Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect communion with God in the garden. They heard from and spoke to God directly. There were no sinful distractions that wedged themselves between God’s word and their obedience. Their lives revolved around God’s word.
But the serpent slithered over Eve’s shoulder and whispered the first lie that still echoes off the walls of our hearts: “Did God really say?” It was a seed of deceit, and it’s been sown deep in each one of us.
The unhindered experience of God’s voice that marked the garden was marred in a moment. Adam and Eve looked outside of God’s word for truth. They considered, “Did he really say?”
That whisper of deceit snowballed into an outright reversal of the original picture: loving obedience to God’s word became utter fear at the sound of his voice. Now when God spoke, Adam and Eve shuddered. They hid themselves in their newfound shame.
Hiding from God’s Word
The peace between God and man was shattered in the garden. We now view God and his word through a broken lens. We share our ancient parents’ plight in response to his voice. When it comes to encountering God through the means of grace, our guilt abounds. We have a garden response to the Scriptures: we deceive ourselves and associate God’s word only with condemnation.
After sin entered the world, Adam and Eve’s response to hearing God’s voice in the garden was to hide. The beauty of words — and the glory of hearing God speak — was twisted and marred. We’re afraid of the Bible because of our sin. We live with guilt and shame over our shortcomings, and the one voice that can speak peace into our condemnation remains unopened and unheard. We run from our Bibles.
We fear the verdict of the Judge, so we don’t hear the rejoicing Father’s song. We fear the piercing of the sword, so we don’t know the transformation of mortified sin. We trust in autonomy to figure out what God really says about us, so we don’t delight in his word day and night.
Following our own hearts, we are once again deceived. When we believe what our hearts tell us about who God is and what we think he’s said to us, we give reign to the serpent’s whisper. The result is distrust. And we hide.
The Gospel Invites Us Out
The good news of Jesus is ultimately news of an upside-down kingdom. The first are to be last. The weak shame the strong. Lose your life to find it. Jesus Christ left the glories of heaven to die on a cross, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. Enemies are now invitees.
Apart from Christ we move away from God’s voice, hiding in the bushes. Apart from Christ we find no delight in God’s voice when he calls to us. But the gospel reverses our loves. When we’re born again we begin to experience new affections. We begin to look like our Father. We begin to delight in what we once feared.
The gospel reverses our deceit-inducing fear into delight. The Spirit begins restoring the picture of the garden. Now when we hear God speak, our heads peak out from the brush. His words woo us to him. The very message of the Bible is that of a Father drawing us out from behind our self-deceptive fig leaves and clothing us with the spotless Lamb. We begin to see God’s word, not as a thundering voice of judgment, but as the delightful invitation to come and walk with him.
Delight in God Through His Word
There are two passages of Scripture that bear striking similarities: Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7–8)
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:1–3)
Trees lapping up water, yielding fruit, fearlessness in changing seasons. The shared imagery is undeniable. But did you catch the difference?
The prophet promises these blessings to the one who trusts in the Lord; the psalmist promises them to the one who delights in his law.
Here’s the point. The prophet and the psalmist use God and his law interchangeably. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, they understood that his word is the clearest and most direct means by which he communicates himself. There is no loving and trusting God without knowing him, and there is no knowing him without hearing his voice.
Walk with God in the Garden of His Word
John Calvin once said, “When the Bible speaks, God speaks.” When we read Scripture and encounter its beauty and power and truthfulness, we are really experiencing the beauty, power, and truthfulness of its Author. We’re face-to-face with God in Scripture.
Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden; we walk with him in the pages of Scripture. And through Jesus we now have peace with God. Therefore, we also have peace with his word. We must not deceive ourselves, viewing Scripture as a voice of condemnation. It’s a loving voice from the Father to be delighted in.
As you think about encountering God through the Scriptures, don’t believe the lie of the garden. Don’t look outside of God’s word, wondering what he really said. Don’t deceive yourself, believing that trusting and delighting in God are somehow detached from obedience to his word.
Respond in light of the gospel: trusting, loving, and delighting in God by delighting in his word each day.