Adam, Where are You?
She was a college girl with an attitude. When a famous preacher visited the campus and spoke at a student gathering, the young woman went to hear him but didn’t like his message at all. Afterward, the girl walked up to the preacher with a scowl, obviously offended at his message. She told him, “I used to believe all that, but I don’t believe it anymore.”
The preacher, Dr. Donald Barnhouse, asked, “What class are you in?”
“I’m a freshman,” she replied.
“And what kind of family do you have?” he inquired. The girl said that she came from a Christian family.
“Do you have a Bible?”
“Do you read it?”
“I used to read it,” answered the girl, “but I don’t read it anymore. I told you I no longer believe that stuff.”
“Can you remember when you stopped reading it?” Barnhouse asked. The girl said she stopped reading it around Thanksgiving.
“Tell me,” said Barnhouse, “what happened in your life around November the tenth?” The girl began to cry. It soon came out that she had started sleeping with a young man around that time. From that point on, she couldn’t bear to read her Bible or go to church. She found it easier not to believe in God and not to take Jesus Christ seriously.
John Wesley once said, “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.” James Boice echoed this, adding that if we do not run from sin, we will run from God and do whatever we can to hide our spiritual nakedness.
Symptoms of Sin
Sin causes at least three major symptoms: shame, fear, and guilt. To deal with our shame, we try to cover up and make ourselves look good. To deal with our fear, we try to get away from God and find a way to feel safe from his judgment. To deal with our guilt, we make excuses and try to shift the blame to someone else.
Humanity has been doing this ever since the original humans committed the original sin. In Genesis 3 the Bible tells how Eve was tempted by Satan in the form of a serpent. She disobeyed God and ate fruit from the only tree God had forbidden.
She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 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.” Genesis 3:6-13
Adam and Eve tried cover-ups, hiding places, and excuses, but God saw the man and the woman as the disobedient sinners they were. No fig leaves could cover their shame. No hiding place could relieve their fear. No excuses could remove their guilt.
All of us are descendants of Adam and Eve. We are all sinners along with them, and we try to deal with the symptoms of shame, fear, and guilt in much the same way they did. But God knows our sinfulness. We cannot avoid being exposed, found out, and judged. So rather than covering up, hiding, or making excuses, we need to face the fact that God knows us better than we know ourselves and that he will eventually catch up with every one of us. We need to surrender to God and ask him to search us and test our hearts and show us the truth about ourselves. We need to admit that we can’t deal with our shame, fear, and guilt by our own efforts, and we must throw ourselves on his mercy.
The first thing Adam and Eve felt after they disobeyed God was shame. Before they sinned, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (2:25). They were splendid and sinless. They had nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of. But after they sinned, “The eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked” (3:7).
Satan had promised that by ignoring God’s command, they would enjoy the glory of becoming like God. At first they couldn’t see how sin would affect them. But once they had sinned, their eyes opened to their sad, shameful condition. That’s how Satan usually works. Before you commit a sin, he makes it seem exciting, delicious, even uplifting and splendid. But afterward you feel dirty, exposed, and ashamed. And your first reaction is to cover up as best you can.
After Adam and Eve sinned, they felt ashamed. No longer did they want to see themselves fully. No longer did they want anyone else to see them fully. So they tried to hide their shame as best they could. “They sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (3:7). The two of them had tried to raise themselves to the level of God, but instead they found themselves blushing and fumbling with fig leaves. Our efforts to cover up our shame are no better. We may have better clothing than Adam and Eve did, but the shame of sin is more than just physical nakedness. All our efforts to hide our shame from others and from ourselves are bound to fail.
At first, though, the cover-up may seem to work. We string a few fig leaves together and feel better. We focus on appearances and make sure that on the surface, we look okay. Anything awkward or embarrassing, we hide from others and even from ourselves. We congratulate ourselves that we’re quite decent and dignified after all. With enough fig leaves and enough time to get used to our situation, the sense of shame may fade.
A student can cheat on one test after another, get good scores, and feel very clever in doing so. The fig leaf for cheating is that it doesn’t really hurt anybody, and everybody else does it. A man can get involved with pornography or prostitutes, but when he looks in the mirror and sees that he is well-groomed and wearing a suit and tie, he may feel like he’s just a healthy, normal businessman. His fig leaf for adultery is that he’s “just a red-blooded man.” A man and woman can abort their baby and feel relieved of a burden, not ashamed that they have just killed their own child. Their fig leaf for murder is the word “choice.” Someone may take God’s name in vain or use the holy name of Jesus as a swear word and feel no shame at all. The fig leaf for blasphemy is that it’s just “letting off steam.” With enough fig leaves, we can become like the people the Bible describes when it says, “Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15, 8:12).
The fig leaf approach may seem to work for awhile. We may be able to fool others and even fool ourselves into thinking we don’t really have much of a sin problem. But all of that will collapse the moment we hear God coming near. Then our shame will come back with even greater force, accompanied by fear.
As long as Adam focused on his opinion of himself and his wife’s opinion of him, as long as Eve focused on her opinion of herself and her husband’s opinion of her, the fig leaf approach seemed to cover the shame problem. But the moment they heard the Lord God coming, they realized fig leaves weren’t good enough. As God approached, they sought not just a few leaves but an entire forest to hide behind. They were terrified.
God didn’t come with a crash of thunder and a flash of lightning. He came with the quiet sound of footsteps and a gentle breeze in the cool of the day. Previously, whenever Adam and Eve heard God approaching, their hearts were filled with joy and peace. Their favorite moments in the Garden of Eden were those times of special fellowship with God, sensing his nearness, hearing his voice, enjoying his love. But something had changed. God had not changed; Adam and Eve had changed. God approached in his usual way. God was the same God as he had always been, but he was no longer their supreme delight; he was their ultimate terror. His coming filled them with dread.
Adam and Eve fled from the sound of God’s approach and hid among the beautiful trees of the garden. The Lord didn’t stop them. He let them hide as well as they could. The frightened humans crouched quivering among the trees, desperately hoping that the supreme terror of the world would never find them.
Then a voice shattered any remaining hope that they would able to hide from him. The Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” (3:9) The moment Adam heard that question, he knew it wasn’t really a question. It was the voice of the Lord who had made all things and knew all things. God had created Adam and had planted every tree in the garden where they were trying to hide. There was no place to hide from their Creator and Lord. He knew exactly where they were and exactly what they had done.
When God called, “Adam, where are you?” God already knew the answer. But he wanted Adam to know the answer. God wanted Adam to know exactly where his sin had landed him. Adam, realizing there was no escape from God, did not try to go on hiding. He did not stay silent when God called. Adam answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (3:10). Adam spoke about the symptoms of sin, his shame and fear, but he didn’t say anything about the sin itself.
So God pressed him to explain further. God said, in essence, “I’ve come to you in the garden before and you weren’t scared. I’ve seen you naked before and didn’t feel you had anything to hide. What happened? Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” Again, God was asking questions to which he already knew the answer. He knew Adam didn’t become ashamed because someone else had told him about his nakedness. He knew Adam was ashamed because Adam himself had sinned. God wanted Adam to focus not just on the symptoms but on the sin. Adam needed to recognize and admit that he was ashamed and afraid because he had disobeyed. He had violated God’s command.
Earlier I mentioned a college student who stopped reading her Bible and stopped believing in God shortly after she started living in a sinful sexual relationship. She couldn’t bear to hear God’s voice or recognize his reality. She may even have thought she had good intellectual reasons for rejecting God. But her unbelief was really just her way of trying to avoid God. Many supposedly sophisticated unbelievers, who deny the Creator and Judge, are really resorting to the childish behavior of pretending someone isn’t in the room because they don’t want him in the room. If they can’t hide from God, they can at least close their eyes and plug their ears and pretend God didn’t exist. Others may admit that God exists but stay away from the Bible and avoid church, so that they won’t have to think about God too much.
That may seem to work for awhile, but in the end, none of us can get away from God. As a biblical writer said to God, “Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there… If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me…’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Psalm 139:7-12).
The Bible says that when the Lord Jesus returns, “he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts” (1 Corinthians 4:5). On judgment day, even rulers and generals will be terrified. They will try to hide from God in caves and mountains. They will call “to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Revelation 6:16). But there will be no good hiding place, no way to avoid facing the Lord. They will have to face the God they have disobeyed and offended. And so will you and I. At that point, we may try to come up with excuses, but our excuses can’t excuse our guilt.
When God asked Adam whether he had disobeyed God and had eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam tried to make excuses and shift the blame. He said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (3:12). Adam figured it wasn’t really his fault. If Eve hadn’t given him the fruit, or if God hadn’t made Eve in the first place, he’d have been fine.
Adam failed to mention that he was supposed to lead Eve; she wasn’t supposed to lead him. Besides, Adam had God’s direct command not to eat the fruit. As the head of the human race, he could have obeyed God and refused the forbidden fruit. God might then have taken away Eve’s sin and purified her for Adam’s sake, or he might have judged Eve and provided a new wife for Adam. Without speculating too much on what might have been, one thing is clear: Adam didn’t have to follow Eve into sin. He made his own decision to disobey God’s command.
But when God confronted him, Adam did not honestly admit his sin and take the blame for it. Instead, Adam blamed the wife he had loved, and he even blamed the wonderful God he had loved. If only God hadn’t given him that woman! The Bible says, “A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord” (Proverbs 19:3).
God didn’t immediately contradict Adam’s excuses. Instead he asked the woman, “What is this you have done?”
She replied, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”
Like her husband, Eve didn’t admit that her sin was her own fault. She resorted to an excuse that’s been popular ever since: “The devil made me do it.” But she didn’t explain why she listened to devilish lies instead of obeying God’s truth.
You and I are Adam and Eve’s children in more ways than one. We are their descendants physically, and we are chips off the old blockheads spiritually. If a child is told not to touch a hot stove but does so anyway and gets burned, the little one may screech, “Naughty pan!” If children get in a fight, each blames the other: “He started it!” “No, she started it.” If married couples argue, each blames the argument on the other. If someone starts to smoke cigarettes, despite the health warning on the package, and gets cancer, they sue the tobacco company.
A famous athlete wrecked his car and ended up paralyzed. Who was to blame? Everyone but himself. He sued the hospital and the doctors who treated him. He sued the highway commission for unsafe roads. He sued the company that built his vehicle. Apparently this man’s injuries had nothing to do with the fact that he was drunk at the time of the crash!
Ever since Adam and Eve, people have had a victim mentality: all our troubles are someone else’s fault. But the blame game doesn’t impress God or excuse our sin. Someone else may be guilty of tempting us, but we are still guilty of giving in to the temptation. Eve blamed the serpent; but although God punished the serpent, he didn’t excuse Eve. Adam blamed Eve; but although God punished Eve, he didn’t excuse Adam. Despite the excuses, God declared Adam and Eve guilty and sentenced them to death.
You cannot excuse your guilt before God. If you say, “The devil made me do it,” you are confessing that you serve Satan instead of God. If you blame your parents for corrupting you, or if you go way back and blame Adam and Eve for corrupting all of us, you are admitting that you are corrupt by birth, sinful by nature. If you go so far as to blame God for the temptations that snare you, as Adam did, you show that you resent God and see him as the source of sin and consider yourself holier than he is. That makes you guilty of the worst sin of all: blasphemy.
Whose fault is it when I sin? Mine! Whose fault is it when you sin? Yours! “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15).
God forces us to face our guilt “so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God” (Romans 3:19). Adam and Eve could only fall silent when God passed sentence on them. You and I, too, must ultimately be quiet before our Maker. As the Bible says, “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?” (Romans 9:20)
The God Who Seeks
Genesis shows the shame, fear, and guilt of sinful humanity, but Genesis also shows us a God who seeks people even after they have fallen. God could simply have stayed away from Adam and Eve, but he came to them and called for them. Even though he judged them, it was judgment mingled with mercy. God promised future offspring and eventual victory over Satan the serpent. God said they would return to dust, but already he had plans to save their souls and resurrect their bodies. The God who came to the first humans in the Garden of Eden would someday become human himself in the person of Jesus. Jesus said that he came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).
You and I are involved in Adam’s sin by sharing in his nature by committing many sins ourselves. We try various fig leaves to hide our shame from ourselves and from each other. We flee to various hiding places to escape God. We invent excuses to shift blame and deny our own guilt. But God, in his mercy, goes right on pursuing us. He does not leave us to ourselves.
Even as you’re listening right now, you may sense God searching you out and calling, “Where are you?” He already knows where you are, of course, but do you know where you are? Do you know how far you have strayed from him? Will you stop covering up, stop running, stop talking, and be still before him?
A day is coming when unrepentant sinners will see only God’s wrath, but for now God still seeks and saves many who are lost in sin. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). Where are you? Where do you want to be? If you’re living in sin but you’d like to be in God’s arms and live with him forever, then answer his call. Admit your sin. Pray for his mercy and new life in Jesus. Ask him to forgive and change you. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will not perish but have everlasting life.
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.