- The “garden” represents the heart;
- the heart is the place where God meets and dwells with us;
- the heart is fertile ground—able to produce both life and death;
- Adam was to cultivate and guard his heart;
- Adam’s heart was conquered by death.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” –Prov. 4:23
The Garden Represents the Heart
Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” —Gen. 2:15–17 (NKJV)
Adam was given the mandate to tend and keep the garden. We often assume the word “tend” means “till the soil” and the word “keep” means supervise or manage, but really “tend” means be in service for the well being and the word “keep” means guard (shâmar). Adam was, therefore, supposed to “cultivate” and “guard” the garden.
But is garden life really just a world of flowers and fruit trees, and is Adam’s God-inspired work that of a simple gardener–cultivating the plants all while guarding the land from potential threat? Not at all. Ultimately, the garden is God’s kingdom on earth:
“The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” –Lk. 17:20-21, NRSV
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” –Mt 25:34, NRSV
You [Jesus] were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.” –Rev. 5:9–10, NRSV
It was here in the lush–and extremely fertile–garden of Eden, that both man and woman (the two representatives of God) would dwell and hold dominion. Through the garden scenario, we understand that God’s righteous and loving kingdom had been established on earth through the hearts and minds of the two people He had created.
The Heart is the Place Where God Meets With Us
They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze. –Gen. 3:8, NRSV
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory… that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. –Eph. 3:16–17, NRSV
Because the garden is God’s kingdom on earth, a kingdom that is best understood as existing within the human heart, we can then understand that “tending” and “guarding” the garden isn’t at all about clipping roses, tilling fields, and physically watching for enemies. Garden life is about keeping our hearts aligned with God through a love-based relationship. Garden life is about remaining kingdom focused–within the depths of our very being. Anything that jeopardizes the love a person has not only for God–but also for their neighbor–becomes a serious threat to the “garden.”
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ –Mt. 22:37–39, NRSV
The Heart is Fertile Ground
Unfortunately, we are sometimes taught that because Adam was given the mandate to guard the garden this must mean men in general are not only the world’s protectors but also woman’s. Such teaching loses the enormous purpose of true garden life as the garden mandate “to be on constant guard” is a mandate that all children of God have. We are each responsible for the guarding of our own heart and we all must “cultivate” the soil of our “gardens” in order to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit:
Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil –Lk 6:44–45, NRSV
Amazingly, the human heart is capable of being in constant relationship with God thereby producing good fruit–the fruit of love and life. However, the heart also has the ability to turn away from God thereby producing evil and death. Because the heart is able to produce both life and death–it must be guarded faithfully:
For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. —Mark 7:21–23 (NRSV)
Adam was to Cultivate and Guard his Heart
For Adam, God’s word to “guard the garden” was a prophetic warning of impending danger: Adam’s heart would come under attack. If Adam were to stay the course and keep his heart aligned with the love of God then the attack would not prevail. But if Adam’s heart did the unspeakable and actually turned away from God then death would win. When God introduced the law, it was a simple means to reveal the deepest parts of humanity:
“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” —Gen. 2:15–17 (NKJV)
When God established that very first law (not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), the law’s purpose was to bring to light what lay hidden within the heart and mind as Romans 5:12 explains, “Sin is not reckoned when there is no law.”
The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings. —Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NRSV)
So God tests our hearts and minds in order to reveal to us what it is that we really value and desire. How does God do this? Easy—“sin is not reckoned when there is no law.” Therefore, God establishes a law.
Notice, the law is not given to Adam because he is Eve’s leader. *The law is given to test and reveal the state of the heart and mind:
The Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. —Ex. 15:25, NRSV
Adam’s Heart was Conquered by Death
The heart is where love and covenant are kept; the mind is where understanding is kept. Adam and Eve were created by God in God’s very “image and likeness.” This means the couple both “represented” God and “looked” like God. They were earthly metaphors for the God who created the universe. They were living allegories of a very real God–so close in person to the God who created them that they were thought of as His/Her very children.
It was precisely because of who they represented, that they were given dominion over the earth. Having dominion meant that both their hearts and minds should exist in love and unity with both each other and the God who created them. If either of these two God-representatives were to fall into sin–if they were to think and act in ways divergent to the God they represented; OR, if they were to turn against love altogether–they would lose the kingdom entrusted to them.
In order to stay in this position of dominion both Adam and Eve had to guard their hearts and minds. Not surprisingly, these are the two places where the enemy directed his assaults.
A fall always begins in the mind or the heart.
(1) The Mind: We can either become confused, and then act faithlessly based upon misunderstanding and uncertainty.
(2) The Heart: Or, our hearts can turn completely away from God toward darkness. In other words, if our love for God grows cold, we risk simply walking entirely away from God toward something or somebody we deem more valuable.
Well, we all know the story of Adam and Eve’s fall. First, the serpent attacked Eve’s mind:
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. –2 Cor. 11:3, NRSV
Next, Adam was attacked. Adam knowingly chose to eat the fruit, meaning he was not deceived or “tricked” into eating it as Eve was. “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. —1 Tim. 2:13–14, NRSV.
The act of Adam taking the fruit from Eve without hesitation reveals to us the state of Adam’s heart. Once Adam ate, death set in. Death followed Adam’s action because Adam’s heart had turned completely from God toward death.
It was Adam’s sin of purposefully choosing to eat the fruit and thereby walking away from God to bow down to death that broke the covenant relationship:
“But at Adam they transgressed the covenant.” –Hosea 6:7
For more information on Adam and Eve’s sin GO TO: Adam & Eve, Two Types of Sin