Where are we? In looking at one of humanity's most spectacular atrocities, I am troubled about the nature of evil in our universe. This question set me on a spiritual journey a long time ago, and I still wrestle with it. I am seeking to distill my thoughts over the years into a series of blogs.
I have been looking at our First Parents and how God placed them in a Garden, where everything they needed was provided and their fellowship with God was as natural as breathing. God's wanted to mature His created beings, and so placed one--only one--thing that was forbidden. That very Tree became a place of decision, where a Satanic question hissed from the snake: "Did God really say..." God could have intervened and knocked that apple from Eve's hand. But He allowed her to act in accordance with her desire. So, too, with Adam. This inaugurated sin and death into God's creation. Yet God still provided for His children.
God’s Solution: Atonement Provided by an Innocent Lamb
Then God, finished with His description of how a sin-corrupted creation will play out in the lives of the Adam, Eve and the Serpent, delivers not another speech, but prepares a solution: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:21)
Think on this a moment: Adam and Eve have never seen death. They were informed by God of its existence and how it would enter their world if they disobeyed, but the actual contours of it were alien to them.
Imagine seeing God walk over to a lamb. It is quietly grazing in the grass. It comes over to Him, in utter trust. He strikes it and it falls to the ground. He walks over to another lamb. He strikes it and it falls. Adam and Eve stare dumbfounded at the motionless creatures lying on the ground. The skipping steps and gentle bleating are gone. The other animals around them start to feel in their breasts the first flutters of fear—the fear that will drive their descendants away every time a human being approaches them.
God will then remove their skins, and the blood will flow with a shocking redness to the ground beneath. God signals Adam and Eve to approach. The lifeless eyes stare up at them. Adam’s heart feels a burden he has never experienced before…these little creatures had nothing to do with his actions this day. They were nowhere near the Tree when he took that fateful bite. Yet, here they lay, in the circle drawn around him by his sin.
God gently wraps the skin around Adam’s quivering body. The skin touching his skin feels strange. Eve’s beautiful body, whose very form he takes such delight in, is now marred by an ungainly covering. But the covering is sufficient. God walks away.
God has provided “atonement,” which in Hebrew means “covering.” He covered Adam and Eve by His own hand. They stood there, with nothing to offer. They hid in their shame and then stood naked before their God in their sin.
We now listen in as God moves away from His children, whose bodies are covered by the skin of innocent lambs; lambs killed for no other reason than to cover, to atone for, their sin. God’s love and provision bleeds through even in the midst of His stained creation. God surveys His Garden and comments to His Son, Who walks beside Him and sees the lamb’s death portending His own future:
“And the Lord God said, ‘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.’ So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Gen. 3:21-24)
Confronted by God and Driven Out
So, our Parents are driven away by God Himself. It is not because God is angry and vengeful. If that were so, why did He cover them? He covered them so He could confront them. God cannot look upon evil: "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing..." (Hab. 1:13) God saw the covering upon His children and not their sin. He confronts them in love: lest they eat disobediently of the other Tree, the one that provides life everlasting and dwell in their fallen state forever, they are driven out.
Can you imagine man living in his fallen state forever? No redemption, no renewal...just a perpetual state of alienation from God. Man would have to be continually covered, for sin would never cease. Lamb upon lamb would have to die. Every shadow in the Garden would see Adam hiding in it--and always the same question echoing through time: "Adam, where are you?"
So, in His fierce love, God drove them out. Guarded by His angels, with a bright flashing sword of judgment, Adam and Eve traipsed away, looking over their shoulders. The future ahead of them was unknown. Who knows what their descendants would be capable of?
Look at us: we now know good and evil. We are equally capable of acting on that knowledge. We will build the Sistine Chapel and paint breath-taking images on its ceiling, carve David from marble and build orphanages to house children. We will tend the poor, provide for the sick and seek to relieve the needy.
We will also build Auschwitz and place the mocking “Work Makes Freedom” over its gate. We will learn the many ways to torture one another. We will drive out the poor, shun the sick and curse the needy.
God places an expiration date on man’s existence outside the Garden. Eternal evil was never to be in God’s plan, only eternal life with Him. So, God drove man out. The Tree that would bestow eternal life was guarded until one day His Son would mount another tree. He would hang upon it to restore eternal life to God’s children.
But as Adam and Eve wandered outside the Garden, Satan kept whispering, “It’s God’s fault you are here.” He has never stopped and nor will he until he resides in a flaming fire that will drown out his lies with its roaring.
Until then, we must face our own complicity in perpetrating evil. We must face a fallen world, knowing our First Parents doubted God and turned to their own logic as to how things should be. Their choice brought chaos into creation.
What was the first significant act outside the Garden, done by Adam's children? The very next generation--only one removed from the Garden--was the murder of a brother by a brother. The Holocaust is that murder writ large.