In Genesis 3, we see the fall of humanity into sin. What is also significant about the passage is that we see the initial reaction of Adam and Eve to their sin. They do what humanity has done countless times since that first sin: they try to cover up their own sins.
Man’s attempt to cover sin
In Genesis 1-2, we see the account of God’s good and orderly creation. Everything is great in those first two chapter of the Bible. In chapter 3, we see the fall. Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit. Sin is introduced into the world.
Lightning doesn’t immediately strike them dead.
The first reaction that we see to sin is not from God but from Adam and Eve.
Genesis 3:7-8 says:
7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Adam and Eve try to hide.
They try to cover up their own sin. But man is unable to do so. We cannot hide from an all knowing God and we cannot cover our sins up.
The God who covers sin
In 2 Samuel 11, King David does something truly terrible. He has an affair with a married woman named Bathsheeba.
2 Samuel 11:2-4:
2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (underlines added)
It’s similar language to Eve in the garden before the fall.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
As Eve saw that the tree was good for good and it delighted her eyes, and she took the fruit; David saw Bathsheeba, that she was beautiful, and he took her.
Bathsheeba gets pregnant from this affair. Then David does something else truly terrible. He sends Bathsheeba’s husband to the front lines in battle for the purpose of having him killed.
In Psalm 51, we see David address this sin that he’s committed and he is devastated by what he has done. In my opinion, Psalm 51 is the strongest personal lament of sin found anywhere in the Bible.
But there’s one particular idea that I want to focus on from that Psalm.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit. –
In turning to the Lord, David asks God to hide your face from my sins.
Do you see the difference?
Adam and Eve try to hide themselves from God because of their sin. David asks God to hide his face from David’s sins.
A holy God and human sin
Genesis 3:9-11 says:
9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
John Sailhamer points out that all of God’s responses to Adam and Eve come in the form of questions. The Lord does not respond by reigning down brimstone and fire. God is inviting Adam to confess what he has done.
God isn’t asking questions out of a lack of knowledge. God is all knowing.
It is through God’s questions that Adam convicts himself.
God asks Adam where he is and Adam explains that he was afraid because he was naked and he had hid himself. God asks Adam how he knew he was naked and asks Adam if he has eaten from the tree that God commanded him not to eat of.
This is the real heart of Adam’s shame. It’s not because it’s naked. Adam is ashamed because he has disobeyed God’s direct commandment.
But Adam responds with excuses, as does Eve.
12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
The woman whom you gave to be with me.
Adam blames both Eve and God. He blames Eve for giving him the fruit, and he blames God for giving him Eve!
So often, we make excuses for our sins. We blame God, blame others, blame circumstances, blame family. Your sin is your fault and no one else’s. It is important that we recognize that. We commit our own sins. No one else does that. As Adam and Eve were guilty of their sin, we too are guilty of the sins we commit.
I believe that one of the ways we blame God when we sin is that we blame him for decreeing things are unholy that we want to do.
The place for shame
I worry that our society has tried to do away with shame. But sometimes we feel shame because we did something bad or are doing something bad. In that instance, shame can be a good thing because it can point us to another way to live.
Our society preaches an anti-gospel that lifts up the goodness of man, makes excuses, and encourages hedonism. We say that we shouldn’t be ashamed, and yet our society is miserable. Mental illness, anxiety and depression are through the roof. Drug use is through the roof.
We know that we’re messed up and friends and society wanting us to have a sin positivity doesn’t take that shame away.
Not all shame is bad.
Shame should drive us to repentance. It should drive us to the one who does atone for our sins, to the one who does forgive our sins. The Lord Jesus. He was without sin and died so that all who believe in him can have eternal life. Jesus invites us to come to him and to turn from our sin.
Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 193–194.
John H. Sailhamer, “Genesis,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), 53–54.