Humans were designed to rule the world but powers they do not understand now rule them. Under God’s rule, they could rule, but the moment they stopped being subject to God, they became subject to fear (verse 10) and were ruled by desire (verse 16). The earth that once cooperated with them no longer yielded to their touch. On the very day of their revolt, there began a struggle between man and God, man and earth, and man and man. They were expelled from the garden, and the world began to fall apart. And so did the humans. And, to all appearances, so did God’s plan.
But the Creator is not easily stopped. In fact, he can’t be stopped. He made the world so that it would fall apart, should the humans turn away from him. It was a safeguard and a mercy. The recalcitrant earth, the relational conflict, the pain, fear and, above all, death were God-designed consequences of man’s rebellion. Why? Because God wants revenge? No. Because God wants us. Sorrow and failure and struggle are a mercy. The Creator knows we will not come to him without them. And if we don’t come to him, we cannot come to ourselves, to our rightful place, and to our joy. Only when we have fully come to God, can we fully be ourselves.
The man and woman were expelled from the safety of the garden into the world they had betrayed. Immanuel – the God with them of the Garden – was now God away from them. And the distance they had introduced into that relationship had also come between them. They were no longer with each other in the same way they had been. Their disobedience introduced a painful new reality into their world: distance. They were far from God, increasingly far from each other, and even far from themselves – the selves they were made to be.
Physicists tells us that the universe is constantly expanding, which means the distance between constellations and solar systems is growing. Theologians tell us that what is happening on the physical level is also happening on a spiritual one. Adam’s and Eve’s sin – not eating a fruit but rejecting their Creator and the role he’d given them; going their own way and setting up as their own god – has been repeated by all of us and has led to heartbreaking distance between humans and between humans and God.
The result of the choice they made (which we too have all made more times than we can count), is chaos. There is injustice, hatred, misunderstanding, malice, and bitterness. And these things not only bubble over in society, they bubble over in us. Chaos without and chaos within. This is what happens when God-with-us is God-away-from-us, and even God-against-us. Nothing can be right while we are our own gods.
The humans rejected the Creator, and that is our shame. But the Creator did not reject the humans, and that is our hope. Instead, he went looking for them. Genesis 3:8 says, “They hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” Rather than crushing the rebellion, God chose to reverse it. The relationship between the Creator and his creatures was not the same. Groomed to be regents, they had become rebels. The damage had been done and it was horrendous, but God knew how it could be undone and set about the task of undoing it. This is where Jesus comes into the story.
(You can watch the entire sermon here.)