And There He Stood in his Fig Leaf
The first few chapters of the Book of Genesis tell in a theological way why creation happened, who is behind all that exists, and the central importance men and women have in this plan.
Folks have argued for years whether men and women are intended to be equals or is man in charge with woman as his helper. Recent studies of the word that is translated helper in our English Bible means partner in Hebrew, indicating that men and women are co-partners with each other in tending and tilling this garden we call earth.
Today’s first lesson from Genesis tells in a theological and parabolic way how sin entered the world and how destructive is its power.
God put humanity into a Garden that was a paradise. Every need was supplied and all humanity was to do was to till the Garden. Since Adam is the Hebrew name for man and Eve is the Hebrew name for woman, we are not just looking at a story of two people in an idyllic garden, we are looking at a story of humanity of all time.
There was only one rule – do not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The day you do that you will die.
When this parable was written the people around Israel worshipped snakes. We even have the story told of Moses putting the image of a snake on a pole and when people looked at it, they would live.
So when we hear of a serpent in the garden that was craftier than any other creature, we are being told the gods of the land of Canaan were very attractive and could easily lure people away from trusting only in Yahweh, the God of Israel.
Please note while Eve is in conversation with the serpent Adam is standing there beside her silent. “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’” “’God said you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it or you will die’”
“You will not die for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Let’s look at this dialogue. The serpent was crafty: “Is it true if you eat of any tree of the Garden you will die?” The serpent knew better. It was only eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that would bring on death.
Next, Eve overreacts. “Even if we touch the tree, we will die.” It is easy to get thrown off and overreact when challenged by the tempter who twists the truth. The same was attempted when the Devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness.
“You won’t die. Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The tempter does not tell the whole truth. Eat of the tree and you can decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong. But he leaves out when you decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong without God’s guidance, your relationship with God dies. Eventually you die because you have shut yourself off from the source of life itself.
It is important to note Adam is there while the temptation is happening and says nothing. I love the quote from Edmund Burke: “Evil wins when good men to nothing.” Adam knew but he kept his mouth shut. Both he and Eve have fallen together.
They both eat of the fruit and suspicion and paranoia take over. I believe when they saw they were naked it was both physical and psychological. Not only were they not clothed, they could not hide what they were thinking or planning to do from each other. When that happens the “two becoming one” relationship is threatened. So not only has their trusting relationship with God been broken but their bond with each other has been threatened.
So, Adam and Eve make clothing out of fig leaves. Fig leaves dry up. Fig leaves itch. Eventually fig leaves are totally useless.
The cool of the evening comes and God is walking through the Garden. Listen to what the verse is telling us about God and creation. God, who created this universe and this world, is in the midst of this world in communion with it and is shocked that he cannot find Adam and Eve. “Adam, where are you?”
“I was hiding from you because I knew I was naked.” We hide from God because we don’t want God to know what we have done or are planning to do. We have not only broken a relationship, now we are hiding from God himself. What a tragedy!
Folks, you are no longer able to be in such a paradise. Your attempt to be God is going to make life hard and I am expelling you from the Garden.
But there is more than judgment happening – God took the skins of animals and made them into leather clothing to protect them.
God knows the troubles of humanity are our own fault but he is giving us garments to endure and grow through the difficult times to be deeper and more desirous of a close relationship with God.
God loves us and that is why he sent his Son in the fullness of time to restore the relationship and make us whole. Let’s renew that relationship as we come forward to receive Communion. Amen.