Reflections on Genesis 3:1-24 Part 3


The Bible in Your life and Your Life in the Bible

"God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31)


The sound of God, which once brought reassurance, now produces fear and guilt, both of which are incompatible with the harmony, beauty and abundance of the garden. There is now a scene which could have been poetic and idyllic "the sound of the Lord God walking in the Garden at the time of the evening breeze". How ecstatic would that encounter have been! But Adam and Eve hid from his presence; what an anti-climax! God does not hide from man, it is man that hides from God! This again is typical of human behaviour and with which we are all familiar. When one person does harm to another a sense of guilt induces the offender to avoid the embarrassing presence of the person he has harmed. Notice that here again it is God who goes in search of man ("where are you", v.9), it is he who takes the initiative and calls out to man. Fallen man does not seek God. His spirit is dead to God. It is God that seeks man; man's searching is a response to God’s call:

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 13:32)

Adam gives as the reason for hiding from God that he was naked. This is not true and denotes his lack of spiritual perception. His awareness and embarassment at being naked was a consequence of his disobedience. Being naked did not cause him to hide from God before that act of disobedience. He does not go to the root of the problem. Fallen man remains on the surface of things and does not see the gravity of his situation. This fear and this hiding from God continue until guilt is admitted and confessed and reconciliation takes place. Until that time there will always remain a lack of inner peace. If it is not faced then this fear will soon become an aggressive denial of the existence of God or aggressive opposition to belief in God. We see this all around us. Have we never noticed how aggressive some people become when we talk of Jesus? It is sometimes taken as personally offensive. They become similar to a roaring lion:

Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Adam’s spiritual sense is blurred. Physical or carnal knowledge is a new discovery to which the eyes have been opened but spiritual knowledge, that which links man to God, has been eclipsed. It is not the surface nakedness that lies at the root of Adam's fear but the sense of guilt experienced after stepping outside the will of God and of God’s law which is essential for man's inner wellbeing. The root cause is highlighted by God himself when he asks: "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (v. 11)

Adam’s response to God’s question reveals the social dimension of sin and disobedience. Sin, any sort of sin, is not only individual but also social. It is not only a wedge driven between the individual and God but also between the individual and his fellow man. Christian communities are enriched by the talents of each member but are also damaged by the sins of each. The sin of an individual brings spiritual death to himself but also to the community to which he belongs. This lies at the heart of any crisis of identity both of self and of the Christian community. Is our community vibrant because we are eating from the tree of life or is our community spiritually dead because we are eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the tree of disobedience? Is there peace and harmony in our communities or are there divisions, factions and rivalries? As a community are we aware of the living presence of God acting among us and in us or is our community hiding from the presence of God? Are we walking with God in the evening breeze of the garden or are we hiding from him and from one another because of our guilt and sin? Now is the time for reconciliation!

“The woman you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate. ... The woman said " The serpent tricked me and I ate” (vv. 12, 13). Do we never stop passing the buck?! It is nauseating to see constantly on TV discussions on the ills of society. Blame is placed on the children, on the parents, on school, on society, on fate on everything except on the exclusion of God from the individual and society and on the rejection of any transcendent moral standards. There is a lack of the sense of personal responsibility both in the Genesis text and in our society.

Next comes the triple curse of the serpent, the earth and man. To the modern ear this might sound like God's vendetta but nothing could be further from the truth. God is only expressing the natural and inevitable consequences of man's actions. The curse of Satan is already operative in that he fell from the heavenly heights before the creation of the world and is beyond all redemption. There is no promise or hope for him. Then there is the curse of the earth. The earth is intimately linked to man in that man was made from the dust of the earth and he has been given authority over it; their destinies are linked. That is why there is hope for the earth, just as there is for man.

The curse of man consists in what he has brought upon himself by not choosing the tree of life, which would have given him immortality (v. 22). He has chosen to enter the world of decline, ageing and death and everything connected with that. He has chosen the culture of death. That it is not a sort of vendetta is clear from the fact that God still provides for man by clothing him (v. 21) thereby showing that his love continues and is now coupled with compassion. More importantly we have the promise of the final defeat of Satan and of the redemption of mankind.

God transforms the victory of Satan in Eden with the promise of redemption and the apparent victory of Satan on the cross is transformed into the victory of God in the resurrection. In other words we clearly see the truth of the words:

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
“All things” means both good and bad.

The curse ends with the expulsion from the garden and the inaccessibility of the tree of life conferring immortality. However, in the new covenant, access to eternal life is regained through faith in Jesus Christ and the new tree of life, the cross. This is the subject of our next meeting.

Many issues are raised in this text but we have touched upon only some. There is the issue of self-denial or lack of it, discernment and acceptance or non-acceptance of the will of God, obedience, humility, spiritual warfare that is going on behind the scenes, the love and compassion of God despite the unfaithfulness of man and last but not least the problem of good and evil. Satan has won a battle but the war is still ongoing (Ephesians 6:10-19)

Robert Walsh

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