It’s not the first use of the word “but” in the Bible. Nor is it the first time I’ve encountered the word combo “but God.” But it is the first occurrence of “but God” in the sense of God making a grace decision. The first occurrence of man’s rebellious action warranting one kind of just response from a holy God, “but God” extending another type of response. A response of grace. The grace of God asks, “Where are you?”
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. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:8-9 ESV)
God had said, “Eat of it and you shall surely die.” The serpent countered with a seed of doubt, “Did God actually say?” The woman coveted the fruit that was “a delight to the eye” and wanted to believe the lie that she could “be like God.” The man did too. And so they ate, and so they were ashamed. And so they sought to hide from the presence of God.
The creation “experiment” seemed to have gone so, so wrong. Garden walks in the cool of the day had been short-lived and now there existed a chasm of sin between holy God and rebellious man. But God called to the man, “Where are you?”
As I think about it, there are other responses that might have been more fitting. How about start over? Like an etch-a-sketch give the heavens and earth a big shake, erase it all and begin again. This time maybe not so quick with the tree in the garden thing . . . or the temptation thing . . . or the free will thing. Or there could have been the “you made your bed now sleep in it” approach. They had rejected God’s word, they had settled for flimsy fig-leaf loin clothes, they had thought that hiding from God was sustainable. Fine, let them hide. They had turned their backs on Him, there was no obligation that He should give them His face.
But God called to the man, “Where are you?”
Isn’t that amazing grace? Isn’t that wondrous love?
The spurned God of heaven seeks out sin-stained mortals of earth because they are those who God created to know His love. And love them He would. He would call their names. He would reveal His will and His ways. He would provide a covering for their nakedness. And He would so love them that He would provide the costly payment needed to restore the communion that had been shattered in the garden.
Where are you? The holy God, enthroned in majesty and dwelling in unapproachable light, stoops to enter sinful man’s domain when He could have instead destroyed it with righteous judgment. The all-knowing God who has shaped and formed all things in creation, asks a question when He could have instead justly washed His hands of those who had chosen the way that seems right to a man.
Our God seeks the lost. He calls out to the confused. And He loves those He created to know His love . . . while they were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8).
Hear the voice of God. “Where are you?”
That truly is amazing grace! That of a certainty is wondrous love!
To Him be all glory and praise.