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John A. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

A shadow can present us with a warning, and even of a warning that is very serious. The shadow cast when the sun is sinking behind the western horizon can warn us that it will soon be dark on this earth, and that the work we are performing will have to be finished very soon. Walking alone on a dimly lit street, where robbery has taken place repeatedly, and seeing a shadow approaching from behind may fill one with great fear. Thus also when Adam and Eve heard God coming in the cool of the day wherein they had eaten of the forbidden fruit, it filled them with great fear and made them try to hide under the trees of the garden of Eden. And remember that, as we saw last time, the sin of Adam and Eve did not seem such an evil deed; and yet it was a shadow of the gross wickedness in the world today, which will reach its climax in the day of the antichrist. There is plenty of violence and of breaking the entire second table of the law today. But those who break the first table as well are developing in sin, and the shadow of what is coming is becoming more ominous.

However, there are also shadows that make one’s heart leap for joy. When waiting for a son, who has been on a fierce battlefield for many days, and is now coming home, his shadow, as he approaches the front door of your home, will make your heart beat with joy. And for us today, seeing that shadow of Christ and His cross, that shadow of God in His sovereign grace approaching fallen Adam and Eve, brings comfort and gladness to the child of God. Not only did God come with the blood of animals—most likely sheep—but also with those skins to clothe them and cover their nakedness; but His very approach to them was such a blessed shadow of His mercy, His kind compassion upon those who turned not only away from Him but against Him.

Yes, there was a shadow that fell upon Adam and Eve before God came in the cool of the day. They put on fig leaf aprons and went to hide in the darkest place that they could find in that beautiful garden of Eden. The shadow of impending doom which they deserved was there. A shadow of the day when all men shall appear before the judgment seat of Christ hung over that garden. Adam and Eve had every reason to be terrified.

But what a beautiful shadow, what an encouraging shadow it is for us, when we see how God came to fallen man! What a shadow we see there of what He will do, and how He will approach us in the day when Christ returns upon the clouds of heaven and sends every man and ,angel to his everlasting destination!

They had shown contempt, denied Him, took the position that He is not God, and that not He but Satan spoke the truth. They had revealed hearts that had no love at all for God, but hated Him for telling them not to do what would have benefited them so much that, as Satan said through the serpent, they would be gods and would not have to listen to Him. We ought not to any degree try to minimize the awfulness of that sin of Adam and Eve. Had God Himself not said that it would bring death? He spelled it out very clearly to Adam. He would not simply be driven away from the tree of life, but would die. He would die spiritually that day; and physically begin to go into death with his body; and his guilty soul would be cast into the lake of fire.

Certainly we can and must say that Satan deceived Adam through Eve and the serpent. But that does not deny the fact that Adam was not forced to perform an act of hatred towards God, and made to go contrary to God’s will. He knew very well that to disobey God was to turn his heart from Him, rather than have his heart go out with thanksgiving and love to the God Who made Him and gave Him so much blessedness.

But bring before your mind what God did some years later in the days of Noah. He came with an awful flood that killed all on this earth, except eight souls who at His bidding built the ark and believed Him, when He condemned all the deviltry that Satan had already achieved on this earth. Recall what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah and to Uzzah, who touched the ark when David was trying to bring it back to Jerusalem. And even long before this, consider what He did to Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in the wilderness; and to Pharaoh and his host, when they tried to follow the Israelites, ,who were crossing the Red Sea on dry land.

What tender mercy it was when God came to fallen Adam and Eve! What compassion did He show to these enemies who had opposed Him in His holy law! He came with a question and not with a flash of lightning, an earthquake, or tornado. He came Himself and not through an angel with a flaming sword; which He did send later, after giving His elect such a rich and precious mother promise. They heard Him walking in the garden in the cool of the day; and then they heard Him call to them: “Where art thou?” And after more questioning, although He knew all that they did, and did not need information in order to decide what to do to them, He came with that rich promise of His grace. He came to them with Christ. That He did by words that assured them that The Seed of the Woman would deliver them completely from the devil’s hand; but that He did also later on, when as we read, He gave them those coats of skins, obtained through the shedding of blood.

What He did here the day man sinned was a beautiful shadow of what He did when He sent His own Son into our flesh, and shed His blood so that we might be clothed with the robes of righteousness which He prepared in Christ. And there is something here that ought to be emphasized and not minimized. Look at that promise that He gave to all the seed of the woman, that is, to all the elect. Those words were addressed to the devil, although to him it was not a promise but an awesome prediction. To the seed of the woman it was the promise of a complete spiritual victory. Not only would there be complete deliverance from the curse, but also—and that is stated literally and not by implication—that they would be given victory in the spiritual sense, meaning that they would again love God and hate the devil. This truth is often overlooked and/or pushed far into the background. But what God promises here is that there will be enmity in the hearts of His elect against the devil and all his deviltry. That is mentioned first; and that is of utmost importance. The human race is going to be divided into two kinds of people from a spiritual point of view. Some will love God and hate Satan. Some will be left in their sad, spiritual state so that they will hate, God and love all that the devil led man into seeking.

Satan is going to be punished. His head is going to be crushed. That is a better translation. It is not going to be a mere bruising that in time will be healed. And it is a crushing of the head, which means death! Christ’s heel is going to be crushed. The idea is that His walk of life on this earth will be ended, and was ended by His cross. But it also means that all the seed of the woman are going to have their heels crushed so that they cannot walk anymore in sin! O, yes, in this mother promise we do have a shadow of what we will have in the new Jerusalem. What comes first in our salvation is having our hearts delivered from the love of sin and filled with love toward God. Without that there can never be given us by God deliverance from the curse, that is, from the punishment of the sin, which we deserve. A thief may, after his punishment in prison has ended, go right back to his evil and be imprisoned once again. The authorities simply failed to stop that wickedness. God never fails in anything He sets out to do. And He tells Adam and Eve here that He is going to realize a complete victory for them. The crushing of Satan’s head will stop him from working in our hearts. Our sinful heel will cause us in this life to cripple in sin, and be sorry when we have walked in hatred towards God. There will be a different walk of life for us. And when we get new, resurrected bodies like that of Christ, we will walk only in love toward God.

Let us take hold of that truth. Let us see that shadow of God’s mercy that has compassion upon us and saves us from SIN and not simply from the punishment of sin. His mercy does not simply deliver us from what we brought upon ourselves by our sin, but also from that which makes us perform these deeds that demand punishment. Of course, this is an act of His everlasting, unchangeable love and grace. But God’s mercy, that is, His compassion, His pity upon His elect seed of the woman, is so evident in the way He deals with us, and in what He promises us. And did not Jesus teach us this in His parable and in what the publican prayed? He cried out: “God be merciful to me the sinner.” Yes, that is the Greek word. It is not simply a confession that he is a sinner; but he cries out in the realization that, because he knows only what is in his own heart and mind he is The sinner, the biggest sinner he knows. And he cries for mercy, which implies of course, also for God’s love and grace.

What an important and beautiful shadow we have then in the way God approached those who manifested their hatred towards Him. The psalmist in Psalm 103:17 declares: “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children.” That is true; but what is also true, and was shown us in what happened there in the garden of Eden, is that God’s mercy makes us fear Him. And in His mercy here God told Adam and Eve, by implication, for these words were addressed to the devil, that He would make them fear Him in the sense that they would believe in Him, and no longer believe the devil’s lies. So often in the Old Testament the word fear is used for faith. And that we believe in God and in His Christ not only assures us that His mercy is upon us, but also that this fear came to us in His mercy.

And let us also appreciate the fact that it is in His mercy that God causes us to know our sins. He has every right to consume us in His wrath the moment that we have a sinful thought in our minds. He need not wait until we put that sinful thought into a sinful act of the body. He had every right to destroy both Adam and Eve the minute that they reached out to pick that fruit. He did not need to wait until they took the first bite. He could have cast them at once into the lake of fire, and created a new man and woman to populate His earth. But no, having eternally chosen them in Christ, seeing them as purchased by the blood of Christ, because He wanted them to be with Him in covenant fellowship in the new creation He eternally planned, He dealt with them in the most wonderful mercy, as well as love and grace, that we could ever invent or plan to have upon this earth.

We can, foolishly and sinfully, call all this fiction rather than fact. We can be atheistically evolutionistic and distort what God moved Moses to write in Genesis 1-11. But God Himself had written for us a fact that comforts us in our sins and fleshly opposition to Him. Here in this shadow of His mercy after man’s first sin, we see how merciful He is. And merciful means full of mercy. How full that mercy is we will never know fully. For it stretches out infinitely into the everlasting life that is coming. But we can and ought to take with us this rich and wonderful manifestation of it the day when we first turned against Him.

Yes, the day sin began on this earth God showed us what He would do in His Son and in His mercy. His Son’s blood would be shed, and His righteousness and holiness would clothe us and bring us into a richer covenant fellowship than Adam and Eve knew before they fell into sin.