Read This Page in My Language
Questions have a way of getting to the heart of the matter, and that, of course, is why we use them. I remember my mother asking me, “Do you want a spanking?” The reason she was asking was not because she needed my permission. It was to give me a chance to apologize. Which I did sometimes. Sometimes I answered, “No, I don’t want a spanking. I’ll stop!” But other times I remember saying, “Go ahead. See if you can catch me!” The way I answered revealed the frame of mind I was in.
Jesus also used questions when dealing with people. You’ve probably noticed in the Gospels how many times he answers a person’s question with a question of his own. For example, the question the rich, young man presented to Jesus was, “Good Teacher, what must I do to be saved?” Most of us are waiting for Jesus to answer, “Believe in me as the promised Messiah!” But he doesn’t say that. Rather, he asks a question of his own. “Why do you call me good?”
Does this ever bother you? Why doesn’t Jesus just answer the guy’s question? It’s because he first wants to determine the reasons for the guy’s question to know what kind of person he is dealing with. Is it because the man really thinks he needs to be saved and that Jesus can help him? Or is he simply trying to justify himself in front of Jesus because he actually thinks he is good!
Now, I mention all of this by way of introduction because the thrust of this sermon hinges on the uncomfortable, soul-searching question that God presents to Adam in the Garden. “Adam, where are you?”
You all know the context. You all are familiar with the setting. Adam and Eve are hiding from God because they had just disobeyed him and are now afraid of him. So God comes looking for them in the cool of the day. Does God ask where they are because he honestly doesn’t know? Or is it because Adam and Eve don’t really know? In other words, “Adam, do you know where you are? Do you know where you are in your relationship with me. Because before you never used to hide from me and now you are hiding. Did you do something wrong? Adam, where are you?”
It’s significant that you and I also try to hide from God when we disobey him. We hide because we know we did something wrong, but we naively think we can conceal it. Have you ever noticed that/ Have you ever noticed how a child tries to cover up his or her sin? And if he gets caught, he still tries to conceal it by blaming someone else, just like Adam and Eve did in the Garden.
And so, the husband accuses the wife of snooping because she happens to stumble upon his questionable internet activity. Or the daughter refuses to be transparent with her mother when it comes to her text messages. How dare she bring up that topic! Well, if you have nothing to hide?
You see, most sin happens behind closed doors or at night. And often it is both. Why? Because we don’t want other people looking at us. We don’t want other people to know. And so, we delude ourselves into thinking that we can commit sin without anyone ever knowing.
But does God see? Yes, he does. That’s why when we read about Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden, our first thought is, “How silly! You can’t hide from God!” I mean, did they really think that he didn’t know? Do you?
You see how irrational sin really is. Sin is always irrational. If you think about it, the Fall into sin makes no sense at all considering God’s goodness to Adam and Eve and all that he had given them. They had it all! And they threw it all away. So, God asks Adam, “Where are you? Are you lost? And do you even know that you are lost?” God is not seeking information for himself. He asks the question so that Adam might discover information about himself.
Says one Lutheran commentator: “God’s question to Adam is pedagogical in that he’s using it to bring Adam to a full realization of the plight of his sin.” So, it’s a teaching tool. It’s a means of leading Adam and Eve to a realization of their sin so that God might pronounce the forgiveness of sins. That’s the fundamental motivation. And that is the Gospel in this text. The attitude of God behind his question is not that of a federal prosecutor. The attitude is one of Fatherly love.
I want you to think about all the love God displays towards Adam and Eve in the aftermath of their rebellion. First of all, he goes looking for them. Notice that he calls out to them to expose what is going on, on the inside. Notice that he doesn’t accept their excuses thinking, “Well, I wouldn’t want to make them feel bad.” No. He wants to lay bare their guilt. He wants them to recognize the extent of their sin. Why? So that they get what they deserve? No. That’s human behavior. It’s so that he can subsequently give them what they don’t deserve. That’s God’s behavior. He wants to forgive them! But so that they appreciate the amazing love behind his forgiveness, they need to come to terms with their sin.
Loved ones, there are only two things you and I can do with our sin before God: attempt to hide it or confess it. Which type of person are you? Where are you when it comes to God’s question, for God still goes asking the sinner, “Where are you?”
“Well, I am currently in Waukegan. I live in Beach Park. And I am halfway through my projected lifespan.” No, not where are you physically? Where are you spiritually? Where are you in your proximity to God? Are you close to him or distant from him? Or were you once close but now you feel distant? Or were you once distant and now you feel close? I often ask people who come to my office for counseling: “On a scale of 1 to 10, where are you in your relationship to God?” That’s the first thing to diagnose!
Now, let me tell you why it matters. It is because two-thirds of young Christians don’t stop worshiping once they get to college. I’m not kidding. Two-thirds of youth who regularly attend church before college stop regular worship once they are in college.
You see, just because you are close now doesn’t mean you will always be close. Not because God goes hiding from you, but because we go hiding from God. What happens when you wake up one day and realize, “You know, I used to be close to God, but that was a long time ago.” That’s why God graciously asks the question, “Hey, where are you?”
Yes, this is a very personal text. All of us need to ask the question: “What about me? Has that ever been me? Is that me right now?” And if it is, how do I get close to God?”
Ah! More Good News. The truth is that God gets close to us. He goes looking for us even when we try hiding from him. Isn’t that what he did by coming to earth in the person of Jesus? And isn’t that the fulfillment of God’s promise to Eve in verse 15? “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.”
Jesus is the Seed of the woman who has come to destroy the devil’s work.
And because of that, God now goes looking for the lost sheep of Israel. He comes after you with a seeking love, and lo and behold, he finds you! And when he finds you, he doesn’t condemn you; he forgives you! And he remembers your sins no more (Hebrews 8:12).
So, this is the reality of the situation having been forgiven because of Jesus. You’re not lost from God. You are very close to him. So close, in fact, that the Bible pictures you as in the arms of Jesus and being carried by him. You think of the famous painting of the lamb held close to Jesus’ heart. And then you realize, “That’s me! That’s where the Gospel says that I am.”
Listen to the words of Isaiah 40:11. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” And so, in the same way that God went looking for Adam and Eve when they least deserved it, so he comes looking for us.
Remember that when you find yourself hiding from God and from other Christians. Remember that you have no reason to hide. God already knows your sin, and God already took care of your guilt on the cross. That is why we never want to remove our gaze from the cross of Christ. It is good to analyze ourselves regarding these things. Where am I in my relationship with God? Where are my children? Repentance and absolution are daily things, not just when-I-feel-like-it things. No. As Christians, we confess it all and then embrace the salvation the woman’s Seed has achieved: full and free forgiveness, and with it, a new start on life. Amen.