We received the following question; "Since God knew that The Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil was nothing but trouble why would He even put it in The Garden?"
This is a great question. If you really think about it, that's the type of question that many people would like to ask but few will ever receive a satisfactory answer. God created a perfect garden with perfect created beings yet He placed a tree in the middle that held the curse of certain death. Why would He do that? Why put the tree there then tell the humans they can't touch it for their own good? Why create the tree at all? Thankfully, we'll address those questions today.
Genesis 1:26-27(NLT) - Then God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like ourselves. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground." So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
When God created human beings He gave them something He had never given to any other created being. He gave them total dominion. They were given free reign over His earthly creation and with that they were given the power of choice. As the rulers of the earth they could make decisions on their own as it pertained to the earth and God would accept those decisions. In fact, in Genesis 2:19-20, God gave Adam the opportunity to name all the animals and God accepted those names. Nonetheless, the power of choice can only operate where there are options to choose from and the concept of a good choice assumes that there is also a bad one.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20(NKJV) - I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."
God said, "May heaven and earth stand as witnesses to the following; I give you choices, so make the right choice." Why let us choose? So we can choose to love Him. That's almost like a mission statement from God to humans. God's love for humanity was demonstrated in the blessing of free will. That's a great gift because by it's very nature, free will is the epitome of freedom. When people can choose as they please they are free.
Hence, people can choose right or wrong and that's the way God likes it. God's Will is for us to have choices so that we could make the right choices. He wants us to choose to love Him. He doesn't force us to love Him because that wouldn't be authentic love. How would you feel if your spouse forced you to love? That's not love at all, isn't it? That's not what God wants either. He wants us to choose Him. He wants us to choose life.
Genesis 2:8-9(NLT) - Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Was the tree inherently bad? I don't think so because everything God created He called good in Genesis 1. Yet, He expected Adam and Eve to obey His directions. It had more to do with obedience to His instructions and less to do with the actual tree. As a result, God wanted them to honor Him with their obedience. Also, look at the name of the tree. When they ate it, their eyes were opened and they knew good and evil. Until then, they only knew good and that was good enough for God. Is there something inherently wrong with knowing good and evil? Perhaps so, it sure opened up a can of worms that we still can't close today. However, at that time God didn't want them to learn it that way and that's all that matters. He obviously had a different plan.
So why did God plant the garden and put The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and The Tree of Life in the middle of it? It was a test of love. He laid before them life and death, blessings and cursings, then told them to choose life. He didn't force them to choose life but He encouraged them to choose it. That's His nature when it comes to His relationship with humanity.
He wanted an authentic relationship with us so He wanted us to be free to choose whether we wanted one with Him also. Any relationship that involves one party being forced to participate in it is not a real one. God loves us so much that He gave us the option to accept or reject His love. God continued that pattern of choice with His plan of redemption through Jesus.
John 3:16-17(NKJV) - For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Many people ask the question, "Why would a good God let people go to hell?" The answer is the same. God wants people to choose Jesus. Whoever believes in Him will live. He won't force salvation on anybody. He lays before us options. We can choose heaven or hell, life or death, blessings or cursings. That's how He operates. Our choices have consequences but God's love allows us to make those choices regardless of those consequences. He loves people who choose Jesus just like people who choose hell.
In The Garden of Eden, there were two trees in the center; one provided life and the other death. God didn't force Adam and Eve to choose either but He clearly explained the consequences then He got out of their way. He did that then and He does the same now. He makes sure we know the consequences so that when we make our choices we can be held responsible without ever being able to blame Him. In the end, it's your power of choice that makes you human. You can pray for God to do all kinds of things in your life but what you cannot ask Him to do is take away your power of choice. Let's bring this to a fitting conclusion.
John 17:14-19(NKJV) - I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world, Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
When Jesus prayed this prayer He had the opportunity to save us all from this world by asking The Father to take us out of it. Yet, that was not His prayer. He prayed that The Father leave us in the world but keep us from the evil in it. That's the same approach God used with Adam and Eve in The Garden. He didn't take them away from the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil, nor did He take the tree away from them. He put them and the tree in the garden but He gave them something that was supposed to keep them from the evil.
He gave them the truth and had they accepted the truth they would have been protected from the evil. Jesus said that the truth can sanctify us which means that it can set us apart or separate us from the evil in this world. As a result, the first thing the enemy did when he tempted Eve in Genesis 3 was to challenge the truth of God's Word that she had received. The moment she let go of the truth by questioning God's Word she was susceptible to the evil that was lurking in Eden. In much the same way, it's the truth of God's Word that keeps us from the evil in the world.
God's plan with Jesus was not to take the evil out of the world nor take us out of the world so we could escape the evil. His plan was to leave us right in the middle of the evil but protected from it by the truth. When we embrace God's truth we are safe from the evil of this world. He gave Adam and Eve the truth about the tree knowing that armed with the truth they would be protected. That's how it was supposed to work because the truth should have kept them away from the tree.
Nonetheless, that's God's modus operandi. He doesn't remove evil from the world and He doesn't remove us from it, He just shields us from evil by giving us the truth. He doesn't remove the darkness, nor does He remove the light, He just puts the light in the darkness. This will continue until Jesus returns. Only then will the earth be finally purged of all evil and only then will we be removed from it.