“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,…” Genesis 2:16
So very many trees God planted in Paradise. So many trees with their fruit God gave to the man and the woman for food. Theirs was a delicious variety to enjoy every day. They never had to go far for their food. As soon as they were only a little hungry they might reach out with their hands to the fruit hanging right before them, and take and eat. Easily and quickly they might satisfy their hunger. They might eat as much as they wanted whenever they wanted. They could say “Yes” to their hunger, “Yes” to the fruit before them, and “Yes” to their God who so wonderfully provided the needs of their bodies, so they might live forever in Paradise, eating gratefully of the abundant goodness of their Maker. So might the Lord God continue forever to sustain the life He gave them.
To this plentiful provision of these trees with their fruit there was only one exception. After his Maker gave Adam every tree of the garden for food to eat, He set one tree apart by His Word. One tree God named the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Of that one tree God said “No.” “Thou shalt not eat of it.” God joined to that forbidden act a terrifying, sober punishment: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Have you ever wondered why God planted that tree in the garden, why He distinguished it, and why He forbade its fruit to Adam? To answer those questions we need not only to examine the awful history that followed man’s disobedience and see that all took place under God’s sovereign government. We need not only to consider His purpose to exhibit the wonder of His grace shining through that horrible fall, His glorious redemption shining through sin, through the tree of the cross. All that is true: shamefully, graciously true! But we must also see a purpose right then and there, a purpose that Adam could know, and a purpose that we must know. God planted that tree, which He would name the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. From its fruit Adam was forbidden to eat, so that his obedience might be full and complete. All Adam’s life and walk before God might be a wholehearted “Yes.” Even in his eating of the trees of the garden, Adam might constantly say “Yes” where his God said “Yes.” But full and complete obedience must also be that Adam might say “No” where his God said “No.” Only one tree did God set apart. Only one “No” was there for Adam to say.
But straight to that one tree and its forbidden fruit Satan directed Eve’s attention. Comparing that tree to the others, Satan worked to destroy the contrast that God established by His holy commandment. Eve followed Satan’s evil comparison, regarding the tree no longer in the light of God’s Word, but in her own darkening imagination. She “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise” (Gen. 3:6). Refusing to follow God’s “No,” Eve said “Yes” to Satan, and “Yes” to the fruit of the tree. So she ate, and also gave to her husband with her. Our head followed, eating with his wife. He repeated, saying “No” to God and “Yes” to Satan, and “Yes” to the fruit of the tree.
As was the crime, so was the punishment: Adam’s death and the death of all in Adam. That death was spiritual death punished with physical death. That spiritual death began immediately in them. No longer could they say “Yes” to God, but only “No.” Adam’s death was that He could only and always say “Yes” to Satan and sin. His “No” was punished with “No.” His “Yes” was punished with “Yes.” Hear that “No” in Adam and Eve’s fleeing from God and covering their shame with fig leaves and excuses. Hear it in their son’s murder of his own brother and in the denial of that crime before God. Hear their “Yes” to Satan in all the sin and wickedness of the world’s rebellion against God.
But in that blackness and hopelessness of spiritual death, God worked salvation. When Adam said “No,” God still said “Yes.” As God promised, so He provided. He provided the seed of the woman, the seed of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. He gave His only begotten Son to be the second Adam, a new Head for His covenant people. Wonderfully, perfectly, the Son followed the will of His Father in heaven. Wherever, whenever, and however God said “Yes,” He said “Yes.” Wherever, whenever, and however God said “No,” He said “No.” To every one of the devil’s temptations He said “No.” He said “Yes” even when His Father led Him to the tree of the cross, there to lay down His life for those who always said “No.” He continued to say “Yes” even when He had nothing from His God but the bitterest dregs of the cup of God’s wrath to drink down.
By Jesus’ suffering on that tree, His “Yes” overcame and conquered our “No.” We sinners are made righteous in Christ; our stubborn refusal and hard-hearted disobedience is covered with the blood of the obedient, willing Son. On that tree He also purchased our life, the turning of our “No” into “Yes.” So He works by His Spirit to renew us after His image. By that work of irresistible grace we no longer say “No” to God, but “Yes.” We seek Him, to know Him and rejoice in Him as our God. We ask Him to forgive all our “No,” and He tells us, “Yes, I forgive you for the sake of my Son.” And when He tells us to say “No” to Satan, sin, and self, we obediently say “No.” When He tells us His way, the way of faith, obedience, holiness, and righteousness, we willingly say, “Yes, that is the way for me.” It becomes our heart’s delight to do the will of our Father in heaven.
Our great blessing is to say “Yes” to our God. As many as the trees in Paradise, minus one, He gives us every day so many opportunities to say “Yes.” Daily He calls us to put our trust in Him, and our blessing is to say, “Yes, I will put my trust in Thee!” Our trust is then strengthened by His constant supply of peace, hope, and joy. He feeds us, clothes us, protects, and guards us. He gives us patience in trials and gratitude in abundance. Daily He calls us to Him, to wait on Him. We say, “Yes, here I am, thy servant!” He calls us to His service and we say, “Yes, I will go.” He calls us to confess His name and His truth. We say, “Yes, I will speak.” He calls us to obey His commandments. We say, “Yes, I will go and do.”
As we seek to please our God, fulfilling our affirmations, we must beware of Satan’s attempts to draw our attention away from obedience to God. In his craft and subtlety the devil tries to turn us to disobedience. By God’s gifts of prudence and discretion we are able to see those temptations and say “No” to them. So we stand with God and His Word. Our “No” to sin and our “No” to Satan is our “Yes” to God. In the service of God, we also find sin within ourselves. Especially when God calls us to deny ourselves and endure hardship and suffering, we find rebellion in our hearts, the word “No,” rising from the old man of sin. By God’s grace and through the promise of His Word, we are able to deny our flesh and submit to God’s will, saying “Yes” to His all-wise will.
Most wonderfully, whenever we say “Yes” to our God, we hear Him saying “Yes” to us. We hear His “Yes” as He expresses His delight in us His children. We receive grace for grace, favor for favor, heaps upon heaps. We rejoice in Him. Our desire to please Him alone grows. We become less afraid of men, no longer dependent on their vain applause and affirmation. We look forward more and more to the day of our Lord’s affirmation. Our confident hope is to hear our Lord say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21, 23). We long more and more to hear from Him, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).
So may we train and discipline ourselves to say “Yes.” Let us turn our hearts, our minds, our eyes, our mouths, and our hands, to blessed agreement with His Word. In that turning let us rejoice to know His “Yes” in us, His mighty Word that gives us our every “Yes” to Him.