Have you ever tried to think about what Eden must have been like? For some people, it has the vague feeling of a fairy tale, but that is mostly because it is extremely hard for us to picture a time before sin had separated us from God. Other people have been conditioned (in their thinking about Eden) by the children’s Bible story books, videos, or even flannelgraphs that they saw in children’s church.
If I am describing you, it would be a good exercise for you to re-read the Genesis account of Eden now that you have the analytical abilities of an adult. Ask the Spirit of God to give you deeper insights into the scriptural descriptions of that foundational beginning of the human race.
One of the things which becomes clear as we ponder the passages is that God was not always “with” Adam and Eve. To all appearances, the first three chapters of Genesis describe a God who comes and goes. In Genesis 1, He has His first recorded conversation with Adam at the end of the sixth day of creation. But in Genesis 2, He “rests” from His work, setting an eternal example for us in the rhythm of work and rest.
And then later in Genesis 2, God places Adam in a garden which was located east of the location where Adam was created, in a region known as Eden. God gives Adam specific instructions regarding his duties there.
After some unspecified period of time, God returns and demonstrates to Adam his need for a life partner. He does this by instructing him to examine and name each of the forms of animals which God had made. In the process, Adam realizes that while all of the species of animals exist in both male and female form, he himself is not a duality of male and female; and with that realization, God is ready to present him with a life partner in the form of Eve, the first woman.
We tend to overlook the coming and going here. God “brings” the animal kinds to Adam. Then God “brings” Eve to Adam as he awakens from the anesthetic of God’s procedure. You cannot “bring” something without being in motion yourself. God was coming and going!
The next chapter finds Adam and Eve, to all appearances, “unaccompanied by God,” and the opportunity is seized by our ancient enemy to talk behind God’s back and lure Adam and Eve to the destruction of disobedience. It isn’t long after this takes place that the evening breezes begin to blow, and God appears in the garden again “in the cool of the day” (literally, in the breeze of the day).
When Adam and Eve hear the sound of God’s approach, they panic and hide among the trees.
In all of this, we can overlook the obvious: God was not always present with them … at least not in any way that they could notice. The fact is, that they actually experienced God at certain times of the day, but not at other times, or on certain days, but not on other days.
It is easy for us to see God acting that way in our day, since we are living in a fallen world and are a fallen people. We often feel like they did in 1 Samuel 3:1 where it was observed that “In those days a word from God was rare …”.
But in Eden before the fall? It is startling to think that God did not always seem to be present.
How could it possibly be that they were in their unfallen state (with zero sin in their lives, either in that present moment or at any time in their brief history) and yet they were still not hearing, seeing, or at least sensing God every moment of every day?
If we think about it, this is a fact with at least four potent implications!
- God can be happy with you and still be silent in various seasons of your life. If you are living life without a moment-by-moment awareness of the presence of God, that is not proof that you are not paying attention well enough or that God is giving you the cold shoulder. The truth is, even if you were ultimately sinless and had never sinned in your life (like Adam and Eve in the garden), you would likely experience times when God did not seem to be around at all. This is normal.
- God is not a “control freak.” When God delegated work to us, He didn’t intend to palpably hover over our shoulders. He believes in us and gives us the joyful freedom to work out what He has called us to do without micromanaging us as a human boss would do.
- When God is “out of sight” it doesn’t mean that you are “out of mind” to Him. He is just as aware of what is going on when He is nowhere to be seen as He was when He “came looking” for Adam and Eve after the fall. His eyes are on you just as much when you have no sense of His presence as when you are overwhelmed with His presence in your life.
- God often lets you take the lead in the relationship. This is what prayer is all about! You do not have to sit passively, wishing that He would interact with you. He invites you to come to HIM and begin conversation with HIM! David announced this great privilege in Psalm 145: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him; to all who call upon Him sincerely.” Jesus made that official in John 6:37 where He said, “Whoever comes to me, I will never drive away!”
Let’s end this article by talking about you. You have been serving God faithfully, but it has been a long while since you have sensed that direct word from God that causes you to feel shivers up and down your spine. You clearly remember the times when God’s Word seemed to always be present in your spirit, when God seemed right there in the room with you, and you miss those times! In fact, some of you who have read this far have been crying out to God in your private times, asking Him if something has come BETWEEN you or if something is actually wrong WITH you.
It is good to ask God those questions in case there is something that needs to be cleared up between you and Him. But if there IS something like that, He will NEVER make it hard for you to find out. He longs to have an unbroken relationship with you. So, if you ask Him to show you anything that may be displeasing to Him, He will not leave you in the dark. He will tell you and He will make it plain!
However, if you have taken that step, then come to Him with confidence and initiate conversations with Him every single day. Believe by faith that He is right there with you, even though your feelings suggest that He is light-years away. Pour out your heart to Him. Ask Him for help and His beautiful presence in your life. And then remain consistent in prayer (or, as our ancestors used to say, “constant in prayer”) until God begins to speak. And He WILL speak to you by His Holy Spirit!
God may be silent, but He is not absent. He may be invisible, but He is not indifferent. He may be quiet for a while, but He will remain near to those who cry out to Him, and when He finally speaks, as He Himself said in Ezekiel 12:25, “I am the LORD! When I speak, my word will be accomplished with no delay.”