Throughout all these centuries, El Shaddai dropped hints about who was coming. “There is a king,” he said, “That will reign forever in my kingdom.” And who else to reign as El Shaddai’s king but El Shaddai himself? And so we are introduced to Emmanuel, El Shaddai in flesh.
Emmanuel lives as a human, walks as a human, talks as a human. But there’s one major difference between Emmanuel and the humans. And it’s a critical difference: Emmanuel doesn’t take part in the activities that split the relationship back in the garden. Emmanuel obeys El Shaddai. Emmanuel’s relationship with El Shaddai is not splintered, not fragmented.
And now we come to the second tree of our story, the cross. To understand the cross, we need to look backwards. El Shaddai introduced sacrifice as his way of dealing with sin – punishment was required, and the animals that the Israelites sacrificed took that punishment. But it was a flawed system. The penalty wasn’t paid in full, it was just being diverted for the time being. And so Emmanuel stepped into that gap, taking the penalty for us. How is this possible? If Emmanuel had sinned, then he would have been guilty, and he would have required punishment, and the cross would have done nothing. But Emmanuel didn’t sin, and Emmanuel’s willingness to step into that position – to be sin for us – literally to put our sins and their consequences on his shoulders - sets us free before El Shaddai.
You see, there are two characteristics of El Shaddai that seem to be at war. El Shaddai is just – sin is far from what El Shaddai intended when he built the garden. And so El Shaddai is just, promising to punish that sin. But El Shaddai is also love and mercy. El Shaddai wants to give out this love, pour it out. How can El Shaddai possibly be just and loving at the same time? Right from the beginning, El Shaddai was laying the breadcrumbs for us to follow. The theme of liberation was there in the Exodus, the sacrificial requirements, the Passover blood, all these things point in one direction: Emmanuel. On the cross, El Shaddai’s justice and love meet – not just meet, but collide. In a collision of epic and cosmic proportions. The requirements of justice were met – punishment was handed out. But El Shaddai was still loving – in giving of himself to be punished instead of the guilty party. Justice and love collide. A beautiful image. The second tree is there to repair all the damage that has been done because of the first tree.
That’s tree 2. Don’t worry, from tree 2 to tree 3 is a much shorter part of the story.
Just like many modern movies, El Shaddai gave us a glimpse of the end of the story way back in the beginning. We saw the tree of life, that lesser-known cousin of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And now that tree comes back into the story, front and centre. For believers at the time of Emmanuel, they saw “heaven” the exact same way that those three criteria describe. El Shaddai’s people, in El Shaddai’s place, under El Shaddai’s rule. For them, “heaven” was not “a far distant place”. It was actually on this earth, but on this earth with those three criteria fulfilled, with the entire planet renewed. Many of the old prophets talked about physical places - the mountain of El Shaddai, they talked about El Shaddai coming down to this earth. They did not see this earth falling apart, left to ruin and destruction, and those that believed fleeing as if in a lifeboat. No, they knew El Shaddai wasn’t the captain of a lifeboat. He was the architect of earth, and he was also going to re-create earth to far more than its former glory.