Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Confession”, pages 37-41, in Steps to Christ.
In Nehemiah 9:25, the Hebrews talked about how their ancestors “delighted themselves” (NKJV) in God’s great goodness. The verbal root is the same as the name Eden, as in the “garden of Eden” (Gen. 2:15). Perhaps, the best translation would be “they edenized themselves” if only edenized were a verb.
The gospel is, after all, restoration, and what better symbol can there be than Eden to represent what we are ultimately to be restored to? God raised up the Hebrew people and brought them to the crossroads of the ancient world in order to create the closest reflection of Eden that could exist on a fallen earth. Even after the captivity and return, the potential was still there. “For the LORD will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden” (Isa. 51:3, NKJV).
Yes, the people enjoyed the material blessings that the Lord had promised them, blessings that, to whatever degree possible in a fallen world, were reminiscent of the abundance of Eden. And that was fine. They were supposed to enjoy them. God created the physical world precisely in a way that humans could enjoy, and ancient Israel — blessed of God — enjoyed it, too. Their sin was not in “edenizing themselves” in God’s great goodness but in forgetting the Lord (Ezek. 23:35), whose goodness they were enjoying. The blessings became an end in and of themselves instead of a means to an end, which was to reveal God to those around them.