I’m sure you are relieved to know that we have moved on from Genesis 3:1-6 after having spent three days commenting on those verses. Those six verses are the hinge upon which the entire Bible story swings. In fact, there is no Bible story to tell if mankind never disobeyed God. Like all good stories we begin the Bible with a look at what is “normal”. Chapters one and two of Genesis do exactly that. In those chapters we see what God intended; we see how life was supposed to be. Like all good stories we quickly come to an inciting event; that which causes the normal world to explode and set the plot racing toward a climax. That is what we have at the beginning of chapter three of Genesis. From here on we will see the consequences of that inciting incident and the race toward the climax. There will be building tension as one complication after another pile up until all looks hopeless.
Well, we are long way from that final hopeless climax. Let’s begin with the immediate consequences of the inciting incident. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit. Immediately we see a drastic change in these characters.
Genesis 3:7-8 ESV
“ Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”
God told Adam that if they ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die. Satan said they wouldn’t die. By reading the verses above it would seem that Satan was right wouldn’t it? Well, only if you don’t understand what is going on here. Their disobedience immediately separated Adam and Eve from God. They sinned and the result was an appropriate fear of God. God is just, and sin must be punished. Thankfully God is also merciful. God already had a plan to save His creation from its sin. If He immediately killed Adam and Eve there would be no redemption; humanity would have been justifiably strangled in its crib. Adam and Eve did eventually suffer physical death which means God was right and Satan was wrong. Death had not entered the world until after disobedience. They did not die right away, but die they did. Furthermore, they experienced something worse than physical death; they experienced spiritual death.
They hid from God and, as we will see in the upcoming verses, were eventually cast from God’s presence. Something terrible came between God and His creation. There can only ever be one True God. Anything else laying claim to that title is a usurper sure to suffer for all eternity. Spiritual death is separation from God. We were made to live with God in right relationship in a paradise He created for us where there was no death, no pain, no sickness, no want. Separation from God is separation from life.
Pastor Jim Cross likes to say there are only two kinds of people in the world today; the living and the dead. The dead are the walking dead. We are surrounded by zombies. They don’t even know they are dead; they just keep walking around desperately trying to digest anything thing they can in the hope that it will make them feel alive. They live unsatisfying lives because no matter what they do, no matter what they consume, they are still dead. The thing is, deep down they know it.
What happened when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit? Their eyes were opened; they knew they were naked, they knew they had done wrong, they knew they had to hide from God. We have, buried deep within our being, knowledge that we are separated from God. We are hard wired to know God exists and that we deserve destruction. Our response is to hide and deny. What are the five stages of grief? I learned of this in a college course some thirty years ago.
The five stages of grief, or the Kubler-Ross model, define a series of emotional stages people experience when faced with impending death. These stages are: 1) denial, 2) anger, 3) bargaining, 4) depression, and 5) acceptance. It seems to me these are pretty much the same stages a person goes through when coming to a saving knowledge of Christ. We all know the truth but we deny that truth; we deny that God even exists. If we are faced with proof that God does exist we become angry with God telling Him He isn’t fair or that we won’t accept Him because He doesn’t conform to how we want God to be or what we want Him to do. Invariable we come to a place where we just can’t escape the truth, but, still wanting some kind of control, we attempt to bargain with God; if He’ll make this that or the other thing go away, or if He will give us something or save us from something, we’ll believe in Him and obey Him.
Eventually we realize we have no standing to bargain with God. We are not His equal; we have nothing to offer Him that doesn’t already belong to Him. Coming face to face with the fact that we deserve to, and are going to die, we become depressed. We are worthless, hopeless, and doomed. We finally come to the end of ourselves. It is then that we finally accept that He is God and we are not. It is then that we finally realize our need for a Savior. It is then that we accept the fact that we are dying from the disease of trying to be our own god. It is then that we are finally able to accept the cure for our disease; the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Brother, the world is dying; it has been from the beginning. Some people never progress through the five stage of grief. Some stay forever in denial or anger, others linger in bargaining and depression. It is only in acceptance that the Lost can turn the corner toward healing. The fact of the matter is that we Christians know the cure to the most deadly disease ever known to man. Will you keep the cure to yourself or will you share it with others? These are terminally ill patients who may not thank us for sharing what we know, but the quality of mercy is not strained. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. He then gave you and me salvation and, as a result, a mission; share the cure.
I can’t imagine dealing with all that Job has had to deal with. He has lost everything but his wife. He is physically ill. He is suffering emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, financially, and physically. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book entitled “On Death and Dying” in 1969. In it she described five stages through which a person experiencing grief and tragedy must progress. The Kubler-Ross model of grieving is commonly referred to as “the five stages of grief”. Those stages are:
Now these stages are typically associated with those that are dying of a terminal disease but do apply to any form of catastrophic loss. I think we see aspects of all these stages in Job’s response to his tragedy. He has certainly experienced catastrophic loss. Let’s recap for a moment. Job has lost a great deal. Three of his friends came to comfort him as good friends do. These friends quietly sat with him for seven days before Job began to accuse God of un-righteousness. I think these are good friends who truly wanted to help Job in his time of trial. What wisdom they had to sit quietly and comfort him with their presence. They didn’t feel the need for worthless words. They just sat with him in solidarity.
I don’t know about you but I can really get my hackles up when I hear someone lay charges against God; I get quite indignant. Job’s charges against God had the same effect on his friends. Below is yet another passage where Job claim’s his innocence before a holy God. This is a subtle charge against God; if Job is innocent then God is guilty of unrighteousness.
“Are your days as the days of man,
or your years as a man’s years,
that you seek out my iniquity
and search for my sin, although you know that I am not guilty,
and there is none to deliver out of your hand?
Your hands fashioned and made me,
and now you have destroyed me altogether.”
His friend Zophar responds with a statement that is true.
“…Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.”
We all deserve death and eternal suffering separated from God for all eternity; anything less is grace and mercy. While what Zophar said is true, I believe he was wrong to say it. Context is everything. Job has lost everything and we should expect him to struggle with his loss. There is a point when one should progress to the final stage of grief – acceptance. Considering all that Job went through I don’t think Job had reached that point after only seven days. As I’ve said, I can get indignant myself in such a situation so I understand how Zophar fell but he should have remembered where he was and why he was there.
Of the two of them Zophar had a better shot at controlling his emotions. There is nothing wrong with feeling indignant when someone speaks un-righteously toward God but frankly, He doesn’t really need our help in defending Himself. What He expects of us, however, is to show the hurting and the lost His love. Have you seen that Geico commercial where the announcer asks if drill sergeants would make good therapists? It starts with a military looking guy sitting in a chair asking a fellow lying on a couch “how does that make you fell” and ends with him shouting at the guy and throwing a Kleenex box at him. I laugh every time.
I know I have felt like dealing with people that way from time to time but the truth is that while doing so might make me feel better it does nothing to show the love of God to a hurting person. As I have often quoted here before, Jesus says that His followers must deny themselves (Luke 9:23). Job’s friends probably felt like Job had wallowed in his grief long enough and it was time for him to “snap out of it”. Maybe they thought it was time for “tough love” or perhaps they felt the indignity that I described. Whatever the case his friends were wrong; they should have denied themselves their sense of indignity and focused on Job’s need. Job needed to pass through the five stages of grief and he wasn’t there yet. God intended him to go through those stages of grief as a process of bringing him face to face with his filthiness before a holy God. God Himself would eventually address Job and set Him straight.
I believe that the only thing Job’s friends ended up doing was working him up into a fever pitch; they became a foil against which he could build his anger. I’ve seen such behavior with those who don’t want to face the truth. They start tilting at windmills, taking on all comers in an effort to avoid looking inwardly at the source of their troubles. None of us wants to look in the mirror when we are afraid of what we will see.
You shouldn’t agree with someone who accuses God, but you should look hard and long at the situation before you do respond. I find it hard to believe that a “you had that coming” approach to someone who has experienced what Job experienced is a wise and loving way to respond to someone’s hurt. There are different ways to say the truth and it doesn’t have to include condemnation.
Our job is to glorify God by obediently following where He leads; by doing what He has asked us to do. He has asked us to love one another. Our response to those who are hurting must reflect the love of God. It may be that they need a “snap out of it” kind of response but in most cases they need someone to simply be there, to say “you are not alone”. Brothers I pray that you will always respond with love toward those who are hostile to God. They are already condemned; what they need is love.