Eden’s Secret

EDEN’S

SECRET

A QUESTION

CONSIDERED

By

John Baker

The Question:

Was the Garden of Eden containing

the Tree of Life left, guarded and impregnable,

 as a testimony to what Adam

lost in the Fall?

I had just finished reading the account of Adam’s exile from the Garden  in Genesis 3, the flaming swords of the Cherubim guarding the way to the Tree of Life.  Then the account of Cain’s crime and his punishment in Genesis 4.  He, founding a city, and siring children of great talent and imagination.  And I began to wonder about that time and that world.  What if…….

EDEN’S SECRET

It was nearly 800 years since God had closed the way into Eden.  Man  was flourishing in many ways.  He was certainly being fruitful.  The population was doubling every 20 years.  Even including the losses to war people were multiplying on the earth.

Nahosh looked westward from the hilltop.  For hours he had ridden in darkness guided by the reflection of light from the clouds.  There was no way he was going to stop until his goal was in sight and his persistence was rewarded because there it was!  When  he topped the rise, it had nearly blinded him.  As his eyes adjusted he was awe struck.  Eden!  Even from this distance it was painfully bright.  The light seemed to flicker and Eden was far larger than he had ever imagined.  As he worked to overcome the effects of the first sight of the Garden of God, he thought back to the first time he heard of this place.

The storyteller told him many stories about his grandfather, Adam and about efforts to get the secret of Eden.  A young boy in the family of Cain had one advantage—education.  He knew his history, and here he was looking at something he had nearly written off as myth.  Far too overcome to sleep, he thought back to the storyteller.

The storyteller spoke of days when men had determined that God would not withhold eternal life. There were tales about the efforts to regain Eden beginning not long after his own father had been exiled to be a fugitive and vagabond in the earth.

He remembered a tale of a time early in the third hundred years when men first began calling upon the name of the Lord.  A group of men devoted to prayer and sacrifice sought to prove that God in his mercy would allow them back into the Garden.  They had set up a huge, ornate altar as close as they dared to the path of the flaming swords of the Cherubim.  They prayed and sacrificed to God to reopen the way.  But it was to no avail.  As fruitless years passed, the movement got stranger.   Getting more and more religious about the ritual they used and more and more particular about just what they chose to sacrifice.  They even had their followers convinced that they knew what God wanted even though for decades there was absolutely no proof that God approved of their religious ritual in any way.

They decided they would have better results if they paid their sacrifice directly to the Cherubim.  Instead of animals they began to use virgins.  Few were willing, and the leaders thought it looked bad for the sacrifice to be burned screaming curses at them.  So they switched to babies.  There was less resistance and the parents were willing to give them up if it meant eternal life for themselves.  Still the failure was beginning to have its effect.

So the leaders planned one final great sacrifice that even God could not ignore.

They laid one hundred babies on the great altar and lit the fire of sacrifice.  As the flames reached their peak a great wind seemed to fuel that fire and they knew that God had at last gotten the message. A great swirling inferno rose, it seemed, nearly to the clouds.

Then, suddenly, it blew downward over the entire assemblage, engulfing them.  Everyone was screaming and trying to run from the flames.  Then the earth opened and swallowed every last one, altar and all, closing again sealing the tomb.  Their end, it seemed, was experiencing the beginning of the wrath of God.

After that a rage against God grew. That He would wipe out those who seemed to be trying to please Him was an affront.  Intolerable!  The leaders of this movement convinced thousands that if they banded together they could overcome the two Cherubim.  Groups of men even small groups had overcome giants so why should they believe they could not hold their own against these creatures, though they were admittedly fearful to even think about.  The prize was surely worth the most valiant effort they could mount.

******

The battle had taken only minutes.  There was no way even the most skilled storyteller could make the tale grand.  It had been a horrendous slaughter.  The army had planned a full frontal assault.  An all out charge at a dead run both mounted and on foot along a front five thousand cubits long.  God would surely admire their bravery, and almost certainly reward it.  They would have the secret of Eden by midday.  This plan had ensured a very short battle, that much was certain.  They just couldn’t believe how short.  The Grand Army of Life, as it was called, marched to within one hundred cubits of the flickering barrier.  At the sound  of the horns they charged as fast and hard as they could run.  They would not be denied!

Bodies, limbs, armor, weapons and animals were burned and sheared asunder and the flickering flaming swords of the Cherubim weren’t even slowed. None had survived.  Not one.  Those in front had fallen so quickly that those behind had no chance to even slow down before they too, were cut to pieces.

No, the “Grand Army of Life” had been turned into a spectacle of death  and after that, very little effort or thought was given to getting into Eden.  “Let God keep his secret,” they said.  Once in a while a burned, sliced body was discovered and the finder just shook his head.  “Another fool for life,” they said.  Not that any one would turn away from even a hint that the secret had been found.  Naturally as a young boy, that had seemed very exciting but not very real.  Now it was real.  So real he was shaking.

No matter……He was far from being the first born of Cain.  His father was busy with governing a city which was fast becoming a magnet for men seeking everything, from tools and weapons, to musical instruments and wives.  So, little notice was taken of the umteenth child of one of the most important men on earth, the founder of the first city, and first merchant/trader.

Older brothers had specialized in metal working, art, music, all those things that brought recognition, fame and riches.  To get any recognition, he would have to do something really special. What that might be was given to him when he overheard a son of Seth boasting of his exploits in the west.

This warrior, Majael, was seeking a wife and the reputation of the women of the city of Enoch for their beauty was unsurpassed.  In telling of his exploits, he mentioned a battle that had taken place so near Eden that it never got dark.  They had fought until the enemy fled, too exhausted to carry on the battle.

Oh, how he hated them, these insufferable warrior sons of Seth.  They came into his city and took of the most beautiful women, whosoever they wanted.  And  the women!  Falling all over themselves to be chosen!  As if the local men were worthless.  Well, one day he would show them!  Show them ALL!

******

Nahosh had listened closely and gotten enough information, that he was certain he could find it, and here he was, looking at the fable.  To be unafraid of the power displayed here, one would have to be….  No! There are no words.  One simply could not fail to be overcome by this display of the power of Almighty God on earth.

Now, seeing the Garden for himself, he knew it was all true.  He was looking at the place God had sealed up to protect the Tree of Life.  He had exiled Adam and Eve after they had eaten of the Tree of  the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  God had exiled them to keep them from eating of the Tree of Life after they had sinned against Him.

Of course Nahosh had received a slanted version of the story.  God was cruel to have locked man out of Eden, and one day someone would find a way to get back in and get to the Tree of Life and bring out its secret.  That man would be the greatest man ever.  So, he was up with the dawn light.  It was still many hours travel to Eden, and he had plans to make.

******

He had planned on just sneaking in, stealing the fruit and gone, one, two, three.  No problem.  That was hours ago when Eden was on the horizon and the light was very bright and flickering.  Now he was close.  He was following a river bank hiding in the lush growth along its edge.

It was obvious that his plan was not going to work.  What was flickering from that rise hours ago was now flashing, flaming swords that had barely flashed by and were flashing by again and the flames kept the ground bare for cubits beyond the their path.  Waves of heat made clear view impossible and the flaming swords were an impenetrable barrier.

He  was fast beginning to understand that he was setting himself up to go against God if he was to steal the secret of Eden.  He wondered how he could succeed against the Creator of not only all that he could see, but he himself.  It seemed hopeless.

He looked at the river.  It seemed completely unaffected as it flowed from inside the shield.  The current was very slow at this spot and he suddenly knew the route in.  The secret was practically in his grasp.  He removed the heavy blade from his belt, knowing it would be unnecessary inside and slid down into the cool water.  He would swim in under that curtain of certain death and be gone again before even God knew what happened!

He took a few deep breaths to prepare and then held the last one.  He ducked beneath the surface and struck out strongly toward the light filtering down from the surface.  Just a few more seconds and he would be through.  He could hear the accolades.  Nahosh, the man who brought out the secret of Eden!  He would have riches untold! Even the grudging admiration of his father and older brothers would be his.

******

Majael and his new wife were heading west toward his home.  This great warrior had little to fear, even traveling alone.  He was following a path that, as the population grew, was becoming a main route of travel and trade between the city of Enoch, the small agricultural villages to the west and new cities springing up in a fertile valley far to the south.

He was one of a group of men who protected those traveling in areas known to be dangerous.  Where roving bands of men would take what they wanted.  They were cowardly and rarely would fight to take anything, but if opportunity presented itself in the form of a lone traveler who looked as if he could be easily overcome, they could be merciless.

In the near distance, Majael spied what looked like a man lying beside the path.  As he approached he could see that the man was not in good shape.  Burned, and bleeding from wounds head to toe, this young man was badly injured.  But instead of groaning and writhing in pain, he was sobbing, deep, racking sobs of unbearable, heartfelt loss, as if the wounds were nothing, and there was little response at first as Majael and his new bride began tending the wounds.  The young man hardly seemed to know he was hurt, so great seemed his sense of loss.

******

Nahosh could hold his breath no longer.  As his head came out of the water he gasped in needed air as quietly as he could.  Then it registered.  Paradise!  Beauty!  Not just beauty seen with the eyes.  Beauty that penetrates to the heart—indescribable, soul warming, loving beauty!

In that same moment the gut wrenching, horrifying, terrible sense of naked shame threatened to rip him apart.  In that instant, he knew.  God had allowed him to see what his grandfather and he himself and indeed all of mankind had lost.

He felt himself cast out, flying through the air, he could not tell how far, and landing hard rolling over and over.  He knew his body was seriously hurt but that was hardly a concern.  For God had allowed him to see the sinner he was, and what separation from Him truly meant.  He was crushed, lost, afraid and finally penitent.  He was sorry and he was changed.

Coming to himself, he felt the gasps that follow uncontrollable sobbing.  For the first time he was able to recognize the aid Majael had given him.  His wounds were treated and bound.

Majael had heard of wounds like this before, but had never heard of one surviving them.  The Cherubim took their mission to protect the way to the Garden and the Tree of Life deadly serious.  If this one had survived it was by the direct intervention and mercy of God Himself.  The look in the eyes of this wounded man gave away the fact that he also knew that to be true.

Nahosh, beginning to gather his wits and realize the mercy shown him by God, knew that from this moment on his life would be a witness to the love of God, and His mercy.

And the secret of Eden?

He had seen it, felt it, and knew it intimately.  God was not cruel to withhold the gift of eternal life from fallen mankind, but unbelievably merciful.  Think of a man in bondage to sin forever without end.  There would be no salvation and no mercy.  There would be eternal separation from God.  The secret of Eden is the mercy of God, and His plan to reunite His people to Him.

One day the Tree of Life would be revealed to all mankind.  Nahosh didn’t know how that would happen but he knew that the love of God would provide the way.  He now knew that no matter what he had heard before, the God who had exiled his grandparents and guarded the way to the Tree of Life had done so out of Love and not out of vengeance.  His plan would take time, perhaps many lifetimes.  But one day in God’s time every soul that had ever lived would know what he knew at this moment.

Nahosh had felt the glory of holiness and experienced the abomination of sin.  He knew his life was forever changed and embraced that change.

If you want to feel the glory of holiness you must first embrace the change God has wrought in your heart.  “If I become a Christian I’ll have to give up everything I like!” is no longer an excuse.  Why?  Figure it out!  Our Christian life is a process of renewing our minds!

 

 

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The Conversation of Cain and Abel Chapter 3

*****************

So this part of the story of Cain and Abel closes.  But what is to be learned from it?    Do you live your life, conduct your worship, and found your relationship with God based upon your answer to the first question God asked Cain?  “If you do well will you not be accepted?”

This begs the question, whose eyes measure your well-doing?  You say, “I am honest, I work hard, I go to church, I pay my tithe, I have allowed God to work through me to do his will!”  What does God say about the first four items on this list?  He says you must do all this plus!  What does He say about the last item?  He says HE works in us both to will and to do that which is of His good pleasure.  That does not speak of “allowing” Him to have His way.  That speaks of willingly and willfully carrying out His good pleasure; not passively “allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us”; but actively doing the will of God.

Cain had told God that it was the earth from which he had always drawn strength.  That means that he relied on God not at all but on the produce of his own strength and his sacrifice was given out of pride of self not out of recognition of the grace of God in his abundance.  He said that as a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth he would be hid from God’s face, proving that he refused to recognize God as his omnipresent Creator and sovereign Lord.   Finally, he said that this punishment would allow anyone who saw him to kill him, as if that punishment would be unjust and again stating that God really did not have that right!

Do you believe that he was correct?  Have you ever thought about God’s purpose in allowing Cain to “get away with murder”?  Did He?  What implications are presented to us in how we understand that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts?  Do we SAY that they aren’t, then presume to act as if they are?  Do you believe that a lack of persecution in your life is a mark of blessing?

God’s revelation of Himself to us, through the Scriptures of the Old and New testaments, reveals to us our fallen-ness and His plan of Redemption.  If it had not, we would never be able to appreciate the value of the advent of the Son, Jesus Christ.  The Lord gave us these snippets of human history that we might think and ponder and consider just who WE are in relation to Him; who HE is in relation to us; and how much He loves us that He would bear our affliction to redeem us.

His Word teaches us that if we love Him and truly recognize Him for what He has done for us, we will seek to obey Him.  Knowing how and what He expects is only possible through the study of His Word.  Faith without works is dead!  Consider for a moment any other sources from which we might come to know Him or the truth about ourselves!   You cannot come to know God’s will for your life until and unless you know and accept God’s Will!

The Beginning?

The Conversation of Cain and Abel Chapter 2

****************

The ritual was over.  Abel was beaming.   God’s acceptance was proven by the pillar of fire that had consumed the perfect lamb offered from his flock down to the bare stones upon which it was offered.

Cain’s sacrifice, the first fruits of his harvest, however, were nothing but ashes. God had shown no respect for his work nor the fact that he had burned the best of his crop to try to please Him.  He was angry and he was hurt.   Why? What was wrong with him?  Why was Abel so special?  Wasn’t he the first born?  Wasn’t he the one who worked so hard tilling the soil to produce the finest crop?  His mind was spinning!  He wanted answers and he kept going over these questions time after time and could find no reason God should reject his offering except that God didn’t want a relationship with him.  That conclusion was inevitable. He was undesirable in the eyes of God.  Days had passed and he was still in the same loop of questions. He could not come to any other conclusion and the more he tried the angrier he got.

Then he heard a voice he had never heard before saying his name!  No ordinary voice, but The Unmistakable Voice!  It said, “Cain, why are you seeking answers to the result of your sacrifice within yourself and why have you turned your back on Me?  Don’t you know that if you do well you will be accepted?  But if you don’t do well, you must deal with your sin, its desire is to be always in your life and you shall be its master.”

Cain heard the voice. Cain heard the words.  But Cain was beyond listening.  All he could think of was his rejection.  It seemed as if all God wanted was blood.  The work he had done, the beauty of his crop, the willingness of his sacrifice meant nothing. Perhaps if he talked to Abel he could figure it out.  Maybe if Abel would listen he would help.

****************

They had talked for hours.  Cain had asked Abel to come out to the field from which his sacrifice had been gathered.  Abel had agreed that Cain’s crop was perfect; had tried to explain to him as they walked, that God wanted to wipe away his sin,   but without blood that could not be done.  He told Cain that he needed to talk to their father, Adam, to find out more about why the sacrifice of blood was so important.

Adam had never before even mentioned a sacrifice to them until he had told them they must do such a thing for themselves.  He really wanted Cain to know from their father why it was so important.  But Cain did not seem interested in going to Adam.   So Abel was doing his best.

Abel asked him to think about what had happened to them when they had looked upon the guards of Eden.   He told Cain that even though his grain was the result of a lot of very hard work that his work was not the kind of work that God was looking for.  He told Cain that even though his grain was beautiful it was not the kind of beauty God was looking for. And, he told Cain that even though the grain was pure, it was not the kind of purity God was looking for.  He told Cain that it was a question of the condition of his heart even more than the actual contents of the offering.  Well, that had done it.

All Cain heard from then on were Abel’s lame platitudes that God would forgive…if… .  God tells me I’ll be accepted…if… .  All of MY works mean nothing, NOTHING!  Abel’s voice faded behind a red haze of hate.  Hadn’t HE made the effort?  Hadn’t HE grown the crops and rooted out the weeds?  Hadn’t HE produced a perfect sacrifice?  He had asked these very questions of Abel, and what had Abel said?  “Without blood there can be no remission of sin.”

As they talked they had continued to walk and by now found themselves in the fields where Abel’s flock was grazing. Cain had said he would think about it and try to understand and he turned to go. But he had a cold fury burning inside him.  Who did Abel think he was to tell him his heart needed changing?  Who did he think he was to criticize his offering as not being good enough?  God wanted blood?  Okay!  Blood it would be.  And with the heavy hoe he always carried, he turned on Abel.

Abel’s back was to him, his attention taken momentarily by some disturbance in the flock.  He never saw it coming. Cain struck him, and struck him again and again and again giving full vent to his fury.  He was in mid-swing when he heard it.

The Unmistakable Voice said, “Cain! Where is your brother Abel?”  He froze. His mind racing he said, “How should I know?  Am I my brother’s keeper?”  And The Unmistakable Voice said to him, “What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground!   Now you are cursed from the earth which has opened her mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand!  When you till the ground it shall no longer yield to you her strength, a fugitive and vagabond traveling the earth is what you shall be”

And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!  This moment You are driving me from the face of the earth from which I have always drawn strength, and as a fugitive and wanderer in the earth I shall be hid from Your face.  What shall come of that but that everyone who finds me shall slay me!”   “It shall not be so,” the Lord said, “for I set my mark upon you that whosoever takes your life, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.”

So Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and wandered in Nod, the land east of Eden.  In the beginning he eked out a living by selling tools and such to those who farmed the land.  By the time his wife conceived and bore Enoch his name was spread abroad as one who could craft fine tools and people were seeking him out to buy them.  So he settled on a hilltop overlooking a pleasant valley and began to teach his sons the craft to keep up with the demand, naming the settlement after his first born son.

As the years passed, the reason for the mark God had placed on Cain was a fading memory and many ignored it completely because of his talent and ability as a craftsman.  His sons gained great respect and fame as artisans, craftsmen and musicians.  The fear of God’s curse faded to naught.  In time even the Sons of God came seeking out the daughters of men to take as wives because of their beauty and sophistication.  And in his old age Cain looked at his world and thought in himself, “If this be the result of God’s curse, why should I need His blessing!”

The Conversation of Cain and Able Chapter 1

THE
CONVERSATION
OF
CAIN AND ABEL

WHAT COULD THE MOTIVE
HAVE BEEN?

By John Baker

We spend much time seeking to understand the violence of the Old Testament. We have a hard time convincing ourselves that the God of the Old Testament is a loving Father and not a wrathful, vengeful God who would rather mete out justice than grant mercy.
Perhaps if we tried to seek understanding by walking a mile in their shoes…?

Today was the day. The first sacrifice to be offered to God by the twins. Cain and Abel would today be officially recognized as priests in their own right, no longer dependent on Adam, their father, to secure their relationship with God. After today, they would be men full grown.

They had not known about this for long. Adam had come to them only a few weeks before and told them the time had come. He had taken them on a journey of many days walk. As they walked he had said nothing to them about where they were going or why, other than demand that they follow him. They asked the first few days and he told them nothing. They had become more insistent and he told them they would just have to wait. By the end of the twelfth day they were beginning to talk about turning around, this was getting to be too strange. They had long since passed the furthest point either had been from the warm well watered valley they called home, and the terrain was increasingly overgrown with tangled vines, towering trees, and huge ferns. They could rarely even see the sky and wondered if their father knew where he was going. The question in their minds as the days passed became how he knew where he was going even more than if he knew.

The terrain had begun to open up more three days before and their curiosity had been aroused when they had seen a faint glow in the sky seeming to emanate from beyond the horizon in the direction they were traveling.. Each night it had become more pronounced.
The morning of the last full day of their journey Adam told them that they would see the reason for themselves the next morning. They would just have to be patient a little longer because nothing he said could possibly explain until they had seen it for themselves. They grumbled but went along with him on the condition that one more day was it! They were up early the next morning. Adam seemed anxious and even nervous. They had never seen him this way. As they walked he began to open up to them. He seemed to suddenly be willing for them to know why. He spoke rapidly telling them the story of what had happened to their mother and himself; how God had exiled them from Eden because of his sin; how God had covered their nakedness by sacrifice, and how it was now necessary to give sacrifice to God to atone for their sin, as heads of their own families they would each be responsible to present the necessary sacrifice to God for the sin of his own family.

They were taking this all in with a great amount of unbelief. They had never seen their father act this way and thought there was something really wrong with him. They were at the point of not just turning around and walking home, but running. Their fear growing as they watched and listened to a man they didn’t know anymore.

The terrain had opened more, giving way to large grassy meadows with small groves scattered across a broad expanse. They had been climbing a very long ridge. In the near distance to their side was the Euphrates valley, with its lush green growth of wild grain and smaller groves of trees. It was so clear that as they topped the rise and saw the flickering, flaming swords flashing through the air in an endless dance that made a seamless wall they could not help it, they jumped back as if the flames would singe them. But they were still hundreds of yards from them. They looked again in curious unbelief. Behind the flashing blades they could see a lush inviting garden in the center of which stood two great trees. Taking in the view they were beginning to see that their father was not out of his mind; that all he had told them at least had some basis in truth because it stood right here before them!

Then suddenly their eyes were drawn away from the great trees, and the garden, and the swords, up, high above, to the gaze of those who were wielding them. Their countenance instilled fear, yes. But far worse was the feeling deep down of shame, of a rottenness in their bones; a sense of uncleanness they could not face. They fell backward and turned and ran as if driven. Adam had told them the story, indeed he was telling them of Eden when they topped the rise; but no words could describe the effects of being face to face with beings who lived in eternity before the very face of God. They didn’t believe until they saw. Just as their father knew they would not, could not!

Centuries later, the Israelites would get a small sample of the reflected Glory of the living God when Moses came down from the mountain. They told him he must veil his face else they could not stand in his presence. These beings reflected not just the glory of His rearward parts, but of His full presence; and no man on earth could stand in even the reflected Glory of God without seeing and sensing his own failure; his own shortcoming in the eyes of The Perfect Judge: he could see his own sin as GOD sees it.

Cain and Abel knew they would never come back to this place. If God wanted sacrifice, they would give it! That was certain! Adam alone knew the paradise that lay guarded against all who would seek to have it on their own terms or have it by their own hand; but he could not share it. His sons would have to seek their own path. From this day forward, he would not come here again either.

The journey home was made in silence, barely stopping for rest or food; each man dealing with the experience in his own way. Words were useless so each chose his course in silence and introspection. Yes, God would have their sacrifice that much was certain. The days after their return had passed quickly as each made his preparation for the coming of age; for his first step as priest leader of his own household.

And now the time had come. Upon their return, they had taken wives and they would have to take on the responsibility for themselves as heads of their own households.
On this Day of Atonement they would be responsible to God for their own sacrifice. And so they had gone about making sure they would have the best of the first fruits of their increase ready to give to God through burnt offering.

Now Cain was a farmer and he had the finest grain grown. He was proud of the fact that there were no tares in his field to pollute the crop and he was certain that when the time came to offer it up, God would be very pleased with his effort and conscientiousness in keeping it pure. Abel, on the other hand, was a shepherd. He cared for his flock and did his best to make sure that the most perfect lamb was ready to be offered up to God on that day, but he also realized that God was the one who decided the qualities of his flock. To Abel, the perfect sacrificial lamb was one provided by God Himself even if it was out of the flock he was tending.

There were other details concerning the altar and words of the ritual they felt they must have memorized, songs of praise to be written and sung, so that God would be pleased with their atonement and insure a smooth, orderly, beautiful service. Adam had left all the details to them. The time had flown by. Since the experience at Eden they both had looked forward to establishing their own relationship with God with much fear and trembling. Today would bring it.