Entry Level Theological Truth [12]

The Alps

“And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9

There is a common misconception about God: many people erroneously assume that He does not want them to enjoy life – that He is a sort of cosmic-killjoy. Nonetheless, from the beginning of creation the Almighty demonstrates His desire to bless mankind and give them lasting joy. The problem is that humans have a skewed understanding of well-being. Many of the things that we love in this world are self-destructive. The drunk loves his drink; the addict loves her pills or syringe – yet these pleasures are fleeting and ultimately destroy their devotees. In the end, the search for pleasure apart from the person and will of our Creator is a vain pursuit that eventually leads to eternal ruination.

 


Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Creator


 

The verse at the head of this post affirms that the Lord God made trees grow that were “pleasant to the sight”; thus it is evident that He is a Being who understands and approves of beauty. The trees were not given to merely replenish the atmosphere (as wonderful and needful a process as that is); nor were they simply to be arboreal nutrition dispensers, rather like an arboreal Pepsi machine. Trees were fashioned in such a way that they displayed objective beauty. God created the aesthetic sense in mankind, and filled His creation with things that man could appreciate.

Even after the fall, the earth still retains great loveliness that inspires the artistic and creative faculties within people. Sunsets, the varieties of flora and fauna, even the wonderfully diverse colors and hues in human skin all stir man’s internal sense of beauty. If it is so here, what must it be in the presence of God? Read the book of Revelation sometime with an eye to the rainbows, gemstones, precious metals, and assorted colors that are described in heaven and in the future New Jerusalem (e.g. Revelation 4-5; 21-22.)

Similarly, the LORD made trees that were “good for food.” The Maker of the universe is the greatest connoisseur of delicacies that please the human palate. He could have created odorless, tasteless shrubs that would distribute the right nutrients to keep the human metabolism in good working order. Instead, He made food that tastes good, smells good, and even looks good. Master Chefs assert that “presentation” is everything. Not only does an orange taste good, it also looks and smells good. God made food appealing to our visual, olfactory, and taste senses.

Of course, the Lord’s gifts are often perverted by man’s sinful misuse. Beauty is good when appreciated with thankfulness to God. But if it becomes an object in itself it degenerates into an idol. Such perversions of truth sometimes lead people to lust, anorexia, and venereal disease, not to mention shallow, narcissistic relationships. Some people have loved art and the lovely things of this world so much that they never go on to seek the Maker of everything beautiful and good. This type of error leads to eternal destruction.

 


Man Versus Food


 

Likewise, overindulgence in food results in gluttony, life-curtailing disease, and addiction to sensual stimulation. In Mark 6, the Holy Spirit intentionally places two scenes of feasting in close proximity to one another.

First, there is Herod’s celebrated birthday bash where he imbibed in fine food and copious quantities of wine. What is more, food met beauty as the king was treated to a provocative floor show put on by his licentious step-daughter. This sinful over-indulgence in the pleasures of the eye and physical appetite combined to move that debauched monarch to utter a rash promise which resulted in the heinous murder of the godly prophet known as John the Baptist. Even though Herod knew this judicial homicide was wrong, he felt powerless to act otherwise that he might save face before his notable guests and further guard his over-developed ego.

In contrast, the scene switches to the Lord Jesus feeding more than 5000 people using a meager beginning of 5 loaves and 2 fish. The Lord Jesus performed a miracle to supply a legitimate human need. This was not a scene of gluttony – far from it – it was a remarkable instance of the Creator putting on display His providential care of His creatures. Unlike Herod’s party, no one left the Lord’s Table with a bad taste in their mouth or shameful regret over what they had heard and seen.

Not accidentally does God depict the future joy of the saints as “the Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7.) Christ wants people to have fullness of joy and “life more abundantly”, but this is impossible apart from a relationship with Him (John 10:10.) It is in His presence that “fullness of joy” is found and life itself is meant to be the enjoyment of God and the riches of His variegated being (Psalms 16:11.) To seek beauty or the satisfaction of desires and appetites outside of Him is to follow a fleeting chasing of the wind. Like Solomon said of old, the eye is not filled with seeing, nor the ear with hearing (Ecclesiastes 1:8.) No amount of sensory perception or consumption can fill the vacant space within humans. The French philosopher-mathematician, Blaise Pascal described it in terms of every person being created with a God-shaped hole in their heart that only the Almighty could fill. And Augustine articulated it in a similar way when he said “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” I close with the words of a classic hymn:

How good is the God we adore
Our faithful, unchangeable friend
Whose love is as great as His power
And knows neither measure nor end.
‘Tis Jesus the first and the last
Whose spirit shall guide us safe home
We’ll praise Him for all that is past
And trust Him for all that’s to come.

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Photo flickr/mirci

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One comment

  1. Thanks Keith. On my way to the airport and only had time to skim and read the BOLD lettering. Those things in themselves were encouragement and food for thought for my travels today. Looking forward to getting back and reading the whole thing!

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