The Early Chapters of Genesis: Chapter 3:8-9

Genesis 3:8‑9  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
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We have seen that the recorded effect of disobedience was the sense of nakedness, and this leading to an effort to conceal it from self and from each other. But worse than shame and humiliation followed quickly.
“And they heard the voice of Jehovah Elohim walking in the garden in the cool (wind) of the day. And the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah Elohim, in the midst of the trees of the garden (ver. 8). Confidence in the Lord God was manifestly gone and sin had filled their hearts with terror as well as unbelief. For faith would have known that distance or darkness makes no difference to Jehovah, as is so beautifully expressed in Psa. 139. His voice was no attraction now; His rich unvarying goodness toward them was forgotten. They had acquired the knowledge of good and evil, but alas! to their own self-condemnation. So it is always. Not death only, but a bad conscience, they have left as a sad legacy to all their descendants. Man conscious of evil shrinks from God and distrusts Him.
So we find here the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah Elohim in the midst of the trees of the garden. No more flagrant proof could well be of the mischief the enemy had wrought. The wiles of the mighty and subtle Satan had drawn the first pair into rebellion, and their instant attempt to conceal themselves was the unmistakable evidence of it. They “hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah Elohim.” Had there been the least working of repentance, they had sought Him in self-reproach and horror at their sin, they had cast themselves in confession on a genuine repentance without faith, and faith in Him was wholly wanting. The voice of Him as He walked in the garden alarmed them, and they hid mercy which endures forever. But there is no themselves away from Him.
How different Christ and His own, who hear His voice and follow Him, who know His voice and know not the voice of strangers! The voice of Jehovah Elohim awoke nothing but the fear that has torment. Nor can conscience do aught else for man, guilty as he is, till he believes God's testimony to Christ. And Christ is the witness of the love of God, Who has sent none less than His Only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him; yea, more, sent His Son as propitiation for our sins. This indeed is love, not that we loved Him, though we ought to have done so, but that He loved us in spite of our sins. Nor could anything short of this love, not in word only but in deed and in truth, have availed us. For sin is moral death; and it is expressly said that we were dead in trespasses and sins. Divine love therefore, if it intervened to save, could only save by giving life to us who believe, His life, and His death too, that, with our sins blotted out righteously and forever, we might live to God.
Another thing calls for our notice here. God came to visit man in the garden. He had visited him before, when He laid upon him His solemn injunction as well as invested him with his high privileges. But He only visited. He did not dwell even in the sinless garden of delights. He came there as One that loved and was deeply interested in His creature, His vice-gerent. The book of Genesis shows us God visiting the earth again and again, and especially in Abraham's case. The most gracious condescension was that seen in His intercourse with “the friend of God.” But even then there was no dwelling of God on the earth, nor yet in Canaan. This is most instructive and a trait which only inspiration could have conceived or given. It is the mind of God from the beginning and entirely above the thoughts of man. Redemption alone lays the ground for God's dwelling with His own on earth. The absence of it is the more striking here, because in the very next book of Moses redemption is the central truth, followed as it is by a habitation for God in the midst of His people.
It is true that the tabernacle was but a shadowy dwelling place for God; yet this was quite consistent with the facts. For the redemption of Israel out of Egypt was but the type of a better and eternal redemption now come. This Christ alone obtained by His death and resurrection; which accordingly is followed by God's habitation in the Spirit Who dwells with us and is in us, abiding with us forever.
Here, therefore, all is intrinsic, real, and everlasting. In Christ we have redemption. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost that is in you, which ye have of God? And ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19, 2019What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Corinthians 6:19‑20)). Here the in-dwelling of God is individual and unfailing for the believer. But “know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:1616Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)). Here we learn that it is equally true of the church, of God's assembly, and no less abiding in this case also. Yet it is only so because of Christ's accomplished redemption. What else could secure it for us and us for it, when we think of our failures individually as well as corporately? But no, there is “one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” The Holy Spirit only came down because sin was judged to God's glory in the cross; and He abides because of the perfect unchanging efficacy of Christ's work. The unworthiness of man singly or together cannot more annul it, than the power or will of Satan: so the voice of God has surely declared; and so it will be till Christ comes again, yea forever.
Remark the beautiful simplicity of Jehovah Elohim exactly in unison with these primeval days. Here we are told of His “walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” So Jehovah spoke to Cain in remonstrance (ch. 4); shut Noah in the ark (ch. 7); and “came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men builded” (ch. 11). Favored Moses knew much of this gracious familiarity in a later day; but here even strangers to the covenants of promise were not without considerate communications of a personal kind. Does this provoke wretched man's unbelief, especially in this day of artificial habits? Let him judge himself, believe that every scripture is inspired of God, and enjoy the wisdom and goodness there vouchsafed abundantly.
“And Jehovah called to the man and said to him, Where art thou?” (ver. 9.) It was the first divine utterance to fallen man. What a volume of truth! On the face of things, past all denial, man was gone from God. He had morally doomed himself before he received the dread sentence. “He drove out the man,” we are told later in the chapter; but man hid from His presence at first, and thus drew out the words, “Where art thou?” Away from God! He did not mean to confess his sin, his ruin; but his act unwittingly told the tale, and the word of God, proving it, revealed the truth. Nor is there a road back, save in the Son of God, the Second man, Who is the way, the truth, and the life, as this very chapter shows us authoritatively. He only can break the power of the enemy, though this at all cost to Himself and to the God Who gave Him for this express purpose. How worthy of God, how blessed and reliable for man, is that written word, which unbelief slights now as it slighted Him Who shines throughout it!