The fabric of the universe was in its place; light, water, plants, the sun and moon and stars, birds that fly, sea creatures that swim, and animals that walk and run and creep on the land . . . and when God stepped back and looked at His creation as a whole, he said, “It is very good”.
The world God had created was perfectly suited for life and it was glorious.
But the story of creation is crafted in a way that demonstrates a glory that points away from itself to its source. Creation declares, the glory of God and the pinnacle of this creation . . . Human beings.
He took the dust from the earth and formed it and breathed life into it and made man in his own image. And He named man, Adam from the Hebrew Word; Adamah which means ground or dust.
It is as though God, like a masterful artist, has created a breathtaking work of art and then signed it, not with his name . . . but with his likeness.
And he gave man dominion over all of creation. In other words, we are in charge. Humankind is tasked to take active responsibility for creation and is expected to share in God’s work in the world.
But when God saw that man was alone and that there was not a suitable helper for the task, he said, “Well, that’s not good. So, He took one of Adams ribs and he created woman and it was good!
In their original state, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. They were completely open to each other. Adam hid nothing from Eve and Eve hid nothing from Adam. There was complete trust and complete love. Nothing came between them as people, and nothing came between them and God.
The garden was paradise, not simply because it had beautiful plants, great food, complete security, and the perfect climate. It was paradise because it was God’s house on earth. In a sense, it was more like a temple than a garden. It was the original holy of holies, where God and His people could be in fellowship and experience perfect community and harmony . . . that’s why God said it was very good!
And in this paradise garden were trees of every kind that were beautiful and good for food. But in this middle of the garden was a tree whose fruit was forbidden to eat and if they did, they would die.
The placement of this tree, in the middle of this garden, is incredibly significant. Had it been located on the distant fringe of the garden, they could have ignored it. But every day they had to walk by this tree that was not theirs for the taking.
They have to wonder what is so special about this fruit. Why can’t they have it, too?
And it is here, in this question, that we begin to realize that we are being drawn into the story of God because we do not like limits and boundaries. We have this tendency to want to explore and experience what is on the other side.
Our text today finds Adam and Eve staring at the tree . . . and the woman begins to dialogue with a serpent concerning the single boundary in God’s world.
Does anyone notice anything weird about this?
It’s a serpent and it’s walking and it’s talking. You would think that they would go to God and say, hey there’s this walking talking serpent telling me something about death . . . something they had never experienced. What is it?
But instead of going to God with her questions, she continues her conversation with the serpent.
And as she quotes the command of God, indicating that she knew exactly what the boundaries were, she subtly but significantly distorts it.
God had only said not to eat of the tree, but the woman narrows the command to not even touch the tree. She had twisted the command into a legalism, to an almost unreasonable demand.
You see, unreasonable demands are easier to violate. It’s much easier to justify disobedience when you paint the demand as unreasonable . . . isn’t it?
The serpent’s response summarizes the entire struggle leading up to the choices made by the man and the woman. The couple is lured by the promise of absolute freedom, the ability to become gods. As such, they would have no boundaries except those of their own making.
And once again, we are drawn into the story . . . their story becomes our story . . . for we too long to be free of restrictions and limits, especially when we see them to be unreasonable.
But as the story unfolds, the promise is empty and false, a product of human selfishness and destructive desire for independence.
Like a child who ignores a parents warning because they are fascinated by the pretty but deadly, the woman takes the forbidden fruit and eats and then she shares it with man.
Immediately, Adam and Eve’s well ordered, harmonious world begins to disintegrate. Indeed their eyes had been opened, just as the serpent had promised but it wasn’t what they had expected.
- Instead of becoming like God, they realized that they were naked.
- While the first part of the story told us that they were naked and unashamed
- Nakedness now becomes a powerful symbol of their shame and guilt of disobedience.
- They now realized that in their nakedness . . . they were totally open to each other, that they were vulnerable, and that they were defenseless.
So, they tried to cover themselves by using fig leaves, sewn together. Their coverings couldn’t have been the most effective garment ever made but they were desperate. They needed to cover themselves; they needed to hide from each other, and even more, they felt like they needed to hide from God.
So, they took what was available, and they did the only thing they knew how to do in order to cover their bodies.
Then God called out for Adam, as if he was missing a regular appointment. A conversation they had and looked forward to each day.
You see, nothing about God had changed, but everything about Adam had. Adam was filled with shame and he was hiding from God in fear.
If we allow ourselves to get caught up in the story, we realize the depth of emotion and the sadness in Adam’s reply, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid”.
Adam was afraid of standing naked and ashamed before the creator.
And God asks, “Who told you that you were naked?”
And now, the chaos which they have introduced into this world grows to include their relationship with one another. Instead of mutual support and love in community, the man blames the woman for his disobedience . . . and subtly implies that it is God’s fault . . . “you put her here with me”.
The woman likewise blames the serpent for her failure.
There is no love, no mutual trust, and no mutual accountability; there is only guilt, blaming, trying to avoid responsibility, even to the point of endangering relationships within the community. Their world is collapsing from the inside out.
At this point in the story we would expect God to carry out his threat . . . Justice Demands it.
But God is more than a God of justice bound to a law of judgment. God responds to disobedience, not with the full weight of justice, but with mercy and grace.
And here we see the first hint of the gospel.
If we listen carefully to the story, the curse is not directed against humanity, but against the ground; the very ground from which man has been created.
- The disorder introduced by violating God’s boundaries not only disrupts the world itself . . . It affects the very fabric of creation.
- And so human beings, who have chosen self rule rather than abiding in God’s commands, experience the world as cruel and harsh
But God showed his mercy and love, when he made garments of skin and he clothed them. The text doesn’t tell us how it happened, but it’s obvious – these were garments of animal skin.
For humans to be covered, for their shame guilt to be covered: God had to make the covering. An animal had to be killed; blood had to be shed, and his skin taken in order to cover the nakedness of man.
Instead of killing the man and his wife for their sin, God takes the life of a substitute to cover their sin, to take away their shame, to hide their guilt.
What man could not adequately do for themselves, He did. God doesn’t abandon them; He comes to them, pursuing, seeking, calling . . . and covering.
You see, we do not have to seek God, we don’t have to cover ourselves because our God meets us where we are, He promises never to abandon us, and he provides for us.
And this first sacrifice points us to the final sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Once again, and once for all, God did what we couldn’t do.
- He provided the perfect sacrifice.
- He covered our sins.
- He made us whole.
- He gave us new life
- And as the prophet Isaiah tells, God Himself took our shame, our grief, and our sorrow upon himself; He made it possible for us to come to Him without hiding.
This willingness of God to be “unjust” in order to reclaim His creation is the definition of grace and it defines the gospel.
God’s merciful “un-justice” both allowed the couple to live and covered their guilt and shame.
Because of what God has done for us, we no longer have to be afraid. We no longer have to be afraid of each other, and we no longer have to be afraid to come to God in total openness and in complete honesty.
Jesus didn’t come simply to save souls . . . he came to restore the community, the glory, and the harmony to the whole creation. And if you see the effects of the fall going out farther than the effects of Christ’s redemption, than your gospel is too small.
Because Jesus Christ, with his perfect sacrifice, has taken away our shame and our guilt, and has given us everything we need to live in confidence. Everything else is just fig leaves.