For a long time, the end of Genesis 3 was a starting point for how I looked at God.
“...therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:23-24)
At the surface level, He seemed like an angry, resentful God who didn’t allow for mistakes. I mean, He sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden after doing ONE thing wrong... I just couldn't wrap my mind around how the God who called Himself Love would exile His people for making a wrong choice.
This was at the early stages of my faith journey with God. I believed He was demanding, yet not appeasable. And from Genesis 3, I found myself basing nearly every word I read about Him through the tone of cruelty. Unfortunately, this would send me down a long road of misinterpreting Scripture, misunderstanding God, and honestly - just not really knowing Him at all. As a Believer, not knowing who God is seems contradicting and quite nearly impossible, but that’s where I found myself for many years. And I think Satan really liked that place I was in because not only was I confused on who God was, but I also felt like a fraud for not being a Christian who didn’t always believe what I read or heard about the Lord I believed in. A place of doubt is one that Satan can work with.
As I’ve become a wife and mother, and through prayer, biblical counsel, and maturity, I am beginning to see God in a new light. The battle to hear His tone as angry and disapproving still lingers, but His grace is sufficient in showing me who He truly is and what He’s really about. A friend of mine pointed out a something quite brilliant a few weeks ago that has maybe changed the course of my faith forever. She mentioned how when we approach the Bible with the question of, “How does this affect me?”, we immediately close ourselves off to learning about God. We’re essentially seeking to know more about ourselves, whether due to a lack of understanding who we truly are or in order to combat the guilt and shame we feel, and we’re not seeking Him at all. We’ve cut God out of the picture in an effort to “find ourselves” through Scripture.
What we fail to realize is that Scripture is not about us. When we approach the Bible in order to find out more about who we are, we come up empty handed almost every time. What we find in Scripture are commandments that seem to be impossible. We find a God who is perfect and holy and good, which is a major turnoff because we, ourselves, are NONE of those things. We can’t relate to a God of that nature. So, we either walk away from the Bible feeling worse about ourselves and live in a cycle of hiding and shame, or we live in the cycle of works-based faith, striving at every turn to prove our worth and goodness.
Instead, when we approach the Bible with the question of, “What does this teach me about who God is?”, the narrative begins to shift. We begin to see God as still a perfect, holy, and good King, but we see His kindness, gentleness, and love as well. Although His commandments seem impossible for a sinner like me, it’s okay because, “...the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
Did you catch that? God equips us to do His will. He gives us what we need to accomplish His commandments. There is nothing inside of us that is good enough, strong enough, or hard working enough to please God. Not the Bible verses we have memorized. Not our church attendance record. Not our abstaining from drinking or smoking or cussing or gossiping. None of that makes us good enough to please the Lord. Approaching the Bible ONLY to discover how Scripture applies to our lives or to learn how to be a better Christian will ALWAYS reinforce a works-based religion. We will not see the freedom, abundance, and grace in Jesus if we only approach Scripture in this way. The doubt, insecurities, hiding, shame, and guilt will continue in a sick cycle until we’re so far removed from the truth that we won’t even realize it. Again - right where Satan wants us.
But instead… if we approach the Bible with desiring to learn more about God - who He is, what He does, and what He’s about - then we will begin to see the transformation of the Spirit in our lives. As we understand Him more, we will understand ourselves more. We’ll see ourselves rightly compared to God. We won’t hold ourselves higher than Him. We won’t base our faith on what we do, but rather on what He has done and is continuing to do.
Taking this new way of reading Scripture, I’ve come to see Genesis 3 in a completely different way. Reading those verses again with the question of, “What does this teach me about who God is?”, I began to see His kindness, graciousness, and faithfulness in sending Adam and Eve from the Garden. His heartache for what happened was so clearly evident. Sure, He was angry, but even more so He was heartbroken. He loved Adam and Eve. They were His children. They not only disobeyed Him (and now as a parent I can see how much that hurts), but they essentially said they loved something else more than their Creator, and that is the greatest heartbreak of all.
Sending Adam and Eve out of the Garden was His way of actually bringing us back into the Garden. By closing the entrance to Eden, He opened the entry to His heart as He hung on a cross. From the beginning, He has been that God. He has always been the One who seeks us, protects us, and ultimately, saves us. From our sin and from ourselves.
Let us not be tempted to “find ourselves” in Scripture. In a culture that’s obsessed with personality tests and numbers and labels, we have to deny the urge to seek more of who we are and begin to seek more of who God is. In doing so, we will find what our souls are ultimately searching for, and that is and always has been, Jesus.