People use clothing to fit in, to attract others, and even to express their personal identities. Yet, at its most basic level, clothing is the means by which people attempt to cover up their most vulnerable parts. And I’m not just talking about anatomy. When standing before a critic, I want to cloak all of my nerves and anxieties with the appearance of charm and confidence. In the fear of being found unqualified or insufficient, I want to veil myself behind thick and decorated curtains that say otherwise.
In Genesis 3, we see this same compulsion. After yielding to the tempting serpent and taking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve immediately realized a new found weakness. The inner security that comes with blamelessness had vanished from their persons, and only the diffidence of shame remained. They were exposed and vulnerable and in need of covering. So naturally, they made clothing.
Scripture says, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Gen. 3:7). And yet, their newly made apparel still wasn’t enough to calm their fearful hearts. But at the sound of an approaching Creator, they hid themselves among the trees (Gen 3:8).
Unfortunately, this inclination to hide from God still exists, even for many Christians. While we believe in the message that Jesus has in fact removed our guilt and shame, our daily experience of sin remains an ever-present reality. Jesus has taken away our sin, but in our thoughts, words and deeds, we often still see the sinner we always were. And in the face of our own weakness, instead of turning to God again in repentance, we can often follow after our first parents by attempting to shield ourselves from him. Like Adam and Eve, in fear of being exposed, we will try to sew on our own impressive coverings, only to too quickly realize that they are filthy rags before a holy God.
But if we keep reading, the Bible shows how God deals with his tattered and soiled children.
At the end of the story, just before sending Adam and Eve out of the garden, God does something wildly unexpected. Instead of leaving his sinful children in the primitive garb they had crafted for themselves, the passage says, “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:21)
It would be a mistake to read this passage and think that Adam and Eve didn’t need coverings. The shame that Adam and Eve felt wasn’t imaginary; it was the very real feeling we all experience as sinful, broken people. Sin is evil, offensive, and calls for justice. And sin is what moves us from confidence to fear, from innocence to guilt, and ultimately from life to death.
But rather than leaving Adam and Eve in their own mess, and rather than telling them that they needed to shape up, do better, and try harder, God graciously clothed his children. God made for them a covering. However, these clothes weren’t like the fragile and meager garments the couple had made for themselves. But by the death of another, God clothed his disobedient children with the coverings of another. And it is this gracious act of covering that points us ahead to the wonderful work of Christ on the cross.
As sinners, we are unable to fashion the necessary coverings we need to stand before God. But the good news of the Gospel is that God never asks us to do so. Rather, by giving us his own Son, Jesus Christ the righteous, we have now been hidden in Christ (Col. 3:3). Though our daily sins may cause us to doubt our right standing before him, and may tempt us to try to create a righteousness of our own, this does not change the reality that now, in Christ, we have all the covering we will ever need.
We no longer have reason to hide from God, but as a Bride in her finest dress wants to be gazed upon by her Groom, so can we now actually desire to be seen by him.