3 min read
Everyone Has Garden to Tend

Written by Thomas Kilian, Program Manager and Chaplain

Published: 2022.11.08 

“Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig's flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the Lord.”

- ISAIAH 66:17 (ESV)

Two different kinds of people — Righteous and Wicked.
Both have something in common — Gardens

In the Old Testament, gardens represented life, and places of living. Sometimes a garden, or an orchard of nuts and fruits, is either used to describe one’s life either positively or negatively.

— Isaiah 1:30 —
For you shall be like an oak
whose leaf withers,
and like a garden without water.

—Isaiah 61:11 —
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.

Gardens are places that nurture something. Places of growing and eating. Places where we reap and we sow.

In a garden, one plants seeds. So it is with life. Both the righteous and the wicked have gardens, have lives, in which they plant and they harvest. One reaps righteousness, the other reaps wickedness. The wicked have fruits of sin, but righteousness has fruits of the spirit.

Like the harvest of the field, the harvest of righteousness comes only from God.
Opposite of this garden there is a field… which people harvest, and that harvest of wickedness comes only from Satan.

This is the subject of our verse. There are two simple lessons we may find in this simple text:

1. What you consume is what consumes you.

In our verse this morning, the righteous have the desire to harvest fruits of the spirit. That’s their intention… to be in a prosperous garden, ripe with spiritual promises.
This is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. This garden was in absolute perfection, with virgin, uncontaminated soil. Free from pollutants, plastic, and rotting deer caresses. In the middle of the garden, there was the Tree of Life. Adam and Eve were the first and only humans to enjoy the Garden, but when they did they could eat of the tree of life.

In contrast to the garden of life that the righteous desire, it is the wicked who desire to consume fruits of the flesh. Our verse today creates great emphasis on consumption. The text employs images of eating and devouring in a lustful way.

This image of eating is like a signpost for the reader, you and I. It reflects the motives and actions of Eve.

— Genesis 3:6 —
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.…”

Sin entered the world by eating something forbidden.

For the Jews, this truth was always on their minds. In Leviticus, God’s people was commanded to do devouring at their dinner tables dirty animals… pigs, mice, and more.
Eating correctly was a huge part of worship and devotion to God’s ways.
So, when we read our passage of wicked devouring impure things, we think of Eve and pagans eating what God commanded them not to.

In short, we learn an important lesson:
We are what we eat. OR What you consume is what consumes you.
This is displayed at the end of the verse, they “shall come to an end.” — Perish by eating the perishables… the flesh.

— 1 John 2:16 —
“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”

What you consume is what consumes you.

2. What you nurture is what nurtures you.

Each person lives life within a spiritual garden. Each plant. Each harvest. And the Bible is clear that both gardens prosper. The evil will live in a garden prosperous in evil, while the righteous live in a garden prospering in everything that is good. The Bible appears to present both gardens as being gifted with physical prosperity as well.

— Matthew 5:45b —
“…For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Just because the rain God gives water to every living thing, that doesn’t mean everything that is planted is of God. Rain doesn’t make a weed into a blueberry bush.

We know this, but…
What often happens is that we look at someone else’s garden, see that it is physically prosperous, and assume that is the garden that we want to be in and nurture.

Our verse this morning displays the error of our rationale.

— ISAIAH 66:17 —
“Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig's flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the Lord.”

The righteous here have the desire to harvest fruits of the spirit, but they end up following a wicked person in their garden. And while in the garden, they plant seeds that are actually wicked not righteous.

God’s challenge to us here is how we ought to consider our ways, and our actions, not just our desire. Remember Jeremiah 17:9, “the heart is deceitful above all things.”

Look at your actions, because it is the action that nurtures the soul, for the bad or for the good.

What you nurture, is what ends up feeding you… nurtures you. This relates back to our first point, what you consume, consumes you.

— Isaiah 9:20 —
“They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied; each devours the flesh of his own arm,”

— Ezekiel 3:3 —
“And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.”

The wicked end up starving because what they nurtured ends up not nourishing them. They find themselves In the middle of their garden, eating from the tree of death.

The righteous end up thriving because what they nurtured ended up nourishing them fully. They find themselves in the middle of their garden, eating from the tree of life. Just like Adam and Eve were able to eat from the Tree of Life in the middle of God’s Garden.
Here is how we apply - practically - these two lessons:

• Although we are not Jewish, nor are commanded as Christians to obtain from certain animal meats… we are told to not feed the lust of the flesh. And the lust of our hearts is connected to the lust of our tastes. Overeating or unhealthy eating is a form of feeding the spiritual lust of the flesh.

• Christ made it clear: “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15:11) What you say, is what you nurture. What you say, you make real, in the sense that words have real weight and have real meanings that lead to real effects.

• When you wake up and look at your tasks, ask yourself if what you are nurturing is a plant from your heavenly Father. For Christ himself, “answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.’” (Matthew 15:13) Consult God’s Word, not your sight or mouth! — Galatians 2:20 “We live by faith, not be sight” if we don’t, we end up like evil Israel when there was no king, “Why? “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25)

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