A Garden in the Mind - Part 1
The Trees of Life and Death
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 29 June 2002
I wonder if you have ever had a dream where you have found yourself in a beautiful garden? Some people have seen visions of beautiful gardens. There is nothing quite as charming and relaxing as a garden in full bloom on a warm summer's day. Here in the northern hemisphere we have just passed midsummer's day, most of the flowers have blossomed, and we are watching the first of the fruits starting to ripen. By copiously watering our berry bushes in our garden every day we have ensured that the harvest will be fat and juicy. Already my thoughts are on our winter store of black currant and red currant juice, not to mention fruit pie and cream.
Everybody has heard of the Garden of Eden and what it was like. In heaven there is another garden called Paradise, a word we have borrowed from ancient Persian which means "a walled garden". I am reminded of a delightful film we have called The Secret Garden about a little girl who restores a dilapidated walled-in garden which her uncle locked away because it reminded him of the happy times he and his wife had spent there before she had had an accident and died. Because the garden reminded him of her and the intense pain of his loss, he shut it away. But the little girl found it, defied his order that none should go in it, recultivated it in secret, and then brought her uncle's bed-bound son into it where he learned to be happy and free again, and as a result of which he was healed of his illness. Beautiful gardens do have a healing effect on troubled souls as well as on those who are physically ill, but as we all know, maintaining one does take a tremendous amount of hard work.
The Garden of Eden was once a place located in what is modern Turkey near Lake Van. It has long since gone, either removed by Yahweh or perhaps destroyed in the flood. Adam and Eve were barred from ever returning to it again because of their rebellion and disobedience. What I would like to suggest to you today is that the Garden of Eden was not only a place where the first couple lived in innocence and happiness, but that it is also a state of mind which anyone can rediscover if they want to - a source of holiness, beauty, innocence, happiness and perfection that is actually our natural state but which we have lost because of sin. Indeed, the word Eden actually translates as 'delight'. The home of our first parents was a Garden of Delight. It is where all of us, in our deepest yearnings, stripped of the illusion of carnality, secretly want to be.
Throughout the Bible we learn that fields and gardens are symbols of the cultivated mind. Likewise, the things that grow in them, and make them beautiful, are symbols of those things which make the mind beautiful. These include such things as spiritual thoughts and feelings. And where these are, you will find moral and religious beauty too. Righteous principles implanted in the mind give to their possessor spiritual grace, beauty and dignity. The things that grow in the earth are, in the Scriptures, symbolical of those principles that grow in the mind. What we plant in our minds, through free choice, determines the kind of garden we cultivate.
As we know, the principles that are rooted in the minds of some people are evil and so we will not be surprised to find symbols for them in the Bible. Yah'shua's (Jesus') parable of the sower, for instance, reminds us of the thorns which choked the good seed, and another parable of how Satan has sown tares among the wheat. These bad plants, which we call 'weeds', are symbols of evil principles. And as you will know from your own gardens, if you don't regularly weed your flower beds, they soon become overgrown with weeds and the good plants are unable to grow well. Weeds, thorns, briers, thistles, and all noxious plants are symbolical of those evil principles with which our minds would be speedily overrun if we neglected them; while useful herbs, trees, flowers are types of the good principles which grow within when the seed of the Word of God has been received and nourished in the soul. Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
"Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up" (Mt.15:13).
The plants planted by Yahweh are 'the trees of righteousness', which are all sweet and lovely principles; whilst those which he has not planted are the poison plants of spiritual death, all evil and destructive principles, and which are destined in the end to be rooted up and destroyed. And if you have ever done any weeding, you will know that some of them have roots that grow deep and wide and are hard to get up. You will also know that if you don't pull the whole root up that the weed will simply grow back again. Not only must you get to the root of sin in your life, but you have got to get rid of it by digging deep. And you will have noticed that sometimes digging up weeds involves bringing up huge qualities of soil, much of which is wasted. There is a price to be paid for letting sin take root, a sacrifice to be made. But it is better than being swamped and having your garden of good things destroyed. Look at some of the rough patches around your gardens and you will see what I mean. Parts of our own property were cultivated but are now totally swamped. That can, and does, happen to the human soul. For this reason I recommend gardening as a wonderful way to learn about what is required of us in the cultivation of our inner mental and emotional garden.
The way we are supposed to be, and which is depicted in Genesis as a garden, is described thus:
"And Yahweh-Elohim planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground Yahweh-Elohim caused every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food: the tree of life also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil" (Gen.2:8-9).
Yahweh placed man into this garden just as parents - mothers and fathers - have the sacred duty and responsibility to place their own children into such mental gardens. It is our calling as parents to cultivate godliness in our children by bringing them to a state of Christian goodness. That is why our parents' rôle is so critical to the well-being of us all. The only way that parents can actually bring their children to a state of goodness is by becoming mental gardeners, which means putting Christian goodness into their minds. A man dwells in love when love dwells in him. And so Yahweh put Adam in the garden because He put him in that state of order and beauty symbolised by the garden. Pastors have the same responsibility towards those whom they spiritually father, as husbands do of their wives. This means that the responsibility to cultivate order and beauty is the father's, the husband's, and the pastor's. If they fail in that, they will cultivate families and churches whose minds are filled with weeds and noxious thoughts. And if they do not do this, then it is better they never became these things at all, because of the severe judgement that will befall them.
Let us, for a moment, consider the various trees in the Garden of Eden. We are told that these trees were not only pleasant to look at, but were also a source of food. This means that they are pleasant for mental sight and a good for the heart to feast upon. Is it not pleasant to look upon justice, integrity, meekness and mercy? Is it not good for the soul to feast upon the heavenly virtues of charity and love? All the mental principles which Yah'shua (Jesus) taught were all planted there by His Heavenly Father. As we meditate on His gentleness, kindness, and love, especially for little children, we are looking at the trees in His Eden, which things all Christians find delightful to their sight. And when we feel better and stronger because of them, we are, in a way, feasting on them, and finding them good for food.
All too often people get lost in the abstract things of the Christian faith, and though correct doctrine is vitally important to provide a vessel for our faith, they are lifeless without this mental awareness and heart-feasting on the virtues of godliness which we find revealed in Christ. If our souls are not filled with delight with the visual beauty of goodness, and if our souls lack the passion to feed on kindness, virtue, holiness, and all that makes for a wonderful inner garden, then we are dead. Mental delight and heart-passion constitute the root of all that is worthwhile in man. We must have these things for any doctrine to have meaning. It is these things which bring the Torah to life, and their absence which makes it stale, dry and empty.
So now let us pause to consider the Tree of Life which lay at the centre of the Garden of Eden. Of what principle was that an emblem? What is it that is spiritual life in our minds, and the absence of which is spiritual death? If, for instance, you knew that the Bible commanded you to love Yahweh and your neighbour, and you did not love them, should you have spiritual life? No, of course not. But if you knew that you ought to love God and your neighbour, and you did love them, would you have spiritual life? We all, I think, know the answer to that. Love is spiritual life. The principle of love is the tree of life. It was located in the middle of the Garden because that principle is the central spiritual principle, and has always been the central fact of all truly spiritual men and women. And you will notice that this is the same tree which is in the centre of Paradise mentioned in the Book of Revelation:
"To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God" (Rev.2:7, NKJV).
What this means is that love is the central fact or principle of heaven, which, of course, is the paradise of God. And notice -- please don't over look -- the fact that the privilege of eating of this tree comes only to those who overcome. What, do you imagine, is it that must be overcome to enable us to love? Whatever weeds and noxious plants that clutter up the garden of our minds: jealousy, anger, bitterness, laziness, faithlessness, immorality, drunkeness, coarseness, cynicism, sarcasm, pride, egotism, indifference, and all that would drive the soul away from Yahweh. These things have to be overcome, else how can we possibly love?
Listen to the way the New Jerusalem is described in the same book:
"And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" (Rev.22:1-3, NKJV).
Now there is much contained in this passage. You will remember what Yah'shua (Jesus) said to His disciples:
"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.." (John 7:38-39, NKJV).
You see, the waters of life must proceed out from our own souls, and in the midst of it, and on either side of it, must be the tree of life. And this is brought about by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) being in us, for this tree is love. Those who are anointed by the Ruach (Spirit) will become wellsprings of love, and that is the sign of being baptised by the Spirit, not all the babbling that charismatics claim is so necessary. Indeed, we are told, are we not, that the Ruach (Spirit) is quiet and peaceable, a virtue that the women are supposed to set an example in, because that is the principle most natural to them (1 Pet.3:4).
The New Jerusalem, brethren and sisters, is you and I - the redeemed of Yah'shua (Jesus) and from whom are flowing living waters bounded by the tree of life. It is the Church, the Fellowship of the Redeemed, the Body of Christ. In the ancient days the Church of God (Assembly of Yahweh) was a beautiful garden, and love was the tree of life in the centre. And in the future - in the Millennium, the Church/Assembly will be a glorious city, and again love will become the central feature of the regenerated minds of its people, instead of the mad scramble for miracles, tongues, wealth, power and all the other distractions that take us away from the heart of Yah'shua's (Jesus') message.
This is the Wisdom of the Gospel, its very Ruach or Spirit. When a soul has acquired spiritual wisdom, it will have acquired spiritual love, which is the life of wisdom. And where do we obtain that? Through the Ruach (Spirit). Recall the words of Solomon when he said:
"Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding ... she is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her" (Prov 3:13,18, NKJV).
Wisdom is applied knowledge. It is not just theory or doctrine, but true doctrine incarnated by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), and whose principal fruit is love. Indeed it is the Ruach (Spirit), which is the source of the love that comes from the Father. It does not come automatically but has to be obtained by overcoming and then retained.
Those who are genuinely born again of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) have, as the principal evidence of Yahweh's hand in their lives, a river of love flowing out of them. It fills them with compassion and mercy and compels them to become gardeners. That initial salvation - alpha-salvation - cannot simply be left as it is. It is a tree in the midst of your life, planted supernaturally there by repentance from sin and faith in Yah'shua (Jesus), but it is not supposed to be a sole tree in an otherwise empty garden. Not only are there many other types of trees and shrubs in the garden, but there is also a tree known as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that must be accounted for. You all know about that one. But are you aware of what it means to you as a person? And do you know what that tree is in your own soul-nature?
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the very opposite of the Tree of Life. It produces spiritual death. And because it produces spiritual death, it may be called the Tree of Death. Adam and Eve were warned that the day they ate that tree they would die. The two trees were opposites. But why is it called the 'Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil'? What does this designation mean? Why not simply call it the Tree of Death?
It is not hard to identify this tree. We only have to understand what the opposite of the Tree of Life is. And since that tree is the love of God and of our neighbour, the Tree of Death can only be the love of self. Did not the serpent tell the woman that in the day that she and her husband ate thereof, they should be as gods, knowing good and evil? (Gen.3:6) The Tree of Death therefore represents the selfhood of man. And when a man lives for himself, what does he become? He becomes a god to himself, and decides what is good and evil from his own knowledge, and not from the Word of Yahweh. He prefers to find truth from within instead of from Yahweh and His revelations of Himself.
The two main trees in the Garden of Eden represent, respectively, the two principles of the human mind - the love of God, and the love of self. Notice, though, that when Yahweh first arranged the Garden of Eden that the Tree of Life lay in the middle or centre. From this we learn that when Yahweh orders and arranges our minds He puts heavenly love in the very centre of our souls - in the very midst of our affections. However, we also read that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was also described as being "in the midst of the garden" -- in the middle (Gen.3:3)! However, this is later - it has displaced the Tree of Life which was there originally. First, Yahweh placed heavenly love in the very centre of men's minds, and made it the chief and most beautiful fact there. But afterwards men displaced this divine principle, and put self in the very centre of their souls, and made that the chief and most honoured among their affections. The centre of Eden moved from east to west.
And in the course of time, men brought the garden into a state of disorder. They disarranged their minds, they put self-love in the centre - where heavenly love should be - and then they listened to the voice of the serpent, and actually feasted upon the evil thing. The core of Satanism, brothers and sisters, and all false religion, is the worship of self. You don't even have to believe in Satan to become a satanist! But Satan, in his craftiness, has tried to persuade us that the Tree of Life is something to be despised, as though it were a disease, and he has done so by heaping scorn on it. Yet the truth, as the poet John Milton well knew, is otherwise:
"How charming is Divine philosophy!
Not harsh and crabbed as dull fools suppose,
But musical as is Apollo's lute".
Have you not, at sometime, been told that Christianity is dull, boring, confining, and harmful? And yet the "divine philosophy" is the very reverse. It is love that brings excitement, stimulates curiosity and interest in Yahweh, liberates the soul, and heals it of all its ills.
The two trees changed the locus or central point of the Garden in Eden because man changed the centre of the garden - he moved himself - his mind, his affections, his interest, his passion - away from Yahweh and to self! And he is still doing so today. The original principle of liberation was, and is, divine love - which once they loved most, they afterwards loved least. And that is what caused the fall in Eden. By loving self, man believed, as Lucifer once did, that he could become like God - equal to him, and independent of him. And that is the source of all evil.
If we will but love Yahweh, His Torah, His Son and our Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus), the Church/Community, and our neighbour, our mind becomes a spiritual garden, and the Tree of Life is in the midst of it. But if you fall away from this state, and come to love yourself first, then the Tree of Death is in the middle of our garden. And there is a cunning serpent within that tree that will lead you to indulge this love of self, and to feast upon it and delight in its pleasant taste. Understand that and you have unlocked the mystery of life.
Next week I want to talk about the other trees in Eden. They include the olive tree, the fig tree, the oak tree and the cedar tree. I invite you to hunt these out in your Bible and try to find out what they represent in us. In the meantime, if you discover that the Tree of Death is in the centre of your mental and emotional garden, mightn't it be time to abandon it and search for the Tree of Life? It may well be overgrown with weeds and hard to locate at first, but if you are sincere and willing to make the effort, Yahweh will lead you to it and to the source of life. There a new life for you can begin - a life of fulfilment, peace and joy. Amen.
Click here for Part 2
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Last updated on 19 July 2002
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