On November 21, 2010 I wrote about what the words "work" and "keep" meant for Adam and Eve as they lived in the Garden of Eden. Here is the link: Guarding the Garden My conclusion was that Adam was to guard the Garden as a place given over to the glory of God and that while he failed, yet this has always been our duty; to use our lives as a tool for the glory of God. I also admitted that I didn't know exactly what his duty would be in keeping a garden in a prefallen world since nothing would be dying and there would be no weeds, etc.
I recently heard a sermon by G. K. Beale The Temple and the Church's Mission that I thought addressed some of these issues. He believes that based on Gen 2:5 "When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up--for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground", that Adam was supposed to grow the Garden as his family grew so that two things happened. As the population grew there would be enough to eat because they were planting crops and expanding the Garden so that eventually they and the Garden would cover the whole earth. Next, and more importantly, Adam was to have children to spread image bearers of God all over the earth as well. While the first point is somewhat speculative, I think his point supports what I said in my earlier blog. We are here to fill the earth or at least the places we find ourselves with the glory of God by loving him supremely and doing all for his glory. This got me to thinking:
There also seems to be a common theme of this throughout the Bible. Right after the flood God gives Noah the same mandate to cover the earth with people. Gen 9:7 "And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it." Of course, this time he is dealing with fallen man and so we might expect things to go in a less than perfect direction. And sure enough we find men deliberately refusing to obey the Lord and instead decide to live on earth to make a name for themselves and not for the Lord, Gen 11:4 "Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." So the Lord disperses them but by now it is obvious that fallen mankind cannot and will not use this earth and their lives as God intended.
In the next chapter of Genesis God seems to take up the work himself. He is going to send someone from the line of Abraham that will bless all the nations. We aren't given much light here but as the Old Testament goes on more and more light is given. Christ will come and give life to those lost in sin and darkness and the "whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." God is going to glorify himself all over this world with little image-bearers and it is going to be through Christ.
In Ezk. 47 Ezekiel has a vision of a temple that speaks of Christ. From it a river flows that is ever expanding and in verse 12 we see its effects, "And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing." Interestingly it creates a garden where there is wilderness. It also spills into the "Dead" Sea where there is no life and gives it life.
Later Jesus stands up and claims to be the fulfillment of this temple vision in John 7: "On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." Before he returns to Heaven as he gives the Great Commission I think he proclaims that he has begun a reversal of the Fall and that he has made little image-bearers of God that are supposed to replicate themselves all over the earth until he comes back. Mat 28:19-20 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
God's redemptive plan was to make the earth a place of worship unto his glory, filled with a people given over to serving him. We are to guard our lives to this end and plant the gospel where we go and spread the "Garden" by the gospel. God's plan will not fail and in Rev. 22 where we are given a glimpse of the new heavens and earth the metaphor of a well watered garden is again used.
Rev 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb Rev 22:2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Rev 22:3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.