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8 Rules for Life learned from Nature in the Parables

https://youtu.be/7iunSPGy6bg

Many would agree, “God works in mysterious ways”. If we could however understand how God operates, and how He does things we will understand His will for our lives. Like getting to know a person, what do they value? How do they approach things? I believe the ways of God is revealed in the works of God, and His greatest work is Creation. It is fair that we should not judge a person on what they say, or first impressions. Judge a man’s work, his or her legacy.
Job was struggling to understand the ways of God and gets directed: “Listen to this, O Job; Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” His attention is moved to creation, it’s wonder, greatness and complexity to the point where he acknowledge: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” (Job 42:5)
God often models spiritual truth in creation, which is why David the psalmist describes the whole earth reflecting his glory. (Psalm 72:19). God gave Solomon great wisdom and it is recorded that he taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish (1 Kings 4:33) and wrote about them in his proverbs to illustrate character strengths and weaknesses.
In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. (James 1:21 – Message)


God meant man to live in a garden; sin has sent him to the slums –

Vishal Mangalwadi


Thus it is no surprise that Jesus taught most from lessons learned from nature. Let us hence refocus our attention, and familiarise ourselves with lessons learned from nature.

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  1. SEEDS & ENCLOSURES
    The Bible begins in a garden, ends in a garden city, and the in-between is full of stories of God’s encounter with humans in vineyards, orchards, gardens, mountains, fields, and forests. Take out the gardens (Eden, Gethsemane) and the mounts (Sinai, Hermon, Ararat, Nebo, Carmel, Olives, Zion), and you’ve cut the heart out of the Scriptures.
    The word KHEN (חן) – usually translated “grace” or “favour” – means “continuous outer wall, or continuous barrier” – pretty much the word for a tent shell or covering. And more so in Ancient nomadic terms, the continuous wall formed by the greater camp made up of individual tents, that collectively symbolized protection, family, belonging. “Thus says Yahweh, The people who were left of the sword found KHEN in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.” – (Jeremiah 31:2)
    When God made man, He strategically placed an enclosed garden. H1588. גַּן gan: A common noun meaning garden, enclosure. It is used to indicate the Garden of Eden (pleasure) where the first human pair was placed (Gen. 2:8-10, 15, 16; 3:1-3, 8, 10, 23, 24; Ezek. 36:35; Joel 2:3).
    EDEN: A masculine noun referring to a luxury, a pleasure, a delight. Used in the plural, it means luxury, luxurious things (2 Sam. 1:24); figuratively, of the many splendid things and enjoyments God gives (Ps. 36:8). It depicts the many enjoyments and pleasurable delights Israel had enjoyed previously (Jer. 51:34). A feminine noun indicating sexual delight, ecstasy. It refers to the enjoyment of intimate love with one’s spouse which in context implies the ability to become pregnant (Gen. 18:12). In order to create pleasure and beauty, one need to remix elements and resources, enclose and subdue it. Like baking a cake, planting a field, framing art, composing a song, writing a book.
  2. YOU CAN CHANGE THE SPOTS, BUT NOT A MAN’s NATURE
    For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. (Luk 6:44) This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, you have to born again. (Joh 3:2-5) DNA determines the outcome. We cannot have all these projects to try to make man better, without regeneration. Dr Ado Krige, the legend and father of many successful rehab centers in SA, call his centers regeneration centers. The first miracle of Jesus where He regenerated the best wine out of water in a second, points to this. This is the core of the gospel! Him making us new creations. (2 Cor 5:17) The founding DNA of an organization determines the culture and success if that organization. Partnerships and strategic alliances only work if the values-DNA is inherently similar.
  3. THE PEOPLE YOU SPEND MOST TIME WITH DETERMINES YOU
    Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Mat 6:27-28) It is said, that you are the average of the five people you’re spending most time with. Bill Johnson says: find your church, finds your destiny. The lily flourishes, because it is in the right habitat. It will not grow in a desert. So each one of us, are made for a relational habitat, where we can grow.
  4. NATURE IS RELATIONAL (INTERRELATED)
    Everything in nature is connected and in relation to the other. Recently the Yellowstone National Park saw its ecosystem restored what is called the trophic cascade effect, as wolves were reintroduced. You will find no mono-cultures Forrest in nature.
    Although each species has its unique distinct identity and purpose, they always function within a specific ecosystem, of inter-related harmony. Commercial farming is not sustainable, because we purposefully are creating an imbalance in nature, wherein in turn we have to use more and more chemical manipulation to have the same results.
    In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Martin Luther-King
    Jesus taught the parable of the wheat & tares, to leave the tares until the end, then it is burned and destroyed. (Mat 13:24-30) One of Christianity greatest mistakes through history, is the notion that by separating oneself from nature, one becomes more holy. This self-imposed holiness does not have the strength to suppress, evil desires. It is the holiness of the one, that changes history! Like Daniel, Nehemiah, Ester & Mordechai. A hand full of salt makes one sick, but salt released in a soup gives it a taste. We are not from the world. Like Jesus, we are aliens, called to live sinless lives in a crooked generation. Jesus unsettled the stringent religious culture of the Jews when He revealed that God’s favour, jubilee restoration was for the gentiles too. (Luke 4:16-30) You cannot write Christian music or start Christian schools, because music and schools cannot be filled with the spirit, and obey the voice of God. The composer and the headmaster are Christian, under Christ. What we create, the way we do business, what we produce causes delight (EDEN-effect) and invites people to a new lifestyle. Daniel could not label what he did in Babylon as a Hebrew, yet by asking permission to obey his dietary rules, his countenance, and overall health surpassed the other captives.
  5. SPIRITUAL POWER IS NOT IN NUMBERS BUT IN RELATIONAL INFLUENCE
    Politicians seek numbers to leverage power and influence. This leads to great folly, as no one person ought to represent a number of people, and simply cannot. People change their minds, constantly. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Mat 13:33) The power of the kingdom is in the power of the one. Real influence is being trusted and respected by Kings. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matt 13:31; Luk 13:18) Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? (Zech 4:10 The Message) A farmer understands that the quality of the seed determines the harvest. The parable of the sower, also reveals that the outcome of the harvest was determined by the condition of the soil (heart) not the seed, nor the sower. Everything is grounded in healthy relationships – organisations, families, nations, business thrive and survive because of strong relationships.
  6. STRATEGICALLY POSITIONED THE POWER OF ONE
    A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. (Luk 13:6-9) Since the beginning, God strategically would place His send-ones in situations to liberate His people. Moses was strategically placed in a river to be found by the princess of Egypt. Nehemiah, Daniel, Esther, the young slave girl who told Naman of a Prophet in Isreal were individuals who brought about change in human history, through their personal holiness.
  7. NATURE IS SELF-SUSTAINABLE
    The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know-how. (Mar 4:26-29) There are many videos depicting how nature would eventually take over all the constructions of man over time when a man is removed from the earth. Nature does not need our intervention, we were called to cultivate and guard it. (Gen 2:15) When God does something, it is sustainable. Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” (Acts 5:34-40) It is thus my contention that only that what is birthed, maintained and fulfilled in Christ will be sustainable.
  8. NATURE IS SEASONAL AND CYCLICAL
    There are 7 days in a week, on the 7th month Sukkot was held; on 7th year your debt was released, on the 7 x 7th year cycle it was Jubilee. The time (Kairos) is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel! (Mark 1:15) καιρός kairós; gen. kairoú, masc. noun. Season, opportune time. It is not merely as a succession of minutes, which is chrónos (G5550), but a period of opportunity (though not a necessity).
    There is really no Eng. equivalent to the word kairós, the appropriate or opportune time, which when used in the pl. with chrónoi (times), is translated as “seasons,” times at which certain foreordained events take place. Ask the Lord for rain In the time of the latter rain (Zech 10:1) (Spring Rain) Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? (Luk 12:56) And a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment, because for every matter there is a time and judgment. (Eccl 8:5-6)
Categories
Sermons

EDEN – CHURCH

We are not here on earth as museum keepers, but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life.

Pope John XXIII

As a church we are on a journey with Jesus. Along this journey we are slowly awaking to the presence and reality of the person of Jesus, learning His ways, what He values, How He thinks, how He acts, who He was and is, and is to come.  Along the journey, we began to notice metaphors and teaching aids to help us understand and remember, what is the best way to do life.  

Last year Pastor Morne Bailey and Nadia Smith opened our thinking to Eden – the walled, enclosed garden.  I believe there is much to learn from gardens, trees, and forests.  Let’s looks at a few examples.  

In the following video, you will learn the importance of the circle of life, and how all the diversity of species, plays an important role in the balance of sustainable life being preserved.  When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable “trophic cascade” occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains in this movie remix.[1]

Would we all not love to take a hike and experience the magic of old-growth Redwood forests, where giant Sequoias reach 115 meters into the sky for sunlight[2]

Now that I have your attention, let’s look at the Bible’s garden story! The brilliant guys at the Bible Project will get us on the same page first: Union of heaven and Earth under God’s rule is what the Bible is all about. [3] Mankind always seeks out a form of community: political parties, gangs, clubs, peer-pressure-groups, family trees, etc. According to Dr Henry Cloud we thrive on 3 basic things: Our brain/body (the physical), our relational connections, and our minds, which regulate the energy and information needed to live and perform. We are connected in such ways that the reality of how we function always involves these three elements: our physical make up, our relationships, and our minds.[4] But most importantly: A community that does not disciple and nurture you into becoming more like Christ fails your creation purpose.  Let’s, therefore, find our queues and direction from the Bible, and discover God’s true intention for community and life on earth. 

For the serious Bible students, here is the literal Hebrew meaning of the Garden of Eden

H1588. גַּן gan: A common noun meaning garden, enclosure. It is used to indicate the Garden of Eden (pleasure) where the first human pair was placed (Gen. 2:8-10, 15, 16; 3:1-3, 8, 10, 23, 24; Ezek. 36:35; Joel 2:3). Hence, it refers to a place of abundant trees, water, fruits, and vegetables—where conditions for life are maximized. It could be enclosed (Lam. 2:6). It is combined with Lord to designate the garden of the Lord (Gen. 13:10) and with God to refer to the garden of God (Ezek. 28:13). A garden, however, could feature many things: vegetables (Deut. 11:10; 1 Kgs. 21:2); spices, fruits, plants (Song 4:16; 5:1; 6:2). Assyria is referred to figuratively as a garden that surpassed even the garden of God (Ezek. 31:8, 9).

H5731. עֵדֶן ‘ēḏen: A proper noun designating Eden: The place where God placed Adam and Eve to live and where they rebelled against the Lord’s words. Satan was permitted in the garden and fostered the rebellion of the first human pair. They were subsequently driven from the garden by God (Gen. 3:21-24). Ezekiel takes the event seriously and notes the presence of an archetype of the King of Tyre in the Garden of Eden (Ezek. 28:11-15).

The precise location of the garden is not known, even though the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers were part of it. It became a symbol of beauty and fertility (Ezek. 31:9; Joel 2:3).

In the Genesis story we find a description of Eden as a lush garden with four rivers (Gen 2:10–14). Eden was also a mountain (Ezek 28:13–14), the administrative “seat of the gods” (Ezek 28:2), situated in “the heart of the seas” (Ezek 28:2), a description that reiterated the well-watered imagery of the divine council headquarters. [5]  What makes God’s earthly home/kingdom different from ancient comparative narratives, the biblical version of the divine council at the divine abode includes a human presence.[6] God wants humanity to share His rule and governance over the earth.  

Not all the world was Eden.[7] And Yahweh God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Gen 2:8) The garden was perfect in balance harmony and order, yet the rest of the earth was waiting to be subdued. 

The distinction helps us see that the original task of humanity was to make the entire Earth like Eden.[8] Eden is where the idea of the kingdom of God begins. And it’s no coincidence that the Bible ends with the vision of a new Edenic Earth (Rev 21–22).[9] The Bible begins in a garden, ends in a garden city, and the in-between is full of stories of God’s encounter with humans in vineyards, orchards, gardens, mountains, fields, and forests. Take out the gardens (Eden, Gethsemane) and the mountains (Sinai, Hermon, Ararat, Nebo, Carmel, Olives, Zion), and you’ve cut the heart out of the Scriptures.[10]

It is also clear that Eden was a temple, or that the temple design was based on Eden. 

  1. In the later OT the Temple was the place of God’s special presence where He made Himself known and felt to Israel. That is exactly how His walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden is depicted. (Gen. 3:8)
  2. Adam is placed in the garden to “cultivate (abad)” and “keep (samar)” it (Gen 2:15). The same two words are translated elsewhere as “serve” and “guard”, and when they appear together, they are either referring to Israelites serving or obeying God’s word, or more usually, to the job of the priest in guarding and keeping the Temple. (Num. 3:7-8; 8:25-26; 1 Chron. 23:32) Elsewhere Adam is portrayed dressed in the clothes of the high priest, functioning as a high priest. (Ezek 28:11-19) 
  3. The tree of life served as a model for the lampstand, which was clearly shaped as a tree, in the Temple.
  4. Israel’s later Temple was made with wood carvings of flowers, palm trees, etc. meant to recall Eden’s garden brilliance  (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32, 35); pomegranates were also placed at the bottom of the two stone pillars in the Temple. (7:18-20)
  5. The entrance to the Temple was to the east, on a mountain facing Zion (Ex. 15:17), just as the end-time temple prophesied in Ezekiel is (40:2, 6; 43:12). Well, turns out the entrance to Eden was from the East (Gen. 3:24)
  6. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the ark of the covenant both were accessed or touched only on pain of death. Also, both were sources of wisdom.
  7. Just as a river flowed out of Eden (Gen 2:10), so a river is supposed to flow out of the end-time temple (Ezek 47:1-12; Rev. 21:1-2)
  8. Ezekiel 28:13-14 refers the Eden as “the holy mountain of God” whereas everywhere else in the OT, it is Temple and Tabernacle language.[11]

What is IMPERATIVE to see however is!!! Eden was a place of MEETING.  The first tabernacle, was called “the tabernacle of meeting” Exo 33:7 

This fellowship, meeting, communion, community, the family was disrupted and annihilated by sin, disobedience and rebellion!! Jesus is the mediator of the new better covenant to reinstall that unity, bond, the union we once had with God.  But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (Heb 12:21-24) 

The spiritual nature of our “garden” is confirmed by Christ as the angel of the church in Ephesus: “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise (Eden) of God” (Revelation 2:7). 

A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. Apparently, the trees synchronize their performance so that they are all equally successful. The rate of photosynthesis is the same for all the trees. The trees, it seems, are equalizing differences between the strong and the weak. Whether they are thick or thin, all members of the same species are using light to produce the same amount of sugar per leaf. This equalization is taking place underground through the roots. There’s obviously a lively exchange going on down there. Whoever has an abundance of sugar hands some over; whoever is running short gets help. This is because a tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it. [12]

So what do these beautiful imageries mean for you and I today? The place of meeting is the EDEN where God reconnects us to all the provision, gold, rivers, nutrition, safety, and protection one needs to not merely survive, but thrive in this life! For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. This glorious opulence is found when we as church meet together! 

Beware of restricting the concept of meeting: Jesus met people in the streets and said: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand” This Kingdom is within us. (Luk 17:21) Thus the meeting is happening already in our hearts! Because of our glorious union with the Father though Christ being filled with the Holy Spirit, we are in unity in our hearts with the church! This heart-union is expressed in various kinds of meetings happening constantly! 

This is why we need to be so careful to not be eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and build an offence against the other because of some partial knowledge we think we have about one another! The tree of life inside makes you eat with tax collectors, and sinners, (Mat 11:19) and is constantly creating a feast in this life. It is multiplying food, healing people, delivering people and eating and feasting with people! Jesus embodied the living temple, EDEN, God’s delight here on Earth as it is in heaven, calling us to do the same!! 

Our lives, homes, business, towns and cities should be temples, Eden’s, sacred enclosed gardens of delight, where God’s order and world is restored.  This is God’s ecclesia! This is His church in movement! 

In order to stay healthy like trees, we have to withstand climate change, wind and storms, fallen trees damaging each other, disease, parasites and infestations. As humans and the church, we have to withstand the storms and difficulties of life.

There is so much sinning going on! Sin brings separation, destruction, and death. It is a severe battle! God has provided for us an Eden habitat in the church, a heaven-on-earth reality, to draw from one another and flourish! 

Next week we will learn about my responsibility as a tree of righteousness: “That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isa 61:3)

Tree planted by living waters: (Ps 1:2-5; Jer 17:5-8, Eze 47:10-12)


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWi2bn40ma4

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy2AQlK6C5k

[4]  “The Power of the Other: The startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond-and what to do about it” by Henry Cloud.

[5] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 160.

[6] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 47.

[7] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 49.

[8] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 51.

[9] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition., (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 51.

[10]  “So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church” by Leonard Sweet.

[11] Beale, G., 2011. A New Testament Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, pp.pp. 617-621.

[12] Wohlleben, P., 2018. The Hidden Life Of Trees (Illustrated Edition). Melbourne: Black Inc., pg. 15, 25.