Where are you? It is a question that rolls like thunder through the pages of history. Where are you? It is whispered into your soul in the silence of the night as you sleep. It is a question shouted with every common miracle like the birth of a child, death of a saint, baptism of a young person and the marriage of a man and woman. Where are you? It is blaring from every mountain peak and starry sky. It rings from every church bell in a rural green valley.
“Where are you” is a question of lamenting and aching. How many of us have heard our children ask this same question in anxious desperation. Mom, Dad, where are you? Yet, here in Genesis it is not a child asking this question. It is not even a grown adult but it is God Himself. This is the voice of the creator whose creation has gone A.W.O.L. It is the voice of abandonment, isolation and concern.
We find these words recorded in
It is into man and woman alone God breathes the breath of life. This special act of creation was different than the others. Human beings were created to be God’s servants, co-laborers, companions and friends. God creates them with a free will and creates them for eternity.
So they fell for it, just as we do. They disobeyed God and there were immediate consequences. There is first the recognition of guilt. There is an understanding they had disobeyed God and they were naked and ashamed. They begin to hide from God. It is here we find the question. God comes walking in the cool of the day and the question rings out — where are you?
This question reveals the reality of our sin. How would you define sin? In his book Man as Sinner, John McClanahan surveyed lay people to ask them to define sin. Some people define sin in relationship to God. A chemist said “sin is any action on my part which is contrary to God’s wishes for me.” Another person wrote “sin is anything which separates me from God.” Others see sin as a breaking of God’s laws and commandments. One homemaker responded “sin is the breaking of the ten commandments.” An accountant clarified it for us when he said “sin is the breaking of the ten commandments, the Lord’s eleventh commandment, and any federal, state or local law that is not contradictory to scripture.” Still others see sin as an action or attitude of selfishness or self-indulgence.1
What is sin? Is it a real part of our world and of our lives? In the Old Testament there are several words which describe disobedience to God. There is the word we translate sin. This word means to miss the mark. It comes from the arena of marksmanship. If a shooter missed the bull’s eye or the target with his bow, it was a sin. In many ways this implies an accidental failure. It is a failed attempt.
The second word in the Old Testament for disobedience is iniquity. Iniquity is different than sin because it is premeditated. It is an action which had forethought. The word means to twist or pervert. The third word is translated transgression. This is the most serious word for disobedience. It implies an all-out form of rebellion against God.2 It is to stand and shake your fist in the air and say, “I am god, what you going to do about it?”
Interestingly, the idea of sin encompasses all three actions in the Old Testament. In
“Have mercy on me O God, according to thy steadfast love according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (
The Psalmist knew he had transgressed. He had purposely rebelled against God. He had twisted and perverted God’s intentions for his life. He had missed the mark of God’s righteousness. He had sinned.
In our world we rationalize our sin. We laugh at its by-products and consequences. The biblical writers took sin seriously. They knew its tragedy and its eternal significance. They understood how much it grieved God and how it robbed humankind from its potential. Sin is a serious subject because it is an affront to God when it is a part of our lives.
There are many who would argue humanity has evolved from this archaic notion of sin. We have made great strides since the dark and unenlightened days of prehistory. After all we are creations of God. We are created in God’s image. Surely we are not innately evil and sinful. It was against this type of philosophy that Paul wrote Romans 1.
Paul reminds us that from the beginning God has revealed Himself and His divine powers. Yet although since the beginning of time humankind has known God, they neither praised or thanked God. Instead they created idols, engaged in sexual impurity and gave into shameful lusts. In addition they exchanged natural sexual desires for unnatural desires. They worshipped the created instead of the creator. They became full of all types of wickedness … murder, gossip, strife, deceit, malice and became God haters, arrogant and boastful. Therefore we have no excuse from sin.3
To affirm Paul’s theology all we have to do today is go home and read our Sunday newspaper. What will we find? We will find a society full of murder, gossip, strife, and those who pursue the created and not the creator.
The scripture states it plainly for us in
Our sin is real and it must be dealt with because its consequences are tragic. The question “where are you?” speaks of the consequences of sin. In the Genesis narrative the consequences of sin are: marred human beings and creation, separation from God, and eternal separation from God. It is important to note that the consequence of sin for man and woman was concerned with their very core existence. In the man’s case the consequence had to do with his work. The man was placed into the garden to till the garden and care for it. As a result of his sin, his work would be unproductive. What had once brought joy would be a toil.
In the woman’s case the consequence has to do with childbirth. Childbirth is an exclusive act of the woman. Here we find the consequence of sin bringing pain to the very core of woman’s created purpose. The theological significance is that sin has marred human existence and the created purpose.
Our sin also separates us from God. If the question, “where are you?” speaks of anything, it speaks of separation. This is the great tragedy of sin. You and I were created to be God’s companions, friends, co-laborers and yet through our sin we alienate God. This consequence is more tragic when we consider without God’s action this separation becomes eternal. This eternal separation will be a horrible, tragic consequence of sin. The most tragic thought about hell is that God is not present.
What would our lives be like without the presence of God? What would our world be without God’s grace, mercy, intervention, providence and love? I will tell you how we would describe such a place and such lives: hell. Paul wrote the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.4
“Where are you” indicates God’s initiative of love. In the garden, Adam and Eve never seek out God for reconciliation. Instead it is God who comes looking and seeking. God is the one who is in pursuit of reconciliation. God has been seeking man and woman ever since their disobedience. God revealed Himself to Abraham, Moses, Noah, and David. God spoke through the priests, judges and prophets. Then God came!
This time He not only walked in the cool of the day but also in the hot desert sun. This time when God walked He slept in the open wilderness. This time when God came He worked in a carpenter’s shop and taught in the synagogue. This time when God walked, He walked the shorelines of the Sea of Galilee calling men and women from their hollow religion of rules and regulations. This time when God walked, He walked alone before Pilate. This time when God walked, He allowed himself to be placed on a cross. This time when God walked, He not only walked in the cool of the day but He walked out of a garden tomb.
John Claypool comments this is the amazing part of Easter. It is not that God has the power to take something that had been killed and bring it back to life again. That is amazing. But more amazing is the patience and mercy of a God who would still have hope for the kind of creatures who had treated His only begotten Son that way.5
There is a story of a little girl who was born with a cleft pallet. She knew from birth she was different. She looked different and talked differently. When asked about her lip she would often lie and tell others she had been in an accident. One day her life was changed. She was in the fourth grade and it was time for the annual hearing test. In those days they did the testing by the student covering one ear and the teacher would whisper a phrase in the other ear. Most of the time the phrase would be something like “the sky is blue” or “the dog is black.” This time the teacher whispered something new. She bent down to the little girl with the cleft pallet and whispered “I wish you were my little girl.”6
God has been whispering the same thing since the tragedy in the Garden of Eden. To each of us who have rebelled against God, twisted God’s purpose for our lives and missed the mark, God whispers “I wish you were my child.”
Whether it is God walking in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden or Jesus walking in Palestine, carrying a cross to Calvary or walking resurrected out of the garden tomb the question is still the same: “Where are you?”
1John H. McClanahan, Man as Sinner (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987) 54-57.
5John R. Claypool, The Preaching Event (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989) 49.
6From Mary Ann Bird’s The Whisper Test as published in Leadership (Winter 1995), p. 39.