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Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. – Genesis 3:22-24

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After the fall into sin, Adam and Eve began to feel shame, covering themselves with fig leaves, and hiding from God. God searched them out and asked them four questions – all of which he already knew the answers (see the text below).

  1. Where are you?
  2. Who told you that you were naked?
  3. Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?
  4. What is this you have done?

God asked these questions to help Adam and Eve own their sinful rebellion, and confess to him, looking to him for redemption and help. Alas, however, such was not to be the case: Adam and Eve both played the blame game, had no faith in God that he could undo their terrible deed, and got honest enough only to admit that they were ashamed of their nakedness.

God gave the first Gospel promise in v. 15 (speaking to the serpent):

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

There would come a descendant of the woman (Christ) who would crush the head of the serpent (Satan), but who would suffer a mortal wound in the process. It would cost Jesus his life to defeat the devil. But he would do so, and even then his death would be a mere bruised heel in the context of eternity, for as we know, Jesus rose from the dead and reigns on high at the right hand of God.

There is the curious conclusion to this chapter when God determines to keep Adam and Eve from taking the fruit of the tree of life from the garden and live forever. Adam and Eve are banished from the garden and angelic sentinels are posted to prevent them from attaining immortality while on this earth. 

God wanted man not to live eternally in this state of fallenness, as “poor miserable sinners.” This benefit would come to those who sought God’s reign in Christ and the salvation that he offers by grace, received by faith. 

You might wonder just how merciful such an action was. Wouldn’t it be better to live eternally here on earth? On a good day we might think so. But as we age, or see our parents aging and dealing with the onslaught of physical frailty, we might reconsider. What if you didn’t have the hope of a new heaven and new earth? What if truly even the best of life here and now was as good as it gets? 

The Preacher says, “he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In other words God has designed us so that there is a sense of transcendence and spiritual reality that is the faint echo of eternal glory. When we yearn for something better, for justice, truth and love, it is because though guarded, God has revealed the existence of such things. And though guarded from experiencing them fully on this earth, we have been promised this eternal glory in the life of the world to come.

Genesis 3:7-21

7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 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.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Psalm 60:2 (NIV)

God, you have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its fractures, for it is quaking.

John 3:17

God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

"Echoing the Impressionists" - 2015 NWHPC Portfolio Review

If God is a loving and kind God, why do bad things happen? If God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), why would we want to embrace his love? The list of hurts and pains in the world today are as long as the list of promises and the attributes of God’s goodness – perhaps more so in the minds of many. They conclude: the God of the Bible is not good; he is to be rejected.

But the terrible goodness of God is shown in Jesus on the cross. There the wrath of God was visited fully on God’s Son: The father even rejected and abandoned his Son in the time of his greatest need. But the Son did not abandon faith in the Father, for he knew and believed that God’s goodness, love, faithfulness, and mercy would be sustained. Three days later he was shown to be right.

The world is filled with signs of God’s judgment and man’s evil intent: people continue to be opposed to the way, truth, and life found only in Jesus; there are people in the world truly bent on destroying America; followers of Jesus Christ are being singled out for horrific torture, persecution, and death; mass suicide murders occur all too frequently; terribly bad things happen to genuinely good people.

But in the cross of Jesus all these injustices, all the evil, all the terrible tragedies of a fallen world were embraced by Jesus on the cross. God rules in his providential care and love over all people and all things. Not a bird drops to the ground apart from his will and knowledge. God is good and desires all people to be saved eternally and gloriously in the life of the world to come. God is just and punishes sin.

If we believe all this we will not only lament and weep at the terrible tragedies of life in this fallen world, we will  call on God to mend the fractures of our lives as we strain ever forward to the life of the world to come, thanking God for his redemption, through our Lord Jesus Christ.