Thread Bible Podcast with Chuck Quinley

Thread Season 4 Episode 12: The Two Trees

May 05, 2020 Thread with Dr. Chuck Quinley Season 4 Episode 12
Thread Bible Podcast with Chuck Quinley
Thread Season 4 Episode 12: The Two Trees
Chapters
Thread Bible Podcast with Chuck Quinley
Thread Season 4 Episode 12: The Two Trees
May 05, 2020 Season 4 Episode 12
Thread with Dr. Chuck Quinley

In this episode of Thread we encounter two mystical trees in God's garden of delight. One is the Tree of Life, and the other has a mysterious name; the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What's that all about? Find out in this episode of Thread.






Music by Ryan Andersen

Ryan Andersen is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial License.

"Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is A Season)" - The Byrds 1965 Columbia Records

Thread Bible Podcast is produced and edited by Ross Schmidt and is brought to you by medialightonline.com

Support the show (https://www.paypal.com/donate?hosted_button_id=RL4F28KKJPKWQ)

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Thread we encounter two mystical trees in God's garden of delight. One is the Tree of Life, and the other has a mysterious name; the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What's that all about? Find out in this episode of Thread.






Music by Ryan Andersen

Ryan Andersen is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial License.

"Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is A Season)" - The Byrds 1965 Columbia Records

Thread Bible Podcast is produced and edited by Ross Schmidt and is brought to you by medialightonline.com

Support the show (https://www.paypal.com/donate?hosted_button_id=RL4F28KKJPKWQ)

Hi there, I'm Chuck Quinley from the Thread Bible Podcast. In this episode, we encountered two mystical trees, and God's garden of delight. One is the tree of life, and the other has this mysterious name, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What's that all about? Find out in this episode of Thread.

Welcome to Thread, God's word tying together all the pieces of your life through verse by verse study of the Bible. In Season Four, we're exploring the bedrock of the entire Bible, Genesis 1-12. Season Four of the Thread Bible Podcast is brought to you by MediaLightOnline.com, and in response to the COVID-19 lockdown, MediaLight is offering its most popular course for free. Use your free time to deepen your ability to communicate using the creative potential buried within your mobile device. We'll teach you how to plan and produce short video devotionals, even if you don't see yourself as a Bible scholar. Let's grow together. All available now, and it's free. MediaLightOnline.com.

Okay, and I'm gonna have to make a disclaimer right here in the beginning, because my wife and I are in Portland, we're here for the birth of our latest grand child, a girl named Eleem, and we're with my daughter and her husband, and it's a pretty noisy house. So I've had to make an impromptu studio out of a car, but I've still got noise sources around me. So you may hear some noise. I can't do much about it, but just to let you know where I'm at. You know, now that everything's kind of locked down, it's amazing to me that I get, I get interrupted. And I hear a sound and it's an airplane in the sky. And it's so rare that now my mind picks it up. And I look up and I'll see, you know, a whole big blue sky and one plane going across it. It's a whole new world.

All right, back to our, back to the matter at hand. In our last episode, we saw the big shift that occurred when the writer moves us from the Creation Overture, which is epic and hope-filled, to the story of the creation of the first human and the lush biozone God built for him to live within, the garden of pleasure. And at the center of this garden, to spotlight it for all of us, to fully key on at the center of the garden, there are two trees. These trees symbolize the central choice we all face as we use the God-given power of free will. One of them is the tree of life. Adam is actually commanded to, in Hebrew, eat eat of that tree, and of all the other food producing trees in the garden, except one, the tree of knowing, in Hebrew, Tov and Rah. Let's spend this whole episode just digging down on the two trees. There's quite a bit of misunderstanding, and I think by by going into Hebrew and staying there to get our definitions of the words, the key words here, it's gonna bring a lot of light on the subject. I mean, one misunderstanding is that these are just two random trees, it doesn't even matter. God could just turn to one tree, it's a red tree and say, "That one, don't touch that one, and there's a yellow one over there. Yes, touch that one." And that the whole thing is just to set up a choice of obedience that you have to obey the Lord. And there's a whole lot more than that. And so that is not nearly digging down enough. At stake here is something that, you know, when I switched ministry, from pastoring and administrating and teaching in Bible school and seminary, Sherry and I about 10 or 15 years ago, we made a shift into studying media, and training Christians to use media for the sake of the gospel. One of the concepts that I found so helpful, as I've studied story, is called the law of character. And it means that you don't know a character, there is no way to know a character. The description doesn't help. I can't even trust their words. The only way to know the truth about a character, to know what's in their heart, to know the truth about them, is that they have to be forced to make a decision. And when they are put under pressure about this decision, and especially the greater the pressure, the greater the pressure, the truer the revelation. If, for example, if you punish them for making what is a good choice, and you reward them for making an a bad choice or an evil choice, well, now you get to see them even more, because there's no, you know -- if every time they make a good choice, this is actually the devil's argument later in the Bible, if every time they make a good choice, you know, that candy falls from heaven waist deep, then of course, they're gonna keep making that choice because they're immediately rewarded. But what if the right choice actually hurt you to make it? What if there's something pleasant about the evil choice? Well, now you get to know the truth about a character. And that's partly what is going on here. We're being revealed, as we stand before these trees, and so was Adam. Let's look at the two trees. Tree number one, the tree of life. Well, here, I point back to all my belaboring of the concept of humans being a "nephesh", which is where we get the word "soul". And what we don't dig deep enough is to say, "Well, you know, do humans have a soul?" It's bigger than that. We are. The word "soul" comes from "nephesh", we are a "nephesh", we don't have one. We are one. And so are animals. Because that's the word the Bible uses for everything that is, especially things that are breathing air, and living in a body, they are collectively "nephesh", they are living things, they are things physically experiencing life through a body. And that's really important because of what the word "life" means. And this is a tree that supports life. You know, a word can come to mean a lot more than itself, through using it in a poetic way, or a symbolic way, but it all starts with the original concept, you know.

Life. "Life" is a really big concept. And it leads ultimately, you know, we end up using that word "life", for everything from watching the birth of a child, or sitting on a beach eating lobster, or racing motorcycles down a twisty mountain road, and in all these circumstances, you know, someone can shout, "Man, this is living, this is the life!" Well, those are metaphoric uses of it. The beginning concept of life is an organic thing. It's for plants. It's for animals, it's for birds, it's for humans, fish in the sea, they have to -- when things are moving, and they are active, and they do that on their own. They're alive. In Genesis, chapter 1, God creates all manner of things that have life. They all have this quality that they are moving. It's the tree of life. And if you've seen Fiddler on the Roof, you know how to say the word "life" because of the toast, "L'chaim!". Live!, Living! Life! Chaim. It's the state of a plant when it's green. It's the state of a stream if it's rushing along. It's that time of reviving life, renewing living that man and nature goes through in springtime. It means to become lively and active. If you're a human physical life, physical life's revival when it had been running out. So we could call it the tree that revives living, and it's a very physical concept, the tree that revives living. Now this tree symbolizes the interconnectedness that plants, animals, and mankind has with YHWH, because he is the source of all life. He's the only Eternal One in the universe. He is the engine that makes all the other living things live. YHWH is the life support system for the whole universe, and the chance now to come to a tree of YHWH, and to take him into our innermost being, it's an essential part of being his imager on the earth. On the physical side, it extends life, on the symbolic side, it is the intimacy of this relationship with him, allowing him to come inside of us, and change who we are, rewire us, wire us properly so that we love what he loves, we hate what he hates, we see things the way he sees things. And it's in this state that Jesus says things like john 6:51, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." He says later, "Eat my flesh, drink my blood." And, you know, is he talking about physical life? Yes, resurrection from the dead, but he's talking about more than that. Physical and a metaphorical way of seeing it, "I will bring you 'really living'", you know, that other way that we use this word. So YHWH is the source of life. And the first thing he does with the new human is to issue a standing invitation of access for the man, the "adam" to draw near to Him, and to rest under his shelter. He puts a big tree there, and to renew his life by eating the fruit of the Lord, and letting that fruit affect him on the inside.

We need to understand how significant trees were in that part of the world. Keep in mind, it's a desert place, there aren't that many trees. In some places, you can travel all day, and you can count on your hands, the number of trees you'll see. And then you find a place where there's water somehow, and from the distant horizon, you can see the outline of trees. You know, throughout the Genesis narrative, trees are used even as navigational tools. They're that rare. Like, in Genesis 13:18, it says, "Then Abram moved his tent, and he went and dwelt by the teribinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and he built an altar to the Lord there." You know, trees were assigned to desert dwellers, that water could be found in that place, that there was life, that this was an oasis of life support in a desert that was just death. So in the beginning of our story, God establishes a high alpine garden. It's loaded with water, it's got four rivers that come out of it, and it has fruit bearing trees, and the most important of these fruit bearing trees, that is, in the very center of the entire garden, is the tree that keeps you living, the tree of life. And Adam is commanded by God freely to eat eat of this tree, and of all the others. But it's not the only tree. Stay tuned.

There is one more tree in the center of the garden, this tree is in sight of the tree of life. I mean, you can't eat the fruit of the tree of living without knowing about the other tree. eating the fruit that keeps you alive is one of those binary choices. Yes, no, right, left, take, avoid. It's one of these kinds of choices. You can't have both. You have to choose. This tree -- this second tree, is the polar opposite of the first tree. The tree of life drew you into God's fellowship. This tree breaks fellowship with God. The Tree of Life is yours because you submit to YHWH, it's a gift. You obey his command and you have this tree. The other tree is yours because you rebel against YHWH, and you reject his authority to command you. The Tree of Life will bring you eternal renewed living, the other tree will cause you to die. In Hebrew, it says you will die die, just as God commanded Adam about the tree of life that he should eat eat. The warning is, but if you touch that tree, if you eat that tree not touch, "if you eat that tree, you will die die." Well, what's so bad about the other tree? Well, here's where we see that it's actually a curious thing. The curse tree is actually a power that God intends to give the humans anyway. He's just gonna give it to them in a later time when he judges them ready. In ordinary translations, this tree is usually labeled as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And here is where some word study is really, really crucial.

First, let's talk about knowledge. The tree of, it isn't the tree of good and evil, it's the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and some say it's the tree of knowing right from wrong. Hmm... not exactly. Let's start with knowledge. "Knowledge" in the Jewish mind, and knowledge throughout the Old Testament is experiential. It is participatory, as in Genesis 4:8, it says, "Now Adam knew Eve his wife, snd she conceived and bore Cain." In other words, Adam experienced Eve. Adam participated in unwrapping Eve completely. So he knew her. That's the Bible's euphemism for sex. And I think it's beautiful. Anyway, it shows what we mean by knowledge, okay, this is not the academic learning of a fact. This is about experiencing, and participating in a thing. And so to know it, you know it because you experience it, you participate in it. Spanish has two different words for knowing, and one of them is for knowing things or facts, but there's an entirely different verb "canosa", for knowing a human being. You know, these kind of things in languages are helpful to our understanding of what's at stake here in the garden, and in all of our lives. And so this is the tree of experiencing and participating in two things. In Hebrew, "Tov", and "Rah". They're usually translated "good", and "evil". And I think that's unfortunate. Because it obscures the point. Let's start with "tov", which we generally translate as "good".

If you go to Biblehub.com, you can do your own interlinear study of this, and I encourage you to do that. If there's anything that I ever teach, and you have questions about it, one, you can write me, but two, which is what I'd rather you do, go study it yourself, dig down and find the answers through using the tools that now we have so many of. So if you go to Biblehub.com, you can do a whole word study of "tov". "Tov" means delightful, it means something that is pleasant, it's pleasing to the other person, the one experiencing it, you know, he finds it as positive or as good, you know, it builds up. It's the, you know, it's the positive, happy, good feeling, and good-doing side of things. "Tov", delightful. And then there's the other word "Rah". "Rah" means bad, it means disagreeable, it can mean deadly. It can mean unpleasant, it means that you give pain, you give unhappiness, it causes misery, it causes injury, it causes death maybe. So when a human takes on these, you know, "Rah" when a human takes on "Rah" as their chief characteristic, you can easily see how "Rah" becomes morally connected to something we might call evil. If you say the king caused death, he gave pain, unhappiness and misery. He caused injury and death. He was a wicked man, he was an evil man. So when you look at the word "rah", the tradition of translation connects to more morality, not always, but it's in there. And it uses the word as many have, they translate the word "evil". In this case, that "tree of good and evil". I think that's misleading, because we connect evil with darkness, and with the Satan, who's the leader of the evil forces. You know how sometimes a word can come to have a connection in use -- maybe it takes centuries to do it -- that was not meant when you began using the word? Well, we connect the word "evil" to "moral", and we connect it to Satan. And some say, well, "Amen! That's how it is." Yeah, but God says in the Bible that he has to do "rah" sometimes, and these are those passages that if you have a King James Bible, they generally -- I actually like that translation, I like the New King James, but the Old King James, they were just so faithful to keep using the same, I mean, they were transparent, I'll say that, they were transparent in their choices of words. So they will sometimes translate God as saying, "I will do evil", you know. And so, if you're gonna use the word for "evil" every time, it creates these dilemmas, because God himself says he does it. So let's go back out of the word "evil", and let's just stick with the word "rah", and let "rah" define itself.

Okay, I'm going to read Jeremiah 18:5-10, and this is God talking through Jeremiah about "tov", and "rah". "Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, 'O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter? says the LORD. Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, pull down and destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation concerning a kingdom to build and to plant it, if it does evil in my sight, so that it does not obey my voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I will benefit them." Okay, now, let's just stay on 9 and 10. Because in 8, 9 and 10, because in the translation, the translator has tried to help avoid this dilemma in using the word "rah". So they've translated it, let's look at verse 8, verse 8 says, you know, basically, if I am going to discipline a nation, and destroy it -- okay, that's a very negative feeling to that nation. Something bad's gonna happen to them, people are gonna die, their economy is going to crash. God is going to destroy the nation. Why? Because they've been doing, if you look in the Hebrew, they've been doing "rah". So they've been doing "rah", so now God is going to destroy them. Well, the word destroy is the word "rah". Okay? You've been doing "rah", so I am going to do "rah" to you. And then verse 8 says, but if after I say it, you will turn from your "rah", then I will relent. And the Old King James said, "repent", which means change your mind, that's what it means, which is relent. I will relent of the... and so here's the translator: disaster. Well, the word is "rah", and you translated it "evil" right before that. You said, if the nation turns from its evil -- "rah" -- then I will relent of the "rah" that I thought to bring upon it. Okay. If the nation upon whom I have spoken, turns from its "rah", I will relent of the "rah" that I thought to bring upon it. And if the nation that you know, I speak "tov" to turns from its "tov", and does "rah" -- verse 10 -- I will relent concerning the "tov" with which I said, I would benefit them.

Now, go down to verse 11, that says, "Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am fashioning a disaster" -- it's "rah" -- "I am fashioning a 'rah', and I am devising a plan against you. Return now everyone from his 'rah' and make your ways and your doings 'tov'". Okay. So if we if we understand that this word has different shades of meaning, some times when a person just embraces, that's usually where "evil", you know, gets attached, where a person just embraces "rah" and says, "Yes, this is me." Kind of like on Breaking Bad there's this early episode where Jesse who's been morally struggling all his life, he wants to be good. And he's trying to be good and all these tragedies -- he's always doing bad so he's doing, he does drugs, starts producing drugs, someone precious dies, he goes into rehab, and he has this epiphany in rehab and he comes out and he's got like, he's got drive, he's got ambition, and everybody, you know, they look at him and people go, "Well, you know, you got your game back." He goes, "Yeah, I know what I'm supposed to be." And they say, "What?" And he says, "I'm bad. I'm evil, you know, that's who I am. I'm just going to embrace it and be bad." Well, that's "rah". And when people embrace "rah" and they say, "Yeah, this is me, I destroy, I hurt people, I take, I crash, I crush things." You have become "rah". So in that case, we start calling it "evil", but just understand, "rah" is a part of governing.

Well, let me read Isaiah 45:7. "I, YHWH..." -- I actually liked this verse a lot. "I, YHWH, form the light, and I create darkness. I shape 'shalom'", "I shape peace". You know, it takes a work to make peace. It's never automatic. So I love that he uses a word "shape" like something you have to work on in pottery, "I shape 'shalom'", "I shape peace, and I create 'rah'". Well, the King James said "I create evil". "I do all these things, 'tov' and 'rah.'" Well, now you might be feeling a little tense right now. And that tension. It's reflected in like James 1:13, when James says, "When tempted no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone." And that's a way of saying God is not part of moral evil, he does not want people to fail, he does not seduce people so they will leave goodness and choose wickedness, he would never do that to someone. And I'm not saying he does that, I am saying "rah" is a bigger concept than evil. You could just say "bad" or even better for me, "destruction", you know, destructive. "Tov", constructive; "rah", destructive. And God says "I create construction, building things up, and I create destruction." We need to know how and when to participate. That's the word "know". As grownups, we need to know how and when to participate in "tov", construction, and "rah", destruction. But we can't trust this world to teach us that, and we cannot even trust ourselves to perceive it because we self justify every bad thing we do. YHWH alone understands this matter properly. He created the system, he understands the balance that is in nature of life and death. He understands tearing down and building. He understands it and he sees it clearly. And he will reveal it to those who seek it. And this ties later in the wisdom literature to Lady Wisdom versus the Temptress, and it's coming up in our next episode to Eve's role, who ends up playing both characters. You know, when I was a teenager there was this hippie song from Ecclesiastes 3, "Turn, Turn". You know, that there is a time to be born, they say, and a time to die. I'll actually read Ecclesiastes 3: "To everything there is a season. There's a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to pluck up which is planted, a time to kill, and a time to heal, a time to break down, and a time to build up." "Tov and "Rah. We'll be right back.

Sometimes you have to do "rah". You don't have to do evil, but you have to do -- think of the broader use of "rah". You have to do disagreeable. If you're a parent, your child won't always like the thing you do, that is for their good, that is the right decision, but it's disagreeable. There are times that 'rah' is, it is deadly and it may be the use of deadly force, but you have to do it, it may be unpleasant, it may give pain, it may even be painful for you, it may cause unhappiness, it may cause misery, it may cause injury, it may even cause death, but to be the co-ruler, the designated human king over creation, man will have to learn when to do "tov", and when only "rah" will do. And YHWH The God delights to teach this to Adam, and to allow him to grow in his experience, and to participate in "tov" and "rah" when he can accurately discern what is called for in the greater good, and this process is what is known in the Bible as "wisdom". It is "hokma". Proverbs 3:19 says it's how God made the world. "The Lord by 'hokma'", "The Lord by wisdom, founded the earth, by understanding, he established the heavens." God kept darkness as part of the creation, even after he conquers it in chapter 1 and creates light. He doesn't wipe it out, he uses it, he makes it half of a day. So participation, experiencing, and participating in "tov" and "rah", it is the essence of wisdom. And the Bible says God created the world through it. And it tells us to seek wisdom, but to seek it from YHWH, not to be wise in our own eyes, not to grab it. "Tov" and "rah" are two essential poles of everything in this physical world of duality, light and dark, life and death, build and destroy, war and peace, work and rest, positive, negative, punish, reward, give birth, take life. This is the work of reigning over life. If you're going to build a life, you have to kill some things in your life, so you can plant some new things. You have to uproot some existing things, and God does "tov" and "rah" every day. And He will teach us how to do "tov" and when to do "rah", but it's very difficult to understand. "Tov" is easier, but it is very difficult to understand when "rah" is a good thing. You know, in 2019, our section of Thailand caught fire. It was awful. I mean, the entire forests were ablaze. I was out of the country as this happened. And the smoke was so thick, this fire came through the mountains, many, many, many miles, millions of acres of forest was burned. You know, people say "destroyed", it's not "destroyed", it's burned. It's still sitting there. And so the trees are burned, the plants are burned. It comes all the way down to the edge of our property. And it continues on and I came back to a rain, smoky black shell all around us all the beautiful mountains were gone. And then the rainy season hit and the rain began to fall, and plants began to spring up everywhere. And the mountains just erupted with fresh life. And in three months you could look at those hills and say "wasn't there a fire here?" You know, a controlled burn is a really important part of forest management. Even death -- here's a mind bender -- even death might well have been a natural part of the creation. But it was death for a natural part of the life of animals, and birds, and ocean life, and plants. Just not for the man, or at least, the tree of living could allow man to avoid the experience of death. I mean, this is all speculation, but it seems logical to me. I think we have to avoid automatically applying verses from say, Isaiah, Ezekiel about the final state of the good world, "the lion lies down with the lamb", you know, and read those things backwards and assume that that was the state of life in the garden. What we know is that man didn't die before the fall, it wasn't intended that man would die. We know God told Adam, "if you participate in that tree over there, if you experience the fruit of that tree, your own death will become required". What we do know is that God built the world using "hokma", wisdom, and wisdom is knowing what to do, and when it is needed. Mostly, we just need to be positive, you know, build, give life, plant good things make people and animals feel good. But sometimes, the greater good means you've got to pull up some plants, because they're choking out the other plants in the garden. And it might mean you need to kill some animals. And it might mean you have to fire some people. And you might even have to put them in prison. And if someone is attacking you and threatening your life, you may have to kill them. And that is "rah". There's no sense that that is a good thing. It's a horrible thing. You're taking a human life, but it may be the only thing that you can do. It may be in the defense of those who live in the house with you. Dietrich Bonhoeffer struggled with this because he said, "It's not enough for me..." -- He lived in Nazi Germany, he was a Lutheran pastor. He said, "It's not enough for me to yell and let the people in the market know that there's a madman coming with a car, and he's gonna run over them and kill them. Morality commands me to stop the madman." If I can kill the madman, do whatever I can do, and he actually became, as a pastor, part of a plot to kill Hitler. So people have to make these decisions about" rah", and they're heavy decisions. They're hard things to do. But if you don't ever do "rah", if all you are is, you know, the positive the planting, that if you never, ever prune, if you never do these hard things, everybody suffers in the end, and the problems can't be fixed. But when to do "tov" and when to do "rah", only God is able to know. Humans have a really bad record of judging all this. What we need to do is let God give us his standard of values, and let God set our range of actions. Let him lead us by His Spirit. To be good imagers as we rule these little worlds he's given to each of us, and we're going to be tempted to just take our freedom. But if we do that, in the end, it's going to ruin everything. Every time we pull apart from God, something bad happens. Every time we try to become our own independent little god -- humans just keep doing this, and it has ruined life from the garden until now. And that, my friend, is why this story is here. It's not here as history. This story can't save Adam and Eve, but it might save us, and it might save the worlds we rule: our marriages, life with our workmates, our children's lives, our relationships. This wonderful book of Genesis and all of its stories, they're not here for them, they're here for you and me. All of us are standing today in the center of the garden of promise. And we are looking at two trees, one is going to draw us closer to God, and the other is going to seduce us to turn our back on a relationship with YHWH, and with his tree of living. Will we enter submission to God or independence from God? Will God be God or will I be God? who is Lord of my life? Well, that choice is completely up to you. But there are consequences when we use our free will. This universe is designed to reward us as we cooperate with the systems God is established, and it is designed to bring "rah" on us if we embrace "rah" ourselves.

The darkness is calling, and so is your father. Happily, we are completely in charge of our decision. And here's even more amazing: no matter how far you might have wandered away from your way, he'll embrace you, if you will repent and return to Him. He is slow to anger, and he is abundant in mercy, and he loves you today, and he wants you to know Him and to eat from the tree of life. Well, that's all for now. But hey, don't forget about the new free online course that we're offering at MediaLightOnline.com. Visit it today and share it with all your friends. Okay? Expect God to use you today because you are the light of the world.