And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”Genesis 3:8-9
Evening walks had been their favorite part of the day. In the shade of the garden, the three would walk together as the Lord revealed the secrets of his creation and heart. Every sight, sound, taste, and smell was designed to heighten their enjoyment of the world God made.
If perfection had degrees, the highest expression of the bliss in the garden was not its beauty, but their walks together, in the cool of the day. Basking in his presence was a feast for their bodies as well as their souls, and they ate and drank to their heart’s content.
Tending, naming, and filling the earth, were their daily tasks, but the energy for that work flowed out of their time with him. This feasting and fellowshipping was their holy leisure, their greatest delight, and their reason for being.
The first meal is a tragic one
But their daily feasting at the garden table wouldn’t last long. Unfortunately, they believed the lie that something God had forbidden would fulfill them more than God himself. Their appetites, which had once been wholly satisfied by him, now longed for something else, something infinitely lesser. On the day they took the fruit and ate, they died, and so did we.
It’s the most tragic story in all of the Bible.
Adam and Eve enjoyed what no other human beings have ever known. With every conceivable blessing in the most perfect environment, they still rejected God. Instead of feasting in his presence, they chose a famine in his absence. It was the worst exchange in history, and they plunged humanity into sin and separation from God.
“Where are you?”
After his disobedience, Adam sought to cover his nakedness and hide. The first question God asks in the Bible is not where Adam was physically, but where he was spiritually. In essence, God was asking, “Now that you’ve disobeyed me, what condition do you find yourself in?”
The question was a heartbreaking one. Their perfect fellowship had been broken, and the punishment for the crime of disobedience was death. But instead of exacting justice at that moment, God’s question was a lifeline of mercy. Adam, acknowledge your sin and repent. Find forgiveness, and let’s restore what’s been broken. But instead of repenting, Adam and Eve shifted blame, spoke in half-truths, and evaded the question.
Feasts as a means of redemption
That fateful bite set the stage for all future meals in the Bible. Every meal, every feast, and every holy observance after that was an attempt to reverse the damage done between man and God in the garden.
In the Old Testament, much of Israel’s identity was tied to her many communal feasts. Food, fellowship, and community were tangible and edible reminders of the redemptive plan of God and his desire to restore fellowship with his people.
In the New Testament, a large part of Jesus’ ministry took place around tables. Jesus moved towards sinners, eating with the tax collectors and prostitutes. When he wanted to teach a spiritual truth, he often did so around food. He even likened the Kingdom of God to an eternal dinner party with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 8:11).
The dining room of your heart
Important business happens around the tables of our lives. The table represents the place we receive nourishment, fellowship, and joy. How many of our favorite memories can be traced back to meals shared around a table? Probably more than we can count. Sharing life and food around a table is one of God’s greatest gifts. By it, we’re fed both in body and soul.
But gathering around a table is not solely a physical act, it’s also a spiritual one. The Word tells us Jesus wants to be invited into the dining rooms of our lives. To the church in Laodicea, Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).
An invitation to eat from the Tree of Life
The gospel doesn’t just offer an opportunity to return to the fellowship Adam enjoyed before the fall, without providing the means to get there. The condition has always been the same, perfect obedience. What neither Adam nor we, could attain by our efforts, has been fulfilled for us by Jesus Christ. Jonathan Edwards said,
“Christ himself now stands instead of that tree of life that grew in the midst of the garden of Eden. ‘Tis Christ that is meant by “the tree of life, that grows in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). And we are immediately invited and called to Christ to eat of the fruit of this tree without any sort of terms, but only to come and take and eat. The condition of righteousness is fulfilled already by our surety. God shows which is the tree of life and where it grows, which Adam probably did not know, nor was to know, till he had finished his obedience. We are as immediately invited now as Adam would have been if he had stood and finished his obedience.”Jonathan Edwards , Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733 (WJE Online Vol. 17)
The finished work, and perfect obedience of Jesus, allows us to enter into the paradise of God, and have fellowship with God once more. That which was broken in the garden was restored on Calvary’s hill, and what Adam lost in paradise (the right to the Tree of Life), Christ, the second Adam, gives us access to by faith (1 Cor 15:45-49). The fullest and highest expression of our lives is found when we enjoy this fellowship with God. For this is why we were made.
So, where are you?
Friend, do you hear your Creator calling you? Do you miss the fellowship you once enjoyed with him, or are you wondering if you’ve ever truly experienced it?
His question is a probing one, but it’s laced with mercy and grace. It cuts to the heart of your spiritual condition and offers you a life-giving, soul-satisfying, alternative instead.
You can call it the chief end of man, Christian Hedonism, or holy leisure, but the ideas are all gloriously similar. God wants to walk and talk with you in the cool of the day. He wants to show you that in his presence is the fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Say goodbye to the forbidden fruit that leaves you guilty, naked, and afraid, and receive the infinitely greater fruit from the Tree of Life, Jesus himself. He invites you to his banqueting table. I hope you’ll come.
Pursuing otium sanctum with you,
P.S. If you’re curious about what pursuing otium sanctum (or holy leisure) is all about, this free download will help. Grab a copy!