But if we walk in the light, just as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

Lent 1 – 2024

Genesis 3:1-21

“Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”

Through the Prophet Isaiah, as God there addresses Israel and the human race, he describes himself in this way:

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

In comparison to the limitations of human knowledge, God knows everything. He is not spatially limited, either. He is everywhere.

But in his interactions with humanity, God often reveals himself, and expresses his thoughts, in very human-like ways. He wants to be understood by us, and so he makes himself known to us in ways that can be understood.

That’s the way he interacted with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Today’s Old Testament text from the Book of Genesis tells us that “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”

It would seem that God had been accustomed to interacting with Adam and Eve, and demonstrating his love for them, by “hanging out” with them in a human-like form.

God, in his divine existence, does not have a physical body. He does not have feet. But in the Garden of Eden, after he had created Adam and Eve, God on occasion seems to have assumed a temporary bodily form, in order to be as inviting and as accessible to them as he could be.

From time to time he manifested himself to them: “walking” toward them; and presumably then also walking with them – enjoying their company, and letting them enjoy his company – in the lush beauty of the garden.

But in today’s account, the Lord’s visit to Eden was not welcomed by our first parents. Something bad had happened – something tragic and horrible – which caused them instead to hide from their Creator.

When the Lord made his appearance in the garden – in a human-like manner – he also called out to Adam – in a human-like manner: “Where are you?” Ponder this for a moment.

What is God expressing in these words? That he literally doesn’t know where Adam is? No, he knows. He is God, and God knows everything.

But in human-like fashion, in order to make a point that can be understood by human beings, he is expressing his divine anguish, and his divine grief, that a breach has occurred between himself and his most beloved creatures.

One time ten years ago, when my then two-year-old grandson John was staying with us for a couple weeks, I took him with me to the church I was then serving, when I went there to print bulletins.

A couple church members were also there when we arrived – although they were just about to leave. When they left the building, I was in the office working with the computer and the printer. I did not see them go.

And I had sort of lost track of John, too. But I knew that he was somewhere in the building. Or at least I thought that I knew this.

After some time had elapsed, I realized that I hadn’t seen or heard my grandson for a while. And so I called out for him. “John, where are you?”

Silence. No answer. My heart skipped a beat.

I called out again, “John, where are you.” Again, no response. My heart skipped two beats.

John was supposed to be with me. We were supposed to be together. And now, it seemed, he was gone. A deeply anguished feeling instantly came over me.

I went from room to room – to the classrooms, to the fellowship room – calling out to him. He didn’t answer.

Of course, my thoughts took me to the fear that John had somehow slipped out of the building when that couple had left – unbeknownst to them. But before I went outside, to look for him there, I looked one more time in the church nave.

And there he was, standing in the shadows, silently smiling at me. All of my fears that something horrible had happened to him, were alleviated in an instant. Life then went on as normal.

There was a happy ending to this story. But there was not the same kind of happy ending to the story in today’s text, when God called out for Adam – as a father, or a grandfather, would call out for a missing child.

Adam was supposed to be with God. They were supposed to be together, where Adam would be safe, loved, and protected.

But they no longer were together. And the reason why, is because something horrible had indeed happened to Adam – and to his wife Eve.

Adam did timidly respond to the distant call of the Lord. He said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And the Lord then said to Adam:

“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

That is exactly what had happened. There was now a breach – a tragic separation between God and humanity – caused by the sin of humanity. And this breach, this alienation, was and is profoundly harmful to man.

This breach did not harm God, in the sense that God was diminished in his divinity. He was not less divine than he was before, because of the departure of Adam and Eve from their companionship with him.

But God was grieved. His heart ached. And this divine heartache at the loss of his fellowship with his greatest and most beloved creatures, was expressed in a way that all of us can understand.

“Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”

Insofar as you were in Adam, and Adam is in you now – in your human sinfulness – this is the anguished call from your Creator that often sounds forth, from a distance, also to you.

This is the grieved and anguished call of the God whom you alienate because of your sins: your proud disobedience, your selfish rebellion, your following after the lies of the devil rather than the promises of your God.

“Where are you?” “Where are you?”

In your sin – when you turn your heart and mind away from the Word of God, and away from the love of God – you, in that moment, are not where you are supposed to be.

When you say “no” to God; and when you say “yes” to the world, the flesh, and the devil, a separation between you and God begins to set in – just as happened in Eden, so many millennia ago. But there is a solution.

There is a way back to God: for Adam, and for you. There is a way back to the place – with God – where we should all be; and to the relationship with God that we should all have.

In the garden – even in the midst of his grief over Adam’s sin – God, in effect, invited Adam and Eve to approach him again, by means of his promise and pledge that someday, the woman’s Seed would bruise the head of the lying serpent – crushing him with a death-blow.

God invited them to put their trust in this promise and pledge.

In God’s own all-knowing mind, what was in the future for Adam, was a present reality for God. In God’s own heart, the forgiveness that would someday be won, by Mary’s Son and his, was already a reality.

And God did forgive Adam and Eve. He covered them with garments of skin – skin that came from animals that had been slain by God for them, and for this purpose.

This covering – which required the shedding of a substitute’s blood – testified to the reconciliation that had taken place between God and man in Eden, because it pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice that would be offered by the Seed of the woman on the cross, when the blood of Christ would be shed, to redeem humanity. That’s another detail that God’s prophecy covered.

Yes, the woman’s Seed would bruise and crush the serpent’s head. But in the process, the serpent would bruise and wound that Savior Son. Jesus would die. But he would not stay dead.

He would arise. And as the living Lord – the living bridge between God and man – he would indeed bring us back to God, as his Spirit works within us repentance of our sins, and faith in his gospel.

St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Romans that “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” He goes on to explain:

“God shows his love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

“Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”

When your disobedience and rebellion, and your distancing of yourself from God, are forgiven and reversed by Christ, know that it is God himself – in the person of his only-begotten Son – who in his Word and sacrament is drawing you back to himself, and is reaching out to embrace you.

In Christ, your impending separation from God is over. As far as God’s thoughts about you are concerned, his grief and anguish are gone. Reconciliation has come, once again.

God no longer calls out to you, “Where are you?” In Christ, you are where you belong: close to God, and safe with God.

Your Lord, as it were, now knows where you are. He is no longer looking for you, or calling out to you from a distance.

And now, in Jesus Christ, there is a different kind of calling, spoken by God to you: but spoken “up close” this time.

Again, through the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord – in this reconciliation and in this peace – declares to his people, and to you:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Amen.