Early this morning, I lay awake for a short time. My mind wandered to Genesis. Two trees take center stage in the garden of Eden: The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There was a commandment associated with the latter tree: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:16). There was no commandment against the tree of life. Man was meant to eat its fruit and live by this inner source. Instead, man ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He was cursed and became subject to death (Gen. 3:1-19).
Next, my mind flitted to Deuteronomy 27 and 28. In these chapters, Moses tells the Israelites what they should do after entering the promised land. Two mountains take center stage in Moses’s instructions: Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. On Mount Ebal, Israel was to set up large stones covered with plaster; all the words of the law were to be written on the stones (Deut. 27:2-3). From Mount Ebal, curses were pronounced over the people. If they failed to keep the law, every curse would come on them (Deut. 27:13-26, 28:15-68). From Mount Gerizim, blessings were promised to Israel if they obeyed the Lord (Deut. 28:1-14).
Two trees and two mountains. One tree came with a command, one mountain has the law written on it. The tree of life has no command, and Mount Gerizim has no law. From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil flow curses and death; the same from Mount Ebal. Life and blessing come from the tree of life and Mount Gerizim.
Each pair of trees and mountains pictures two covenants. The first is a covenant of commandments, curses, and death. This is the old covenant of Moses. This covenant can’t make anything perfect; we can’t obtain life by keeping its commands (Heb. 7:19; Gal. 3:21). Those who live under this covenant are cursed and condemned to death (Gal. 3:12; 2 Cor. 3:6-7).
The second is a covenant of freedom, blessings, and life. This is the new covenant in Christ. It is not a covenant of external commandments but of inward life. In Christ we eat of the tree of life as we were meant to (John 6:51-58). Life sustains and motivates us. There is no law against the things we do by life, and we are blessed because we do them (Gal. 5:23; John 13:17). In Christ, the Spirit of the Lord gives freedom (2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:1).
We are too much in the habit of mixing these covenants. We try to graft branches from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil onto the tree of life. We place the stones of the law on Mount Gerizim. We delude people and preach blessings from Mount Ebal. We tell people they’ll be like God if they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:4-5). This is heresy and anathema (Gal. 1:6-9). Christ is the only covenant, the only relationship God recognizes (Heb. 8:13). I pray that we will not be seduced from our complete and pure devotion to Him (2 Cor. 11:3).