By Brock Bondurant
Genesis 2:8 – The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
I listened to a teaching recently from a smart guy who refers to himself as a “Bible nerd” – Tim Mackie. He’s on a journey right now, a journey of exploring and experiencing the Lord’s presence in prayer. It’s a really refreshing thing to hear from someone of his intellect, that he hasn’t somehow graduated past that realm of need and discipline that is prayer.
Hearing him explain the season of renewal he is finding in prayer, something he admits to being malformed in (anyone else feel that too?! We’re not alone!), was really comforting. His vision of accessing God’s presence in the everyday monotony through prayer has inspired me to join in the seeking. As I’ve sought his presence in my own life, the Lord has led me to scriptures that highlight his presence and the place where it is accessed.
The place that Mackie discusses in this teaching is the Garden, the very place we were made to dwell. The idea of ‘the Garden’ is leading my journey in Scripture currently, finding its imagery and references littered throughout the entirety of the Bible. This journey of seeking the Garden, God’s presence, is nothing more than the journey humanity has always been caught up in whether we realize it or not.
Before now, I hadn’t realized that Eden is not only the birthplace of our earthly vocation (ruling in God’s Image), but the place we are destined to go to in the end. We forfeited it for a time, but haven’t lost it completely, as we will inherit this place of his presence. Jesus has restored our access to the Garden, as well as the vocation we had at first, ruling and reigning with Him on the earth (Revelation 22:5). In fact, Revelation 22, the last chapter of the Bible, is set around the river of life in which the tree of life is “on either side of,” (Rev 22:1-2). The tree of life is found in the Eden of Genesis, but seems to have made a return to us in the Bible’s closing lines. Jesus assures this by telling the thief on the cross “Today you’ll be with me in the Garden,” (Luke 23:43. You’ll have to listen to the Bible nerd to get that translation). Until now, I hadn’t seen how the Torah, the Psalms, the Prophets, Jesus’ own words, Revelation – all give us glimpses of the Garden. In fact, the Bible is a long story of God inviting us, and us struggling, to return to his presence in the original Garden-like state of existence.
Along the way of the return to the Garden, to God’s presence, God gave us the tabernacle (Exodus 25-31, 35-40) and the temple (2 Chronicles 3-7). Then he put on skin and became the walking, talking tabernacle in Jesus – God becoming one of his created beings in a physical presence (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). But now, we have the best yet – the Holy Spirit, God’s very presence inside of each one who believes, making us the temple of his presence. Via the Spirit we are now able to access that Garden-like place in prayer – union with God – transforming the very room we’re sitting in into the holy of holies.
This access to the presence of God is the gospel that Jesus came preaching, saying, “The kingdom of heaven has come near!” (Matthew 4:17). In other words, Jesus came preaching that God’s kingdom is present and accessible now to any and all who want it. The way to this access is through trust in Jesus himself. This Jesus knocks down every barrier in the way between us and God. The barrier of sin was destroyed at His cross. The barrier of death was defeated in His resurrection. The barrier of distance was eliminated in His ascension.
Through His ascension, Jesus gives us his very Spirit so that we can enjoy access to God’s presence here and now; access to the Garden every time we pray. Like Jesus, we can live a life of prayer in communication with God every step. It is in the Garden, as the old hymn says, that “He walks with me, and He talks with me. He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known.”