By Paul Koch –
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The creative and powerful word of God speaks into being all that we know. He says, “Let there be light,” and there was light. He separates the waters, causes dry land to appear, and brings forth all the vegetation of the earth. If that wasn’t enough, He sets into motion the sun, moon and stars. He establishes the wonders of heavens above. Then He turns to fill His creation with living creatures. Every snail, polar bear and fish in the deep of the ocean has its origin in the voice of God. It was all good. It was perfect. It was exactly what He intended it to be. God was the ultimate of artists, not using one substance to make another, but out of nothing He paints into existence a world that He loves.
But the pinnacle of His creation was not the massive blue whale or the fierce lion, but man. Of all the creatures He made, it was only man that was made in the image of God. Mankind was established as a god among the rest of creation. They are given dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. God says to this beautiful and peculiar living thing, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” And the Creator of all things look at His prized creature, placed ever so lovingly in the garden, and declares that this is very good.
The picture of paradise is something of our dreams. Like looking through a foggy glass we try and imagine what it might have been like: perfect harmony between man and the rest of creation, harmony with the Creator himself. No sin, no sickness, no death or disease. Man worked the garden with joy and named the creatures. And the greatest creature he named was his own wife. He called her, “Woman.” Sure, it may not have been a very creative name by today’s standards but it was a lofty name, for it was his own name that he gave her. Man had been told that he could eat of any tree in the garden except the one in the middle: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He then proclaimed that word to his wife. Imagine that church service. They would gather together, perhaps right in front of that particular tree, and the man would say to the woman, “Do not eat of this tree, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” End of service. They would sing their hymns of praise to their Creator by not eating of the tree. They would worship and rejoice in the blessing of God by not eating of the tree. They would make their great offerings by (you guessed it) not eating of the tree.
But then we get to chapter 3 of Genesis. This part looks all too familiar to us. It is the story of the fall of man, the story of temptation and doubt and curses. The crafty serpent enters into the garden and asks a basic question, “Did god actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” The woman gives the answer she learned in Sunday School, and even expands upon it a bit. But the serpent replies, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Here is the part where everything falls. Before she even takes a hold of the fruit, before she takes a bite, before her husband joins her, she doubts the Word of God. The Word that created all things, the Word that established this tree as the place of worship and faithfulness, she doubts it. She sees the fruit as desirable, and before she eats it she has already fallen. This temptation, to choose yourself, your own desires over the Word of God is not only the first sin but it lies at the heart of every sin committed since that dreadful day.
The Word of God is the heart of the Christian Church and yet when you look around at the state of the churches today you don’t see much in the way of unity. Instead you find divisions along denomination lines, and even among those who denominate themselves by declaring that they are non-denominational there are divisions. Theology and practice are fractured from one place of believers to the next. But it’s not that they are operating with a different text. They all read the same Bible. But they have various ways of receiving that Word of God. The words on the pages are clear and their meaning is rather straightforward, but that is where the doubt comes in. Did God really say you should go around and baptize babies? I mean, that seems a bit foolish, don’t you think? Did God really say that you are redeemed by His gifts alone, and that your works don’t actually count for your salvation? Doesn’t that seem like a dangerous position? People just might do whatever they want, and then where will we be?
So, the Word gets twisted a bit. A little here and a little there, we like to soften the sharp edges and make it conform to our expectations and desires. It may be our reason or our feelings that is offended by God’s Word, but we secretly desire that the Word falls in line with us. Instead of receiving the Word of God, we say along with the serpent, “Did God really say?” You see, in the garden the Word of God and the people of God were in perfect harmony. God spoke and His creatures listened. The Word of God spoken in love was destined for the ears of His prized creatures. But now that relationship is torn. As the woman took a hold of the forbidden fruit and ate, she turned away from the Word of God and turned in upon herself. Her husband likewise follows suit. They no longer live by every Word that comes from the mouth of God, but on their own reasoning, understanding and desires.
Locked within themselves the sound they hear from the outside, the sound of the approach of God is no longer a joyful sound but a sound that brings terror into their hearts. For they reached up to challenge God, to become like Him, to stand in judgment over His Word. Now they realize what it is that they have done. They realize that their climb upward has been a terrible fall. They remain creatures, they remain the product of His blessing and love, and yet now they have rebelled. The punishment is death and God is coming into the garden. So, they hide.
Now you have to love the exchange here. The almighty God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth, the all-knowing and all-powerful God says, “Where are you?” He doesn’t say, “How dare you break my command!” No, He speaks a word of concern for them. His words here show that the relationship has been torn. He knows where they are, but they’ve never hidden from Him before. “Where are you?” He says to them. In fact, quite often that is the same Word He speaks to you. When you hide in your sin, when you hide in your doubt, when you hide in your pride and arrogance, when you think you can do it yourself, He says, “Where are you?”
We know what what follows this question. The man and woman confess what they have done. Sure, they first try to blame each other. The man blames his wife, the woman blames the snake, but in the end there is nowhere to hide. God speaks His curses, there are ramifications for trespasses, and God mourns as He speaks death and pain and suffering and never-ending turmoil into the lives of His beloved creatures. But there are promises spoken as well. Blessings that look to a future beyond the newly created vale of tears. He speaks a promise that the day will come when the offspring of the woman will crush the serpent’s head. There may be death, but there is also hope. The Father will not abandon His children.
God then spills blood to cover the man and woman. You see, we are told that before he casts them out of the garden and away from the tree of life, He makes garments of animal skins to cover them in order to hide their shame. God sheds blood to bring hope and life. As the man sees his bride clothed in those garments, as the Word of God rings in his ear about one who will deliver them from this life of sin and shame, he looks at his bride and gives her a new name. He had called her simply “woman” for she was taken from man, but now he calls here Eve. Eve, in the original Hebrew literally means “Life.” Through her would come the one who would destroy the serpent, who would usher the children of God again into paradise.
And so I ask you this day, where are you? Where do you hide from your God? Do you hide in your works or in your shame or in your confusion or in you pride? Do you hide in yourself like Adam and Eve believing that you can do it by yourself? Listen, you’re going to be okay. For the Word has found you yet again and it declares to you good news of a great joy. The Offspring of the woman has finally crushed the head of the serpent. There on the cross of Calvary, He was bitten by Satan as He bore your sin and betrayal and He died in your place. But He rose again. He rose victorious to bring life and salvation to you. In Christ, you are forgiven. In Christ, you are restored to the Word of God. He stomps out Satan’s claim over you as He declares you to be, this very day, the children of God.