The First Exile
Do you remember the first time you left home for any length of time? For me, it was right around this time of year, 18 years ago. I had just turned 18 and was headed off to Bible camp for a full three months. I’d never been away from home that long, and there was a lot of learning that went on that summer as I figured out who I was and how to operate on my own in that new environment.
That experience helped prepare me for two years later when I left home again for another three months to go plant trees in BC and Alberta. That experience was far more challenging, and not just because of the hard work. It’s because, for three months, my home was with this group of people, many of whom did not know the Lord, and my only personal space was a tent. It was really challenging.
And yet it became home. I was sad to leave at the end of the summer. I found going back home was harder than I thought. Because I had changed.
Home is a really interesting idea, isn’t it? What is home for you? Is it a place? Is it a group of people? What gives you that feeling that you’re home? How well do you do when you’re away from home, or can’t be at home?
These are just a few anecdotes and questions to get our juices flowing on this whole question of home, because that’s really what our passage is about this morning. Home.
God made Adam and Eve, and he made them a home, and He put them in that home. Because of their sin, they needed to be sent away from their home. And the rest of the Bible tells us that none of us have really ever truly been at home from that point on. Even our best experiences of being at home are simply pointers and shadows of the real home that we were created to enjoy in the presence of our Creator.
We are not at home this morning. And I don’t just mean that we’re back in the Bible college gym instead of our own building. I mean really, truly, none of us are home. And when we go home after the service, even then you will not be at home. Ever since Eden none of us have been home.
But there’s more than just bad news here. While Genesis 3 tells us the sad story of leaving home, our journey this morning is going to take us all the way to the end of the Bible where we will see the ultimate homecoming and be reminded of what’s in store for each of us.
But before we get there, we’ve got a few stops to make along the way. And that’s really the way to think of the outline for this message. Think of it like a journey, with a destination, but with some pitstops along the way.
Two of those pitstops happen right away in verses 20 and 21. We need to understand what’s going on when Adam names Eve and God clothes them both. But those are just pitstops to the big idea, in verses 22-24, which is all about exile—leaving home. And then we’re going to review how this theme of exile continues throughout the rest of Scripture, right up to the present time, and on to the homecoming that God has promised to each one of his children.
So think of this like a road trip, with some stops along the way, and it will all make sense.
The First Act of Faith
So let’s jump in to verse 20, which is really our first pit stop, where we see the first act of faith.
Now I don’t know for sure if this is the first act of faith, ever, and I doubt it, but it’s the first real act of faith pointed to in Scripture. And here’s what we see in verse 20: “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).
Here’s why I’m calling this the first act of faith: Adam is literally in the middle of his worst nightmare. The universe has literally just come crashing down around him. He’s about to be kicked out of his home. He’s just received his own death sentence.
But in the midst of this, he’s heard a message of hope. He heard that his wife will have pain in childbearing—but that means she will bear children. He’s heard that one of her offspring will crush the serpent’s head, which means she will have offspring. He’s heard that he’ll have pain all the days of his life, but that means that there will be days to his life.
In other words, they are not going to be killed instantly—which his what they deserved. There is a hope and a future here.
And so in the middle of this bleakness, he gives his wife a name. He’s already called her “woman.” And now he gives her a personal name: Eve, which in Hebrew sounds like “life-giver.” She’s going to be the mother of all living and he names her as such.
In other words, Adam believes God. Adam believes what God has been saying. And he names his wife by faith in God’s word.
I think that’s remarkable, given how recently he just rebelled against God by mistrusting His word. I’d suggest this implies repentance. Adam has turned from his faithlessness and is trusting in God’s word once more.
Before we move on, let’s just consider this matter of Eve being the “the mother of all living.” We can’t miss that, according to the Bible, Adam and Eve are real people and all humans descended from them. That’s the consistent teaching across Scripture, all the way to New Testament passages like Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15.
Today, some scientists tell us that this is not possible. DNA evidence has supposedly shown us that it’s impossible that all people descended from just two people. DNA evidence supposedly tells us that there was a population of several thousand who slowly emerged into humans together.
Some Christians have tried to make the Bible fit that model. They’ve tried to say that Adam and Eve are no more real than Frodo and Sam. They’re simply literary inventions used by the author to make a theological point.
That might sound nice, but it just doesn’t work, especially when we read the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” If Adam’s not a literal person, then Jesus isn’t a literal person, and we might as well just pack up and go home.
You might be familiar with this idea of “hills to die on,” and this issue of a literal Adam and Eve is a hill to die on. This is not an issue we can compromise on.
And you know what’s interesting? The more time goes on, the more it becomes clear that the science is not near as firm as some people make it out to be. Scientists are constantly learning more and reevaluating what they know.
In fact, back in 2018 a genetic study came out that showed that the genetic data for humans actually is consistent with a single pair. And by the way, so is every single animal species. The results of this study were very much in the direction of what we see in Scripture (http://biorxiv.org/lookup/doi/10.1101/276717).
This just shows how much we’re still learning and how foolish it would be for us to re-write the core truths of the Christian faith to match the ever-changing dogmas of the scientific establishment.
The Bible presents Adam and Eve as the father and mother of all living. That may never be accepted by modern science, but neither will there resurrection of Jesus. And we should be okay with that.
And that’s verse 20. Adam naming his wife, and in that, Adam’s faith in God’s word. The first act of faith.
The First Sacrifice
The next step in our passage comes in verse 21: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”
This is another pit stop, but it’s an really important one. We’re actually going to look at five aspects of what God is doing in this verse.
First, God is clothing Adam and Eve, not killing them. In other words, by giving them clothing more durable than fig leaves, He’s showing them that there is a future for them.
Second, notice that God is clothing them before He sends them out of the garden. He doesn’t kick them clothed only in fig leaves. He’s graciously preparing them for what’s coming before it comes.
Third, notice that God clothes them. The best Adam and Eve could do was fig leaves, and that wasn’t good enough. God is the one who steps in to do better. This is a wonderful picture of the way that we attempt to cover up our sin and shame with our own efforts, and it’s never good enough. We need God to cover us. We need God to step in and save us by His grace.
Fourth, made for them garments of skin, which means animals had to die so that they could be covered. And many people have seen in here an early picture of animal sacrifice. Adam and Eve sinned, but they didn’t die right away. Instead, animals died to cover up the shame that came from their sin. Blood was shed for them.
And that’s why I’ve called this section “the first sacrifice,” because I’d suggest that’s one of the big ideas here. And ultimately this points us forward to Jesus who shed His blood to not just cover but to finally take away our sin.
Now I have a fifth observation for us to see here, which might sound really obvious when I first make it, but here goes: God clothed Adam and Eve when they were the only two people on planet earth.
Just think about that. They were not covering up for anybody else. It was just them. From this point forward, the normal state for humans was to be clothed.
We can assume that Adam and Eve would not have worn these skins when they were being intimate together as husband and wife. But except for those special times, the two of them wore clothes.
And this verse is where the basis for our understanding of modesty comes from. We should cover our bodies. When we don’t cover our bodies, we are making a invitation to intimacy, whether we intend it that way our not. That’s just what’s happening. With rare exception, it’s baked into us from this point onwards.
I’m spelling this out because we live in a culture today that says that people can show as much of their bodies as they want, and if you have a problem then it’s your problem. You’re the bad guy, not them.
And sadly, many Christians have bought into this. There’s been a real rebellion against the whole idea of modesty in recent years. Instead, I hear Christians saying things like “it’s my body, and God made it good, and I can show as much of it as I want, and if you take that in a wrong direction then it’s your problem.”
And Genesis 3:21 shows us how silly these new ideas are. Back when it was just Adam and Eve, clothing was normal. Being unclothed was inherently intimate.
That’s why advertisements so often portray people wearing suggestive clothing. When we see someone unclothed, or clothed in a way that draws our attention to what’s underneath their clothing, we feel an invitation to intimacy and that can be incredibly compelling.
Now pleas hear me: as Christians, we must reject any invitation to intimacy that doesn’t come from the person we’re married to. We’re not helpless. We say no and look away. But I’ve found that fleeing from lust is actually easier to do when I understand what’s going on. A visual invitation to intimacy has been made. It’s up to me to reject that invitation. But that is what’s going on. This is who we are.
And by the way, this is the reason that if you look throughout the world and history you’ll see that any culture with low standards of modesty also has low standards of morality. I’ve heard people talk about the Pacific Islands and how great it was that they didn’t wear many clothes before the missionaries arrived. What we’re not told is that they had basically no morality when it came to physical intimacy. Faithfulness in marriage was not a thing at all. You could be intimate with whoever you wanted whenever you wanted. And you see similar patterns the world over. From the time of Adam and Eve onwards, there is an almost unbroken connection between modesty and morality.
So here’s what I’m really saying here: modesty is not just a cultural idea. Modesty is baked into us as humans because we are all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. And we Christians should not throw in the towel on the idea of modesty. We shouldn’t be surprised that our culture is doing that, but we should know better.
Now this discussion on modesty was kind of a pit stop off of a bigger idea, which is that God made the first animal sacrifice to clothe Adam and Eve.
And that idea is really a pit stop for us this morning on our way to the big idea, which we get to in the very next verse. So let’s turn there now.
The First Exile
Verses 22-24 is where we find the first exile. The first time that people were sent away from their home.
Why were Adam and Eve exiled, sent away from home? The reason is in verse 22: “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—’” (Genesis 3:22).
The language here is really interesting. Does it sound familiar at all?
Do you remember verse 5, and what the serpent said to Eve? “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).
The next verse we heard that their eyes were opened. And here in verse 22 we read that “the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.”
Satan was right—about some things. He was right that Adam and Eve would have their eyes opened, and would become like God in this one regard: knowing good and evil.
But they thought that this knowledge would make them powerful and would lead them upwards. Instead, this knowledge made them ashamed and led them downwards.
We should learn a lesson here. Satan’s temptations will usually come with a measure of truth added to them. Satan will tell us that “It will feel so good.” He’s probably right. It will feel good for a time. Young people, he might be telling you that “your parents don’t understand you.” Maybe, sometimes, there’s a bit of truth in that. But he doesn’t tell you how much they do understand, and how much heartache is coming your way when you choose to ignore them.
The devil is a liar and what makes his lies so effective is the way he mixes the lies with the truth.
So yes, Adam and Eve did have their eyes opened and they did know good and evil. But at what a cost. Like one commentator said, “They found nothing and lost everything.”1Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 208.
Now do you notice something interesting about verse 22? Do you see how the sentence doesn’t really finish? “Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” And it just cuts off.
The sense is that it’s too horrible of an idea to fully spell out. Adam and Eve being in this sinful state and living forever? That’s a nightmare. How could they ever be saved?
And so God sends them out of the garden to die. “therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken” (Genesis 3:23).
And this was an act of grace. We Christians forget this sometimes. We act like death is the worst thing in the world. It’s not. My mom was 54 when she died and some people act like that’s such a tragedy. My perspective is that God was being particularly kind to her. Like the boss letting you go home early.
And yet we can’t miss the sadness here, especially before people knew about the hope of heaven. None of this would have needed to happen if they hadn’t sinned. There is nothing happy about being sent away from their home. And there’s a real sadness in verse 24 in particular: “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).
The word for “guard” in verse 24 is the exact same Hebrew word translated as “keep” back in Genesis 2:15, which talked about Adam working and keeping the garden.
Guarding the garden was Adam’s job. But he totally failed when he let the serpent in to deceive his wife. And so now God gives the job of keeping the garden to these cherubim, these angelic beings. And Adam himself is barred from entering.
It’s like being the security guard at a place, and you get fired for not doing your job, and the new security guard has orders to not let you through the doors. How humiliating. How painful.
The Beginning of Exile
And from this point on, the human race has never been home. From this point on we’ve been in exile. Away from the perfect place that God created us to be.
And if you look across the rest of the Bible you’ll see this theme of exile all over the story of redemption. You see it when God calls Israel out of Egypt and gives them the tabernacle. The tabernacle faced east, pointing in the direction of Eden. And what did they carve out of gold overshadowing the holy of holies? Two cherubim (Exodus 25:18-20). What was stitched into the curtains surrounding the tabernacle and the veil protecting the Holy of Holies? Cherubim (Exodus 26:1, 31).
What a reminder that, even though God had come to walk with His people once again, they were still outside of Eden. Cherubim still guarded the way into God’s presence. The people were a step closer to being at home, but not all the way. They were still in exile from Eden.
And we know how things went from there. Through persistent disobedience over hundreds of years, the people were finally expelled from their land, sent away like Adam and Eve into exile in far-away lands.
And when they finally returned, God’s presence did not return with them like they were expecting. They built a second temple, but no glory filled it. This time, there was nothing behind the curtain.
They were still so far from home in God’s presence.
The End of Exile
And that’s why John the Baptist’s words were so powerful. He said he was a voice crying in the wilderness, something that all four gospels tell us. And it’s so important because when John said that, he was quoting from Isaiah 40, a chapter all about God bringing His people home from exile.
And last fall, in our series in Matthew, we saw how many times this idea comes up. Jesus is the one who is finally going to end our exile and bring us home to God.
He did that in the most important way when He died on the cross for our sins. The curtain of the temple was torn in two, showing that there’s no separation between us and God. Like 1 Peter 3:18 says, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
This is something that we enjoy already. That part of our exile is over. If you know Christ, you have truly come home into the presence of God.
But we know that there’s a part that’s not yet. We are not yet in the heavenly country that has been promised to us. That’s why Peter calls us “exiles” three times in his first letter. That’s why Jesus told us not to store up treasure here and reminded us again and again about our best life later. We are not home yet.
But we will be. And if we turn to the end of the Bible we’ll see a beautiful picture of what our final homecoming will be like. Revelation 21:1-3 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’”
That’s our home. And the next chapter, the last one in the Bible, tells us this:
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:1-5).
Do you hear all of the echoes of Eden there? The river flowing out, the tree of life, God dwelling with His people again in the full and final home He made for them?
That’s how the story ends. Except, as C.S. Lewis would remind us, that’s not really where the story ends. Revelation 22 is where the story actually begins. All of this has just been a sad prologue. There in the New Creation is where our life will finally begin. That’s when the real adventures begin.
And friends, if you know Christ, this is your hope. This is the hope in which you were saved. This is what we’re heading towards, living for.
We’re not there yet. But home is coming. And a disciple of Jesus is someone who knows this. They know where they’ve come from, where they are, and where they are going, and they live in the joy of being brought home to God even as they wait to be with Him fully and finally in person.
What About Now?
So what should you and I do with this today?
I have two suggestions for us. The first one is really simple: remember this. Remember you are an exile on your way home. And your life will make so much more sense. I find that when I forget that I’m not home yet, it’s so much easier for me to not respond well when I encounter difficulty.
Don’t expect this world to satisfy you. Don’t look for satisfaction in your circumstances or possessions or even your family. Any experience of home we have here and now is just a crumb, just a shadow, of our real home.
Like C.S. Lewis once said, "Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home." Your house is just a hotel room at best. Your real home is coming.
So that’s one way we apply this. Just remember it. And I don’t mean that in some fluffy way. I literally have a note on my computer that says, “You are not at home.” I need help to actively remember that. But the more I think like someone who is not home yet, the more my life makes sense.
The second way we apply this is to bring others with us. As we pass through this world, we are exiles. But we’re more than just exiles. We are exiles who know our Father, and instead of running away from Him we’re on our way back home.
And shouldn’t we want to bring others with us? In our Father’s house there are many rooms. Why wouldn’t we want to bring as many with us as we can?
In this context I can’t help but think about the work of Compassion. I can’t help but think about how Jesus met people’s physical needs, feeding and healing them, in order to give them a taste of the kingdom. A taste of home. And then He spoke the truth and ultimately died for us to bring us home to God.
That’s the work that Compassion is carrying on today as they connect us to local churches around the world who are giving children a taste of God’s home. Full stomachs. Healthy bodies. Thriving minds. And all of it soaked in gospel truth.
I invite you to sponsor a child today. EBC gets no perks or kick-backs from this. We just believe this is one of the ways that we can fulfill God’s mission. We believe it’s important for us to share what we have with those who have nothing. And I can just speak to the joy that comes from knowing that, in a really direct way, I get to make a huge difference in the life of these children.
Maybe you don’t have $41 to spare and you want to go in with some friends. Maybe you want to think about it. This afternoon I’m actually going to email out a link which you can use to sponsor a child online. And if you use that link Compassion will be able to tell us how many children our church sponsored.
But beyond Compassion Sunday, let’s not forget that we’re surrounded by people in exile. Far from Eden. Far from home, even if this is their hometown.
Our home is with our Creator and we know the way back and I want to call us again to give our lives to God’s great mission.
I was talking with a friend this week who suggested we change the sign above our photo board. Instead of saying “Church Family” it should say “Local Missionaries.” I don’t know whose in charge of making that change but I love that idea because of how it captures our identity. That’s who we are. We’ve been left here by Jesus to make disciples. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
We’re going to end here by singing a song about Christ’s work in us, saving us and bringing us home with Him. And as we remember the power of Christ at work in us, let’s turn our eyes to a world in need and ask Jesus to empower us on the mission He gave us.