Trees, Rest, Cherubs, Death, Sin
1 Chronicles 15:1–16; Genesis 2–3
Samuel Lesson #141
August 7, 2018
“Our Father, it is such a privilege we have to come together, a privilege because of Your grace, a privilege because You did everything necessary to provide salvation for us, a remarkable salvation, multifaceted, complex beyond anything we can imagine, and yet simple so that we can understand the good news and trust in Christ as Savior. Our Father, we’re thankful that we can be here tonight; we know that there are a number of folks who are usually here that are traveling this week. We pray for their safety; we pray that their time away will be a time of refreshment, and Father, we pray that they can return to us safely.
“Now, Father, we pray for us that as we continue our study coming to understand what it means to honor You, to worship You, to glorify You, that we may get out of ourselves and focus our attention on You who created everything, You who are our Redeemer and our Savior and the One with whom we anticipate eternal fellowship and eternal joy. And we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
We have been studying about worship. We are in a study for those who may be tuning in or listening randomly, this is a series in 1 and 2 Samuel, but I am doing a sub-series that I anticipated would be about six or eight weeks, and it may turn into six or eight months. Sometimes the Lord just guides and directs that way. I think this is an important topic.
In the course of our study of 2 Samuel, we came to that point in 2 Samuel 6 when David is taking the Ark into Jerusalem. The account in 2 Samuel is rather abbreviated compared to the three chapters devoted to it in 1 Chronicles 14, 15, and 16, the central chapter being chapter 15. There we see that David is expanding what Israel is doing as part of corporate worship. We don’t see that this is a response to any direction from God per se, but we see that this is David acting on behalf of his own understanding of God’s plan and purposes for Israel, his understanding of what God is going to do through Israel, so I think there may have been some revelation in the past or at least, an understanding that there would be a central sanctuary.
Where would David get the idea that there would have to be a central sanctuary where everyone in Israel would have to worship? First of all, he would get it from the fact that God established a central sanctuary in the tabernacle—God’s mobile home during the time that they were in the wilderness until the time that a permanent structure would be established. Also, because there is much said about Israel bringing their offerings, their sacrifices, and their tithes to a central sanctuary in Deuteronomy.
If you’re studying and thinking and reflecting on the Scripture, then you would be thinking, “Well, where is this central sanctuary? What can we do to glorify God in moving from this temporary structure?” This structure had probably been made somewhat permanent while it was in Shiloh, and during that time, the almost four centuries, the Ark was there in the tabernacle.
Then we went through this horrible period toward the end of the period of the judges during the time of Samuel when the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines, the Ark was captured, the Ark goes through this little journey as the Philistines think that they can have a big pep rally because they defeated the God of Israel. In the end, God destroys their great idol to Dagon in their temple and brings much disease and suffering upon the Philistines during that time. Finally, they said, “We’re done with this; we’re going to send the Ark back to Israel.” The Ark comes back to Israel, and now David is bringing it to Jerusalem.
When he does that, initially there is a tremendous error that takes place. They don’t follow the directions of the Mosaic Law: They don’t carry the Ark properly; they don’t have the right people carrying the Ark. As a result, when this ox cart carrying the Ark hits a pothole, the Ark wobbles and one of the priests, Uzzah, reaches out to stabilize the Ark—God doesn’t need man to stabilize Him—and so Uzzah is struck dead instantly. This really shakes up David because this is supposed to be this huge celebration, and boom, you have a death of the priest. They stop. They put the Ark into temporary storage while David goes back to determine what they’ve done wrong.
As a result of his study and reflection on the Torah, and all that is within Deuteronomy and the other books, he decides what must be done. They correct their procedure, but he enhances this. We see this incredible, just profound, robust change to the worship of Israel. That’s the result of David coming face to face with the majesty, the power, and the holiness of God.
We’ve traced our steps as we’ve looked at some of the other times when there was a face-to-face encounter with God, specifically Isaiah 6, to see what we could discern about worship in these passages. What it tells us is that worship is something that is not trivial. It is not to be thought of as something that is a part of our daily life in the sense that it is just like everything else in life—just something else that we do. It is seen from the very beginning of Scripture as this incredibly focused time when the profane—and what profane means is not profanity; profane means that which is common, that which relates to everyday life and everyday activities—is set aside because we’re coming together as a body of believers to focus on the God who created everything.
That means to fully grasp that, we have to have a much more robust and profound understanding of what God did to create everything, to call into existence that which did not exist. In a complete vacuum of non-existence, suddenly, there was existence. There was inorganic matter.
God then over a period of six consecutive 24–hour days during the creation week, which we believe is a recreation after the fall of Satan, is restoring the planet for the habitation of man. Everything that is done is unique to God.
We’ve looked at the fact that the primary word that is used for God’s creative activity is the Hebrew word bara, which doesn’t mean ex nihilo creation or creation out of nothing, but it has the idea that only God can do this because no human is ever said to create with the use of that verb. Only God can bara, so this is something that is profound, and all of this builds in the majesty of God. We see that there is an architectural blueprint and plan to creation as we work through Genesis 1.
As we look at what happens and what God has provided in the Garden, which is where we are now, this lays the groundwork for understanding various themes and threads that run from Genesis 1 and 2 all the way to Revelation 21 and 22. There is this broad panorama that we’ve been studying that is inherent to developing within each of us a greater understanding of what worship is because we have a greater understanding of the complexity, the majesty, the power, and the authority of God.
We’re continuing to look at Genesis 2 and 3. We’re actually going to get to Genesis 3 tonight and Genesis 4 next week. From there, it moves faster, but we have to lay a lot of this groundwork.
We defined worship as “the celebration of eternal fellowship with the sovereign and holy triune God.” A celebration can be rejoicing in an exuberant manner, or a celebration can also be a very sober, quiet, reflection. As Americans, we have trouble with quiet. As I’ve been doing study on worship, one of the things I ran across is that in the early church—I think it was about in the 3rd to 4th century—one of the great early church fathers (he’s not always that great, but he’s considered great). He’s called “Chrysostom,” which means golden mouth.
He was a little anti-Semitic. There were a few other problems with his theology along the way, but we can’t be too picky about the early church fathers because they had not developed much of an understanding of a lot of theology yet; they were still working it through. We can quibble about a number of things. Many of them still thought you had to be baptized in order to be saved. They just hadn’t sorted all of these things out yet. They didn’t even have the word “Trinity” until late in the 2nd century, so how can you have a clear understanding of a triune God if you don’t have the vocabulary and the clear definition for it?
During that period, you run into that, but in the course of development of worship in the early church, one of the things that they developed was forms of liturgy—and I’ll get some examples together as we go forward in this because I think there are elements of this that we can learn from.
In one of the liturgies that Chrysostom developed in the early church, it’s a call to prayer. If you’ve ever been in a liturgical church service, it moves way too fast. The person leading it says something and then the congregation responds, and then the one leading it says something and the congregation responds. In this particular liturgy, each area had to do with different areas of prayer.
The way in which that was done in the early church is that the one leading it would start off saying something like, “We praise the name of the Creator God of the heavens and the earth and the seas.” Then it would be followed by silence–—maybe one or two or three minutes of silence because the people are to respond by prayer and thinking through what they know about God as the omnipotent Creator of the heavens, the earth, the seas, and all that is in them. Then something else would be stated giving thanks for our redemption through Christ on the Cross. And that would be followed by a minute or two of silence.
We’re very uncomfortable with silence. We come into church and all of sudden somebody stops talking and everybody starts looking around and becoming uncomfortable. But that was an opportunity for people to enter into a responsive participation in worship. Corporate worship isn’t meant to always be a spectator activity. There’s to be a response on the part of those who are in the congregation. There are different times and different ways in which the church has practiced that. It can be a very formal and sobering celebration. I say this every time because we tend to think of the word “celebration” only in terms of celebrating something joyous and happy—Happy New Year or Christmas presents or something like that. When we have a funeral, we also celebrate the life of a person, but it is a much more sobering and reflective time. That’s why we use that word celebration.
We do that by focusing on and adoring God and His character, His works. Additionally, we celebrate through the expressed commitment of trust and obedience, so that is part of the response maybe audibly, maybe not, in the congregation. And remembering God’s work of salvation, and what He has provided for our spiritual growth.
In the previous lessons, we’ve seen that worship practices are often influenced by worldview. We will get to this more in the next few weeks. As we see the post-fall world, there is a constant counterfeit of worship. It is a battle throughout the Scripture. It is a battle for those who are not believers because they have corrupt views of God, they develop idolatrous systems, polytheistic systems, pantheistic systems, and their worship becomes extremely corrupt. That external corruption also influences the people of God, so they are constantly needing to fight against assimilation to the worldview of the culture of the day. Usually, it hasn’t been a winning battle unfortunately.
The second thing we’ve seen is that we began to look at key teachings in the theme of Scripture tracing the dwelling of God or His sanctuary among God’s people. Developing that, which we did a little more last week, in looking at the Gospel of John and ending up with 1 Corinthians 3:16 and seeing that the tabernacle or temple is patterned after a heavenly archetype. It’s not just in the past. It looks forward to the future because the tabernacle or temple is built on a heavenly archetype. There will not be a physical temple, which means a dwelling place, on the earth, because in the new heavens and earth, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit live on earth with their creatures, so that the whole planet becomes a temple for God.
We came to look at the fact that Eden has three areas: the whole earth, the area of Eden, and then an inner area which is the sanctuary of God, the Garden itself. After the fall, it will be guarded by cherubs. The tabernacle depicts that: you have the outer courtyard, you have cherubim woven into the tapestries reminding us that we’re prevented from entering into the presence of God, you have the holy place, and the holy of holies in both the tabernacle and temple. We’re going to talk more about this, especially today.
Tonight, we’re going to be looking at the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
We’ve talked about the fact that in the Garden of Eden, in the Garden of God described in Ezekiel 28, there are gold and precious gems that are mentioned; they are mentioned also in Genesis 2 in the Garden of Eden. They will be present in the future new heavens and the new earth. This is actual, it’s literal, but it also pictures the richness of God’s blessing for man. He provides so much and all of its beauty and all of its abundance.
We talked last time about John 4 and 7, how the New Testament shows the fulfillment of the River of Life symbolism in the Old Testament. Today we’re going to try to pull, if we can, the last four together, primarily looking at the trees—how that’s depicted in the tabernacle and temple and ultimately where that’s fulfilled in the new heavens and the new earth.
Last time, we looked at the living water issue. In the psalms, there is the talk about that God provides a river under the tabernacle, and that refers to the Gihon Spring. We also saw that there’s a spring deep under there that when Jesus returns, the Mount of Olives will split, and there will be this gush of fresh water that will restore the Dead Sea. Part of it flows east to the Dead Sea; the other part flows west to the Mediterranean. It will completely change the topography of Jerusalem.
Jesus points out that the fact of literal living water is a picture of eternal life (John 4:10). He tells the woman at the well that if she knew who He was, she would ask Him, and He would give her living water. This is a representation of eternal life. Water is necessary for life, and so that is a picture of eternal life.
In John 4:14, He tells her, “ ‘but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’ ”
And then He adds to that, He gives meaning to that. By the time you get to John 7, He says at the Feast of Tabernacles, John 7:37, “ ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.’ ” Another invitation to come to Him, and drinking is another picture, as we saw even on Sunday morning, to drink of Him is equivalent to believing on Him, to accepting Him, to internalizing His message that He is the Messiah Who will die on the Cross for us. And He makes it clear that this idea of drinking is then specifically explained as, John 7:38, “ ‘He who believes in Me.’ ” Drinking is a picture of accepting Christ. “ ‘He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”
The idea here is a fulfillment of passages in Isaiah 12:3, “the wells of salvation” uses the same imagery. Isaiah 55:1, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money, come, buy and eat.” Salvation is free; it’s at no cost. When Jesus talks, in John 7:38, when you believe in Him, “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” We ask, what does that mean?
We’re told in John 7:39, “This He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.” We’re given the Holy Spirit. We’re told that He was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified, implying that once Jesus was glorified, the Spirit would be given. The idea here is not that the Spirit flows out of believers to other believers. We’re not the source of the Spirit for others. But when the Spirit of God is working within our lives—when we are walking by the Spirit—then the Spirit is producing fruit in our lives according to Galatians 5:16–23. When we are walking by the Spirit, we are satisfied spiritually in our immaterial nature; in our soul and spirit, we are satisfied. We understand who God is; we are dependent upon Him that the Spirit is bearing fruit in our lives. Part of the result of that is that then enables us to be a testimony to others to what Christ has done for us.
We saw last time that this is related to the fact that we are made a temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 6:19.
Now we come to the next element that’s in the Garden of Eden, and that’s the trees. There are many, many trees in the Garden. There are trees of all manner of fruit in the Garden to provide for mankind. It’s the most luxurious, beautiful, fruitful, bountiful garden on all of the earth. It is the special abode of God where He has placed those who are in His image. There’s a lot that goes on there, as we’ll see, that mankind—man and woman, male and female—are created in God’s image, and they are there in this special place with God. This is the sanctuary that is set apart from the rest of the planet. We see that ideas of that, once it is lost, that the reality of that Garden continues to be present in the thinking of the human race, and that there are two special trees among all of these beautiful trees in this special garden where God lives.
These two special trees are described in Genesis 2:9, “And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” These two trees are present. We talked about the water representing the River of Life. The tree of life also pictures life. The idea of a garden, which was where God dwelt, the idea of a special, sacred tree—all of these are ideas that get corrupted over time in the ancient world.
Romans 1:18 and following talk about how man rejects. I think there’s a historical element to that description—how we reject the non-verbal testimony of God, we suppress the truth in unrighteousness, and the creature begins to worship the creation, and professing to be wise, they become fools. So that whole section summarizes about the development of idolatry.
This is what happens very quickly in the antediluvian period, that is the pre-flood period, on the earth. We see that these ideas continue in somewhat distorted ways down through human history. It’s the corrupt influence of human thinking. We get fed this line that everything evolves from the simple to the complex and that religion evolves from spiritism, and animism to pantheism, and then polytheism, and then eventually develops into monotheism.
What the Bible says is that no that’s all wrong; that’s typical paganism. In the Bible, God creates everything perfect, every creature initially is a monotheist—Adam and Eve were monotheists. It’s only as sin corrupts the thinking of man, that everything deteriorates. As man begins to invent his own religions and his own worship, there are certain ideas that are common in almost every religion. There’s no culture that doesn’t have some idea of sacrifice. Where in the world did that come from, that every culture in the world would believe in sacrifice?
You have other ideas that are present. For example, you have various flood myths that the earth is destroyed by flood. God chooses somebody special, and due to their efforts, animals and people are rescued; it varies according to the culture and the time. The Assyrian or Babylonian myth about the flood is called the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the Epic of Gilgamesh which talks about the original creation, the dwelling place of God is in a garden, a place completely surrounded by trees. It is said to be a mountain—we saw that there is a reference to a mountain in Ezekiel 28. It’s referred to in the Epic of Gilgamesh as a mountain of cedar; it’s the dwelling place of all of the gods.
If you think biblically, that we have one God and all of these angels, in the corruption of paganism, the angels and demons become the gods who are the fallen angels who then get involved with marrying, taking human wives in Genesis 6, and many other things. You see this idea of a garden that is incomparable. You see the fact that there is a sacred tree.
Other pagan myths also mention the idea of a sacred tree that gives healing and life-giving powers. There’s even reference in some of these myths to the fact that this garden is located between the mouths of two rivers. That’s a perversion of the version in Scripture that one river comes out of Eden and splits into four.
In the ancient Near East, we’re talking about the cultures that surround Israel. Remember that when Moses writes this for the Israelites—Genesis is about where the Jews came from—they are about to go into the most perverse culture almost in history. They have perverted sexuality; they have perverted many different things. It’s a horrible religion that involved infant sacrifice and child sacrifice, and all kinds of things.
They have created their own set of myths. One of the things that you would find prevalent in many of the surrounding cultures was the idea of the importance of trees. They would worship in groves of trees, and they would depict gods like Asherah, the fertility goddess, with a pole, a tree. Where did they get this idea?
Sometimes, you even have a depiction of the fertility goddess by a serpent. In one of the Canaanite groups, it was discovered that the fertility goddess is named Chawat which is etymologically related to Chavvah, which is the name for Eve in Hebrew. There’s this perversion, there’s this mix up. You’ve got a serpent, you’ve got a tree, you’ve got a woman, and all of this gets mixed up and comes out rather perverted in these pagan cultures.
Trees, of course, are important because if you see a grove of trees, you know there must be water there. In Texas, one of the first things I learned as a young man [when I went] camping was that if you want to find a spring, you look for sycamore trees or fig trees, because they need a good water source that is always there. These pagans would see a grove of trees, and they would believe that the local god, who was called Baal, inhabited those groves. Baal simply means “lord,” but it comes to be the name of the primary deity for water, for thunder, for storms, for lightning, for fertility in the Canaanite religion. Asherah was his consort. A lot of times what we read in the Pentateuch are simply details included in order to be a counterpoint to the pagan religions.
In some ways, God is sort of sticking His thumb in their eyes. He’s poking them in the eye because He is constantly making fun of these fake religions. They carve up a tree, they cut down a tree, they cut off half of it and go burn it in a fire, and they take the other half and carve it up and worship it. He makes fun of those things.
In the Canaanite religion, we’ve learned from various texts, for example, in a place called Ugarit, sometimes referred to as Tell Ras Shamra up in Syria, they discovered what is known as the Ras Shamra text, and it just describes how perverted the religion is: the sacrifice, the priest and priestesses that were temple prostitutes.The idea was that you would go in and copulate with the priest or priestess and this is supposed to encourage the god to make your land fertile and to give you good crops next year.
One of the reasons this religious system was so evil and that God wanted to wipe it out was because the Canaanite religion, more than any religion in the world, was extremely syncretistic. That means that if you had ten gods and somebody came along and they’re worshipping an eleventh god, you just brought that [god] into your system. Before long, everybody’s worshipping this fertility idea because everybody likes sex a lot, and so this appeals to the basest aspects of their sin nature, and it becomes extremely evil.
The altars would just run red with the blood of slaughtered babies. This happened again and again. This is why God says to Abraham, their evil hasn’t been filled yet, but when they do, then I will completely remove them. This is why God authorized a complete annihilation of every man, woman, and child in the Canaanite culture so that it would not infect and destroy all of humanity with their religious system.
Part of their religious rites was this emphasis on trees, either as symbolic representations of life and fertility or as a site for worship. This has its ultimate origin going back to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. Sacred trees became a central part of the fertility cult of Asherah, and it’s often referred to as the Asherah pole.
It’s talked about in the prophets. For example, Hosea 4:13 talks about how the Israelites have succumbed to this perversion, and Hosea says, “They offer sacrifices on the mountaintops.” The reason they go to the mountaintop is because this idea, although Genesis doesn’t make mention of a hill in Eden, there is a mountain of God in Ezekiel 28. Then Hosea 4:13. “… and burn incense on the hills, under oaks, poplars, and terebinths.” They are worshipping in these groves, and what they’re doing is they’re having orgies out there. Because all of this sexual activity is what’s going to convince the gods to bring them prosperity. Hosea 4:13, “… Therefore your daughters commit harlotry, and your brides commit adultery.” It’s not just talking about that literally, but they are unfaithful to the God of the covenant with Israel. They are violating that covenant.
2 Kings 17:10 says, “They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree.” What we ought to be thinking about is when we think about this perversion of worship is how do Christians pervert worship today? Because we do. We’re not any different from any other generation.
You go back and study different things in the Middle Ages and you realize that as you get past the 7th and 8th centuries, and the missionaries were going out from what had become by then the Roman Catholic Church, and they would go into new areas. For example, they would go into Scandinavia, and they would discover the various gods and goddesses that controlled everything from health to good luck to agriculture, etc. They would just take the names of those deities and modify them and make them saints. You would pray to those saints, and they would give you good luck or help you find things or give you good crops, things of that nature. It was assimilation; it was the same thing that was going on in the ancient world.
We see similarities to that today as people in many churches today have a view of worship that isn’t distinct from the culture around them. They specifically talk about this. You read the church growth literature, and it talks about how we need to have the same kind of music in church that they have when they go to a rock concert or when they’re listening to the radio, so they don’t feel uncomfortable coming to church.
I think from Scripture we see that people come into the presence of God, and they hear the truth of God, and it makes them uncomfortable. This is a violation. There are about five or six Bible churches I know of in Houston that still stick to good, solid musicology on Sunday morning, and we’re called dinosaurs. All the big ones that were the basic sources for good Bible teaching 30, 40, or 50 years ago have all apostatized in the area of worship and music. I’ll tell them that. “You’re an apostate; you’ve bought into a pagan view of music. You don’t want to think about it and teach about it because if you do, you’ll lose half your people because they don’t want to feel too distinct or too set apart from the culture around them. They want to be able to blend in and have a good time and not be thought of as strange or weird or legalistic.”
What happens in the Old Testament is that when the Law was rediscovered in 2 Kings 23:4, “The king [Josiah] commanded Hilkiah the high priest, the priests of the second order, and the doorkeepers to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the articles that were made for Baal, for Asherah, and all the host of heaven.” The host of heaven are all the other gods and goddesses. They had put all of these idols into Solomon’s Temple, and now they’ve got to cleanse the temple.
That’s the same kind of thing that’s happening in worship today. People have brought all of these pagan ideas and they don’t realize it because we’re not taught to think philosophically and critically about what we’re doing in church on Sunday morning.
What did they do? They burned all of this in the fields of the Kidron Valley and carried their ashes to Bethel. They cleansed the temple. We always have to be aware of and fight for purity in worship. These ideas of the truth of God always get perverted.
When we talk about the tree of life, it’s not just something that happened back in the Garden of Eden. There wasn’t just a tree of life there. This is something that is symbolized throughout Scripture, and it also looks forward to, just like everything else we’ve looked at, something that is in the future, something in the new heavens and the new earth.
In fact, in Revelation 2:7, which is the first letter to the seven churches mentioned in Revelation—sort of a report card as I’ve taught before— it’s an evaluation. Then they are warned that they need to correct certain areas, and they’re also praised for areas that they’re doing well, and then there’s always this incentive clause that’s put there. It always runs something like this. Revelation 2:7, “ ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ” If you’re really positive, you will respond and implement change.
The promise is, “ ‘To the him who overcomes,’ ”—that is the believer who presses on and changes and responds to the message—“ ‘I will give to eat from the tree of life,’ ”—Wait a minute, I thought that was destroyed back in the Garden—“ ‘which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.’ ” What is that talking about? That’s talking about something that is future, something that is restored in the new heavens and the new earth. This restoration of God’s sanctuary, His paradise, and those believers who are rewarded at certain levels at the Judgment Seat of Christ; one of the privileges they will have is to eat from the tree of life in the future state.
That’s mentioned again in Revelation 22:14, “Blessed are those who do His commandments,”—that’s those who have overcome, who have obeyed and responded to Scripture—“that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” This is now talking about the situation: the new heavens and the new earth. It indicates special privilege, special blessing to those who have been obedient believers.
The tree of life has a past, a future, but it was also part of the worship in the tabernacle and the temple. Just as the pagan religions had a corrupt memory of the importance of trees, God brings into the temple representation of these two trees that had existed in the Garden of Eden. The first has to do with the golden lampstand, the golden menorah.
In Exodus 25:31, Moses is told, “You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold;”— it was to be made out of one solid piece of gold—“the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece.”
Here is a picture of the lampstand as it is drawn and manufactured by one artist.
Exodus 25:32–33, “And six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side. Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch.”
You have this depiction here—one, two, three—and each one of these stands.
Here’s another picture here that shows how they present this as the cups—one, two, and three [points to the image on the left]. And here they’re circular, going around the post itself [points to image on the right].
One of the things I thought was really interesting when I was studying what Arnold Fruchtenbaum taught on the temple years ago is he said that you have enough detail to replicate it, but not precisely. You couldn’t draw a precise, architectural blueprint of the temple with what we’re given in Scripture, but you can get pretty close. That’s why you have these different possibilities.
Exodus 25:33, “Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch, with ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower.” Why almond branches? Because the almond is the first tree to bloom in Israel in the spring.
If you’ve lived up north, you see a forsythia; it’s a real garish yellow. It’s the first thing that blooms early in the spring, and it’s just a loud color that announces the coming of spring. Once the almond blossom bloomed, then you knew it was spring, and winter was over. It’s a picture of new life. That’s the picture we have here ultimately of new life in Christ.
Exodus 25:34–35, “On the lampstand itself four cups shall be made like almond blossoms, each with its ornamental buds and flower. And there shall be a bud under the first two branches of the same, a bud under the second two branches of the same, and a bud under the third two branches of the same ...” Even though I’ve just said it’s not so precise, you can precisely replicate it. God is pretty precise as to what should be there.
Exodus 25:36, “Their buds and their branches shall be of one piece; all of it shall be one hammered piece of pure gold.” This is beautiful! This took a lot of craftsmanship. That’s why the Holy Spirit indwelt and filled Aholiab and Bezalel because this was way beyond their human ability to do this. It’s the Holy Spirit who enabled them to do this craftsmanship.
This was to depict the tree of life because as we look at the tabernacle itself, the golden lampstand, the menorah is inside the Holy Place. It is on one side. Opposite is the table of showbread. What is the menorah doing? It is lit 24/7, and it is illuminating the bread. The bread represents life, and again we see this combination of these two ideas, life and light. Just as we saw with Jesus, that “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
We see that the tree represents God’s provision of light and life. For without light, which represents the illumination of God’s special revelation, there can be no life. Without the illumination of God’s Messiah, there can be no life. In the tabernacle, as the light falls on the bread, it illuminates as a symbol of God’s revelation, it illuminates bread as the source of life just as God’s revelation illuminates Jesus as the bread of life. Notice in John, Jesus is called both the bread of life and the light of life. He is the light of the world, so all of this ultimately points toward Jesus.
Then when we think of light, we also think of the fact that the first thing God does as He’s preparing the earth for the habitation of man on the first day, He creates light. It’s a reminder that God creates. It’s a picture of revelation; God will provide for that revelation.
All of this comes together. It looks back to the Garden, it looks forward to Jesus, and ultimately, it all comes together when in the new heavens and the new earth, there won’t be a need for sun or moon because the triune God will illuminate the entire earth with His glory.
Then we come to the second tree, which is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In the tabernacle, there’s not another exact replica of the tree, but we have the concept of good and evil represented in the tabernacle. It is represented by the Mosaic Law which is inside the Ark of the Covenant.
When we look at what the Scripture says, Genesis 2:16–17, “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.’ ”
What in the world is going on here? God is omniscient; He knows everything. He wants to be the only source of knowledge for the new creature. God is the embodiment of righteousness and justice and goodness. God is good, so He wants to be the exclusive and only source of knowledge of good and evil for man because He alone can properly define it. If man is going to seek some other source for determining good and evil, then it will be perverted; it will not be coming from God.
Man cannot learn good and evil, the true absolute of good and evil experientially. You can only learn it from God’s revelation. That’s why the Mosaic Law represented God’s law; it defined for Israel what good and evil were. It defined what righteousness was and what unrighteousness was. We see that the knowledge of good and evil, like all knowledge, resides in God and must be revealed from God. Man is given a test to see if he will depend upon God alone for the source of knowledge of good and evil or if he will seek to make himself the arbiter, the definer, of good and evil.
This is what Satan was tempting. He comes along and tempts, he implies to Eve, “Has God really said this?” In other words, “Is this really in your best interest? God’s excluding you. You have a brain. You can figure this out. Doesn’t this fruit look good? If you eat from this, you’re going to have the same power that God has to define and determine good and evil.” That’s the offer. You can determine right from wrong. What the Scripture teaches us is that only the Creator God has the exclusive domain for determining what is right and what is wrong.
This is the temptation that we see that runs through Scripture. The offer is for us to have dominion and power and authority apart from God. To determine right from wrong apart from God. To determine what real life consists of apart from God. This temptation runs through Scripture, and ultimately, the temptation is to tempt them to reject God’s authority and to assert their independence or their autonomy from God.
These are the two basic characteristics of Satan’s sins. It’s an antagonism to God, and the assertion of autonomy, to be independent of God and to not be dependent upon His revelation. This failure is depicted in the temple. The fact that man failed, and so the tablets of the Law are placed inside the Ark of the Covenant.
In Deuteronomy 4:13–14, we’re told: “He declared to you,”—this is Moses speaking: God declared to you the people of Israel— “His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might observe them in the land which you cross over to possess.” The point is God is the only source of the knowledge of truth, right and wrong.
In Deuteronomy 10:5, Moses is reiterating what happened on Mt. Sinai, “Then I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tablets in the ark which I had made; and there they are, just as the Lord commanded me.” Exodus 25:16, God tells Moses, “And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you.” The tree of the knowledge of good and evil depicts the authority to determine right from wrong and that only comes from God’s Word on which man must focus. Our responsibility in worship is to learn from God’s Word, and it is the most valuable thing in the world.
Think about what the psalmist says. Psalm 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;” Notice all these different terms that are used to relate the Torah to the revelation of God. The law of the Lord, the testimony of the Lord, the statutes of the Lord are right. He determines what is right and wrong, what is good and evil.
Psalm 19:8, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;”—the illumination of the menorah. Psalm 19:9–10, “The fear of the Lord is clean enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold ...” No matter what we have in this life, what we enjoy, knowing the Word of God should be more desired than anything else that we do. Psalm 19:10, “More to be desired are they than gold …”—than wealth, than health care, anything in this life, any detail of life, whatever you want to put in there. “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”
In closing, we have the cherubim who are set to guard over the Garden.
They are depicted in this drawing that they stand. I don’t know how many there were—thousands maybe? It depends on how large the Garden was. An entire army of cherubs that surrounded the Garden to prevent humans from reentering.
They are depicted in the tabernacle through the veils that had the cherubs embroidered on those veils to remind man that you could not go into the presence of God anymore. This is a representation of that.
We have the trees, the cherubim, the image of God. Man is created in the image of God. You go into the pagan temples. They remember this. They have an image of the deity in all of their temples. Think of Dagon; you have the idol that’s there. That’s the image of the deity. If you went to Egypt, you would see images of Pharaoh all over Egypt—just a reminder that he is god.
But who’s the image of God? It’s man. This is why there’s a prohibition against making images of deity in the first commandment. Why? Because it destroys the identity and uniqueness of mankind. It is an attack on humanity to make an image of God because we are the image of God. The image of God in the Garden of Eden was the priest–king who was to keep and to serve in the Garden—those terms that are used to describe the work of a priest. We are the image of God, and this was a place of rest.
In Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden.” That’s an interesting word there because it’s the Hebrew word nuach. It’s not the word that’s used earlier in Genesis 2 for “placing” man there, which was simply the idea for the term we would use if we’re going to take this item and go put it in the kitchen. This is a special word. It indicates rest; it is the place of rest. He is placed in a unique location to serve the Lord.
It’s used in Isaiah 14:1 talking about the future restoration of Israel to the land. “For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob—and will restore them from their diaspora—“and will still choose Israel, and settle them [place them at rest] in their own land.” That’s talking about a future time when the nation is regathered from its worldwide dispersion, and they will be at rest in the kingdom.
In Psalm 132:1314, especially verse 14, God says of Zion, “This is My resting place [nuach] forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” This is where God will rest, and man will serve Him in the kingdom, in His temple.
Jesus uses this concept in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
This is picked up by the writer of Hebrews to remind Christians today that there is a future rest; it’s the Millennial Kingdom. Hebrews 4:9, “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” It may be the 7000th year, the 7th millennium. I can’t say that as an absolute, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Hebrews 4:10, “For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his work, as God did from His.” That word for “rest” is to enter the rest of God in the Millennial Kingdom. Hebrews 4:11, “Therefore, let us be diligent to enter that rest …” That is be diligent in our spiritual growth in preparation for the Judgment Seat of Christ, so that we will enter into it with all the glory for God that we should.
That brings that together, and next time, we’ll look at what happens as the serpent appears in the Garden, and how that is reflected down through the pagan religions. We will look at what happens when man is prevented from entering the sanctuary, how God is going to create a plan and a response, so that that sanctuary is eventually restored in a more glorious way in the new heavens and the new earth.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things, to be reminded of Your plan and Your purpose, taking us from corruption to incorruption, taking us from a fallen world to a redeemed creation where we live forever in a world untainted by sin and corruption, serving You as we were originally created and designed to do. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”