Reading: Genesis 3:10
Immediately after the fall of man into sin there is a strange calmness in the Garden of Eden. There is no thundering and lightening as would later accompany the justice of God against sin (as at Sinai and Calvary for example). The apparent calmness of Eden however, is contrasted with the turmoil in Adam’s heart. Fear, the most penetrating emotion of the human psyche has disrupted the once peaceful heart of man.
Where did Adam’s fear come from? Contrary to modern psychology, it was not from circumstances around him. As we have already noted, the garden was strangely calm. It was not from an abusive childhood. It was not even from the promise of punishment: “Thou shalt surely die.” Adam’s fear came from the knowledge that God was there. Adam’s fear is clearly from inside; it is his own conscience. But why did Adam fear? God had not spoken yet concerning his sin; there were no signs of divine anger. Did he not know God to be loving and gracious?
Adam knew God to be gracious, but he was also aware of the justice of God. We do well to fear God because of sin; it is a healthy fear and a mark of grace. Divine grace cannot abolish divine justice, so it awakens a healthy fear of justice and brings us penitently to the judge. Many have no shame for sin and no fear (Jeremiah 3:3; 8:12) and are bold in the face of God. But fear shows a consciousness of guilt before a just and holy God.
This fear of a just God is what motivated Paul to preach the gospel and persuade men to seek God’s mercy rather than try to hide from Him (2 Corinthians 5:11). The sinner has no cause to fear justice if he has found divine forgiveness (1 John 4:18).
“If sense and fear of wrath and punishment be your trouble … it concerns you, and it is your part and duty to turn to God, the King of Kings, whose name and nature is to forgive iniquity, transgression, and sins; and you may be accepted, go to him by Jesus Christ, whose office is to take away your sin, and to present you without sin to His Father.” Henry Scudder (The Christian’s Daily Walk, 228)