by Earl Petty
(The Minister’s Monthly – May 1962)
God’s first instruction to man pertained to the care of his garden: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) Sometimes we forget the laws of Paradise. Our Savior referred to one of them in his early lessons about husband and wife when he said, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female” and “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” (Mark 10:6; Matthew 19:8) In the Garden God commanded: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Here man learned about his Creator and his creation. Adam was given the task of naming cattle, fowl, and beast. Even with this intimate association with God and with nature, man’s joy was still incomplete. Even with the lack of obnoxious weeds and thistles, the assignment to “dress and keep” was too much for him. Even with the beauty of a plentifully watered garden with its waters that parted into four great rivers, Adam was not happy.
God saw that Adam’s work was too great for him alone and provided him a help meet—(since then too many men have just turned the complete garden over to their wives, or plant more than their wives can hoe), and then began the “romance of life.” The expression “help meet” can be literally translated “suitable.” Many things have happened since that eventful day, but it is still possible for a garden to contribute much to the security and happiness of a modern family. A garden properly shared and worked is a good marriage-binder.
A garden provides excellent training for children. Children are naturally nature lovers—they enjoy finding the names of God’s created plants, birds, and animals. They love a garden of their own and it affords many examples and lessons in the nature and closeness of God. Here they see the miracles of seed, soil, and sunshine and showers, and even learn the meaning of “the sweat of thy brow.” Here they find the reward of fruit and flower and their meaning in food and beauty.
A garden should be a family affair—too many gardens are being turned into lawns and playgrounds. It may be true that you can buy your food cheaper than you can grow it—but you are missing one of the happiest assignments God ever gave to man when you do not have a garden. Too many have already eaten of the “tree of knowledge” and found other things to do with their time instead of caring for a garden, and a happy, beautifully landscaped homestead.Too much time has been diverted to sports, recreation, and worldly pleasures, overlooking, the most beneficial recreation of all—making a paradise in and their home.
Gardening affords many benefits, besides recreation. Tending a garden for an hour or two will help clear the “cobwebs” from our mind and will soon become a real pleasure, more challenging than golf, fishing or observing sports. It has its “handicaps”—in thistles, thorns, bugs, and weather—but man is master of them all if he sets his heart to the task. Winter gardening over seed and “Nursery Catalogs” is a pleasant recreation—more interesting than TV many times.
The greatest benefit of a garden is that it can be made into a “retreat” from the world and a rendezvous for communion with God. God loved the garden of Eden and made a practice of walking in it in the cool of the day. (Genesis 3:8) In our garden God has a deep look into our hearts. At times it may be a heart of peace, quiet, joy, or sorrow. The garden is a good place to cultivate the heart.
Christ, our Savior, had his favorite gardens, but the most widely known garden to Christendom is Gethsemane. Here our Savior retreated for a few hours following the feast of the Passover. Here he sweat, as it were, drops of blood. Here he prayed for his disciples—and all who would believe their words. There had not always been unity among them. Here he prayed for their unity, and for their salvation—that none be lost. Here angels ministered to him. Every one should have a place in a garden where such things can be meditated. Here, when our eyes have been washed with tears and we wipe them away, we can see God’s love and providential care more clearly.
We should have a garden so that we can more clearly understand the Christian analogy that we are all part of God’s garden, that we will be harvested as good grain or trash. We have been planted in God’s garden as trees beside the “river of life,” there to grow and to thrive, to beautify the landscape and to produce flower, fruit, food, and happiness. “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:3)
So we see that a man’s existence began in a garden, he is also offered as a final welcome the beautiful garden of John’s vision in the last book of the sacred volume:
“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2)