Genesis 3:8-15 (reading v. 8-9) And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?"
Sometimes a question is just a question. The husband in the department store who pulls out his cell phone to call his wife and say, “Where are you?” He just wants to know where she is so he can find her. It’s just a question.
But sometimes a question isn’t just a question. The mom enters the room to find her three-year-old coloring on the wall. She asks the child, “What are you doing?” It’s more than just a simple question, isn’t it? Mom knows exactly what that child is up to—but there’s something else going on there.
And when it comes to the questions the Lord asks us as His people, they are usually questions of that second variety—questions that are more than just a simple question. Take the question that the Lord asks Adam here in Genesis 3. Do you really think that when the Lord asked, “Where are you?”, it was because He literally wanted to know where Adam was? God is present everywhere! He knew exactly where Adam was!
When the Lord asks, “Where are you?”, it’s more than just a question about your physical location. God already knows the answer to that one; but what He wants to know is this: Do you know? That’s what makes this question from Genesis 3—and the answers to it—so important for Adam and Eve as well as for us. “Where are you?”
1. A call to repentance.
Why did God even have to ask it? Because Adam and Eve had decided that they were going to hide from Him. This was a first! Adam and Eve had never needed to hide from God before. They had a perfect relationship with Him. Blessed with a perfect knowledge of God and of His will, they lived in perfect harmony with Him.
But now they were hiding—why? Because they had disobeyed God. And in doing so, they destroyed their perfect relationship with God. Love for God had turned to hatred and fear. They were now God’s enemies—ashamed and afraid of the punishment they deserved. So, in their sin-warped thinking, they believed that hiding behind some trees would keep God from finding them. And God had to ask, “Where are you?” It’s a call to repentance.
In His law God comes to each of us with that same question. So—where are you? Are you inside the circle with Jesus or outside with the Pharisees and the scribes? Are you putting your trust in the things which are seen, which are temporary? Or are you putting your trust in the things which are unseen, which are eternal? Do you truly fear, love, and trust in God above all things? Or have other people or things taken that top spot in your heart and in your life—your spouse and kids, your job, your paycheck, your house, your 401k?
So, how do we answer? Do we just come right out and admit that we’re sinners? Or do we refuse to look in the mirror and try to hide our sin from God? Once when the kids were still little, and we were staying at a motel, the time had come to get ready to leave. We sat the kids in front of the TV for a few minutes while we quick loaded the car with our luggage. We came back and noticed that one of the kids was not in front of the TV anymore. Then, we heard giggling coming from behind the closed bathroom door. We opened the door just in time to see our son drop one of his shoes into the toilet. He thought that since he closed the bathroom door, we wouldn’t be able to hear him or find what he was doing.
How often have we thought the same thing about God—that if we close a door or keep it under wraps, He’s not going to find out? Even when we’re confronted, we still try to hide. That’s what Adam did! “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (v. 10). Adam didn’t even answer the question! Instead he lied and made an excuse.
And when lying and excuse-making doesn’t work, then we try to hide by passing the blame! “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree” (v. 12). Adam’s blaming two people here. First of all, he throws Eve under the bus to save himself. How many times have we blamed other people for the things that we’ve done? Or we say stuff like, “The devil made me do it.” (This was Eve’s excuse, by the way.) But really, who were Adam—and Eve—blaming? They were blaming God. “The woman whom You gave to be with me…” How often do we think, “God, why did you put me in this situation to begin with?”
Yet in spite of all our efforts to hide from God, the question still remains: “Where are you?” We can’t get away from it. God keeps asking. He sees through all the excuses and the blaming. And both Adam and Eve finally, when all is said and done, have to admit it. They both have to say, “And I ate” (v. 12, 13). When God asks, “Where are you?”, there’s nothing left for us to say, but “Here I am; a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps 51:5).
2. An invitation to comfort.
Some questions are just questions. But some questions have an even greater purpose behind them than we could ever imagine. Adam and Eve were really beyond help at this point—at least from a human standpoint. They were spiritually dead. The reason they hide from God, and keep on lying to Him and blaming Him—it’s really all they can do! And at that moment, they deserve to stay dead. And yet what does God do? Instead of judging them immediately and sending them straight to hell, God comes to them in the garden in His grace! God asks us where we are—not out of a desire to judge and condemn sinners, but out of a desire to save sinners! That question, “Where are you?”, serves as a call to repentance, but ultimately, it’s also an invitation to comfort.
God wants Adam and Eve—and us!—to hear what He’s about to say next. Instead of cursing Adam and Eve, God curses the serpent! “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel” (v. 14-15). God came to Adam and Eve and asked where they were, ultimately so that He could share this promise with them, the promise of a Savior! God’s words here, even though they’re directed at the serpent, are really addressed to Satan, who had used the serpent’s form to get what he wanted. And now whenever you and I see a snake slithering along in the dirt, it’s a reminder from God to us that the old Serpent, Satan, has “bitten the dust”.
The Lord wanted Adam and Eve to hear this! He was telling Adam and Eve that He would take it upon Himself to repair the damage that they’d caused by their disobedience! He would “put enmity” between Satan and his seed and the woman and her seed. In other words, God would restore the broken relationship between us and Him! How? Through the woman’s Seed. The woman’s Seed would bruise the serpent’s head. He would destroy the serpent’s power permanently—though the serpent would bruise his heel.
God fulfilled this promise by sending His Son into this world. Jesus was the promised “Seed of the woman”, born to the virgin Mary to defeat the devil’s work. At the battle of the ages on the cross, that old serpent Satan struck Jesus’ heel. Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross was real and painful; He endured all the torment of hell that we deserved for our sins. But Jesus’ suffering wasn’t permanent. He rose from the dead! And by the power of His death and resurrection, Jesus has crushed the serpent’s head! By His death, Jesus bound the strong man and stole us away from his house of hell. And by His resurrection, Jesus declares His victory over sin and death! Satan has no power over us!
And it’s by the power of this promise—the promise made and kept in Christ—that the LORD, the God of all grace and mercy restores our relationship with Him. After this promise is given we see a different Adam and Eve—an Adam and Eve who have been taken from death to life. Who, instead of being afraid of God and hating Him, now love Him and trust in Him to keep His Word—love and trust that are created by God’s invitation to comfort in this first gospel promise.
So when God comes to you in His Word and asks us, “Where are you?”, we don’t need to hide or cover up your sin. We don’t need to play the blame game. We can skip over all that stuff and just confess! We can confess our sins in the worship service “with a true heart”—an honest heart that sees our sins for the offenses that they are. We can make use of private confession, if there’s a particular sin that’s bothering you—that maybe you’ve been trying to hide it for awhile and now you finally want to deal with it. You can come to me as your pastor and confess that sin privately.
We can confess our sins with the understanding that the call to confess and repent is really an invitation to comfort: the comfort of God’s grace and forgiveness in Christ, the comfort of knowing that all our sins are washed away and that we didn’t do anything to earn or deserve it. The comfort of having God’s own answer to that question, “Where are you?” Because while we are sinners who deserve nothing but hell, by the grace of God we are also His redeemed, restored members of the family in Christ. You truly are Jesus’ brother, Jesus’ sister, Jesus’ mother.
Some questions are just questions. Some questions are more than just questions. But this question—“Where are you?”, along with God’s answer to that question—in many ways, it’s the only question in the world that matters. Amen.