God makes humanity in his image, “male and female”. Individually, they are each whole and complete and beautiful and amazing. Together, they are even more so. These are the heroes of our story.
God also gives a funny command: Be fruitful (like a tree) and multiply (like rabbits). I imagine Adam saying, “Yes, Lord” followed by an awkward, “Umm…how do we multiply, exactly?” Every parent who has ever given “the talk” knows how awkward this next part can be, but I imagine Adam and Eve’s eyes lighting up and a smile appearing across their faces like children on Christmas morning. “That’s your command? We can totally do that! We’ll get started right away, in fact!”
Being commanded to multiply is like me commanding my children to play with their favorite toy or eat their favorite food. How much of a command is it, really? This is a tremendous gift! I hate math, but God makes multiplication fun!
Another thing God does: he rests. The Hebrew word literally means “to stop or cease”. He did not cease interacting with His creation or his creatures. Nor did he sit down in his cosmic Lazy Boy chair and turn on the TV with a beer in one hand and a universal remote (pun totally intended) in the other to watch “Dancing with the Actual Stars”. He simply won’t be creating anything new for a while. The season for making stuff has ceased. He planted his seed, now it is time to watch (and help) it grow. The setting for our heroes is complete. All that is left is for them to sit back, relax, and enjoy Eden for all eternity. But that is so boring. God is telling the greatest story ever. It can’t end here. If Adam and Eve stay here, they won’t grow or learn. There is nothing to overcome. They have no depth.
In one sense, much like a parent that loves their cute baby, God doesn’t want them to grow. Growth would require temptation, sin, and death. Growth requires a loss of innocence. In another sense, God has to let Adam and Eve experience these things, or they will be shallow, arrogant, spoiled creatures. Without a conflict, our heroes will essentially be babies for all eternity. Not only that, but they will live forever knowing nothing about forgiveness, mercy, and sacrificial love. So God allows one temptation and one tempter into His story, in order that the characters might learn about love.
In every epic story there is an unassuming hero that lives in relative peace and knows very little of the wider world. They are often naïve. Then something happens. A powerful ring is found. Two droids from the rebellion show up (or a single droid from the resistance). A magical new world is discovered. Whether it is Narnia or Hogwarts or Neverland, this magical place holds wonders and dangers anew.
Eden is such a place, and Adam and Eve are our unassuming heroes. There is no need to work for food. There is no pain or suffering or tears or death. No jealousy or fear or allergies or cancer or unwanted hair loss, even among the rabbits and bears. But there is a danger. Two, in fact. One is a tree that holds unspeakable power over life: the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. All of the other trees are happy trees. But this tree is dreadful. The second danger is a serpent: Satan.
Satan has three strategies and he unleashes each one in a mega-combo attack against the mother of all the living. His first attack is an assault on the authority of God, “Did God really say…?” Eve counters with truth. His second attack is more direct, “Well, what God said is simply not true!” His third attack offers Eve (and all of us) something we want, “you will be like God.” The combo is complete- hook, line, and sinker. The conflicted thoughts stir in her head and disorient her until she decides to test Satan’s theory. Perhaps he’s right. It does look delicious.
The good news is that even the so-called punishment that Adam and Eve incur is softened by a tremendous amount of grace and blessing. The very first response by God is a curse against the deceiver. The serpent is forever cursed. Second, Eve is promised a son—a seed—that will strike the very head of the serpent. The serpent is poisonous. When he strikes, his victim will die. The promise of God is that the very same seed that kills Satan, will himself be killed by Satan. All seeds are sown in the ground; essentially dead and buried. After some time has passed, they are resurrected and forever changed. The seed of Eve is no different. It will not stay dead and buried.
Further grace comes in the form of clothing. Now that Adam and Eve know about evil, they recognize their own nakedness. How embarrassing. Nakedness is a metaphor for truth, and because of sin, the truth is ugly. It wasn’t so ugly before. The truth was laid bare and it was good. There was no shame because there was no sin. Clothing is a provision for sin. It covers and protects. It hides the ugly truth and protects us from the judging eyes of others. But Satan is like the people on TMZ, always looking to expose and mock us. If he can catch us without our “clothes”, he’ll broadcast it to the world.
From now on, humanity’s longing will be to return to Eden. Eden represents peace and rest. Humanity is running an endurance race. It is more than that; an enduring war with daily battles. To rest from this war is what we long for. Not just Eden, but an Eden without serpents, and rest for our heroes. That’s where our story is headed, but like every good story, there are many joys and challenges and triumphs and failures along the way.