Here is another draft/snippet from my forthcoming book (re)aligning with God.
Genesis 3 marks the watershed moment in humanity’s walk with God. Before Gen 3, men and women enjoyed endlessly open and free relationships with God, the created world, and one another. They lived in the world described and assumed by Genesis 1:1–2:25. Genesis 3:1–7 narrates the disastrous conversation between Eve, Adam, and the serpent. Bonhoeffer’s calls this encounter the “first conversation about God.” This is a sublime observation. The root of humanity’s rebellion is the idolatrous objectification of God. In Genesis 2, humanity freely conversed with God. In Genesis 3, God moves from subject to object. The serpent tempts Eve and Adam. At issue is the trustworthiness of God. The serpent denies that God can be trusted. Humanity needs to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because God is intentionally withholding something good and desirable from humanity. In essence, the existential question faced by Eve is this one: Do I trust that God has my best interests at heart? This is the fundament question that all people face. In the context of Genesis 1–3, God has demonstrated his trustworthiness and care for humanity by providing a idyllic setting in Eden, abundant food, authentic relationships between men and women, purposeful vocation as keepers of creation and regents of the Creator, and unfettered access to himself. God has gifted humanity with access to all sources of food except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This exception serves as the only prohibition that God gives to humanity. Otherwise humanity is endlessly free to fulfill God’s creation affirming mandates. Yet it is the prohibition against eating the fruit of a single tree that serves as the impetus for the temptation facing Eve and Adam. Thus from the beginning humanity’s sin and rebellion against God is irrational and astonishing given God’s kindness and grace to humanity. Humanity was supposed to exercise dominion over the created world, but instead allows a serpent to usurp authority and lead the first man and woman away from the Creator God. In the conversation with the serpent, God becomes an object rather than the subject of a moment-by moment-relationship. Trust is broken. Apart from dependence on and trust in God, humanity goes its own way and eats the forbidden fruit. The effects are tectonic. Adam and Eve feel the breech immediately. Their new knowledge illuminates only their own nudity for which they feel shame. They hide from God.
In the aftermath of their decision, God comes looking for his prized creation. God does not hide from humanity; humanity hides from God. This is the profound irony of sin. Adam and Eve attempt to reach beyond their creaturely status and tragically fall well below the potential for which they were crafted. Their decision to eat from the tree causes immediate breeches in their relational web. They have already experienced their own nakedness and the separation that they now sense between their once naked and one-flesh bodies. Their unfettered access to God becomes a liability as they are fearful at the once welcomed sound of God’s approach. Yet the first words out of the Creator’s mouth are “Where are you?” (3:9) God’s response to sin is an immediate attempt to re-engage humanity relationally. this line demonstrates God’s continued engagement with humanity despite their disobedience. God doesn’t withdraw from Creation – he goes looking for his lost people. The verb used for God’s pursuit of humanity is qr’ “called.” The Lord calls out to a humanity that has alienated itself through its actions.
Humanity’s rebellion has consequences (Gen 3:14-24). God draws out of Adam and Eve the details of their conversation with the serpent and their actions. The serpent is downgraded from its high place in the animal world to a creature, which will henceforth craw about on its belly. Adam and Eve will face a daunting new world. Their vocation of filling the earth will now by complicated by painful childbirth and the relational brokenness. Gen 3:16 describes a new power dynamic between the sexes. No longer will the relationship be rooted in mutuality. Men and women will focus on issues of power and attempt to dominate one another. Humanity also will experience the created world as an adversary. Humanity will toil over the earth to maintain life. Easy access to food and sustenance ends. The climax of sin’s consequences is humanity’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Access to the tree of life and immortality ends for all people from Adam and Eve onwards. As Paul will pen years later, “…through one man sin entered into the world and through sin came death. Thus death spread through all humanity because all have sinned” (Rom 5:12).
A missional reading or hermeneutic recognizes the devastating effects of human sin on God’s creational design. However, it also highlights the character of God in response to Adam and Eve’s transgression. We have already observed that God pursues humanity in the aftermath of the garden. God does not speak words of condemnation, but rather calls out to humanity, “Where are you?” One of the distinctive features of the divine–human relationship is the capacity for verbal communication. This does not end with the entrance of sin. The relationship between God and humanity has changed, but verbal revelation remains. Moreover Gen 3:21 records an additional act of God’s grace and mercy. The immediate result of Adam and Eve’s consumption of the fruit of the forbidden tree was the sudden realization of their own nakedness. This marks the irony of their disobedience. They were seeking wisdom and instead discover nakedness through their folly. They move from “naked and unashamed” in chapter two to “naked and ashamed” in their heightened awareness. Yet, instead of leaving them exposed and humiliated, God kindly provides a suitable covering for the man and woman. God’s love and compassion for humanity, even when men and women are at their worst, will remain a hallmark of God’s character and actions. It serves as a model for God’s people as we seek to engage the world with the Gospel.
What do you think?
© 2010 Brian D. Russell
book of Genesis