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The late Homer Hoeksema was professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.

The Lord Coming to Seek His Own

We have already seen that Adam and Eve vainly attempted to cover the nakedness of their sin with their self-made aprons of fig leaves. We should note yet, in that connection, that the origin of clothing dates from the time of the fall. For although Adam and Eve vainly tried to cover their nakedness, we know that, according to verse 21 of Genesis 3, the Lord Himself provided them with clothing in the form of coats of skins. We must remember, however, that the proper idea of clothing resides in the fact that it is a gift of God’s grace to His people. It is provided to cover the nakedness and the ugliness of our sin and death before the Lord and before one another. As such, it remains necessary as long as we are not finally delivered from sin and death, as long as we remain in the body of this death.

Further, we may say that for the child of God his clothing is symbolic also of his covering in Christ. When in eternity we shall be perfectly and completely clothed in Christ’s righteousness, then we shall be naked with our eyes open and shall not be ashamed any longer.

By the same token, we must remember that although our clothing is universal and shared also by the wicked, nevertheless grace is not universal, neither is clothing a gift of so-called common grace. The wicked have clothes, but they have no grace of God with their clothes. That they do not becomes plainly manifest in the fact that they pervert even the gift of clothing and subject it to the service of sin. Not only do they change clothing into an item of vainglory, as though the essential ugliness of sin and death can be covered up by clothes, but they also make of clothing an instrument of the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. Instead of using it to cover the body, they use it to expose the body, and that for the very purpose of exciting and satisfying the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. This depraved inclination simply comes to one of its grossest manifestations in the pornography and the exaltation of nudity that increasingly plagues modern society, but which the world is nevertheless unable to combat for the simple reason that these grosser manifestations are but the outgrowth and the fruit of its own lust.

The child of God, on the other hand, will surely understand that he can have no part with these unfruitful works of darkness, and that all the world’s fornication and uncleanness should not be so much as named among God’s people, as becometh saints. They realize that there is no solution to and no real power to fight against all these manifestations of lust, except in Christ Jesus our Lord and through the real spiritual covering of sin that there is in His blood and by His Spirit, the Spirit of holiness.

But now let us return to the account in Genesis 3. We note, first, that Adam and Eve tried to hide from the Lord: “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden” (v. 8).

Notice, first of all, that the text here presupposes that there was a revelation of Jehovah God in some perceptible form in Paradise. It must have been some appearance of God, a theophany, some visible and audible manifestation of the Lord God such as later appeared in the Angel of Jehovah. For Adam and Eve “heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden.” Besides, their very attempt to hide from the presence of the Lord also presupposes this.

Moreover, the text seems to suggest that God’s coming to the garden was not in itself unusual, that He may have come to Adam and Eve daily, especially when we take note of Adam’s answer to the Lord’s question, “Where art thou?” In verse 10 Adam does not answer this question directly, but seems to answer the real intent of the question, as if God asked for the reason for his hiding himself: “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” One gets the impression that it was a regular occurrence for the Lord God to come to the garden and that previously Adam would go to meet his God, while now he hides himself and the Lord must call him. This would also be in harmony with the whole idea of Paradise the First in the state of perfection: it was Adam’s house with God. However this may be, here it is evident that Jehovah God makes Himself manifest in the garden, and Adam and Eve hear His approach.

It was in the cool of the day that the Lord approached Adam and Eve. Literally, the text speaks of the Lord’s coming “in the wind of the day.” According to some, this refers to the morning breeze, while others explain that it is the evening breeze. There is no way of telling which is meant; but if the reference is to the time of day, then I would suggest that it must have been the evening of the same day. My reason is that I do not think that the Lord would wait even overnight either to curse the devil or to seek His children.

But what we must pay attention to at this point is God’s marvelous lovingkindness. Notice, first of all, that the Lord comes to seek Adam and Eve. He does not wait for them to seek Him, for as they had fallen into sin and death they would never seek Him again. They had rejected His Word. They had forsaken the Lord their God. They had turned to the devil’s service. His word they had heeded. They were alienated from Jehovah God through their own willful disobedience. But the Lord comes to them. Such is the wonder of grace! God’s grace is always first and sovereign. The sinner, unless and until he has been touched by the power of that grace, will never seek Him. He must needs flee from God. But God in His grace, and for reasons that He does not find in us but in Himself, comes first to seek and to save His own. And remember, it requires exactly such grace—pure, sovereign grace, grace that is first—in order to save a hopelessly lost and totally corrupt sinner.

That God indeed came in His grace to Adam and Eve cannot be doubted. For the Lord comes in the gentle breeze, not in the howling storm or in the roaring thunder or in the consuming fire. He comes in the way in which Adam had heard Him come before, in the wind of the day. He comes announcing His coming, for Adam, even before the Lord appears, hears the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden. Indeed, had not the Lord God come in His grace, He must needs have destroyed Adam and Eve finally and forever in His consuming wrath.

But this is grace. To be sure, Jehovah God comes to make Adam look like the fool that he was with his fig-leaf apron tied around him. To be sure, He comes to expose and to reprove the sinner. For God’s grace does not and cannot function apart from His perfect righteousness and spotless holiness. His grace is a holy and righteous grace. Therefore, God’s grace does not and cannot ignore Adam’s sin, but it purposes to rescue him from that sin. For the same reason, when the Lord seeks Adam and Eve in His grace, the Lord in His dealings with them does and cannot simply pass by their sin, but calls them to account. Nevertheless, the very manner of Jehovah’s coming to our first parents bespeaks His grace. It announced peace, love, reconciliation, salvation, communion.

Indeed, Adam and his wife did not know this grace of God as yet, nor had its power made itself felt in their consciousness. How could they know it? All they knew was the stark and horrible fact of their own sin. Of a Savior and of the promise of a Savior, or even of the possibility of a Savior, they could not and they did not yet know. For no gospel had been announced as yet. Therefore, of the forgiveness of sins and of the way of forgiveness they also could not know as yet. Therefore, also, the way of repentance and confession of sin was not yet open unto them.

This will also explain the fact that while the motif of the Lord’s coming to them is grace, Adam and his wife nevertheless hide among the trees of the garden. They do not yet realize and taste the Lord’s grace.

Notice that when the Lord comes, they immediately sense that their aprons of fig leaves are no protection. The Lord is coming, and it is His approach that causes them to realize that their self-made covering is of no avail. That this is true is plain from Adam’s own explanation of his hiding in verse 10: “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” At the same time, let us note that there is a further discovery here on the part of Adam and Eve: they have been made to realize the futility of their fig-leaf aprons before the eyes of the Lord.

But to their sin they add yet more sin and folly when they hide. Their hiding is sin because they still attempt to cover up, rather than to acknowledge their sin and to confess it before the Lord who is approaching; they attempt to cover up this time by hiding completely among the trees of the garden. Their hiding is folly because there is no cure in fleeing from Jehovah in the cool of the day. When He comes in the thunder of His justice to execute judgment, then the cry, but still the futile cry, of the sinner must needs be, “Mountains, fall on us; hills, cover us! Hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” But when He approaches in the gentle zephyr of the gospel, His Word is: “Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Rather, meet Him! Meet Him naked, but on your knees!”

Notice next, however, that the Lord does not allow Adam to remain in hiding. He approaches him with the searching question, “Adam, where art thou?” The Lord does not discover him in his hiding place. This does not mean, of course, that God did not know where Adam was, nor even that He left this impression upon Adam. The contrary is true. But the Lord acts as if they are actually in hiding from Him. Instead of going and appearing in their hiding place, the Lord calls Adam, “Where art thou?” He leaves it to Adam to appear. That Adam does appear and not flee still farther, that Adam does not continue his hiding but responds to the Lord’s question, is due to the fact that God caused His voice to enter into Adam’s inmost heart. Adam must answer the summons. For remember: the Lord is dealing pedagogically with Adam. He purposes not only to draw Adam from his hiding place, but also to induce him to give account of himself as to the real reason for his hiding. Hence, the Lord’s question as it were, evinces surprise: “Adam, where art thou? I used to meet you here in the garden in the cool of the day. Why not now?”

Moreover, as is plain from Adam’s answer, the Lord’s question purposes to discover Adam’s condition. It means, and Adam understood it thus: “Adam, where art thou—not only as to your place, but as to your condition?” And yet remember that the question of the Lord was one of love, basically. For the Lord purposes to save Adam. From this point of view, the question as to its intent means: “Adam, where art thou? I am seeking. Come thou to Me.”

Adam then answers the question according to its real meaning, as if Jehovah God had asked for the reason of his hiding. He replies that he was naked and on that account was afraid. The Lord had made him realize that before the presence of God sin became manifest through his very body; even his outward appearance now condemned him. But the Lord continues to question him. He purposes that Adam give account of this sudden knowledge of his nakedness and of his fear on account of it: “Who told thee that thou wast naked?” The Lord Himself suggests the answer: “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded that thou shouldest not eat?” The Lord inquires as to the cause of Adam’s fear and his knowledge of his own nakedness. Naked Adam had always been, but not afraid. Why then is he afraid now?

Adam admits, but does not confess his sin. There is indeed an important difference. To confess the guilt of one’s sin is much more than the mere admission of the act of one’s sin. Confession implies the assumption of the full responsibility for the sin, and it implies true sorrow over sin. Of these there is no evidence in Adam’s reply to God: “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” The fact of the matter is that Adam attempts to shift the responsibility and the guilt of his sin to his wife, and from his wife even to God Himself, suggesting that if God had not given him this woman, then he would not have violated the command.

But the Lord, because He is dealing pedagogically with His children, and because He purposes to reveal His own promise of salvation, and because He is setting the stage for that revelation of the promise, allows Himself, as it were, to be turned from Adam to the woman. When the woman is confronted by the Lord’s question, “What is this that thou hast done?” she, in turn, blames the serpent, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Also she, therefore, attempts to shift the responsibility from herself, while she admits the act as such.

The stage is now set for the first revelation of the promise of the gospel.

In conclusion, we must first note the following, however:

1.This entire narrative reveals that for fallen man as he is in himself there is absolutely no way out. Adam and Eve must confess their sins, but they cannot confess because they know nothing of the forgiveness of sins as yet. Where there is no confidence of forgiveness and reception, there the sinner does not dare to appear before the face of the Judge of heaven and earth. Adam and Eve must have a covering for their sin, but they can find none of themselves. In their self-made aprons they know that they are naked before God, and they blame their nakedness, rather than their corruption, because they have no covering for the latter. They must have garments indeed, but not outward garments of their own making; inward, spiritual garments they must have. Such garments the sinner does not have and cannot procure of himself.

2.Clearly the narrative reveals that salvation is altogether of the Lord. If the narrative of Genesis 3 had ended with Eve’s words, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat,” how hopeless the situation would be, how utterly hopeless. But the narrative does not end there. God is the God of our salvation. He exposes the sinner in the depth of the corruption of his sin. He exposes him as utterly helpless and hopeless in himself, with no covering for his nakedness because he has no covering for his sin and corruption. But He also provides those inward, spiritual garments, coverings for his sins in Christ Jesus our Lord, garments that enable him to walk before Him in the light, naked to the bottom of his soul, with the confidence that there is forgiveness with Him, the confidence that through the blood of Jesus Christ He will receive him and consider him as though he never had had nor committed any sin.

to be continued…