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“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:8-9).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
“Where are you?” the Lord God asks. Not that He needs to ask. The Lord God sees everything, knows everything. No, He isn’t asking for His own sake, but for the sake of the man and the woman He had created in His image and then given stewardship over all of creation. It is they who don’t realize where they are, what a serious situation they have gotten into, how they have just brought in sin and death into their lives and all of creation with their one rebellious act.
They have sinned. They have broken the one and only commandment the Lord God had given them while He bestowed countless blessings. “You may eat of every tree of the garden,” He said, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” And now they are experiencing the consequences of their sin. Where they had heretofore only experienced good, now they know evil in a very real way. Where they were meant to eat of the tree of life and live forever, they are now dying physically, bit-by-bit, day-by-day, and have lost the eternal life with God that they had been created for. Where God had blessed His creation and commanded it to be fruitful and multiply, creation is now cursed and on a downward spiral.
As soon as they eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, their eyes are opened. For the first time in their life, they feel the dreadful, deadly feeling called “shame.” They know they are naked. And so, they make fig leaves to cover their nakedness, even though their conscience tells them it will never work.
The second result of their sin is fear, another emotion they’d never felt before. The garden has been a place of joyful fellowship with God, but they run from Him and hide. His cry, “Where are you?” is a call of anxious love. The Lord God is moving to restore His fallen children to Himself. But these words are also a call of stern justice, calling the couple to repentance.
Adam’s response to God’s call is just as foolish as his attempt to hide; so thoroughly has sin deprived him of all discernment and good sense. “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He wants to inform God that he is naked—God, who created him naked.
Adam says he heard God and was afraid. But why was he afraid? This isn’t the first time he has heard God approaching in the garden. Always before, God’s presence brought joy, now only fear. Adam’s nakedness had never been a concern. Something drastic has happened. Adam’s words and actions do not conceal his sin, they only witness to his sullied conscience, his own condemnation.
This is the nature of sin: unless God immediately provides a cure and calls the sinner back, the sinner flees endlessly from God and, by excusing his sin with lies, heaps sin upon sin until he arrives at blasphemy and despair. Thus sin, by its own gravitation always draws with it another sin and brings on eternal destruction, until the sinful person would rather accuse God than acknowledge his own sin.
Adam should have said: “Lord, I have sinned. Please forgive me!” But he does not do this. He accuses God of sin and says in reality: “You, Lord, have sinned. For I would have remained holy in Paradise after eating of the fruit if You had just kept quiet. I would not have fled if You had not frightened me.”
This wickedness and utmost foolishness, Adam regards as supreme wisdom. However, we must not think that this happens to Adam alone, We, each one of us, do the same thing. Our fallen nature does not permit us to act otherwise. We all prefer to accuse God rather than to acknowledge our own sin before God.
The Bible says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions does not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13). God therefore continues to question Adam, and His questions become more pointed as He seeks to bring the sin of these two trembling sinners out in the open. “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Instead of accepting the blame for his own actions, Adam now seeks to shift the blame to Eve—and even to God Himself. “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Here, surely is another result of sin. A lack of love for God will inevitably result in a lack of love for one’s fellow human being—even one’s spouse.
Having been thrown under the bus, Eve attempts to shift the blame, too. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate,” she says. In Eve’s answer we note something else that must have been quite distressing to God. Both she and Adam are concentrating on the sinful deed of eating. God is much more concerned about the sinful attitude that produced the sinful deed. After all, sin does not begin with the hand but with the heart. Sin is just a deceptive in our lives today. We sense the results of our sins much more readily than the attitudes that produce the results.
As you hear this tragic account, remember that this is your family history. You and I are sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. From our first parents, we too have learned to love ourselves and to fight for ourselves, even if that means shifting the blame to our loved ones, even if it means disagreeing with the faithful God who comes to save us.
Adam’s and Eve’s pitiful attempts to excuse themselves didn’t deserve an answer from God and He didn’t give one. Instead, God turned to the serpent and announced a curse. The serpent’s method of movement was henceforth to be changed; from now on he would crawl on his belly, a constant reminder to them and to us that this is the animal Satan used to drag down the crown of creation.
The Lord God then addresses some even more significant words to Satan, words in which He announces a new program of His faithful love. God first speaks about enmity, enmity on three different levels. He tells Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” There had been friendship between Eve and Satan. She had believed her “friend” when he spoke. And if God had not intervened, Eve and all her descendants would have gone to live forever with this “friend.” God’s promise to send a Savior to redeem lost sinners created faith in Eve’s heart, and that friendship she had felt toward Satan was now replaced with enmity. What a blessing that you and I have learned to look rightly upon Satan as our enemy!
The enmity God announces is going to extend further. God promises it will expand to involve coming generations of both Satan’s offspring and Eve’s offspring. God foretells the ongoing hostility between Satan’s followers and those of Eve’s descendants who will share her opposition to the evil one and her trust in God’s grace. This is the hostility that exists between God’s believing children and the unbelieving world down to this day.
This enmity will reach its climax in one of Eve’s descendants, here identified only as “He.” It is at this one descendant of Eve that Satan directs His most vicious enmity, realizing how much is at stake. “You shall bruise His heel.” We see the fulfillment of this promise early in the Savior’s life when Herod tries to kill Him. We see another fulfillment immediately after Christ’s public inauguration into His work when Satan tempts Him to forget His Father’s plan. And on that evil Friday that Christians call “Good,” Satan strikes His enemy’s heel with a ferocity that costs the Savior His life.
But Satan’s enmity against the woman’s offspring is futile, because “He shall bruise your head.” The serpent’s crushed head spells defeat. As it is through the woman that Satan brought sin and death into the world, so it is through the woman’s offspring that God will conquer sin, death, and Satan. “The reason the Son of God appeared was “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8) and to reconcile us to God and one another.
Our sinful pride rejects God’s Word and seeks to deceive us so that we might not know ourselves as we are or know God as He has revealed Himself. God sees our true nature, and in Christ He reveals His nature, which is both just and gracious to us. For those who confess their sins, God is always faithful to His promise to forgive for Jesus’ sake.
St. John writes, “If we say we have fellowship with [God] while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:5-9).
Out of love, the Lord God continues to call sinners to repent: “Where are you?” He, in effect, asks. “Why are you hiding from Me? Why are you trying to cover your sin and shame with your own insufficient garments? Look at your life and take stock according to My holy commandments. Where are you?”
“Do you fear, love, and trust in Me above all things? More than money? More than family? More than your hobbies and recreational activities?
“Do you use My name carelessly or fail to call upon it in prayer and praise?
“Do you regularly set aside time for gathering with fellow believers to reflect on My Word and receive My forgiveness through My means of grace?
“Do you honor obey your parents and the authorities I’ve placed over you?
“Do you treat others with kindness and compassion? Speak up for those unable to speak for themselves? Appreciate the value of every human life?
“Do you refrain from lustful desire or activity of any kind? Do you promote the sanctity of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman?
“Do you deal honestly with everyone? Are you a good steward of the gifts that I have provided for the good of your family, others in need, and your church? Do you help to protect and care for the earthly goods of your neighbor?
“Have you gossiped or betrayed your neighbor by making public their private faults or secrets? Do you always put the best construction on others’ words, actions, and motives? Do you seek to build up your neighbor’s reputation?
“Are you always satisfied and content with the gifts that I have given you?”
“Where are you?”
An honest examination of your life in the light of God’s Law will show that you are by nature sinful and unclean. You have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed, by what you have done and by what you have left undone. You have not loved God with your whole heart; you have not loved your neighbors as yourself. You justly deserve God’s present and eternal punishment.
But you need not run and hide. You need not try to cover your own sin and shame. On the cross, Christ paid for every single sin committed from the first sin in the garden to the last sin on the day of Christ’s return. He redeemed you, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that you may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
Where are you?
You’re in God’s kingdom. You’re one of His beloved children. You don’t run and hide. You joyfully come into His presence with contrition and faith. Led by God’s Holy Spirit, you pray with your fellow sinners: For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name.
Having confessed your sin, you hear words of absolution from the mouth of God’s called and ordained servant of the Word: In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.