July 26, 2004

Speculation
"Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD 
God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the 
day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of 
the garden" (Bereshit / Genesis 3:8).

Recently I was out with a friend of mine. At some 
point in our time together he asked me a big question: 
"What is the purpose of life?" This friend professes 
faith in God and to my knowledge lives a good life, 
yet this fundamental question plagues him still. 
Anyone else out there struggling with a question like 
this? Don't get your hopes up; I am not planning on 
dealing with this subject.

My friend had been thinking about this quite a bit, 
and it seemed to me had come to what was at least a 
tentative conclusion. He asserted that having a 
relationship with God was our prime purpose.As I 
already mentioned, I am not going to discuss this 
issue.

The issue at hand is the passage of Scripture he used 
as the basis for what he was saying. It was the 
Scripture I quoted at the beginning of this message, 
which speaks of God's presence in the Garden of Eden. 
My friend deduced from this passage that prior to Adam 
and Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit and the 
resulting consequence, God would spend time with them 
in the garden.

I have heard this from others before. Many people 
believe that part of God's regular routine at this 
very early part of human history was to hang out with 
his precious creatures.

Since this was part of their regular routine, then 
this is what we should strive for in life, the 
reasoning goes.

This too is not a subject I want to pursue at this 
time. I, like my friend, believe that the cultivation 
of an intimate relationship with our Creator is 
fundamental to life, but that concept is not found in 
this passage.

Interestingly, when I challenged my friend's 
interpretation, he quoted the verse, but adding the 
words, "as was his custom" to the part where it refers 
to God walking in the garden. I don't blame him for 
the misquote, because that is the common understanding 
of what occurred there.

So while my friend's understanding of the importance 
of our relationship with God is true, that concept is 
not found in this passage. To assert that God used to 
hang out with Adam and Eve in the garden is not 
biblical interpretation, but speculation.

When we are studying the Scriptures, I think we should 
keep away from speculating as much as possible. I know 
that this is difficult to do, since we all come to the 
Scriptures with our own sets of understanding, and we 
are not always aware of the source of these 
understandings. That is one of the reasons why we need 
to read the Bible over and over again. It is by 
continually reading and rereading that our wrong 
assumptions and interpretations are challenged and 
corrected.

The Genesis account provides us with no information as 
to how much time went by between God's putting Adam 
and Eve in the garden and when they sinned. It may 
have been a short time or a long time; we don't know. 
We may think it would be interesting to know, but I 
think if it would be helpful to us to know this 
information, then God would have made it clear in the 
Bible.

Therefore I don't think it is worthwhile or helpful to 
us to spend time and energy trying to derive meaning 
from silence. Rather than thinking about things we 
don't know anything about, we would do much better to 
consider the things that God has revealed.