Fig Leaves Can’t Hide Shame

The 3rd chapter of Genesis is the key to understanding all the Scriptures that ensue. That’s why it should be studied and discussed in church often. I know there’s a strong tendency to steer sermons into topical subjects and political issues but we must guard against that. The body of Christ shouldn’t gather to bemoan current societal inclinations or cultural trends but to expound upon (and thus become better equipped to spread) the crucial message of God’s Holy Word. Church service should be the most unique event in our lives in that the material world gets banned from the sanctuary and the Holy Spirit is welcome to reign over the congregation. The church’s sole purpose during our sacred time together should be to collectively and individually receive God’s instructions for how we’re to conduct ourselves as Christians. 1 Peter 2:9 tells believers, “…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We’re most definitely stuck on this messy planet for now but we’re also encouraged to remain spiritually apart from it. We’re to represent the one true God to the world by broadcasting the message of the Bible to everyone, informing them it’s the most immensely relevant message they’ll ever hear. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached, “The Bible tells us throughout that we only pass through his world once. But it also tells us we are determining at the same time our eternal and everlasting future and that, therefore, this is the most vital matter we can ever consider.”

 

God’s Holy Word doesn’t deal with theoretical questions or metaphysical speculations. It confronts and addresses the realities of life every person contends with on a daily basis. Its core function is to talk to us about ourselves. In Genesis 3:9 that’s made obvious when we’re told “…the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you? God is speaking to us in a direct, personal way. He’s asking us where we’re at and why and how we got there. If God wasn’t concerned for our wellbeing He wouldn’t have bothered to ask that question. Fact is, He loves us. Otherwise He would’ve had no inclination to give us the book of Genesis. Or the rest of the Scriptures, for that matter. But we’re special to Him and He wants us to understand why we and our neighbors so often find ourselves in a confounding state of discord and hostile disagreement with each other. To achieve that understanding we must regard Genesis 3 an utterly foundational resource. It’s authentic history. It doesn’t patronize. It tells us precisely why things are chaotic. Not only that, but it informs each and every one of us we’ve inherited a sinful nature from Adam & Eve whether we care to acknowledge it or not.

 

Genesis 3 shows how misguided human intellectual reasoning, egged on by Satan’s dogmatic assertions, caused the fall of man. It happened long ago but the tragedy is we’re still buying what that jerk’s selling and suffering the consequences. The Devil tells us we can be “like God” and, because we want to believe that lie, we end up manufacturing idols out of our self-gratifying moral codes and elevating them to the status of divine revelations. By so doing we can mentally rationalize almost everything we do. The Bible teaches that Satan, the “god of this world,” renders human beings blind to the lethalness of sin. If the Scriptures didn’t explain that we’d be stumped as to why we behave so recklessly. Genesis 3 removes the blindfold. One can’t possibly read the account of what went down in the Garden of Eden and not think to themselves, “been there – done that,” because it’s our story, as well. Sadly, too many people either don’t take the time to read Genesis or they write it off summarily as a fairy tale for toddlers, turning to science for answers while the voice of their Creator falls on deaf ears. The answers they so desperately seek are sitting right there in the Bible but they stick it back on the bookshelf, preferring to run in circles rather than accept the simple but humbling truth God has so generously provided.

 

When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves(Genesis 3:6-7). What’s going on here? What’s up with the fig leaves all of a sudden? Well, it’s plain they were conscious something had been lost. Some trait that had made them exceptional was now gone and they felt exposed and vulnerable without it. The fear of finding oneself naked to the elements is universal. We all have nightmares about inexplicably being in that mortifying situation so the Great Author couldn’t have utilized a concept more relatable. The implication is that Adam & Eve, because God had created them perfect, originally possessed and took for granted an unspecified glorious characteristic that none of the creatures around them had. And when sin infected their souls it dissipated instantly. The apostle Paul hinted at it. He said when Christ returns He’ll “…transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body…” (Philippians 3:21). Perhaps Adam & Eve had spectacular bodies that were anything but humble prior to their fall from grace and they became so acutely aware of what their iniquity had robbed them of, donning the nearest fig leaf was all they could think to do at the moment.

 

Doesn’t that strike at the very heart of our collective dilemma in that everybody feels like something vital is missing? That, as one author put it, we’re “out of the nest, always ending the day in a motel room?” Worldwide it seems everybody has a nagging feeling we were meant for something bigger, something more noble in a way. I’m not speaking in riddles here. You know the unsettled sensation I’m talking about. Lloyd-Jones wrote, “There is in every one of us a recollection, a memory, of what we once were. It’s in the whole of human nature. It’s in all humanity, a sense of something else.” Genesis implies God intended we be happy, content and peaceful people but sin rendered those things hard to come by and quick to depart. To say the Bible’s story of Adam & Eve is a fable is to say that we were just made to die and I, for one, refuse to accept that purposeless mindset. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t yearn for something better for themselves, for their family and for mankind in general. Yet it’s something we can’t put adequately into words. Not only are we told Adam & Eve knew something had drastically changed because of their sin but then they tried to pull a fast one we know to be all too human – they tried to cover it up. It never works but that doesn’t stop us from trying.

 

Folks will go to inane extremes trying to cover up their nefarious deeds. The most common excuse starts with “I didn’t think…” followed by exclamations that life’s inherently an unsolvable enigma or a puzzling series of contradictions and they can’t be held responsible for being confused. They’ll say what they need is more knowledge of ethics, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, etc. and then they won’t do stupid stuff anymore. What they really mean is an expanded intellect will surely enable them to more efficiently cover up their embarrassing nakedness. Another cover-up ploy is to implicate political corruption. We see the anemic, “if only…” excuse paraded before us every day. No matter civilization’s egregious failures in the past, the human race doggedly insists we can right all wrongs by means of wiser and fairer governmental legislation. Political candidates assure us we can repair every societal deficiency if we just put our petty differences aside and jump on their bandwagon. But if that was the easy solution wouldn’t we have solved our problems by now? Isn’t it just another futile stab at covering up our nakedness, to make life wholly fulfilling again sans God and, in doing so, eliminate this incessantly aggravating sense we’re being deprived of something wonderful?

 

Ironically, the most popular method of trying to cover up what we lost in Eden is through religion. With the exception of Christianity, all the so-called great religions of the world are nothing more than repetitions of folks trying to camouflage their sinful nature. Lloyd-Jones said, “Men and women have been doing this throughout the centuries. Having turned from the only true and living God, they’ve had to make gods for themselves. They’ve made their religions. They’ve tried everything but the God from whom they’ve departed. And the whole time they repeat this procedure of stitching together a few fig leaves in order to try to hide their nakedness. But it’s all inadequate. It’s all even ridiculous. It’s amateurish. Is it not foolish? Is it not almost laughable?” Open-minded as they might profess to be, they’ll still dismiss the Bible as rubbish out of childish spite. They’d rather chase the wind than surrender their hearts and minds to Jesus Christ. They firmly believe they’re quite capable of trudging through this filthy quagmire all by themselves, thank you very much. They opine their flimsy fig leaves will suffice for the time being.

 

But what sticks out most prominently in Genesis 3 is that, ever since the fall, men and women have been burdened with shouldering an indelible sense of both guilt and fear. We read that Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the orchard at the breezy time of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees…” (Genesis 3:8). The hollow assurances from Satan that they “surely wouldn’t die” for standing up to God, breaking his dumb rule about that one precious tree of His, and protesting His refusal to let them determine good and evil for themselves evaporated in a nanosecond. They heard God coming and they hid. Why? Because they felt things they’d never known before – fear and guilt. Shame overwhelmed them. The Bible insists we’re no different from Adam & Eve. We prefer to think we’re better than those two – but we’re not. Secularists in particular hate to be told that. They want to consider themselves free agents in complete control of their own lives, unencumbered by what they consider silly phobias and superstitions dredged up from antiquity. They see themselves as “enlightened people” liberated by science and technology, unafraid of anything. They boast they ain’t skeered of nothin’. Yet not one of them leaves their door unlocked at night because deep down they’re terrified of what might walk in. They say they don’t believe in a God that judges but they can’t shake the unrelenting premonition that condemnation awaits. There’s a voice inside telling them they’re lost and it won’t shut up. So, like Adam & Eve, they attempt to run away from God to an imaginary place where they think He won’t be able to find them.

 

There’s always a price to pay for doing what seems right to a person. The forbidden fruit we covet never tastes as delicious as we anticipated and it doesn’t digest quietly in our gut. We think we’ll get away with sin this time but we don’t. God comes calling and we respond by running to and hiding in a transparent cell called denial. Shrinks are in there who’ll tell us the anxiety, the fear, the self-loathing and guilt residing in us are nothing more than psychological neuroses that can be exorcised via modern-age therapy and medication. Those may work for a while but the next hardship that comes barreling down the pike into our life will reliably send us tumbling back into the throes of despair. We may claim God is tormenting us but our blame is misplaced. We reap what we sow from tuning Him out in order to listen to our own soundtrack. Deep within we wish God would just leave us be. But He won’t because we are His creation and, like a good, good Father He adores us no matter how many times we disrespect Him. He patiently waits for His hard-headed prodigals to come back home. No one’s immune to His gravitational pull. I dare say an atheist denies God’s existence simply because they think if they say it enough it might silence the spiritual voice inside that won’t cease to remind them He does exist. At the bottom of all their conceited, know-it-all posturing lies something primary – their fear of death. It’s a subject they’d rather not discuss. If pressed they’ll try to turn the tables on a believer and aver that it’s we who are overly obsessed with death, not them. They’re whistling past the graveyard but, without the hope of Christ, they’re “…held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). They foolishly snub their noses and roll their eyes at what they deem the outrageous idea For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

 

Why? Because they don’t know God or His beloved Son. Because they’ve swallowed the lies of the Devil. Because their stubborn pride gets in the way. Because it doesn’t compute that the very God they’re so bent on rejecting out of hand is the only one who can save them and relieve their inborn guilt and fear. Therein lies the tragedy. They’re helpless without our merciful Savior, Jesus Christ. God pursues them but they never stop running and hiding from the sole hope they have of survival. It saddens me to think about those individuals. They fear listening to their Heavenly Father because they know He’ll change them and they don’t want to change.

 

When God came looking for Adam & Eve He had a message for them. He told them that, though they’d rebelled against Him and they’d have to suffer punishment for doing so, He also told them He’d provide a way of salvation. He could’ve abandoned mankind as a lost cause but He didn’t. He promised the seed of the woman would one day arrive and conquer the Devil who’d led them astray. Amazing. Both the fall of man and the Good News gospel contained in one short chapter! God came through. Redemption has been freely provided through the sacrifice of our Messiah – Jesus Christ. It’s there for the taking.

 

The curse Adam & Eve brought upon humankind is not permanent. The world as we know it will someday come to an end but only God knows the date and hour. Why the delay? Well, (A) last I checked He’s still making babies and (B) He wants everyone to have the chance to join His side voluntarily. So when we pray for Christ to return and make all things perfect again we need to grasp the implications of what we’re asking for. C.S. Lewis wrote, “God is going to invade, all right: but what’s the good of saying you’re on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else – something it never entered your head to conceive – comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it’ll be God without disguise; something so overwhelming it’ll strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It’ll be too late then to choose your side. There’s no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.” As He did in the Garden of Eden, God is looking for every one of us, asking, Where are you? He can see through fig leaves, by the way. A response will be mandatory and it’ll determine your eternal residence.

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