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Light and Truth: The Old Testament: Chapter 6 - Expulsion and Re-Entrance

By Horatius Bonar

      "So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." -- Genesis 3:24

      WE may safely conclude that this solemn act on the part of God is not separate from, or in contradiction of the previous promises of grace, but in fulfilment of it,--embodying an illustration or exposition of it. As generally interpreted, it stands alone, and speaks wholly of judgment, not of grace. But rightly read, it anticipates the apostle's statement, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life;" or if there be aught about it apparently stern or terrible, it amounts to nothing more than that in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest."

      I. The expulsion. The holy dwelling so specially made for man can no longer be his abode. He has sinned it away. He is not to be cast out of earth, or even out of Eden; but out of Paradise he must go, that God may testify to the evil of sin. But the simple fact of his being left on earth,-- nay, in Eden,--is a proclamation of God's forgiving love.

      (1.) The Expeller. It is God himself. He who made Paradise for man, and set man in it! He expelled him. The expulsion and the introduction are the acts of the same Being.

      (2.) The expelled. It is man,--nay, "the man," the same as mentioned before; the man so newly made, so greatly loved,--made in God's image, to represent him and to serve him!

      (3.) The expelling. The word is a strong one,--driving out by force, as the nations of Canaan. In verse 23 we read, he "sent out"; but man would not go, so he is compelled to force him out! It is forcible ejection from a forfeited abode.

      Paradise was the place of God's dwelling with man; and now either God or man must leave. If God leaves, man is hopeless; if man leaves, his place is still kept open for him by God. Even in the expulsion God shews his grace, His longsuffering, His unwillingness to leave man or man's earth. He desires still to have a habitation here. "This is my rest," He says.

      II. The guard. This was a sword,--or rather, "the sword," the sword of fire, or "the flame of the sword,"--the sword which turned round every way, perhaps girdling Paradise with a flaming belt; the sword spoken of, Joshua 5:13; 1 Chronicles 21:16,27; Psalm 45:3; Isaiah 34:5,6; Ezekiel 21:5, Zechariah 13:7. It was placed, not simply to bar entrance, but to inflict death on all who should attempt to enter. It was "the veil"; but it was more. It told that the holiest was not opened; and that until God withdrew the barrier it was death for the sinner to enter. What more efficient, more terrible fence could there be? Sword and fire in one! God's sword and fire,--revolving, in life and power; making access an impossibility. Living fire, or fiery life! It is the shekinah in the form of a sword, as elsewhere in the form of a pillar, according to the purpose to be served. O man, canst thou re-enter Paradise without God's permission? Canst thou open the barred gate? Canst thou remove or quench the sword of fire? Thou canst not. There is one that shutteth and no man openeth; that kindleth and no man quencheth. Only He can open who closed the gate; only He can quench the fire who kindled it; He who said, "Awake, O sword, against the man that is my fellow!" That sword is quenched,--in the blood of Jehovah's fellow, the gate is open, the access unchallenged and free!

      But the special object of this fence was to keep the way to the tree of life, which was in the midst of the garden. The eating of this tree was to preserve man's immortality. As the common fruit of the garden was to uphold him against the tear and wear of each day; so the tree of life had in it special virtue; and it is no more inconsistent with man's immortality to say this than to say that he needed other food to maintain his life. It was "in the midst," as the most conspicuous and most accessible place: marking its importance and preeminence among the trees of the garden. The preservation of man's immortality was now no longer a desirable thing. Besides, it was forfeited. He was taught that there was immortality in store for him; but not through that tree. It must be reached through death. It must be the immortality of resurrection. His being debarred from the tree of life was the preliminary or preparatory step to his being taught this wondrous lesson which after ages were to evolve. Man shall one day approach the tree of life (Revelation 2:7); but not now! Death lies between him and life. Death is the gate of life; resurrection is our hope.

      III. The new occupants. The cherubim now are set where man was. These are doubtless symbolic things, such as those of gold in the tabernacle; or, if having the semblance of life, like those spoken of in Ezekiel and the Revelation, which are still symbolic, not real beasts or living creatures. Their appearance (earthly animals); their position on the mercy- seat; their being one with the mercy-seat, their being sprinkled with blood; the song they sing in Revelation, all tell us that they are redemption-symbols, proclaiming man, and man's earth with all its creatures, redeemed and glorified; man reintroduced into Paradise, higher than that from which he was driven out, the Paradise of God. These cherubim in the earthly Paradise are said to dwell there; not "set", but "made to tabernacle" there. They are placed there as in a dwelling, to indicate man's future restoration to the abode he had lost. The sight of them is good news to Adam. He and his seed are to be restored after all. They are not always to be banished; not always to worship at the gate, or stand upon the threshold. They are to re-enter and partake of the better tree in the better Paradise.

      The way is now opened; the sword withdrawn; the invitation unrestricted and unconditional. A new and living way! Let us draw near! Without is condemnation, within is pardon; without is death, within is life and immortality. There is no barrier now; no veil; no hindrance; no distance; no uncertainty. The blood is shed and sprinkled. Through death, life has come. The tomb becomes the gate of life. Why stand we without, as if the sword of fire were still there, or as if the veil were not rent in twain? Why hesitate, or tremble, or doubt, when all is plain, and when God himself is beckoning us in? Let us come boldly to the throne of grace. Let us draw near with a true heart, and in full assurance of faith. Let us not linger on the threshold, but at once go in. The blood which has been shed on earth and accepted in heaven, is that which emboldens us to approach with confidence, not reckoning it possible that we can be sent empty away.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - The Old and New Creation
   Chapter 2 - The Link Between Being and Non-Being
   Chapter 3 - A Happy World
   Chapter 4 - The Sin, the Sinner, and the Sentence
   Chapter 5 - Man's Fig-Leaves
   Chapter 6 - Expulsion and Re-Entrance
   Chapter 7 - The Blood of Sprinkling and the Blood of Abel
   Chapter 8 - The Way of Cain
   Chapter 9 - The Man of Rest
   Chapter 10 - Going Out and Keeping Out
   Chapter 11 - The Shield and the Recompense
   Chapter 12 - Liberty and Service
   Chapter 13 - The Day of Despair
   Chapter 14 - The Blood of Deliverance
   Chapter 15 - How God Deals with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 16 - The Fire Quenched
   Chapter 17 - The Vision from the Rocks
   Chapter 18 - The Doom of the Double-Hearted
   Chapter 19 - Be Not Borderers
   Chapter 20 - The Outlines of a Saved Sinner's History
   Chapter 21 - Divine Longings Over the Foolish
   Chapter 22 - What a Believing Man Can Do
   Chapter 23 - Song of the Putting Off of the Armour
   Chapter 24 - The Kiss of the Backslider
   Chapter 25 - The Priestly Word of Peace
   Chapter 26 - Human Anodynes
   Chapter 27 - Spiritual and Carnal Weapons
   Chapter 28 - Divine Silence and Human Despair
   Chapter 29 - Jewish Unbelief and Gentile Blessing
   Chapter 30 - The Restoration of the Banished
   Chapter 31 - The Farewell Gift
   Chapter 32 - God's Dealing with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 33 - God Finding a Resting-Place
   Chapter 34 - The Moriah Group
   Chapter 35 - Diverse Kinds of Conscience
   Chapter 36 - The Soul Turning from Man to God
   Chapter 37 - Man's Dislike of a Present God
   Chapter 38 - True and False Consolation
   Chapter 39 - Gain and Loss for Eternity
   Chapter 40 - Man's Misconstruction of the Works of God
   Chapter 41 - The Two Cries and the Two Answers
   Chapter 42 - The Knowledge of God's Name
   Chapter 43 - Deliverance from Deep Waters
   Chapter 44 - The Excellency of the Divine Loving-Kindness
   Chapter 45 - The Sickness, the Healer, and the Healing
   Chapter 46 - The Consecration of Earth's Gold and Silver
   Chapter 47 - The Gifts of the Ascended One
   Chapter 48 - The Speaker, the Listener, the Peace
   Chapter 49 - The Believing Man's Confident Appeal
   Chapter 50 - The Love and the Deliverance
   Chapter 51 - The Sin and Folly of Being Unhappy
   Chapter 52 - The Book of Books
   Chapter 53 - The Secret of Deliverance from Evil
   Chapter 54 - The Voice of the Heavenly Bridegroom
   Chapter 55 - The Love that Passeth Knowledge
   Chapter 56 - The Vision of the Glory
   Chapter 57 - Man's Extremity and Satan's Opportunity
   Chapter 58 - The Day of Clear Vision to the Dim Eyes
   Chapter 59 - The Unfainting Creator and the Fainting Creature
   Chapter 60 - The Knowledge that Justifies
   Chapter 61 - The Heritage and its Title-Deeds
   Chapter 62 - The Meeting Between the Sinner and God
   Chapter 63 - God's Love and God's Way of Blessing
   Chapter 64 - Divine Jealousy for the Truth
   Chapter 65 - Divine Love and Human Rejection of it
   Chapter 66 - God's Desire to Bless the Sinner
   Chapter 67 - The Resting-Place Forgotten
   Chapter 68 - The Day that Will Right all Wrongs
   Chapter 69 - The Glory and the Love
   Chapter 70 - False Religion and its Doom
   Chapter 71 - No Breath No Life
   Chapter 72 - Every Christian a Teacher
   Chapter 73 - Work, Rest, and Recompence
   Chapter 74 - Human Heedlessness and Divine Remembrance
   Chapter 75 - Lies the Food of Man
   Chapter 76 - The Love and the Calling
   Chapter 77 - The Anger and the Goodness
   Chapter 78 - Darkness Pursuing the Sinner
   Chapter 79 - Jerusalem the Centre of the World's Peace
   Chapter 80 - Jerusalem and Her King
   Chapter 81 - Looking to the Pierced One
   Chapter 82 - The Holiness of Common Things
   Chapter 83 - Wearying Jehovah with our Words
   Chapter 84 - Dies Irae


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