I enjoy gardens, especially during the summer. Whether the garden consists of a few square feet of perennial flowers in front of our home or whether it includes trees, shrubbery and flowers that cover an area of several square miles, I appreciate these enclosures of plants. I love the beauty of flowers and I welcome the solitude among trees. However, most of all I delight in the presence of the Lord in the garden of my heart.
What do I mean when I refer to a garden? A garden is a piece of ground set aside where plants can grow. With this in mind, why do I describe my heart as a garden? Because I consider my heart to be the center of my growth. Physically, I could not live or grow if my heart was not functioning. Emotionally, all of my feelings such as love and joy and fear originate in my heart. Spiritually, my heart is where my faith either grows or diminishes. With this being my perspective, I want to correlate my heart’s garden to three gardens mentioned in scripture. These are the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane and Paradise.
The Garden of Eden is the first garden mentioned in the first book of the Bible. Genesis 2:8 says, “Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.” Within this garden, God communed with Adam and Eve. This garden was a real place, not just an allegorical image. It may have been a reserve, or an enclosed, park-like area. It was a quiet place where God and Adam and Eve could walk and talk with each other. It was where God confronted Adam and Eve when they disobeyed Him and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of their disobedience, they were banished from the Garden of Eden and never allowed to return. The garden was locked with a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life according to Genesis 3:24.
The next garden I want to focus upon is the Garden of Gethsemane. This is the garden where Jesus prayed the night before He was crucified. Matthew 26:36-46 records the prayer Jesus prayed before He was arrested. In this garden Jesus beseeched His Heavenly Father about the possibility of His not having to endure the death on the cross that He knew awaited Him. However, as He talked with His Heavenly Father, He concluded His prayer by yielding to the will of His Father. For me, this exemplifies the most intimate communication possible. Adam and Eve lost this privilege in the Garden of Eden but Jesus still experienced the original relationship between God and man because He was both human and divine. After His prayer, Jesus was arrested and led out of the garden by a multitude of people armed with swords. God did not banish Him from the garden. What happened in this garden allowed the gate of another garden to be opened. In fact, Jesus referred to Himself as the gate in John 10:9, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
This leads me to the third garden known as Paradise. Paradise comes from a Persian word for garden that was used to designate the heavenly garden of God. The symbolism of this garden suggests the perfect fellowship that God and humankind enjoyed in Eden before the Fall. After Jesus prayed His powerful prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and was hanging on the cross, He continued to draw people towards a future garden. When the thief on the cross cried out to Jesus to save him, Jesus responded by saying in Luke 23:43, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” But, how is it possible for the thief to enter God’s garden that was locked after Adam and Eve sinned? I pointed out earlier that Jesus was the gate to this garden, but now I see that He is also the key that unlocks the garden’s gate. The opening of this spiritual gate is visible by the tearing of the curtain or veil in the temple at the moment Jesus died. The temple had three main parts and there was a curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the other sections. The Most Holy Place represented where God dwelt and the curtain was a barrier between God and humanity. This curtain was torn in two and the gate into God’s presence was opened. Matthew 27:51 says, “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Direct communication was again possible between God and mankind. Whenever there is reference to Paradise in scripture, it represents a place of blissful fellowship with God – a garden. Revelation 2:7 says, “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” This tree of life in Paradise is the same tree that was guarded in the Garden of Eden according to Genesis 3:24!
My summation of these three gardens is as follows. The Garden of Eden was the garden created by God where He had a perfect relationship with Adam and Eve. Because of sin, Adam and Eve were led out of this garden that was then locked. God still desired to have a garden where He could have uninterrupted fellowship with mankind so now we have the garden of Paradise available to us. Since the gate to the Garden of Eden has been locked, the gate to Paradise must be unlocked for us to enter. This unlocking process began in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus, who is the gate, also became the key to unlock Paradise. Each of us must accept Jesus as our personal savior (our key) in order to gain access to Paradise. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Therefore I am locked out of the Garden of Eden just like Adam and Eve. However, Galatians 2:20 tells me that “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Consequently, when I surrender to the crucifixion of my flesh as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, I can be assured of eternity in Paradise because Jesus speaks the same words to me that He spoke to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” These steps of faith allow the garden of my heart to be unlocked and for a perfect relationship between Jesus and myself to be restored. He lives in my heart’s garden now and I will live with Him in Paradise for eternity.
I have gained a deeper understanding of why I appreciate gardens! My Reader, what is your experience with gardens? I pray that you are enjoying summer gardens and spiritual gardens.
Note: Join me next week as we begin exploring the gardens of our hearts together.