The Story Continues
“Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying ‘I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.’ Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time, Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” (Genesis 4:1-5)
The truly amazing thing about Genesis chapter 4 is that there is a Genesis chapter 4. You recall how God warned Adam and Eve that should they disobey the commandment and eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, that in that day they would die. And you also recall that they did indeed break that commandment. However, they did not die, at least not immediately. God cursed the serpent who tempted them, by commanding him to crawl on his belly all the days of his life; God cursed Eve, with the pain of childbirth; and God cursed the earth itself for Adam, causing thorns and weeds to grow and making the gardening job which had originally been the humans’ blessing into a hardship.
Finally, God, in his counsel with the heavenly beings, states “‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’ – therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken” (Genesis 3:22-23).
We often think that God sent Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden as a punishment, to send them away from his ever-holy presence. They were now tarnished, and could not be in the company of God. But that’s not what the Scripture says. Instead, God cut them off from having access to the Tree of Life, to immortality in their fallen flesh. The reasons for this are not explained. Perhaps God, in his infinite wisdom, foresaw that death would be better for the humans than infinite sinful living. Maybe God prefigured the death of sin in the death of Adam and Eve. We don’t really know. Either way, Adam and Eve are sent from the Garden, presumably to live out the rest of their cursed years alone.
But there’s more to the story than that. Because although God sends Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, the very next thing God does is follow them out. God is not the type of holy that excludes himself from contact with the less-than-holy. That is precisely the meaning of the Incarnation of Christ. God has always made himself available to imperfect humanity; God will always be accessible to even the foulest sinner. It is simply in God’s nature to pursue his creation, to follow us out of the Garden and continue a relationship with us, even when we’re the ones who broke the relationship in the first place!
The whole story of humanity might have ended with Genesis 3:24, “God drove out the man.” But thank God it didn’t end there. And our story doesn’t end there either. God pursues us, out of the pristine innocence of the Garden into the messiness of our lives. We can never be far from God’s presence.
Cody Nygard, Associate Pastor