Did God do anything to prevent this disruptive chomp from happening? Did God make the fruit of the tree of life ugly, covered with nasty thorns, or only available on high branches? Maybe it smelled bad.
When I read Genesis chapters 1 through 3 I usually think about it in three ways. As a creation story it's a haunting tale of paradise created and lost. As the beginning of the Bible it's a fascinating introduction to the relationship of God and man, the conflict between good and evil, and of the consequences of sin. And finally it's a personal lesson, reminding me that I disobey God's commands and as a result I too am worthy of death.
The tree of life is the solution to the sentence of death in each of these viewpoints:
- In the garden God places the tree of life off limits—an angel with a flaming sword blocks the way
- Later in the Bible (Numbers 21) something analogous to the tree of life is introduced, but with a surprising twist. The serpent is now associated with the tree.
'While wandering in the desert the people of Israel spoke against God and were plagued with deadly fiery serpents, Moses prays for help and God instructs him “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.' ESV
Now a serpent (symbolizing sin) and wood come together as a solution. An act of will by the dying person is still required to get the prize of life. This story foreshadows the mysterious suffering servant that is prophesized in Isaiah 53.
- And finally, as the solution to my death sentence, Jesus is hung on another tree, takes my curse upon himself, and offers a personal opportunity to be redeemed. This new tree of life exists in the middle of my existence. All I had to do was pluck its fruit, lay aside my life, and eat.