Those who know me will know that I have a tiny – okay big – obsession with garden-related-everythings.
Flower Jewellery? Yes Please.
Is my house filled to the brim with dozens of fake flowers and fauna? Absolutely.
Is that really a mail box with winding metal flowers sitting inside my living room for no reason at all other than to look pretty? Why yes, yes it is.
It is probably for a similar reason that my favourite biblical pattern is to do with gardens.
The thing I love about biblical patterns is that they are these over arching ideas that span often from one end of the bible to another, threading through different circumstances and situations, pointing to the intrinsic character of the God that we serve.
It is the writer in me. The fact that theme plays a huge part of the bible. That there is no way that something this impossibly complicated could happen by random.
To me, biblical patterns are the best proof we have of a Grand Author above our lives.
So allow me to paint you a picture of my very favourite pattern.
In the beginning, God’s Spirit was hovering over the darkness. What lay below was formless and void and in inside of this, God says ‘let there be light’ and there is light.
What follows is a incredibly detailed design of the world we live in. Intense attention upon every part of it, God creates this Garden. Inside of this Garden he forms two creatures in his own image, and at the end of it all, he declares it all as good and then he rests.
Any reading will tell you that the Garden of Eden is meant to be a reflected image of the temple. That it was this space where man and God could dwell together, because we were in right relationship with him. We could be within God’s presence and have an incredibly personal relationship with him.
Being made in his image – his Imago Dei – we were the representation of God’s Presence on earth. At least, that was how it was meant to be. Within other Pagan temples of this time, there were other representations of their gods, carved of stone or whatever, which were seen too to represent that god’s presence in that space. God – the True God – however placed us, his image into his temple, we were his hands and feet from the very start. I think it is important that we understand that.
We were commanded to go forth and multiply, spread out. It is super important to understand that this was the first command given by God to Mankind as within this Garden and Wilderness Pattern it means a lot.
There are some people believe that the idea was that the Garden would expand and under our dominion – the dominion we were given in the first chapters of Genesis – it would cover the earth. I totally subscribe to this idea, because I believe that we were always meant to spread God’s Kingdom, his reign. Hold onto this thought.
Now we know how the story went. That close relationship with God and was fractured through disobedience and man was no longer able to dwell inside of the Garden. Instead man was cursed and sent out into a world that was the absolute opposite of Eden. Where the ground was hard and difficult to work, where man was guaranteed of hardship. Still working the land… but it was going to be super hand. Now it is important to understand two things
- the first commandment was still valid – to go out and multiply
- we were still made in the Image of God – although a fractured image, like a broken mirror.
Cast into a wilderness. Man went out and things were really awful in this new world tainted by sin.
Now while man was still bound to that first commandment to go out and fill the earth, to multiply, they decided instead to gather together again and build a big tower. Babel. Because they wanted to make a name for themselves, by reaching heaven.
God, probably rather irritated that they weren’t obeying his first command scrambled up their languages, and it was in doing this that the people weren’t able to complete the tower as they couldn’t communicate. Instead they were driven apart.
Throughout the bible from this point onwards God was working things through to redeem back mankind from the Kingdom of Darkness. His ultimate plan was in Jesus, and he points to the coming of Christ all the way through scriptures.
In fact we read in Isaiah 51 about the everlasting salvation for mankind. In chapter three, God promises that he will ‘surely comfort Zion. He will look upon her with compassion over her ruins. He will make her deserts like Eden. Her wastelands like the Garden of Eden.’
In fact when talking about the promise of salvation, God often talks about the Garden of Eden.
John the Baptist when heralding the way for Jesus speaks of himself as the ‘voice crying out in the wilderness make a way in the desert for the Lord.’
Isaiah 35 talks about the joy associated with redemption, where we find more and more Garden ideas. Loads and loads of these images where deserts become Gardens.
This really awful soil that mankind was told – upon leaving Eden – would be hard, is hard, but God is promising that there will come a time it will be made back into a Garden.
So fast forward to Jesus, who is betrayed – in a Garden – and led away. He is crucified for our sins and is raised from the dead. That was the moment of redemption, that was the moment that darkness was overcome with light. Jesus was around for a short time after his death but eventually was taken back into heaven where he promised that he would send a helper – who we know to be the Holy Spirit.
Jesus commissioned them to go out into all the world and make disciples.
Now you’re thinking, hang on… I’ve heard something similar to this before.
‘Go forth and multiply…’
‘Go forth and make disciples…’
Between Genesis and Pentecost, God only had one desire. For his Kingdom – his Eden, his Temple – to be spread on earth. For us to go out and multiply and fill the earth for his Kingdom. This image of spreading the boarders of his Garden or dominion as his Imago Dei, his image.
Not coming together, to make big towers like mankind had done at Babel, but to actually follow God’s first command.
So the disciples waited in the Upper Room for this helper, praying and praying until Pentecost where the Spirit came down upon them and amongst other things, the Spirit united their language.
He reversed Babel.
He united their language so they could go out and spread God’s Kingdom fulfilling God’s first command to mankind.
It is important to note here that Pentecost isn’t a Christian invented term to describe the day the Holy Spirit came, it was a Jewish Festival of Harvest.
Harvest, like tilling the land, like spreading out God’s Garden, in the Wilderness.
So that is where we are now. In this time where God makes Wildernesses into Gardens. Not just in the world on a whole, but in our lives as well. In our personal circumstances. That is his pattern, taking things that have decayed and making them into beautiful things again.
This desire of God’s is something that happens on both a large and a small scale.
God also has a pattern of taking things that are dead and bringing them back alive again, even in 1st Corinthians the Apostle Paul talks about how often things have to die before they can be brought alive again. Buried – like a seed is what Jesus talks about in the book of John – so they can produce fruit.
We see this pattern. Things may seem dead, but there is a harvest, and there is a restoration and what look like wildernesses will become gardens.
If we move ahead again, beyond where we are now, we find the book of Revelation, where God’s Kingdom has come, and Jesus has returned and the colossal wrong in original sin has finally been righted. It is in Revelation we find my very, very, very favourite verse in the whole bible.
‘For there was no Temple in it, for the Lamb and the Lord God were its Temple.’
What I like about this verse is that it speaks of the final restoration. That things are as they were in the Garden, there is no need for a temple, for complicated ways of approaching God. Instead he is with us, he is dwelling with us upon Earth.
We see a fulfillment of the Wilderness becoming like a Garden again.
I love this idea. This idea that we can have brokenness in our lives but God wants to make it new again. That it doesn’t matter if something looks dead, or like a desert because God raises it to life again. It is like a seed, buried, which will produce fruit.
I take a huge amount of comfort in this fact.
Ages ago, reflecting over that scripture I mentioned from Isaiah 53, I wrote a song called ‘Wilderness in Me,’ as my own personal worship song, so I figured I’d share that here:
The truth though, that I want to remind you of – if you’ve made it to the end of my long, long, LONG! description of this biblical pattern of Gardens to Wildernesses, is that God is doing a work in your life.
It is a big work he is doing over all of creation, but he is working inside of you too.
To take darkness and make it light.
Dead places and make them alive again.
Things you thought were gone, back and better than before.
He is taking the Wilderness inside of you, and making it back into Eden, restoring us back to that place of Revelations 21:22