Our Forceful Symbol

Leave it to my four-year-old to find humor in the tragedy of Adam’s fall. “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Gen. 3:7). She chuckled, then burst into laughter.

Our talk became very somber when we read “the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). So much happened in this verse. So much packed into a brief set of words. God made clothes. He made them to cover shame. He made them from the innocent animals He created. There was nothing to laugh about here. Shame. Death. Clothing.

We might otherwise gloss over this verse in our reading, but to do so would mean missing a critical and forceful symbol—a teaching lesson from God. Bible teacher, Arthur Pink, suggests that “this is the first gospel sermon preached on this earth, preached not by word but by symbol.” Practically speaking, God introduced to the first couple His design for redemption: justice satisfied and mercy given. Here are four lessons taught on that day.

First, for a guilty sinner to approach a holy God, he needs a covering. Although the couple sensed their need to be covered, as illustrated in their forming of clothes and hiding in the bushes from God’s presence, it was codified when God replaced their clothing with a covering of His own. They needed a covering.

Second, the coverings they made were unacceptable to God. The covering of fig leaves, formed by their own two hands, was unsuitable. This is why God replaced their clothing. They needed a suitable covering.

Third, God must provide the suitable covering. The covering they formed was unacceptable. It was also of man’s design. They made the clothes by the work of their hands. But for the covering to work, it must be by God’s provision.

Fourth, the suitable covering could only be attained by death. Sin demanded that life be taken (Gen. 2:16-17). So the covering must come through death (Rom. 6:23). Leaves from the ground cannot cover sin. It can only be covered through death.

The forceful symbol was heard loud and clear. In fact, we see it rehearsed in the following chapter, where the couple’s two sons approach God offering fruit from the ground and blood from the sheep. Only one of the two made a suitable offering.

These things remind us that God’s design for salvation, though it might seem strange to our thinking, is the only way to be saved. Those who trust in His design will have their sin covered (Heb. 11:6). He put His Son, Jesus, “forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:25).

This forceful symbol was the first in a long history of God teaching the world that Jesus is the suitable covering. His death on the cross was God’s provision for our sin covering. This is called atonement. The Hebrew word means covering. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Ps. 32:1).

This is a support resource for the Table Talk in Genesis series, particularly lesson #13, “Mercy and the Garments of Salvation.” You can download the lesson for free.

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