On an immediate level, it is extremely difficult to know what to do with these verses and this story. How literal should we take this story? Why would God not want the man (and later, the woman) to eat fruit that grants “the knowledge of good and evil?” Why would God place the one tree of forbidden fruit in the middle of the garden? Why not place it elsewhere, out of reach?
As interesting and worthy of pursuit these questions (and more) are for us today, the original readers and hearers of this story would not have asked them. They would simply have listened and sought to learn whatever lessons God had for them.
For our purposes, let us note that there is tremendous freedom in the man’s relationship to God. He can eat of every tree but one. If he does so, it is a good thing. Things will go well for him if he obeys and stays within the boundaries God has set for him. If he steps outside these boundaries, however, it will not go well. And let us also note that until the man and woman violate the first and only commandment, they are even free to eat from the tree of life!
God has only good things in mind for us! The limitations he has placed on us concerning his will are there for our good. There is tremendous freedom, joy and life within the boundaries God has set for us. Obedience brings life and unbroken fellowship with God, who richly and graciously provides for all our needs and has our highest good at the heart of all of his intentions, commands and boundaries for us. Disobedience brings death.
Life-giving God, forgive me when I seek to go my own way, setting aside the most basic of your boundaries for momentary pleasure and Ill-perceived gain. Forgive me for believing the lie that there is somehow more for me beyond what you have already provided. Teach and enable me, this day, I pray, to live within and in harmony with your will and good intentions for me. Amen.