A Picture of Beauty
A wonderful part of the spring and summer seasons is the ability to grow luscious gardens. Filled with tomatoes, marigolds, cucumbers, jalapenos, banana peppers, and more they provide a space for beauty and abundance. Of course, such a garden does not come without work. Weeds must be pulled, the soil must be kept healthy, and plants must be tended to in order for disease not to wreak havoc. For the gardener, one of the richest moments is grabbing the delicacy of their choosing and enjoying it with family and friends. It is a growth process that has taken time and reaped rewards.
Over the course of the Bible’s narrative, gardens and agricultural language feature prominently. The Scripture opens with God creating the world specifically placing mankind in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 1 records God calling on humanity to exercise dominion over the earth. They are to work as representatives commissioned by the Creator to be His ambassadors in the universe joining Him in His glorious work. Genesis 2 speaks specifically as to why Adam was placed in the garden:
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
He was to cultivate the garden laboring in it and seeking to expand it while using it well. The fruit of it was there for his delight to partake of each day. Being given the task of labor, he was to enjoy toiling where God had placed him. Yet, he was also to “keep it” seeking to protect which he failed to do as the serpent entered deceiving Eve leading to the Fall. Even beyond Eden, the gardening metaphor continues in the story.
A Place of Shelter
In His law, God gave specific directions for Israel as to how they were to handle their agricultural endeavors. They were to sow and harvest for six years while allowing the land to rest on the seventh (Exodus 23:10-11). In Leviticus 23:22 we see the garden painted as a place providing welfare for the sojourner:
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.” -Leviticus 23:22
For Israel, their land was not merely to be used for their own sake, but also for the good of strangers. Gardens and farms were not merely a way to provide for themselves but to show hospitality blessing others with the richness of what God had provided. Such is a wonderful fruit of taking dominion according to biblical insight. God did not merely want His people to be blessed, He wanted them to be a picture to the world of the goodness of their God blessing all of the peoples of the earth. So, the ability to cultivate, to “work” the land begins to take on this theme of provision for other souls. A man, a family, does not only work to feed themselves but so that the poor and needy, or those simply traveling might have sustenance. The work of the “gardener” laboring with his hands provides a bounty that can be powerfully used to point to the goodness of God. A crop was to be so abundant that it provided shelter for those who were hungry.
Provision For Stability
Not simply when Israel was in the promised land, but even when they were in exile is the theme of gardening present. Jeremiah 29 is a text within the backdrop of Babylonian captivity. The people are commanded to “seek the welfare of the city” in which God had placed them (Jeremiah 29:7). Before giving them that command, God directs them to pay attention to their own homes, families, and lives. The flow is pinpointed for a reason, namely, the people must have some order in their lives to bless others. Putting it differently, their garden has to actually grow before the edges can be reaped by strangers. God directs the people in Babylonian exile to garden:
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.” -Jeremiah 29:5
The key point is to “eat their produce” which demonstrates the gardens planted in exile gave Israel a form of freedom and a foundation from which to seek the welfare of the city. Practically, having their own source of food gave them the stability to continue forward. It made them productive members of the community in which they were surrounded. Gardens in Jeremiah, were a place from which the people could exercise some independence while also giving a platform to bless others.
The Bible not only opens with a gardening narrative, but that thread is also found at the very end. In the book of Revelation, we have a fruit tree present in the eternal city:
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” -Revelation 22:1-2
Fruit that brings healing because of the perfection of the work of Christ. No doubt, the nations are presently being healed in a certain sense every time a soul is saved by the glory of God. However, this healing is consummated in eternity after Christ returns. It is finalized being brought to its full fruition on that day when evil shall be cast away, sin will not be present, and only perfect righteous joy shall exist. All of the enemies of God will be banished to eternal hell and everything will be restored . . . redeemed in the grand “work” of God bringing it to its climatical perfection forever. This is why Jesus grabs the gardening metaphor calling on us to abide in Him if we are to bear fruit which matters for eternity (John 15). A garden is not meant to merely give us sustenance for today, bless others, and work as a shelter. It is also to point us forward to the wondrous work of God who is cultivating all things for His praise.
The Call of The Garden Theme
After seeing the wonderful picture Scripture paints of gardening, should you immediately begin planting? Perhaps that is the case, maybe you should expand your present garden or start learning if you never have before. Hard work, family time, and food from your own toil are all immense blessings not to be overlooked. The gardening metaphor calls us to something even greater. It beckons us to see the world around us as God’s creation over which we have been given dominion as His image bearers. This call urges us not only to see the potential of the world around us and cultivate, but to work on our own hearts and souls pulling each weed out as the Master Gardener prunes. He is growing our minds to be refined by His Word, maturing our souls to cast out sin, and placing within us a passion to see opportunities for good work each day.
Let us then see the call of the garden, of this creation in which we have been called to labor. The work is hard, sweaty, and even painful at times. It is the good call of God upon us though. We labor on this earth to glorify God in everything. Our objective is not only to provide for ourselves but so that we might be a blessing to others as they travel along the path. May we take up the tools He has given to us each day and seek the welfare of the city. Christ the Vine provides life abundant to all who come to Him. By His Word, He instructs them as to how they should cultivate submitting to Him as Lord in all. I pray He gives us eyes to see the beauty of that work and of the garden of opportunities right before our eyes!
“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” -Matthew 9:37-38