The God Who Plants Gardens

Beyond Eden’s gates, we’re still given the same charge: to take care.

I once saw a bumper sticker with Adam and Eve hanging out in the bushes that said, “God’s original plan was to hang out in a garden with some naked vegetarians.” I laughed, but also found myself wondering, “Is God really bummed that we’re not all chilling out, eating fruit, and tilling the land? If sin never entered the world, would we all be naked gardeners? Is that God’s deepest hope for humanity?”

To understand the deeper lesson of Eden, we should note that Adam and Eve are essentially presented as priests—as stewards—of Eden. God calls them to “work [the garden] and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15 NIV). The Hebrew words used here for “work” (abad) and “take care of ” (shamar) are paired together in only one other place of the Bible: to describe the role of the priests in the temple. (See Num. 3:7-8; Num. 8:22-26; Num. 18:5-6.)

This connection is made apparent in other passages of Scripture. For instance, we’re told God walked “in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8). This word for His “walking” (mit halek) also describes His presence in both the tabernacle and temple. (See Lev. 26:12; Deut. 23:14; 2 Sam. 7:6-7.) And “the cool of the day” was the time when Israel’s morning and evening sacrifices were done, as the people came before the presence of the Lord (Ex. 29:38-43). Israel’s worship practices were built upon the foundation of Eden’s beautiful story.

Why is this significant? In the beginning, God planted a special garden at the center of creation—a sacred space where He dwelled intimately with His people. And the temple was understood to be the center of creation in the Old Testament, the site where heaven and earth intersected and where God took up residence and made His home with Israel.

God desires not only to dwell with His people, but also to extend His flourishing through them out into the world. God called Adam and Eve to tend the first garden, to care for it and also to “fill the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Like them, we too are called to carry God’s invigorating, renovating power into the wilds and wastelands of the world. Our heavenly Father’s end game is not simply to create mounds of fresh produce for the Saturday market (as wonderful as that is) but to bring creation under the kingdom reign of God.

God desires not only to dwell with His people, but also to extend His flourishing through them out into the world.

Tending the church
God still plants gardens today. His Spirit arrives at our doorstep, bringing the floral, resuscitating breath of Eden into the arid wildernesses of our lives, planting fresh patches of restoration in the places where sin has left its devastating mark. God delights in tilling the soil of our souls, watering and cleansing us to bring forth fresh growth, and making His home with us.

God also makes us a priestly people, but we don’t have a building of gold and stone to care for today. We have something even better, Jesus—the new temple—the place where God’s presence most intimately dwells. Jesus has been exalted as the center of creation, the entrance from which God’s heavenly power comes pouring into the earth, and when we are joined to Jesus, we become part of His temple. Ephesians tells us that in Him we “also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22).

Part of our calling is caring for the health of the church, building up believers as the body of Christ. Jesus abides with us, filling the earth with His presence through us, and His Spirit brings new life. In the Old Testament, Israel’s temple was filled with garden imagery: flowers, fruit trees, and crawling vines. Why? Because God’s presence brings vitality to His people. And He still does today—Jesus plants churches in the power of His Spirit, like pockets of Eden amid the destruction of the world. He transforms us and commands us to steward His life-giving presence in our midst so we might shine as a “light to the nations” and carry the love of God to others as a “kingdom of priests.” (See Isa. 51:4 and Ex. 19:6 NIV.)

Like Adam and Eve and the Levite priests who came before us, we are called to be ministers of a sacred space, to “work” and “care for” the garden of His people, to build communities of new life in the power of His Spirit as we anticipate together that coming day when the earth will be full of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

Related Topics:  Stewardship

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What happens to my notes

15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

7 They shall perform the duties for him and for the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, to do the service of the tabernacle.

8 They shall also keep all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, along with the duties of the sons of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle.

22 Then after that the Levites went in to perform their service in the tent of meeting before Aaron and before his sons; just as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them.

23 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

24 This is what applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall enter to perform service in the work of the tent of meeting.

25 But at the age of fifty years they shall retire from service in the work and not work any more.

26 They may, however, assist their brothers in the tent of meeting, to keep an obligation, but they themselves shall do no work. Thus you shall deal with the Levites concerning their obligations."

5 So you shall attend to the obligations of the sanctuary and the obligations of the altar, so that there will no longer be wrath on the sons of Israel.

6 Behold, I Myself have taken your fellow Levites from among the sons of Israel; they are a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD, to perform the service for the tent of meeting.

8 They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

12 I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.

14 Since the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you.

6 For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle.

7 Wherever I have gone with all the sons of Israel, did I speak a word with one of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, `Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?'"'

38 Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one year old lambs each day, continuously.

39 The one lamb you shall offer in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight;

40 and there shall be one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering with one lamb.

41 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it the same grain offering and the same drink offering as in the morning, for a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD.

42 It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there.

43 I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory.

28 God blessed them; and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

4 Pay attention to Me, O My people, And give ear to Me, O My nation; For a law will go forth from Me, And I will set My justice for a light of the peoples.

6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."

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