Grace is not a new force. It enters our world early in the story. God introduces it into His very first interaction with His rebellious children. Knowing fully what they had done, He still engages with them:
“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?’” Genesis 3:8-9 (NIV, 2011)
The LORD’s decision to enter the garden reveals His gracious nature. He will not allow disobedience to end His story. Temptation and failure will not be the last word. The LORD God who created His children is the Father who continues to love them, even when they fail.
When the LORD God calls out, ‘Where are you?’, He is not asking for His own benefit. He certainly sees the sinners hiding among the trees. He asks this question for the benefit of His fallen children, so that they may know that their Father is still looking for them. Their Father has not abandoned them because of their failure.
Here is the beginning of grace, a Creator who will not give up on His creation, and a Father who will not give up on His children, even after they fail.
Grace Grows Deeper
Then, from this beginning, grace grows deeper. God continues His conversation with His rebellious children.
“And [the man] said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’ [The LORD God] said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” Genesis 3:10-13 (NIV, 2011)
The rebellious man is afraid and ashamed. His newly acquired knowledge of both good and evil introduces feelings that he had not previously experienced. In an innocent world without a knowledge of evil, fear and shame have no place, but now these feelings overwhelm him and push him into hiding.
The LORD God immediately asks questions about the source of this fear and shame. His asks “who told you” and “have you eaten”? Again, He knows the answers, but He challenges His children to respond to evil. The questions prepare us to respond with two gracious gifts, God’s Word and His command.
In a world where the knowledge of evil abounds, we must learn to whom we must listen, and the LORD God promises that He will not stop speaking. His Word will continue to provide truth that guides us. His commands are our guidelines. Both gifts demonstrate the grace of God, His desire to lead His children out of the mess that they have created for themselves.
The man, of course, does not understand the gracious gifts being offered to him. He responds defensively, blaming his actions on another. Originally the woman was his gift, now he sees her as a scapegoat. Again, the LORD God asks a question. He asks her what she has done, though He knows the answer. Again, the question is for her benefit. He gives His child a chance to own her rebellion, to name her sin as sin.
The woman, of course, does not understand the gracious gift being offered to her. She blames the tempter. Evil causes us to deceive ourselves in this way. We deny that we have a problem. We deny that the problem is in us. In a misguided and misinformed panic, we blame everyone around us for our failure. However, when our holy, loving Father addresses us about our failure, we have an opportunity to heal, but only if we are willing to own our failure.
Grace Promises Hope
What follows sets the stage for the rest of human history in this broken world. The LORD God, in His mercy and grace, tells us how this conflicted story will unfold, so we are not surprised by the tragedy that surrounds us. By addressing the serpent, the woman, and the man, He informs us of the consequences that we must now face in a world that knows both good and evil. The war between the enemy and people will continue. Physical and relational pain will be a human constant. Our garden will become a hostile environment in which to work. Our broken relationship with God will produce broken relationships with others and with our environment.
In the middle of this sad vision, there is a promise of hope. The LORD God addresses the serpent, in whose form the enemy appears:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (NIV, 2011)
The enemy will continue to inflict pain, but he will be defeated. As a man crushes the head of a snake, human offspring will one day crush the work of the enemy. As the biblical story unfolds, we watch as one child after another fights this battle, only to pass this same fight on to the next generation. Until, of course, One child arrives in Bethlehem to initiate the final phase of the battle.
Here is the supreme act of grace. A Father sends a Son to win the battle that we cannot win ourselves. This grace promised from the beginning will ensure that our story will not end in defeat.
As we evaluate our place in the battle, whether we are winning or losing, we must embrace the gracious gifts of God: His presence, His Word, His commands, and His hope. Our Lord God and Father still loves us. He has not abandoned us to the war.
In His Service,