Feb - Mar 2020

Return To Eden

Feb 2, 2020

Week 1: Two Trees On The Mountain Of The Lord
Passages: Genesis 1-3, Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Overview: At the very beginning of the Torah the story establishes an image which shapes the rest of scripture: a mountain garden in which humanity can dwell with God in abundance, peace, and love. Within that garden are two trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. By eating from former tree, humanity chooses to trust God’ s judgment and teaching about what is right in the world. By eating from the latter tree, humanity decides to choose for itself what is right, which inevitably leads to death.

All of scripture depicts God’ s desire to bring humanity back to life in the garden. This choice between the two trees, the story explains, is one all humans must face. Will we trust in what God says is best? Or will we trust in our own judgment?

The Torah & law of Moses (often symbolized as a tree) is like the tree of life. By choosing to trust in God’ s teachings & commands, Israel could taste again the abundance of Eden and experience the presence of God. As we see through Jesus, that invitation extends to us as well. However, trusting in what God says is best is not always easy: loving our enemies, self-sacrifice, setting aside selfish gain, etc. But when we eat from that tree, we can experience the very best kind of life as we commune once again with the living God.

Week 2: The Ten Commandments
Passages: Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:1-22, Matthew 5:17, 22:36-40

Overview: Immediately after being rescued from slavery in Egypt, God gives Israel the Ten Commandments, the first words of a law meant to set Israel apart and give them life. All ten of these laws can be encapsulated in Jesus’ description of the “greatest commandment” - to love God and love others.

Although some of the commandments (i.e. sabbath, idols, coveting donkeys, etc.) may seem a little irrelevant today, when we understand the core truth behind them (the fruit of a life God considers "good", we see how they all open the doors to an Edenic life of abundance and create a just and peaceful society which once more dwells with God.

Week 3: Justice
Passages: Exodus 23:1-13, Leviticus 19:9-18, Deuteronomy 10:17-19

Overview: The law of Moses is full of commands which, if followed, would set Israel apart as a nation of justice and righteousness. Although it required sacrifices on the parts of everyone, the laws of the Torah were designed to create a society free from want, free from exploitation, and free from injustice. In short, the just laws of the Torah would shape Israel to be a nation full of abundant life and peace.

Although some of the specific justice laws in the Torah may strike us as odd (or even unjust, by modern standards!), the spirit behind each of them is reflected in the teachings of Jesus. The kingdom of God is meant to be a place, as the law describes, where the vulnerable and marginalized are loved and provided for and no one experiences lack.

Week4: Holiness
Passages: Exodus 19:6, Leviticus 18-19, Deuteronomy 7:1-6, Ephesians 1:3-4, 1 Peter 2:9

Overview: The law of Moses (especially the book of Leviticus) calls the Israelites to a lifestyle of personal and spiritual holiness. The categories of this holiness are often strange to modern readers (i.e. clean/unclean, ritual purity, lots to do with blood and bodily fluids, etc.). However, these laws were each designed to shape an Israelite’ s life to be set apart from the world around him/her, since Israel was called to be a “kingdom of priests,” representing God to the world and the world to God.

In the ancient world these commands, if followed, would have guided the Israelites into a lifestyle of devotion and purity which would allow them to dwell with God and guide the way for others to do the same. We, too, are called to be priests in this world. As a result, we must also pursue holiness - being set apart by how we live - if we want to experience God and share that experience with our world.

Week 5: Sabbath
Passages: Exodus 16, 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 5:12-15, Leviticus 25:1-22

Overview: The sabbath was intended to be a “cathedral in time,” a sacred day in which the Israelites could cease their labors (the curse of Genesis 3) and instead dwell with God, relying on his provision. It required great trust, but when lived out, became a powerful reminder that the Israelites were freed from slavery and invited into a life of blessing and abundance.

Although we may not be bound by the specific sabbath commands, we miss out greatly when we do not learn from this biblical concept. In the midst of our hectic, chaotic lives, we have so much to gain by routinely breaking away from the rat race to re-enact the abundance of the New Creation in the way we spend our time.

Week 6: Sacrifice
Passages: Leviticus 1-6, 16, Romans 3:21-26, 12:1-2, Hebrews 10, 13

Overview: Sacrifices to the gods were a very common aspect of ancient cultures. In Israel, however, these sacrifices played an especially important role. Some sacrifices expressed obedience, or gratitude for God’ s provision. Others, however, played a role in atoning for the sins of the people. These sacrifices, conducted at the entrance to the tabernacle (i.e. the entrance to Eden), were a means of replacing a corrupt, sinful life with a pure and sinless one - which is the only way one can dwell in God’ s presence.

Rather than doing away with the law, as some think, Jesus fulfilled it. In this case, by presenting himself as a pure and sinless sacrifice to atone for the sins of humanity. By making this ultimate sacrifice, Jesus opened the door of Eden once again, allowing all who put their trust in him to enter once more into the paradise of God’ s eternal presence and eat their fill from the tree of life.