By: Patty Joyce
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so . . . God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning—the sixth day. Genesis 1:24;31 NIV
I don’t know about you, but I am not thrilled about seeing creatures that move along the ground up close and personal. However, I must admit that some are rather interesting. Take the pharaoh ant for instance, so-named because they were believed to be one of the plagues in Egypt during the time of the pharaohs. They are so small that the workers are only 3/64 to 5/64 of an inch long. The queen is about .157 of an inch long, but big enough to lay hundreds of eggs in her lifetime.
I’ve had the challenge of getting rid of these bothersome critters on more than one occasion, and maybe you have too. However, for some reason, my last encounter with them turned into a science project. While watching them to find out where the colony was, I became fixated on what they were doing. They were moving in two lines—each line right next to the other, but going in opposite directions. Not missing a beat, they would quickly touch another ant in the opposite line. Well, being the curious photographer that I am, I quickly grabbed my Nikon Cool-Pix and attempted to get a photo of this exchange. That was not an easy task!
A bit of research informed me that every ant colony has their own unique scent. This unique scent is because of a mix of pheromones (a pheromone is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species). The ants touch another’s antenna, releasing the pheromones to alert them about what to expect at the end of a trail. Wow! Pretty awesome for creatures you can hardly see, and yet doing what pharaoh ants do. These creatures won’t try to fly like a bird or swim like a fish. They instinctively know what to do—hence they have no choice. By now, you are probably wondering why write about pharaoh ants. Let’s continue as we look at Scripture.
From the first day of creation (Genesis 1:1-5) to the seventh when God rested (Genesis 2:1-3), it was all good—especially the sixth day when God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. The common thread between the first day of creation and the sixth is that none of these had any part in their design or were given free will—except God’s crowning glory—man. The stage was set, all necessities in place, when God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness and let him rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26) Imagine being given the task of ruling over God’s earthly creation. One would think that would be enough for Adam, but was it?
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” The Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him.” . . . So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam, no suitable helper was found. . . . Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man and he brought her to the man. Genesis 2:15-18;20;22 NIV
From this I noted that God gave Adam the command about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before He took the rib from Adam and made woman. I also noticed that being alone is the first not good mentioned in the Scripture. God wants fellowship with us and for us to have fellowship with each other.
These observations turned to curiosity, like with the pharaoh ants. Like, why did God place a tree in the middle of the garden and then forbid Adam to eat of it? Did Adam tell Eve about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Only God knows that.
What we do know is that she looked, she took, she ate and she gave. In his book, Victory Over the Darkness, Neil T. Anderson writes, “Adam and Eve’s sin also affected their will to choose. Do you realize that in the Garden of Eden they could only make one wrong choice? Everything they wanted to do was okay except eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They had the possibility of making a myriad of good choices and only one bad choice—only one! Eventually, however, they made that one bad choice. As a result, you and I are confronted with a myriad of good and bad choices. Apart from the Holy Spirit in your life, the greatest power you possess is the power to choose. . . . You can choose to walk according to the flesh or according to the Spirit.” Without choice, Adam’s obedience would have been hollow, and he would be no better than those created without free will.
I believe that each of us want to receive love, loyalty, trust, encouragement, and other lauds because people have a choice, not because they are programmed to do so. Considering Adam and Eve’s free wills, God wanted the same thing. At times, we may wish God had programmed us to make the right choices. I know this would have saved me from a lot of troubling consequences. Psalm 9:9-10 tells us, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord have never forsaken those who trust in you.”
God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation, proclaims that we can trust the Lord. And amazingly, He has entrusted us with a life of choices. How humbling is that! Do we treasure our free will? Do we protect it from the flesh pulling us from one temptation to another? Do we pray to be acutely aware of Holy Spirit’s leading and conviction? My little science project has made a big impact on me. Choices are with me continually. I can’t put them on a shelf and take them down whenever I feel like it. When faced with a decision, whether rash or cautious, I want my choice to reflect the Jesus in me. I hope you do, too.
Father, keep us aware of the precious gift of free will. Let us use it to live a righteous life that reflects you and draws others to love, serve, and have fellowship with you.