The first words which the devil spoke to man in his state of righteousness were a series of questions.
The first words which God spoke to man after he fell from his state of righteousness likewise were a series of questions.
Nether the devil nor God asked these questions to gain some information. The devil asked Eve, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” But he knew very well what God told Adam; and rather than being an act of seeking information, this question of the devil was designed and served to take away man’s righteousness. When God came to Adam and called, “Where art thou?” He knew exactly where Adam was; and instead of being an attempt to gain some information form Adam, this question, together with the one that followed, was designed and served to bring Adam to the knowledge of a righteousness which is restored in Christ.
In Satan’s series of questions we may, therefore, see an implied, unexpressed question. That question is, “Why are you here as God’s servant, when you can become like Him? Why are you satisfied with your lot when you can improve it immeasurably?” Implied in God’s questions is the question, “Why are you here under the trees instead of by the tree of life where we formerly met and had sweet communion together?”
Satan came to preach the lie and went with Adam under the trees, gloating over his victory, and waiting to lead man further in the development of sin and the lie. God came to man under the trees of the garden to preach to him the gospel, and to give him the comfort and joy of that gospel in Christ.
By the question, “Where art thou?” God brought into sharp focus Adam’s sin, in order that he might know his hopelessness and be made ready to enjoy the good news of salvation in Christ; might deeply know his guilt and from the beginning understand that we are saved by grace.
Adam knew his sin as soon as he committed it. But he had no way at all of knowing at that moment that there was any way out, that there was any salvation possible. He knew the penalty that God had predicted: “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” He knew absolutely nothing of a way of escape. He could not run to God for forgiveness, and not simply because his mind now was darkened by sin. There simply was nothing God had ever said to him, there was nothing anywhere in God’s creation that would show him that there could be salvation and forgiveness by this holy and righteous God! He knew nothing of grace and mercy. He could not know of the love of God for the world, according to which He would send His only begotten Son into the world, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. How could he know any of this?
In that light God’s question also means, “Where did your sin get you, Adam? Where are you now? Are you where Satan promised you that you would be, or are you in a state of guilt before Me?” And Adam’s answer to the question, “Where art thou?” would have to be, “I am on the way to hell! That is why, when I heard Thy voice, I was afraid and went and hid myself, for I knew myself to be naked.” How fully Adam would have agreed with Solomon, who in Proverbs 14:12 wrote, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” But in His grace God came to teach Adam his misery, in order that He might teach him his redemption, and how to express gratitude to God for that salvation.
We do well today to set ourselves squarely before God’s question, “Where art thou?” Hence our title above these lines. Let us begin with the first day of the week. Where are you on the Sabbath? The services for divine worship are a few blocks away and have already begun. Where are you? There are, of course, those who cannot be there bodily, because God has made it impossible. Yes, we wrote impossible, not inconvenient or difficult. We do have to come often with difficulty. But if tomorrow, still experiencing that difficulty or affliction, we are at our desk in the office, at our bench in the shop, behind our counter in the store, out in our field, or wherever our daily toils require our presence, then again God’s question is there, “Where art THOU?” And the emphasis may fall there. When we were at home the day before, His question was there. It is there with equal force the next day, when, all circumstances and conditions of the flesh being the same, we are at work. The question, unspoken in an audible way; not to be heard as Adam heard it, is still there, “How come you are here today, and were not in the sanctuary yesterday, where formerly we had sweet communion together? Is this earthly work of yours more important than the spiritual work My Son finished to prepare a rest that remaineth for the children of God?”
Where were you, as you sat in the pew, and the collection plate was passed in front of you? Or, rather, where was your heart when the cause of God’s kingdom was before you, and His servants, the deacons, presented that cause to you? And remember that God does not ask that question to gain information anymore than when He asked Adam where he was. He knows what your hand does, and what your heart told the hand to do. He asks this question in order to cause you to search your own soul.
Where were you during the long hours between the services? In bed taking a long nap? Before the television set enjoying the world with the world? Curled up in a chair with a book written to excite and satisfy the flesh? Cramming for an exam or test tomorrow in school, or doing an assignment you would not take time to do, because you wanted to spend the time of other days satisfying the flesh? Adam was hiding from God. But are we not hiding from Him as well, when on this day He has provided for us such an abundance of ways to meet Him in spiritual activities? Today we have such, an abundance of spiritual literature to read, so many books to use to increase our knowledge of the salvation we have in Christ, and to refer to in order to prepare for the discussion of God’s Word in the society organized for our age group. Actually we should find the day all too short for what we could not do during the week, because six days of the week we are called to labour for our material needs.
Where are you when these society meetings are held? Shall we ask, “Where are you hiding? To what have you run, and from Whom have you run?” Satan’s unspoken question is certainly there, “Why be there dealing with those dry, doctrinal things, when you can be out enjoying God’s wonderful creation? That, too, is your calling.” God’s question, unspoken in an audible way, yet there before us is, “Why are you not searching the Word of life, why not gathered by that water and bread of life, this fountain of spiritual good and blessedness, My Word, which is ‘More to be desired than gold, yea than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb?'” Or is it that you do not agree with the psalmist—and with God Himself—who wrote these lines?
Where are you when a helping hand is needed? Where are you when men (or women) are needed to serve on a committee, when a specific work must be done, and the call is made for volunteers? Where are you when the sick, the widows, the shut-ins wait all day for a knock on the door, or for the telephone to ring?
But why go on? It is well for us to place ourselves squarely before God’s question, “Where art thou?” It is not for Adam. alone. It is not simply for the particular situation in which Adam found himself when God came in the cool of the day. Parents at night—and in the day—often wonder where their children are. Do they very often ask themselves where they themselves are, and where their children see them?
We can easily speak a word of condemnation in regard to Adam’s hiding under the trees, and call it foolish. We can view our own running away from the right way, and from things spiritual, as some brilliant work of wisdom on our parts, and, perhaps, boast about it to others at a later date.
Better it is that we face the question, for in that way God gives us the assurance of a restored righteousness in Christ. He never gives that to us under the trees where we are hiding without bringing us to the knowledge of our awful guilt before Him. And He teaches us to know our misery by calling our attention to our sinfulness. However it is not simply a matter of exposing our guilt. Judas had that knowledge and admitted that he had shed innocent blood. He never came to the knowledge of redemption, because his knowledge of his guilt was not a knowledge of misery. He had fear. He had self pity. But he was not spiritually miserable. Adam and Eve were because God gave it to them. And as we pointed out, God’s questions were directed exactly at bringing Adam and Eve to that knowledge, that spiritual miserableness which was essential for them to be able to receive the gospel with joy.
We are reminded of the New Testament light which is shed upon this approach of God. Jesus said it, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.” In that light we must consider those words of Genesis 3:8, “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” Yes, it was “the Lord God,” which in the Hebrew is Jehovah Elohim, Whom they heard. Therefore it was the Son of Man, Jesus our Saviour Who came to them, the very same Person Who came some four thousand years later in our flesh. For the name Jesus, as the New Testament or Greek form of Joshua, or Jehoshua, means Jehovah saves, or Jehovah is salvation. God came to seek and to save that which was lost. God came though in the mercy of Christ, not to destroy but to save. And in our experiences this salvation always begins with a consciousness of our guilt and of the hopelessness of our state and condition before Him.
There was no question as to where Adam and Eve were from a judicial and from an ethical point of view. But they had to be brought to a full realization of it in order to enjoy the knowledge of being saved from it. God’s approach to fallen man with the gospel is first to make crystal clear his guilt and corruption. He has no social gospel for man except one that speaks of a solution of all man’s problems and woes through the forgiveness of sins and in the new Jerusalem. His approach to fallen man always is to make him know his sin before God. God does not at once—as on many a “mission” field is done i assure of His love. Instead He makes known to fallen man his guilt. He does not tell man at once where He is going to bring him, but where he is. A man who is lost must first know where he is, before he can proceed to where he wants to be. And let us not pretend to be wiser than God, so that we gloss over sin and rush in to assure of God’s love, before a man even knows his sin before God.
Let all missionary activity, let all preaching, and let all approach to the unsaved be that of bringing to them the question, “Where are you in the eyes of the holy God?” Let us show them that they are naked and have eaten of the forbidden fruit. Then we can show them the Cross as the love of God for His people in Christ. Otherwise we bring them to the Antichrist, who will be hailed as the Saviour of the world (not the Church) because of his social, economic, educational, surgical, medical, therapeutic achievement, and promises of a kingdom of heaven on this earth, an escape from poverty, social injustice and war, without the Cross or Spirit of Christ.