READ : Genesis 3:7-15
God is a seeking God. If he weren’t, the Bible would be a very short book?it would have ended somewhere around Genesis 3:7. But because God is a God who persists in seeking out the lost, we find that the story is really just beginning.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
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. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.
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 3:7-15, niv
I’ve been thinking lately about the subject of communication. In fact, I’ve even been trying to learn something about it, which is probably a good thing since for six and a half years now I’ve been working for a communications ministry. Putting me in charge of Words of Hope is sort of like entrusting all the surgery in the hospital to the local chaplain. Imagine saying to a patient, “Well, don’t worry, Mr. Smith, I’m sure your quadruple bypass will go very well tomorrow. After all, Rev. Bast has studied Greek and Hebrew!”
The way God communicates with Adam and Eve after their fall into sin provides a wonderful model of how we need to communicate with others as we engage in the business of sharing the gospel with a lost and broken world. This familiar story from Genesis 3 depicts the consequences of the Fall. Everything has changed. The world as God made it, so pure, so perfect, where everything was good, where everything that his eye fell upon pleased him, is all gone. Now everything is different.
It’s a terrible story. It is the world’s original tragedy. Every other tragedy, from those depicted in the greatest works of literature to the very real tragedies that touch our lives and break our hearts, has come from this tragedy. How did it happen? It happened when Adam and Eve first began to debate God’s commands, then to doubt his word, then to disbelieve what he had said. Finally, they disobeyed him. Thinking to become like God, they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and so worshiped the creature rather than the Creator. And the world has never been the same.
Adam and Eve themselves are changed as well, at least as much as Eden and the creation. They have become self-conscious, literally – aware of themselves for the first time. For the first time they felt the emotion of shame. They didn’t become like God. That was a lie also, the biggest of the devil’s lies. In fact, not only did they not become like God, now they’ve become unlike what they formerly were. They do know good and evil in a new way, except now they know good only as an impossible ideal and evil as an ever-present reality.
Eden has been lost forever. From Genesis 3:7 onwards we are in our world, the world as we know it. It is the world that grows thorns and thistles when we sow good seed, the world where daily life has become a sweat-drenched struggle against futility and frustration, the world where even the greatest joys are always accompanied by pain, the world where every hope-filled birth ends in death. Adam and Eve don’t quite realize all this yet, but they’re starting to suspect that things have gone radically wrong and that what they’ve done wasn’t such a good idea.
A SEEKING GOD
As we take up the story at this point we see that it begins with God’s action. Everything is initiated by God. The story of the human race continues only because into this fallen world God comes in pursuit of his lost creatures. Up until this point, we have the sense in Genesis that God is sort of above and outside of everything. But now God comes himself. He enters the fallen world directly, as the seeking God. If he weren’t this kind of God, the Bible would be a very short book. It would have ended somewhere around Genesis 3:7 with destruction of Adam and Eve and the obliteration of the world that they had spoiled. But because God is a God who persists in seeking out the lost, we find that the story is really just beginning. God is a pursuer, the “Hound of Heaven,” as one great poet has described him. What a good thing it is for us that God is like that!
The apostle Paul said that Christ Jesus “came into the world to save sinners.” This desire to save is the initiative that caused God not just to come into the garden of Eden to find Adam and Eve but ultimately to send his Son all the way to the cross in order to seek out and save lost people everywhere.
But as God comes into the world, Adam and Eve turn around and run the other way! They flee from him. “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.” God’s action, human reaction. Frankly, quite a childish reaction! I wonder, how do you picture this happening? When I read that Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden, I think of a little toddler holding his hands up and saying, “You can’t see me!” Did Adam and Eve really think they could hide from God? Did they really think that by running away they could escape the bounds of omnipresence or that trees and shrubs could shield them from the searching gaze of omniscience? Did they really believe they could escape from the presence of Almighty God?
But what’s really interesting is what prompted Adam and Eve’s flight. “They heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden,” and so they ran and hid. I take this to be picture language. We know that God does not literally have a body or that he walks around taking an evening stroll. So I try to imagine just what occurred there in the garden. It’s real. It’s a real incident. This is not fiction. There’s a difference between metaphor and fiction. But how can we picture this? If it wasn’t literally the sound of God’s body crashing through the underbrush, what was it that Adam and Eve heard?
I don’t think there is any way for us to know. We cannot imagine what actually happened, what we would have literally seen and heard if we had been there when God came to the garden. But – and this is the point – Adam and Eve knew immediately who it was. Whatever that sound may have been, they recognized the One who was making it.
I remember the days when our children were very young. Sometimes one of them would cry in the night, and I’d usually sleep on like a log, dull as can be. But my wife Betty Jo always heard the sound. She heard it instantly, and she recognized who it was. She knew the voice making the cry because that child had once been a part of her – still was, really.
What this incident of God visiting the garden suggests is that the intimacy that once had been between Adam and Eve and their Father is now, alas, broken. But there’s still a hint of it. There’s still something remaining between them. They still recognize the sound of God, only now instead of running toward him, they run away.
A QUESTIONING GOD
Now God acts again. The Lord God calls to the man: “Where are you?” I find this quite striking. What is God doing here? Why does he ask all these questions – “Where are you? Who told you you were naked? Have you eaten of the fruit that I told you not to eat?” I really don’t think that God is seeking to gather information here, to build a case against Adam. Do you imagine that somehow God doesn’t know where Adam is, that he’s searching for him? Is God calling, “Adam, where are you?” the way we call for our children when they’ve wandered off and we don’t know where they could be.
Of course not! God has no need to locate his children or to discover what it is exactly that they’ve done wrong. Once again, how different from us! We see something’s broken. “All right, who did it?” we demand. “How did it happen? Give me the truth now!” And sometimes it’s very difficult to get at that truth. But God has no need of any of that. These questions are not intended to interrogate Adam and Eve and to produce for God answers that he doesn’t already know. There’s a different purpose here. God questions Adam and Eve not in order to gain information but to offer an invitation. God is engaging Adam and Eve. He’s beginning a conversation with them. In other words, he wants to communicate with them.
And now I think we come to the heart of what true communication really is. Most of us have a wrong mental model of what it means to communicate. We think of it in what could be called the “transportation model” of communication. What is communication? We imagine it as an effort to deliver information – say from me to you. I have this message and I want to pass it on to you, like delivering the freight. So I take the truck and back it up and dump the information on my target audience. The transportation model sees communication as linear, moving in a straight line from start to finish. It is one directional, from communicator to audience. You’re the audience. I’m the one with the message, and I want to pass it on to you. So I write a letter or a book, I make a speech, I film a commercial or a television program, and thus I deliver the message to you. That is the freight model of communication. You just transfer your information to the audience.
Some communication does seem to be like that. But that isn’t what real communication is all about. It’s not communication the way God intended it to be. What God intended communication to be is shown here in the way he approaches Adam and Eve. It’s not one directional. It’s not linear. It’s not a monologue. It’s not simply delivering a message. What it really is is relational. Real communication always aims to restore intimacy. God seeks to bridge the void that has arisen between him and his children. All of his questions are God’s way of opening himself up to Adam and asking Adam to be honest in return. What God is really saying is, “What have you done, Adam? Where are you? What’s happened? Speak to me. Tell me. Confess to me. Return to me.”
That’s the real message God is sending. “Communicate” comes from the same root word as “communion.” When God communicates with us – and when we truly communicate with other people – what happens is that we connect again. We find that a relationship is established. We become, in some sense, on some level, one with each other. That is the true miracle of communication.