But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” – Genesis 3:9-12
I was teaching confirmation class several years ago when the light went on. It was amazing. The young man suddenly caught the implications of the Gospel. His eyes widened. His expression changed. He looked at me and said, “You mean we don’t have to earn heaven?” Indeed we don’t. And it’s a good thing, for not even Adam could behave well enough to remain in the Paradise of God.
That’s so clearly seen in God’s second question – which is really two questions. God asks, “Who told you that you were naked?” Adam doesn’t answer because no one told him, per se. It just became apparent to him. He merely became aware of his nakedness, and felt the shame of it. He who formerly had nothing to hide took cover behind fig leaves and in an out-of-the-way corner of the Garden. At least he had a conscience.
Then, right away, God asks, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Of course they had. They had been deceived and cowered into determining for themselves that which was good and evil. They had eaten the fruit, and they were living in the just desserts of their disobedience.
There is almost a sense of God discovering this that is conveyed in a simple reading of this account. It’s presented as though God didn’t know about any of this until he comes looking for them in the Garden. We know that God knows all things. “Even before a word is on my lips, you know it altogether,” says the Psalmist (Psalm 139:4). Clearly God knows. But God is on a search and rescue mission. He’s not discovering it for himself, as much as he is revealing it to Adam and Eve, and to us who read this these millennia afterwards.
These questions are not only to bring Adam and Eve up short. They are also to let them know that he was not going to abandon them. He was not going to let them hide, and exempt themselves from his grace and love. He will confront them with the truth. There will be an accounting. There will be judgment. There will even be curses. But all these are motivated by his love. And now he is asking where they were and what they had done, to help them acknowledge their sin; the first and essential step on our part for redemption.
What have you done? Have you eaten the forbidden fruit? God is on the prowl, seeking, searching, and calling sinners back to himself. Our God is a sending God. He is a missionary God. He will search for his people, and seek them out. He will redeem them, and save us. No matter what we have done. No matter how many bites we may have already taken. He is calling us now to repent and believe the good news of his love.
That was, after all, Jesus’ first message, “The time has come. The reign and rule of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:14-15).