But God – Part 2: Judgement, Promises and Grace (Genesis 3:8-24)

by Editor Michael Brooks

We continue the second entry in our “But God” series. You can find the introductory entry here.

As we examine God’s actions in history as testified in the Scriptures we must begin, at the beginning. This beginning is when God created the good and perfect world, created the crown of creation mankind (man and woman), and made everything good.

In this action of God we will see how He first deals with cosmic rebellion. We will learn about His character, His attitude toward sin, His demeanor toward Adam and Eve, His design and desire for fellowship, and His grace and justice on display.

Larger Context: Creation, Fellowship & Blessing

We will briefly introduce the context before we deal with the main events of this article which is the fall and God’s dealing with it. This will not be a full examination of Genesis 3, or even of Genesis 1-3. Whole books and volumes have been dedicated toward that task. We will touch on key points to help us understand the God who created and cares for this world.

In Genesis 1 and 2 we see two creation accounts. Genesis 1 is more direct dividing God’s creation acts into six days. There are three main ideas that are of primary importance presented in chapter one and two. 1) God is Creator of all things and thus sole sovereign over this world. 2) God creates the world good and intends for it to be a special place of dwelling (temple-like) with His image-bearing creatures. 3) God creates man and woman in His image as his royal representatives to carry out His rule and reign on this world.

We read “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female. God blessed them and said to them, ” Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:26-28, NIV)

The temple being a dwelling place is an important point brought out throughout Scripture. As Hamilton explains, “The description of the garden of Eden is echoed in the descriptions of the tabernacle and temple, leading to the conclusion that Genesis 2 presents creation as a cosmic temple, a holy dwelling place of God. The charge to Adam to fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28) is a priestly charge to expand the borders of Eden so that God’s habitable dwelling will be the whole earth.” (God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgement: A Biblical Theology, page 73.)

God has created a place where He would be in loving relationship with humanity as their Creator and loving Father. He would work through His commitment to Adam and Even to expand His presence and to ultimately fill the entire earth with His special covenant presence.

We also learn that He blessed Adam and Eve with marriage. Marriage represents that most intimate and important human relationship and community. God gives Adam a helper for the task He has given. Without Eve Adam will not accomplish His purposes.

His gift is not just practical, in fact, it is just as much about giving humanity some of God’s most incredible gifts to enjoy. Pleasure and bliss would follow Adam and Eve as they enjoyed each other, had children together, and grew a community together. We see a good world, relationship and purpose as God’s representatives, free and wonderful intimacy and community, and are reminded that this is what we were created for.

The last sentence of chapter two sums all this up in a beautiful way. Which makes Genesis three that much more devastating. “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25, NIV)

Immediate Context: Shame, Brokenness & Treason (Genesis 3:1-7)

We ended chapter two with the summation of all that is good and right about God’s world. Adam and Eve were both naked and felt no shame. They had perfect communion with God, perfect relational harmony with themselves, and were free of any kind of shame.

In a very succinct account we see evil enters the garden, tempts Eve, leading to Adam’s sin and everything that is good and right in the world goes wrong. This is a not an analysis of the fall so we will not go into detail here.

It is important to say here that in Genesis 1 & 2 God gave Adam a boundary to communicate that their royal rule in this world was in subjection to His own kingship. God had instructed them to eat of any tree in the garden of Eden but declared that they could not, on penalty of death, eat from just one tree. (Genesis 2:8, 15-16)

Eve becomes deceived by the evil serpent and questions God, and as Adam is passive (the chronic natural condition of men now since Adam) He commits cosmic treason by disobeying God and eats of the tree. Hamilton again sums up well:

“Adam fails to keep the realm of God’s dwelling pure, allowing an unclean serpent to enter the garden. The serpent subverts the created order by tempting the woman rather than the man, and his attack is an assault on the goodness of God. (Gen. 1:3-5) Eve falls to the temptation, Adam transgresses, and the man and woman immediately experience alienation from one another and God. (Gen. 2:25;3:6-8)”

After reading these seven verses the reader pauses, shell-shocked by how quickly everything has gone wrong, and proceeds to an even more devastating verse.

But God: Judgement, Grace, & Promise

In God’s incredible response to this cosmic tragedy there are three ways that God responds that will help us understand His character and His work in this world after the fall of man. They are 1) God’s judgement on sin. 2) His grace toward humanity. 3) The promise to someday restore what had been lost in the garden.

The rest of chapter three is devoted to how God responds. The eighth verse in Genesis chapter three may be the most heartbreaking verse to read in all of the Old Testament. It reads:

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8, NIV)

We learn by mention that the Lord commonly fellowships with Adam and Eve. It is stated in a way that reminds of us walking with friends and family. We understand that God was not the kind of God that stayed far away and only checked in on Adam and Eve when it suited Him. The Lord was very interested in sharing Himself with them. God then, as would have been common, was expecting his joyful children to run into his arms as it were. Instead, Adam and Eve hide.

Shame and guilt hit them in waves. After their sin they first tried to cover themselves because they had “realized” thy were naked. Then, when they hear their loving and wonderful creator God, they run in terror realizing what they had done.

Judgement

God of course knows all of this, but His response is worthy praise. Instead of killing Adam and Eve instantly without them even knowing it. He pursues them, He walks in that special place of fellowship looking for His crown jewel. In verse nine it says that the Lord calls out to Adam, “Where are you?” Reminding us that God will now for the rest of history be calling after us, asking that same question.

Adam and Eve come out and engage with God for the first time since the fall. To summarize this interaction we see that Eve blames the snake, and Adam blames Eve and God at the same time. Read them and be shocked by the brash rebellion of Adam. Especially considering the joy he had in chapter two over his wife. It is spiteful rebellion. It is hatred and bitterness that spew from Adam’s heart. So what does God do?

God first judges the serpent, along with cursing the man and the woman. God proclaims a physical curse to the serpent as well as a promise that the seed of the serpent would be crushed by the seed of Eve. This judgement promises that the enemy of humanity, the accuser Satan, will be defeated and will no longer hold dominion over humanity anymore. More on this later. (Genesis 3:14-15)

God responds to Adam’s sin by judging their sin. By being good to His word. Death has now come upon them and the world. With death, comes pain, and hardship. He radically changes how Adam and Eve would experience this world. The ground would fight them in their effort to subdue the earth and scratch out their living. Eve and all women after her would experience great pain in childbirth, the source of greatest blessing. (Genesis 3:16-19)

Finally, God delivered the death penalty that Adam and Eve guaranteed with their sin.

By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return
. (Genesis 3:19)

Adam had disobeyed God, failed to protect the garden, and was now experiencing God’s righteous judgement for his crimes. The most significant aspect of this judgement is the separation from God that he and all of humanity would have after him. (Romans 3:1-8; 5:12ff) Adam and Eve are now alienated from God. A devastating reality which comes with great literary effect. Just a few verses earlier we understand that it was commonplace for God to walk with Adam and Eve in the garden.

So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:23-24)

Those verse are so rich in important content seen in other places in Scripture. For our purposes here, it is important to understand that God had alienated humanity in righteous judgement. But that is not God’s only word.

Promise & Grace

But God. The Lord did not leave Adam and Eve (and thus, humanity) with only words of judgement. At the beginning, when the Lord is cursing the serpent, he utters a universe-changing promise. He declares…

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel
(Genesis 3:15)

The rest of the Bible tells this story. The story of the chosen seed of the woman defeating the serpent, sin, and death. The Lord promises that the war is already over, the victory has been declared. A descendant of Eve will war against the serpent (and his seed) and will, through pain (“strike his heel”), utterly defeat (“crush your head”) him. What wonderful news! For humanity’s greatest enemies: Satan, sin and death, will be defeated. The Lord has spoken it thus making it as sure as if it has already happened.

Reading the canon of Scripture we learn that this future seed would be God’s only Son, Jesus (Gal. 3:16 is just one example). He would do it by living in perfect communion with God, being the light of the world, staying covenantally faithful to the Lord for his whole life. Then, through His death on our behalf for our sins, would restore His people to our covenant God. Paying for their sins, interceding for them, and ruling over them as King. This is the story we tell, this is the story we proclaim. This is the promise fulfilled that the Lord spoke in Genesis 3.

And as a type of that future grace we would experience in Christ, God was gracious to Adam and Eve. We read…

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)

This verse could be easily read over without a thought, but this would miss a significant moment. What was the first thing Adam and Eve experienced after their sin? They realized they were naked and were ashamed. The Lord, in an amazing act of grace, kills animals and makes skins for them to cover their nakedness.

This would signify that the Lord had covered their sin and we would see that the Lord would then continue to be with Adam and Eve in a limited but important way. They would not have the fellowship they had in the garden, but through sacrifice, they are clothed in grace and maintain a relationship with their Creator God. Romans 3:25 says…

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished...

I cannot begin to unpack this verse which was taken out of one of the most complex passages in all of Scripture. For our point, we see that the sins of Adam and Eve demand a punishment. They call for justice, eternal justice. God could not just cover Adam and Eve without justice being met. The Lord could only be gracious to Adam and Eve, in that moment, because He would execute His wrath for their sin on Jesus, in another moment on the cross.

The cross is the means for God’s grace. The cross is the reason that Adam and Eve could be covered.

Summary

What kind of God is revealed in this “But God” moment? We see a God whose word is always kept. God does righteously judge as He promises to do for those that rebel against Him. But, we also see a God who is quick to pursue and find those whom He loves. He walked in the garden, “asking” where Adam and Eve were. We see a God who is gracious beyond measure in the face of cosmic treason by covering Adam and Eve in their nakedness. We see a God whom promises to not leave this world as Adam and Eve have left it: damaged, sinful, broken, in rebellion, and filled with death. The Lord will not leave it like that. The Lord is a Lord of promises, and one who keeps them.

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