In these verses we turn to the second of the two connected creation stories, this time the focus moving away from the big-picture creation of all things and onto a particular aspect of that creation – the garden and its inhabitants.
In the first part of the account, we learn more about God’s creation of man, made from the dust of the earth and given life by the breath of God. God planted a garden in the East and gave growth to many trees that were good for food. This garden was a blessing from God to the man, and in its midst were two trees that were pivotal to how the story develops – the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The focus of this sermon is on how this garden relates to the rest of creation. It is set apart as something distinct, and in it is the blessing of life and the presence of God. In this way it follows the Biblical pattern of a temple – a place of meeting where people experience the Lord. From the garden flow four rivers, each heading out in a different direction and watering the land. We have already seen the the humans had a mandate to ‘subdue’ creation – that is to bring something of this Eden-like glory to the surrounding wilderness. Now we see that from Eden the waters of blessing flow and bring life to the surrounding areas.
The image of water flowing from God’s temple and giving life is richly developed as the Scriptures go on. From Ezekiel’s vision to the promise of Jesus that rivers of living water will flow from the hearts of those who believe, finding it’s fulfilment in the river flowing from the new Jerusalem, with the tree of life yielding its fruit for the healing of the nations. The idea is simple – God’s blessing was never meant to stay in one place. Those who have been blessed by his presence are sent outwards that his blessing will spread and bring life all around.
Some Key Points:
- God formed the humans as both physical (made from the dust) and spiritual (given life by his breath) beings.
- God created a sanctuary for the humans by planting a garden – in this garden is the tree of life, and here they would meet with him and enjoy his presence.
- From this sanctuary, flow rivers of blessing that bring life to the creation around it. God’s blessing always flows outward from the place of his presence.
Following the Threads:
- Ezekiel 47:1-12 tells of the prophet’s vision of the temple where a river is flowing out from the building. As this river encounters sea water, it is turned fresh. The river is full of living creatures, and the further out from the temple you go, the deeper the river becomes.
- John 7:37-38 is a promise made by Jesus that any who would follow him would have the Holy Spirit. As believers, we are God’s temple, and Jesus says that from us will come streams of living water.
- Revelation 22:1-2 is the culmination of this theme. In the new creation, when all of the New Jerusalem is the temple, the river of the water of life flows directly from the throne of God, and by its side the tree of life. The fruit that the tree produces is described as ‘the healing of the nations’.
- An Invitation to Enjoy – Like the first humans, we have been given life and invited to enjoy God’s presence. This is a good time to remind people of this truth and invite them to lean into his presence and enjoy him.
- A Call to Mission – The blessing of God’s place is designed to go outwards. This creation picture is a great illustration of the call we have been given to mission. We have been reconciled to God, and now we have been given a ministry of reconciliation, taking the good news and blessing to the ends of the earth.