This passage in Genesis contain some of the saddest words in the Bible. “They hid.”
Picture the scene with me. The Lord God is walking in the garden in the cool of the day. For me that conjures happy childhood memories of early evenings after days of blazing summer, dancing on the lawn and catching bubbles, making a last daisy chain before tea time. The cool of the day. God is taking a stroll, perhaps stopping and watching the bird fly by, then strolling on again. How lovely.
Adam and Eve hear the sound of the Lord God … and they hide. How sad.
But I wonder, why did they hide? And who were they hiding from?
As for the why, that’s easy. We can read it right here in the passage. But don’t believe Adam’s lame excuse. The real reason is not what they say. It’s what they don’t say. They don’t say sorry and they don’t say they’d done wrong, although they know it.
That’s why they hide. It’s nothing to do with having bare bums. It’s their hearts that get exposed, not their behinds. They see their hearts and don’t love what they see. So they hide. They hide from God, they hide from each other and they hide from themselves. You’ll notice that no-one accepts responsibility. It’s no-one’s fault, apparently. Except perhaps the serpent’s and, as the joke goes, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
And so they hide. The idyllic childhood is gone. The loving relationship of mutual trust and mutual knowing is fractured. They realise that they are not acceptable as they are, and cover up. Clothing hides their hides, but hearts are harder to clothe.
Fast forward to 1 Samuel and we have the same story played out again. By now the people of Israel have grown to an entire nation. Led first by Moses and then Joshua, then by a whole series of ‘Judges’ of variable quality, the people of Israel are doing what they do best – they are whingeing.
“We want a king”, they say, “just like all the other nations.” “Why can’t we have a king? All the other kids in the playground have got one.” “We Want A King!” And they stamp their feet and hold their breath until God gives them a king.
But really what’s going on is, they’re hiding again.
Up until now, Israel has supposedly been a theocracy – a nation ruled by God – but that’s been kinda uncomfortable. You see, the problem with God is that he knows stuff. He has this uncomfortable way of spotting stuff that needs addressing, like a certain Golden Calf incident, for example. And they keep having to repent. Every single flippin’ time they do anything wrong.
It would be less embarrassing, less personal, to have a nice, human, non-omniscient, living-in-a palace-a-long-way-from-here, just-let-me-get-on-with-my-life-in-peace king. Then those horrible hearts could stay hidden.
Sure, God has been looking after them, leading them and fighting their battles (check out Ex 14:14!), but it is too uncomfortable, having a leader who knows all their weaknesses. And as for this being a blessing to all the world (see Gen 12, and 18, and 22 …) that is just way too much pressure. They’d rather stay in the comfortable anonymity of being “like other nations”.
So they do the stroppy teenager act, slamming the door in God’s face, and yelling, “I don’t need you”. Many a parent knows the heart-break of the rebellious child doing this. If that’s you, don’t beat yourself up; it probably means you’re doing it right. And take comfort that God knows what it’s like too.
So God sighs and gives them a king. But he doesn’t leave them Despite all their rejection, God still loves and cares for his wayward child. We read of this in Hosea:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.” (Hos 11:1-4)
Israel hadn’t twigged that the God who knew them, also loved them. They could not accept the acceptance, and so they hid. But that was not the end.
Because despite all the Hide, there is a Seek.
Look back with me to the Genesis passage. God is not just ambling around aimlessly. He’s looking for his children. He knows what they have done and he’s seeking them. Not to give them a good tongue-lashing, but to put the wrong right.
He gets to work immediately. Look at the end of that passage: that enigmatic serpent’s curse. The woman’s offspring will crush the serpent’s head. Disaster will be turned into victory. Damage will be repaired. Hiding ones will step into the light.
How? We find the first glimmers in passage from 1 Samuel. Those kings they wanted so badly? One of those kings had a son, who had a son, who had … I think you know where I’m going with this.
As the ultimate king, the one born of the woman who crushed the serpent’s head, Jesus brings us hiding ones back out into the light. He took our ‘wrong’ upon himself to lift the unbearable burden from our shoulders and give us his ‘right’.
God sought his children in the garden in the cool of the day, even when he knew, that they knew, that he knew, they’d done wrong. He sought them anyway. And he seeks us still. We read God’s words to more people who are hiding from themselves in John’s Revelation:
“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” (Rev 3:17-18)
I don’t know about you, but that sometimes describes me. I pretend to myself that all is fine and I may fool some of the folks around me (probably fewer than I’d like to think) but as far as God sees, I’m wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and butt-naked. I can’t hide.
But you know what? I don’t need to.
God knows and seeks me anyway. God knows and provides what I deny I need. God knows and rights the wrongs.
The very last chapter of the Bible depicts the garden again, where this mess all started. But this time there is no hiding from God. We see his face. There is no more night, no more curse, no more need to hide. We hear the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and join him for a stroll.
Genesis 3:8-15 New International Version (NIV)
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
1 Samuel 8:4-20 New International Version
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plough his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
New International Version (NIV)
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