“Where are you?”
God already knew Adam had gone astray, but Adam needed to know it. God asked him (and us) “Where are you?” because He wants lost humans to know He’s searching for them. As a shepherd looks for sheep that go astray, God wants to find and bring us home. The old saying is accurate: “If we feel far from God, guess who moved?” We did—we fled. But God is on our trail. His first question tells us that if we run, He runs after us. We may try avoiding Him, but ultimately He shows up. The poet Francis Thompson describes this God as “The Hound of Heaven”:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;God’s first question also helps us to see where unfounded fears take us: into hiding—hiding from each other behind fig leaves, hiding from God behind bushes, hiding from our human calling and its responsibilities behind excuses. A proper response to His question is to agree that we’re lost and let Him lead us to safety. But Adam didn’t respond properly.
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, . . . .
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’
A new condition guided the thinking of the first fallen humans. They had eaten from a tree that gave them a “knowledge of good and evil” independent from a direct relationship with God. It brought them, and all their descendants, into a condition of spiritual death. Adam’s reply to God revealed that he had adopted a new form of morality that was essentially legalistic in nature: “I was afraid at your approach because of my nudity, so, of course, I hid.” To God, such behavior was a novelty, not a matter of course, and it led to His next rhetorical question.
“Who told you that you were naked?”
Most Bible teachers avoid the clear implications in this second question by skipping over it without comment. For them, lingering here is embarrassingly dangerous. It might unmask the real root of their teachings about the shamefulness of the naked human body. In fact, I enjoy exposing this cowardly theological neglect with a bit of my own humor:
Serious consideration of God’s 1st question to fallen humanity, “Where are you?” might lead a person to repent and become a Christian. Serious consideration of His 2nd question, “Who said you were naked?” might lead a person to repent and become a nudist.In a totally naked world—like the original creation—nakedness had no moral meaning. Shame about it had to come from outside, introduced by someone who detested the openness nakedness fosters. Who, from outside the naked material cosmos, would want to camouflage reality, hide truth beneath lies? God leaves no room for denying the obvious. His question, “Who told you that you were naked?” clearly identifies the foreign source of humanity’s body shame.
The point of God’s second question is this: “Where did you get these new ideas about your body? Who have you been listening to? Have you been listening to a deceiver, that lying fallen angel who hates the naked glory of My embodied image? Is he now your teacher? Have you traded My instructions for the word of a liar?”
It’s crucial for us to acknowledge the sin of entertaining falsehoods. Unless we realize our error, we will continue listening to the deceiver of souls, who wants to destroy us. To be set free from false thinking, we must look to our Maker alone for moral guidance. The opened eyes Satan promised our first parents laid them wide open to deceitful suggestions. We must vomit up and spit out the forbidden fruit of moral independence and learn to live by feeding upon every word that comes from the mouth of our Creator (Matthew 4:4).
“Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
Of course, the purpose of Satan’s deception was to get us not only to believe lies, but to disobey our Maker. Again, God is completely aware of our sins. Our answer to this question is for our benefit, not His. We cannot experience God’s healing forgiveness unless we fully acknowledge our disobedience.
This question also reminds us how much God cares about our welfare. His commandments, His directives, His rules-to-live-by, weren’t intended to stifle our happiness, but to secure it. God wants keep us from doing what harms us. We pave our own road to destruction by failing to realize the grave consequences of doing our own thing. Safety for the human soul lies only in living according to God’s will and ways.
This last question calls us to confess our sins, which is a direct path to divine mercy (Proverbs 28:13). What would have happened, if Adam and Eve had responded in confession and repentance? Perhaps human history would have been quite different. God was kind to them in the midst of their newly fallen world, but He never got to show them the “mercy” bestowed on those who confess and renounce their sins, because they didn’t do it. Instead, as they had tried to hide their bodies with fig leaves, they tried to cover their sin with excuses.
How Will We Answer God’s Questions?
God still asks fallen humans, “Where are you? Who have you been listening to? Did you fail to do what I told you?” Try to answer them while reviewing the circumstances and situations you experience, the mass of information you receive, the various failures and shortcomings you bring into your earthly journey. These three questions reveal the heart of the God Who asks them. He is our loving Creator Who seeks to find us, guide us and heal us.