Below are the first two chapters from a book written by a man named Steve Philips:
1 FROM EDEN
FROM EVERY TREE OF THE GARDEN YOU MAY FREELY EAT, BUT… [Gen.2:16, 17]
Unmolested freshness graced every bud and blade in Eden’s
pristine splendor. Thorns and thistles, grime and sweat were things yet unknown. All was bliss for all was very good [Gen.1:31].
Every tree good for food and a delight to the eyes [Gen.2:9]
lavished this haven of mercy. The tree of life in its midst along with
that of the knowledge of good and evil were found there. All was well. Nothing harmed and nothing alarmed. Nothing alarmed, that is, except the strange decree, ...you shall not eat of it...you shall surely die [Gen.2:17].
What isolated this tree from all else? Hideous to the eye it was
not. No corpses of unwitting beasts littered its fair trunk. Rank odors did not repulse any who approached. Poison dripped not from its lush leaves.
To all appearances it differed in no respect from its surroundings. It too delighted the vision and was fine for food. All was very good.
Why, then, forbidden? Gaze as you may, nothing presented itself to reason’s eye to refuse its fruit. Nothing appreciable in itself would caution or repel the beholder. By sight, nothing persuaded man to comply with God’s voice. Through reflection, no reasons surfaced to convince the mind why the command ought to be heeded.
“Why” remained unanswered, undiscerned. By searching, no clue was unearthed to explain the enigma of this strange decree. Finally, having exhausted the fruitless inquiry, only one cause to obey remained. God had spoken. He must be obeyed simply because the very fact of His being God demands that we do.
The Lord may yet obscure your path with shadows. Disturbing unanswered questions may plague your restless mind. You may cry out repeatedly in vain for explanations that never are forthcoming. But this you know, He must be obeyed, though you can’t tell why.
It is a distressing state. We prefer rather to be in the know, to choose what is agreeable to our own understanding. But this is walking by sight and not by faith. And such sight proves to be no test of love and devotion at all.
Faith obeys God in the midst of perplexities. It honors God though all evidences point to the contrary. Raw faith says, “God has spoken, His Word must be performed.”
In the midst of our swirling confusion, God Himself silently watches without intervening as He did in the beginning. Like Adam, we are left alone with His Word amidst circumstances nearly screaming the impossibility and folly of obedience. All the while across spiritual distances, heaven’s hosts watch, awaiting the outcome as they did then.
Faith’s original foundation laid bare is this: God has spoken and He must be obeyed because He is God.
If even one shaft of light has penetrated your heart from considering this first prohibition in Eden, you are on the threshold of grasping the mystery of suffering.
2 ULTIMATE ISSUES
HAVE YOU CONSIDERED MY SERVANT, JOB? [Job 1:8]
God Himself provoked the inquiry. It was the Lord who raised the question. Consider this man. Come, look well, friend or foe alike, or even Satan himself. Consider Job. Search him thoroughly. Examine him to his foundations.
Thus, the ultimate issue was raised by the Lord of Testing. This most critical and fundamental consideration of the ages is exposed. Why does a man fear God and serve Him? What motivates him at the core of his being? The answer to this determines eternal destinies.
Satan had an answer: Man only serves God for the benefits gained thereby. Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side?
You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have
increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all
that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face [Job 1:9-11].
“Man is self-seeking. He has no love for God. Man only serves God for what You give him.” This is the devil’s accusation. His
allegation is that no one honors God simply because He is God,
because of who He is. Man is only attracted to God for what he can
get from Him.
It is a serious charge. If true, no one will reach heaven. If false, Satan will never reach heaven. These are ultimate issues. If at the core of a man’s heart is the root of self-interest, he is no better than Satan himself. Lucifer became the devil and fell from heaven because of this very thing [Isa.14:12]. He was full of ambition, self-gain, self-seeking [Isa.12:13, 14].
Lucifer promoted himself using God’s bounty out of a heart whose concern was not God Himself, but only self-interest. And he shall be brought down to hell [Isa.14:15]. It is for this reason that this poses an ultimate issue, yes, the ultimate issue.
Self-seeking casts into hell. It did with Lucifer. It does so for all following in his steps. This is the ultimate issue for man. But behind this lies a second consideration looming as a dark cloud threatening to dislodge the bedrock of the very throne of justice itself. It is an accusation leveled against the foundation of everlasting righteousness.
The dilemma raised is this. If an essentially self-centered man is welcomed into heaven, then God has no basis to exclude Satan from that place either. If God is “served” [actually, used] by man to obtain his own ends, then man’s “love” and “obedience” is a charade, a clever device to cover his inner corruption and nothing more. If that is true, then God is not honored and obeyed at all. On man’s terms alone is God “served.”
When examined, if the final motivation for man’s religious devotion is self-interest, and yet that man is received into heaven as
righteous, then God is unjust. God is shown to be unrighteous or a
fool, because, without cause, He arbitrarily accepts one self-centered being and excludes another. If self-seeking man attains heaven while self-seeking Satan descends to hell, justice decays into mere whim.
Too pure to approve evil are the eyes of the Lord [Hab.1:13]. The devil knows this very well. Yet he turned this very thing to his own advantage to demand access into heaven in the case of Job. “You have welcomed Job. You delight boastfully in him. He, You say, fears You and turns away from evil. But I say, he has not turned away from evil. You have cast me out of Your presence saying that my ambitious self-seeking was evil. But Job is full of the same in
the depths of his soul.
“I will prove that he is no different than me. I will demonstrate before all heaven that you have no right to reject me and accept him. I will unveil Your injustice. I will expose this doublestandard
and demand my entrance back into Your realm,” thus says Satan.
All heaven is watching. Eternal issues hang in the balance in the unseen spheres. God did not accept the devil’s challenge, for it
was the Lord who challenged him. For time and eternity the Lord will lay the unshakable ground of the rightful condemnation of self-seeking.
His proof centered in a man named Job, a man who suffered at the hand of God, by the will of God, and for the glory of God. Lucifer, unrivaled in wisdom and beauty, had everything and did not love God [Ezk.28:12-19]. Job, a man who lost everything and was reduced to wretchedness, loved God and trusted Him simply because He is God. Hear him cry, Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him! [Job 13:15].
God is vindicated. His judgment is just. He had found a man who through sorrow, affliction, pain, reproach, false accusation, abandonment, and utter privation yet clung to God, maintained his
integrity, and magnified the God of heaven simply because He is
Job condemned the devil. God thereby displayed the grounds upon which He Himself will condemn him as well. Job is in heaven, Satan is not. Job was shown to be free from self through his sufferings while Satan suffers unendingly by reason of being full of self. These are indeed ultimate issues.
Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?...Do you not know that we will judge angels? [I Cor.6:2, 3]. Do you not know? Do you not know that your every sorrow here below is designed to display the manifold grace of God above?
Are there not eternal issues revolving about your afflictions in this life? Will not your obedience through mists of tears be an everlasting rebuke to once bright spirits now darkened demons?
May you fall on your face and worship, blessing the name of the Lord as did Job. May you not sin or charge God foolishly. May you endure as seeing Him who is unseen.
And may He who is unseen see in you what He saw in Job; one who will trust in Him though He slay you.
Eternal issues depend upon it.
He died for all that they who live
might no longer live for themselves,
But for Him who died and rose again on their behalf