in this church of Ephesus, 'To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God'. Now I believe that that has a future application as well, but I also believe with all my heart that wherever God is is Paradise! If you're experiencing this abiding presence of God and Christ - indeed the thrice holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit - you will know what it is to eat of the very Tree of Life, of the Hidden Manna; you will know what it is to feed on Christ who is your life, the glorified, risen, exalted, High Priest seated at the right hand of the Father.
So, how is your Eden? How is your Eden? Is it deteriorating because of neglect? Well, may this place tonight be someone's Eden. We're just going to wait on in the presence of God. If you sense and discern His presence, then you're at liberty to wait. You can pray, you can sing, but please be aware of whose presence we are in - and if you're going to say anything or sing anything, may His presence and His fear be before your eyes. If you need to do business with Him, if you even need to do public business with Him, there's no greater place than when you're in His presence.
Father, we feel ashamed that Adam seemed to know more about intimacy with You than we, Your own redeemed people, who are joined to Christ, Your Son, in a way that Adam never was. We who have eaten of the Tree of Life, and tasted of heavenly things - Lord, that we should live for this world and all the filth, and the filthy lucre, setting our affections on things that are down here - O God, Lord help us, help us. How could we not run to You? How could we not throw ourselves at Your feet? How could we not just spend our days basking in the presence of Your love? How could we not be taken up with Christ, that this Earth would become nothing to us? Lord, help us. There are people struggling here tonight, and I struggle too, Lord, with the love of other things. Lord, I struggle with so much in time, and even these trees of the garden, gifts that You have given and we get taken up with them and we miss the Paradise. Lord, we don't want anything tonight to be contrived or engineered, far from it - but, Lord, we believe that You have come and You have met with us. We believe that You have spoken to us, and we pray that, as we linger on, that You will intensify Your presence in our midst - and that we might know that we are being invaded by Divinity. O Lord Jesus Christ, we seek Your face. O, we pray tonight that, like Adam, we will hear Your footprints coming toward us, declaring that You would meet with us. Whatever we need to do, Lord Jesus, to let You in that we might dine with You, help us to do it now - for Your glory we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered in The Lifeboat Fellowship in Moy, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the first recording in his 'The Presence Of God' series, entitled "In The Garden" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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