The Bible begins by emphasizing that the God who saves us, in and through Jesus Christ, is the one true and living God who has made all things. God alone is King and Lord of the universe. Everything that exists is for him, including us, as human beings. All people are made in God’s image for his glory, and life with God is meant to be a life of blessing; to be very good.
After the description of creation in Genesis 1, we are given some specific details of what life with God is supposed to be in Genesis 2. Our Maker and Redeemer made us to know him and make him known, to live with him and for him, every moment of every day. This is why we are here!
When God forms the first man from the dust, he demonstrates that we are completely dependent on him for life. Dust is fragile, and without the breath of God bringing and holding it together it wouldn’t be anything substantial, let alone, a living soul (2:7). The same is true of us. Our need for air, water, food, sleep, and even the right position of the sun to keep the earth warm enough (but not too warm!), are all evidence of how fragile and dependent we are, and how much God sustains us. We also see this with the existence of the tree of life in the garden (2:9). God made us dependent on him for life.
When God places the first man in the garden in paradise, he creates a place and space for man to live for and with him. The description of the garden in 2:5–6, before God puts Adam there, is a picture of what happens when no one is living for God. No one was cultivating the ground, bringing order and goodness with work to creation so that it would experience life and blessing. So God places Adam in the garden to “cultivate and keep it” (2:15), to work to bring about his purpose and blessing into that particular space. The same thing is true of us, who are all given particular vocations in particular places to fulfill for God’s purposes.
When God tells Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:16–17), he highlights what living for and with God looks like. Life with God means obeying him and trusting his wisdom. The temptation to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the temptation to seek wisdom on our own terms and in our own way instead of trusting God to provide it. God gives a clear command to demonstrate what being holy and God-centered looks like. Choosing to live for God brings life but choosing not to live for God brings death.
Of course, we know that Adam and Eve would eat of that tree, disobeying God and choosing their own wisdom, and that sin and death would be the result. God’s purposes for us in creation are still operative, however. We were still made to live with him and for him. Jesus Christ is the one who brings us back into God’s presence so that we can do that. Just as Jesus offered paradise to the those hanging next to him on the cross, so he offers it to us all. The paradise Jesus offers us is no longer just a garden, but an entire kingdom, where the rivers of life will flow and the tree of life will once again be our food. Even now, we get to experience a foretaste of that paradise in him, as we live with him and for him wherever we are, in whatever we do.