“And the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Now, God knew where Adam was hiding. Therefore to uncover the deeper meaning in this verse we must put it in context because understanding Genesis is crucial. I dare say if someone doesn’t consider it relevant the rest of the Bible won’t make sense to them and eventually they’ll stop trying to comprehend its message altogether. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote of God’s Holy Word, “It’s a book from God, giving us a view of ourselves and of all others, revealing the cause of our troubles and showing us the sheer waste of energy, apart from anything else, that’s involved in trying to solve our problems in any other way except that which is offered to us so freely in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Truth is there’s nothing more relevant to understanding the woes of the modern era than what’s revealed in Genesis 3 because we’re in the same predicament Adam & Eve were in after the fall. When Solomon wrote, “What exists now is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing truly new on earth” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) he wasn’t blowing smoke. As it was in his time, despite all the technological advances cropping up daily, men and women have yet to invent a new sin. Our iniquities are simply variations on the same theme – disobedience to God. Civilization’s general view of our Creator stinks to high heaven because we don’t want Him to be right about us. We prefer to think we’re not so bad. We want the prophet to be totally off base when he tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Could it be mankind resents there’s a God and, like bratty teenagers, don’t want our Father telling us what we should or shouldn’t be doing with our lives? Seems that way. Yet the unchangeable fact is, whether we approve or not, this is God’s world. He made it. He owns it. He’s the boss. But, like Adam & Eve did ages ago, we still think we can duck out on having to answer to Him. We’ve convinced ourselves that if we jump behind a big enough tree God won’t see us and He’ll stroll on by. Later we can come back out and continue “doing our own thing” until we hear Him coming again and race off to hide. What a stupid game that is! The backs of the trees belong to Him as much as the fronts do. Duh. The master architect of the universe knows where everything is. He’s in control. He’s the sustainer of all. His cosmos is His to run as He pleases. He can intervene or opt not to at will but His intervention is what we see happening in Genesis 3. God comes waltzing into the Garden of Eden after Adam & Eve thought they’d figured out a way to escape His notice. They were dead wrong about that. Not only did He find them, He confronted them. God spoke, asking, “Where are you?” Since He knew exactly where they were physically I take His query to mean “Why on earth are you hiding?” God speaks to us today, too, but our sin renders us hard of hearing. Thus He speaks through our conscience. Sometimes, as Eliphaz says in Job, He speaks to us in dreams. He speaks to us through our trials, victories, illnesses, blessings and sometimes even our grief. But mainly He speaks to us directly via His Holy Word wherein He designates His only begotten Son as His official mouthpiece. “After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
One of the many things to gather from Genesis 3 is that God addresses us personally. Take note there’s no back-and-forth chatter prior to this chapter and then suddenly we get to eavesdrop on a discussion between the serpent and Eve about God. He asks her, “Is it really true that God said..?” (3:1) and she responds with the equivalent of, “That’s right. God said…” (3:2) so it seems they’re casually expressing opinions about God and His law. A mere 7 verses later, however, everything’s changed. Adam & Eve’s knees are knocking as they cower behind an oak because God has shown up and is now calling them out. Suddenly the ones who’d been questioning God’s motives are the ones being questioned about theirs.
When we surrender to Christ our eyes and ears open and we become conscious that God addresses us one-on-one daily with the same question He posed to Adam – “Where are you?” He’s asking, “Are you still committed to serving Me or an idol?” Trusting God isn’t questioning His will but obeying it without question. You know what I mean. If a non-believer grills me about my faith they usually take on the attitude of an investigator. (I always have to stifle the urge to snicker over their audacity.) They are going to determine the Bible’s veracity. They are going to investigate God Almighty, treating Him like some sort of specimen they’re going to pin down, dissect and analyze. They, utilizing their superior intellect, are going to pronounce judgment on God and what Christians believe. They’ve done it with Buddha, Confucius and Muhammad and now they’re going to decide what they’ll do with Jesus. Before we start pointing fingers we must confess that, at one point or another, we’ve done the same thing ourselves. We investigated God’s very existence when, in reality, He was examining us and “where we’re at.”
Something way too many people fail to comprehend is that, since the default of Adam & Eve, every one of us is on trial during this life. Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Have you realized that in this world we’re workers and travelers and not simply spectators sitting in a gallery, looking on at some game being played by other people in the arena? Do you not realize you’re involved and that every second you live, judgments are being formed about you and that by what you do here you’re determining not only what happens to you in this world but also in eternity?” Sobering thoughts, to be sure. We must savvy that God’s not all that interested in our opinions. His central focus is on the state of our souls. “Where are you?” He asks. Too often we dodge answering Him by engaging in opinion-loaded arguments over doctrines and denominations. We think God’ll be pleased if we discuss Christianity. We debate The Holy Spirit’s functions for a while, and then we boldly tackle whether miracles are real or not. Next on the slate is what we think of Jesus being both God and man, possessing two natures in one Person. We toss that back and forth like a football for hours. Then there’s the Cross and the whole atonement issue. Everybody in the room gets a shot at expressing their well-thought-out opinions on those subjects. On and on it goes and we smugly feel we’re really getting somewhere. We’re discussing aspects of our faith. Now, there’s nothing inherently sinful about this activity but we must never lose sight of the fact that Christianity isn’t a discussion about concepts. It’s a discussion about us as individuals. And that makes us uncomfortable. God’s primary interest is in where we’re at and it causes us to want to hide from Him behind bushes of philosophy, comparative religions and abstract reasoning rather than stand before Him naked. I can hide from myself but I can’t hide from God. And He’s speaking to me, not the person nearby.
Once we become cognizant our relationship with God is intensely personal it forces us to come to terms with where and what we are. That’s what God wanted Adam to figure out when He asked him, “Where are you?” We can safely assume that, prior to the fall, whenever God dropped by Adam was downright overjoyed to visit with His Father. But in Genesis 3 Adam is nowhere to be found and God smells a rat. “Where y’at, Adam? This isn’t like you at all. You’re not where you’re supposed to be. Emerge from that tree and face the music.” God asks the same of everybody and unbelievers in particular because they’ve intentionally ignored Him. They won’t give Him the time of day. They’ve dissed Christianity without ever bothering to check it out. That some of the greatest, most respected men and women the world has ever known were followers of Jesus doesn’t faze them a bit. At some juncture they heard Marx’s famous quote, “Religion is the opiate of the people,” and they liked how it made them feel uber-cool. They thought adopting it as their motto would make them appear worldly. They can’t be challenged by the Word of God as long as they don’t read it. But it’s the epitome of intellectual dishonesty to hide from what a person fears they may discover is the rock-solid truth.
Those of us who do read and study the Bible know God speaks to us through Scripture and asks us more frequently than anything else where we are morally. Frankly, I find it much easier to talk about theology and doctrine than to own up to my immoral acts and despicable thoughts but that comes with being washed in the blood of Christ. I’m expected to hold myself accountable for maintaining a high level of dedication to remain pure and honest in the sight of my Heavenly Father and it’s hard. I don’t understand why I keep on sinning. Or why I derive pleasure from doing what I know is wrong. Or why I don’t stop to count the cost of my sins in shame, remorse and loss of integrity. Yes, I’m saved by grace but there’s still a problem – me. God inquires, “Where y’at?” and too often I don’t rightly know. But that doesn’t let me off the hook. The more I read the Bible the more it urges me to transform into what God originally had in mind. Change is what the Holy Word’s interested in instilling in me. Repentance is what it’s about.
John chapter 4 describes God’s intention better than I ever will. Jesus, after a long day of hiking to Galilee, was resting by a well in Samaria when a woman came to draw water. They began having a conversation about Jews and Samarians, about how Jacob had dug the well, etc. and out of the blue He started to talk to her about spiritual water and eternal life. She became intrigued so she asked Him how she could obtain this “special” water. To her surprise He said, “Go fetch your husband and return.” She said “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus looked her in the eye and said, “That’s correct. You’ve actually had five husbands and the guy you’re currently shacking up with isn’t one of them.” That’s how our Lord goes about His business. He cuts through the small talk about trivial things and gets right to the heart of the matter. The woman had been going on about God and worship while at the same time concealing the fact she was an adulteress. Jesus made her face her hypocrisy. In other words, He called her bluff and told her to stop hiding behind the tree and be transparent about who she really was. He let her know He knew all about her. The same goes for us, too. God knows everything we’ve done so hiding from Him is useless. We have to stop crouching behind the shrubs and come clean.
As we read further in Genesis 3 we’re taught even more. “…The LORD God said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’” (3:11). God called Adam & Eve on the carpet for what they’d done. They’d rebelled against Him and violated His law and He let them know there were going to be dire consequences. The Bible makes it crystal clear – sin is intolerable. When King David finally acknowledged he was a voyeur, an adulterer and a murderer he cried out to God, “Against you – you above all – I have sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. So you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me” (Psalm 51:4). He’d realized the one He’d most heinously offended was the one who created him. The prodigal son confessed to his father, “I’ve sinned against heaven and against you” (Luke 15:18). Sin is anti-God and that’s the ugliest part of iniquity. Yet how often do we acknowledge our sins as affronts to our Heavenly Father? Don’t we usually label our sins as insignificant in the grand scheme of things and conveniently forget all sin is a slap in the face of our Savior who died for us? We tend to rank our sins by degrees of severity. God doesn’t. That’s what God had to make Adam & Eve understand. It wasn’t about eating forbidden fruit. It was about the abject seriousness of sin.
We need to absorb and learn from what we read in Genesis 3. God comes to us by employing whatever method will get through to us most efficiently and then He speaks to us. He addresses us personally, telling us we must repent of our sins because judgment lies ahead. As Christians we’re quick to inform others “It’s not my job to judge” but we loathe the fact that someday we will have to stand before and answer to the ultimate judge. In Genesis 3 we’re shown God does indeed pass judgment on every human being whether we like it or not. In the story of Adam & Eve we see both immediate judgment and ongoing judgment. God announced there’d be perpetual conflict not only between the serpent and the woman but between the seed of both. Isn’t that conflict obvious when one takes a gander at the history of civilization? A non-believing secularist will explain it with something pithy like “world history simply shows a few rotten apples can spoil the whole bunch” but the Bible says otherwise. Lloyd-Jones wrote, “… The blindness sin produces in us prevents us from seeing that all this is nothing but part of God’s judgment on sin.” I invite you to read Romans 1:18-32. It not only describes the 21st century world to a tee but tells us the mess we’re in is an outcropping of God’s judgment on mankind. Even an atheist historian will confirm that nothing ever seems to get better. We advance for a while and then relapse into destructive behaviors again. Over and over. God told Adam & Eve life would be tough sledding going forward and then He sealed His curse with “…out of it [the ground] you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you will return” (3:19). With that decree death became a fact of life for all who came after.
You might say I’m being negative or morbid. Nope, I’m just being truthful. Because of sin the moment we inhale our first breath on terra firma we start journeying toward our last one. Death was not God’s plan for us but, misusing free will, we invited sin to the party and it spoiled everything. Some preachers attract crowds by proclaiming “Accept Jesus into your heart and your life will be a delightful walk in the park” but that’s false, if not cruel, advertising. Some of the most faithful Christians I know are dealing with one tragedy after another so I don’t wanna hear an “everything’s coming up roses” sermon. God tells us right off the bat in His Holy Word why there are terrifying, horrible things in this world and why the grave became our mortal destination. We didn’t want to do things His way. We wanted to do things our way and the judgment He warned us about came into play. There’s no mystery to solve because the truth has been revealed. But all’s not lost. God is loving, patient and forgiving. There’s a way back to Eden and His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. If you’ve heard God calling “Where are you?” stop hiding, cry for mercy and He won’t turn you away. Jesus said, “Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away” (John 6:37). What a comforting affirmation that is.