Questions God Asks

Who Told You that You Were Naked?

Genesis 3:7-13

Teaching t12650

Introduction

In this series, we are examining some of the questions God asks key biblical characters. Why does God do this? It isn’t because He is seeking information, because He knows all things. Rather, He asks questions as a wise counselor. His questions help us see for ourselves what our real needs are, and the error or inadequacy of our attempts to meet those needs. Thus, thus they help us to receive the help He wants to give us.

Setting

This morning we look at one of the first questions God asked – directed to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Let me summarize the setting of these questions.

Adam and Eve lived in simple dependence on God as their Source of love and as their Definer of good and evil. Consequently, they lived in total intimacy and openness and transparency and vulnerability with God and with one another (2:25). They were free to receive and enjoy God’s love, and to give his love to one another.

But Satan gave them some 21st century, American self-help counsel. He told them that God was suppressing them through his moral absolutism. He told them that in order to be free, they needed to become their own gods and make morality relative to their own opinion and desires. They followed this flattering counsel, but it was a lie. Their revolt against God did not liberate them to grow up; it cast down them into bondage.

Their self-made clothing

This is where we pick up the story (read 3:7; PICTURE). What a profoundly tragic verse! Their choice did not fill them with confident self-awareness. Instead, they became self-aware in a profoundly negative sense. Their self-made clothing was their response to shame – the painful awareness that something was wrong with them in the very core of their being, and the fear of another person’s exposure and disapproval. So they reacted to shame in two ways:

They clothed themselves in fig-leaves to hide themselves from other people. This is the primal fear that if other people really know what is inside of me they will reject me. (Would you want even your spouse or friends to know everything you thought yesterday?) We are caught between our desire to be deeply known by other persons and our fear of exposure and rejection. So, like Adam and Eve, we put on a disguise – some kind of mask to protect ourselves from the embarrassment of this inner disgrace. Adam and Eve’s alienation from one another is the archetype of the psychological and inter-personal alienation that has plagued the human race ever since.

They also clothed themselves in fig-leaves and crouched among the trees of the garden to hide themselves from God. This is the primal fear of God’s judgment. We are caught between our intuitive awareness that this holy God exists (Rom.1:18-20) and our fear that His scrutiny will end in disapproval and condemnation. Our pathetic solution is to hide from God by denying His existence (magical thinking among the trees?), or by remaking Him in ways that mitigate our fear of judgment (impersonal force we can manipulate; finite god we can outsmart; senile benevolent Grandfather; etc.), or by trying to obstruct His gaze by our outward morality and religious observances. But God’s gaze sees through all of this.

So began the shame that has plagued every human being ever since. This sin-based shame is different than victimization-shame (which is real, painful and difficult) in two ways: “Sin-shame is something we bring on ourselves; victimization shame is done to us. Everyone has the experience of sin-shame, but not everyone has this shame intensified by victimization-shame.” Since sin-based shame is foundational, we need God’s provision for it...

God’s provision of clothing

How does God respond to their sin and hiding? Read 3:8,9. He takes the initiative; He comes to find them; He calls out to them. Left to ourselves, we would stay in flight from God – like our expanding universe after the Big Bang. But God in His love sought them out – and He seeks all of us. This implies that God has a way to repair this profound alienation.

Read 3:10-13. He asks these questions not because He seeks information, nor to rub their noses in their sin. His questions are designed to help them admit the truth about their sin and take responsibility for it so that they can receive His remedy. But they stay hidden behind their fig-leaves by blaming one another and God and Satan for their rebellion.

But in spite of their self-justifying and blasphemous response, God still speaks of a future remedy. He predicts that one of Eve’s descendants will save her race from Satan’s poison – but He will be bitten and killed in the rescue (3:15). Then (on the basis of this promise?) He provides them with a completely different set of clothes- garments of skin (3:21; PICTURE). Most theologians agree that the full significance of this provision went beyond fashion or utility (i.e., skins last longer than fig-leaves). This is a beautiful picture of the salvation that the rest of the Bible unfolds, and the way we receive it.

“This indicates, I believe, that man could not stand before God in his own covering. Rather, he needed a covering from God—a covering of a specific nature—a covering that required sacrifice and death, a covering not provided by man but by God... It is my opinion that this was the beginning of the Old Testament sacrificial system looking forward to the coming of the One who would crush Satan’s head... God himself provided this picture.”

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah spoke of the Messiah as the fulfillment of this sacrificial system. He would be the real Substitute, who would live a righteous life and sacrifice Himself as the payment for our sins (Isa.53:5,6). Looking to this Messiah, Isaiah rejoices that through Him God will “clothe” him with the garments of His righteousness (Isa.61:10).

Jesus was God’s promised Substitute. We have all followed Adam in his rebellion against God, but Jesus obeyed God perfectly His whole life. On the cross He took on Himself the guilt and shame of our sin against God, and bore His judgment in our place. Because Jesus He did this, God offers to clothe us in Jesus’ righteousness (2 Cor.5:21).

Putting on God’s clothing

How do you put on these new clothes? Remember the picture of Gen.3:21 – by imitating Adam and Eve. Like them, you must be willing to take off your “fig-leaf” clothing and allow God to clothe you with the “garment” He provides for you.

You have to take off your “fig-leaf” clothing. You must renounce all reliance on your own ways of validating yourself before God – your moral efforts, your superior political views or cultural tastes, your religious observances and spiritual self-development, your educational and career accomplishments, etc. You must take all of this off, stand naked before a holy God, and acknowledge that you deserve His condemnation.

You have to receive the “garment” God provides for you. You do this by relying on Christ’s death alone to validate you before God. The moment you do this, God not only permanently forgives you of all of your sins (past, present, and future); He also issues the same verdict of approval that He issued to His perfectly obedient Son (Matt.3:17).

This is an either-or issue. Either you stand before God on the basis of your own “fig-leaf” righteousness, and hear His “guilty” verdict, or you renounce this and rely wholly on Christ’s righteousness, and hear His “forgiven/approved” verdict. There is no in-between. This is why there is no such thing as a “partial” Christian, any more than a woman in “partially” pregnant. Have you made this decision to put on God’s clothing?

Living in God’s clothing

What if you have already put on God’s clothing by receiving Christ? Then God has permanently clothed you with Christ’s righteousness and you are forever secure in God’s acceptance. But Christians soon discover that we do not naturally rely on this. Instead, our natural default is still to put “fig-leaves” on top of our new clothing.

What are some symptoms that you are still putting “fig leaves” on? Consider these diagnostic questions:

“Do I often withdraw from relating to God & others when I have performance failures?”
“Do I tend to hide my weaknesses and present a good front even to my friends?”
“Do criticism and correction wipe me out? Am I inordinately defensive?”
“Do I chronically compare myself with others and/or put people down?”

Why is it so difficult to quit doing this? We have spent years as fallen people dealing with shame this way, so this is a deep mental habit that doesn’t change overnight. We also live in a fallen culture that teaches us to deal with shame by hiding, posturing, comparing, etc. If you have victimization-shame, this complicates things as will see below. And if all this isn’t enough, we have a spiritual enemy (Satan) who is committed to keep us doing this because it undermines our effectiveness for Christ. These are powerful forces. No wonder the Bible says we need to “set our minds” on our new clothing (Col.3:1-3)!

How can we live more often in the freedom of our new “clothing?”

Daily affirm and thank God for His approval. Turn biblical promises of this into personal prayer: “God, I thank You that today is not an audition for Your or people’s approval. I don’t need people’s approval because I already have Your ultimate approval. And You have bestowed this on me as a permanent status through Jesus’ death on the cross. Thank You that even if I mess up today, this will not diminish Your approval. Thank You that even if I perform awesomely today, this will not increase Your approval. Help me to trust in Your approval and to serve from Your approval.”

Ask God to sensitize you to “fig-leaf” habits and vulnerabilities. We are so used to doing this that we often are unaware. But God can show us if we ask Him (Ps.139:23,24). When He shows you, it can be painful. But it also leads to liberation as God shows you how to trust in your new “clothing” (EXAMPLES: ME WITH GETTING CRITICISM & COMPARING).

Distinguish between victimization-shame and sin-based shame, and respond differently to them. With victimization-shame, it is right and important to insist on your innocence rather than believing that you deserve it. But with sin-based shame, this is counterproductive. The proper response is to acknowledge our guilt before God and rest in His acceptance through Christ. I’m not suggesting that this is easy – but God can teach us how to do this.

Prioritize friendships with Christians who want to grow in the above ways. This one of the best things about such friendships. They remind us and help us to affirm God’s approval. God provides insight into our “fig leaf” strategies through them. God helps us to differentiate between and respond differently to victimization-shame and sin-based shame in these relationships.

Conclusion

NEXT WEEK: Isaiah 6 – “Who will go for Me?”

QUESTIONS & COMMENTS

“Shame-consciousness (is) being exposed, vulnerable, and in desperate need of covering or protection. (It is a reaction to) the gaze of the holy God and other people. God (can) see our disgrace, and other people become a threat because they too (can) see it... At this moment of Adam’s sin, shame – that is, ‘What will they think of me?’ and ‘What will God think of me?’ – became a cornerstone of human experience.” Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big and God Is Small (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1997), pp.24,25.

Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big and God Is Small, p. 26.

Francis A. Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, Volume 2 (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1982), p.75.