I had the pleasure of spending time with some remarkably brilliant women on Thursday morning. We were training to lead a new Bible study in January, but really what we were doing was dissecting Genesis 1-3.
Yeah, THAT Genesis 1-3. The section of the Old Testament we’ve all read a million times. The accounts of the Creation and the Fall that bore us to tears anytime a pastor preaches on them.
Only instead of being bored, we were all riveted.
Our gifted teacher, Iva May, lead us through these pages of scripture by asking questions like “What is God doing here? Why would He do it this way? What does this say about God? What does it say about God’s relationship to man? What do we learn about man? What do we learn about our own sinfulness?” And on and on the questions went, producing a lively discussion via some of the most tired stories of the Old Testament.
And, as a result, God became a personal God again. It seemed like Genesis was written FOR me to be able to better understand who God is, what our relationship is like, and what He WANTS our relationship to be like. And it seemed that way because it IS that way! The scriptures are for US.
Perhaps the most significant thing I learned through that time of study is that God has ALWAYS been a God of grace.
I know sometimes we consider the God of the Old Testament (who is the same as the God of the New Testament, by the way) to be a pretty angry, vindictive Guy. It seems like He is constantly losing His temper and smiting thousands upon thousands for their blatant disobedience. And, don’t get me wrong, He does do that in the Old Testament.
But you know what else He does, He offers grace. From the very opening pages of Genesis, God offers second chances to His creation, not wanting any of them to perish.
Take the very first sin (Genesis 3), for instance. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and how did God respond? He said, “Where are you?” He was inviting the pair to come to Him.
Adam replied, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And God asked another question, “Who told you you were naked?” I can hear the disappointment in God’s voice. Adam was never supposed to be aware of his nakedness; that wasn’t God’s plan. God never intended for Adam to ever know what it felt like to be ashamed or embarrassed or self-conscious.
Then God asked another question, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
Why would God ask that when He knew full well Adam had eaten from that tree? Perhaps God was giving Adam a chance to confess. In other words, maybe God was setting Adam up to receive grace. But Adam didn’t accept that invitation. How might the story have been different if Adam had confessed instead of blaming Eve and God for his sin?
Fast forward to 3:21 and we see another act of grace on God’s part. “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”
Why would God do that? Because He felt compassion for them. He knew Adam and Eve felt embarrassed of their nakedness, and, out of His empathy, He remedied that problem. God is a great Daddy – He cares tenderly for our hearts. He clothed them with animal skins and grace.
And then He boots those rebellious kiddos out of Eden.
Where’s the grace in that?
Let me show you.
In 3:22, God says, “‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.'”
Once Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their innocence was forever destroyed. Sin had entered their lives, their beings. And if they had also eaten from the tree of life, that sin problem would have become permanent. Their eternal fate – separation from God on account of the presence of sin – would have become permanent.
And that was too much for God to bear. So He banned them from the Garden, preventing them from having access to the tree of life while He was working out a plan for their salvation. He would provide a way out of their sin problem for them, but He had to ensure they didn’t muck things up in the interim.
So we see that His kicking them out of Eden was actually the most gracious response to their sin He could have had. It was the only way He could ensure they’d have a shot at reconciliation.
Grace. Three instances of God’s grace in Genesis 3. And, guess what… His grace is in Genesis 4, too. And Genesis 6. And the rest of the Old Testament as well.
God has always been a God of grace. It isn’t just a New Testament thing or a trendy topic to talk about. His grace is at the core of who He is and our relationship with Him.
Do we believe that? Do we live like we believe that? How would our lives change if we truly bought in to the doctrine of grace?