Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” Did you like to play hide-and-go-seek when you were a child? Different places and times of day made for a better game. Backyards with toolsheds and wood piles worked much better than school playgrounds. Old, cavernous churches with big basements, balconies, and a gym were even better. After dark was best for good hiding and the spook factor. (If you never played hide-and-go-seek with flashlights after dark in the woods, you have not yet truly lived).
I never much liked hiding. I lacked the on-the-go imagination to figure out a good hiding spot. But there were always a few kids over the years who were always the last to be found. Everybody else would be shivering in the dark, waiting to go back inside, but some stalwart, small person would still be hiding, refusing to heed the call, “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” It didn’t matter that they’d won the game. They still didn’t want to be found.
Adam and Eve knew all about hiding. Only, for them it wasn’t a game. It was a matter of life and death. Before their fall into sin, Moses tells us they “were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25, ESV). In their original state of innocence, they had no reason to be ashamed. Without sin, they had nothing to hide.
But all that changed when they listened to the tempter’s voice and ate the forbidden fruit, breaking God’s commandment not to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of God and evil. As the serpent promised, their eyes were opened, and they were exposed. Their sin was out in the open, and struck by a guilty conscience for the first time in their lives, they attempted to cover up their shame with fig leaves. Their bodies embarrassed them. No longer a source of beauty, their nakedness became ugly as sin.
Then when they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the Garden, they ran for cover and hid themselves among the trees. Adam was naked and afraid of God finding out what he had done and what he was like after the terrible Fall into sin. Of course, Adam and Eve’s attempt to hide from the LORD was foolish. But it wasn’t funny. Their hiding betrayed the breakdown in their relationship with God.
When God called, “Where are you?” it wasn’t a question of location. It was a question of relation. Adam ran far, far away from God. He might as well have asked, “How are we, Adam? What has come between us?” God was trying to call out, but Adam fell back on excuses and blame. He refused to come clean, so his guilt remained.
I can relate to the fear of being found out. When I was a kid, my sisters and I hated eating peas. But our parents wouldn’t let us leave the table until we finished our food. Frustrated with our stubbornness, they would sometimes leave the table and leave us to it. So we came up with this ingenious plan: to mash our peas under our seat cushions, where our parents would never find them… Until, of course, the day came for my mom to clean house and uncover our filthy, moldy mess. As the old saying goes: dead bodies don’t stay buried. Whatever sins we try to hide eventually come out into the open. As Jesus says, “Nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Matt. 10:26).
Of course, that doesn’t stop us from trying. We’ve come a long way from fig leaves, but we still have all kinds of ways to try to hide our shame. We tell lies and make excuses to cover up our guilt. Murderers bury their victims. Adulterers carefully clear their phone messages and browser histories. Alcoholics and addicts try to drown out the voice the accuser by drinking themselves into oblivion. I even remember reading a story about a woman who was so ashamed of her sins that she broke all the mirrors in her house so she wouldn’t have to look at herself. Other people stop going to church, so they won’t be confronted by their sin in the Scripture readings and preaching. I cannot begin to tell you how many delinquent churchgoers have told me over the years that they keep away from church so that God doesn’t strike them with lightning. I jokingly asked one such man, “If you’ve been gone so long, how can you be certain that God will even recognize you? Maybe you’ll be safe if you show up anyway. Would it hurt to try?”
King David is another person in the Bible who tried to cover up his crime. First he got his neighbor’s wife pregnant, then he murdered her husband so he wouldn’t find out, then he had a shotgun wedding and hoped nobody was doing the math on how many months passed before the baby was born. With beautiful Bathsheba in bed beside him, David congratulated himself on his cover up. He might have fooled his subjects, but there was no fooling God. The Bible says that “the thing David had done displeased the LORD” (2 Sam. 11:27).
In reality, it displeased David too. He could not hide from his own guilt and shame. Even if he removed all the mirrors in his house, the mirror of God’s Law still showed him his sin, reflecting back his nakedness and accusing him of evil. As David sings in Psalm 51, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). And in today’s Psalm, Psalm 32, David recounts the way that he became physically ill and mentally disturbed when he tried to cover up. “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4). The message is clear: hiding hurts!
How many sleepless nights have you tossed and turned, worrying that somebody is going to find out what you’ve done? Do your neck and back ache from stress because you fear that your spouse, your parents, your boss, the police, or your pastor is going to see you exposed for who you really are? Do you jump every time you hear a siren or the door creak open? What about God? What if God comes looking for you in the cool of the day and calls out, “Where are you?”
Of course, it’s impossible to hide from God. When God went looking for Adam and Eve, he already knew where they were hiding. In Psalm 139, David asks:
“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me” (Ps. 139:7-11).
You can’t outrun God, so stop running. You can’t hide from God, so quit trying.
When David stopped hiding, he discovered something surprising: forgiveness. When the prophet Nathan confronted him for his sin, he confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord!” And immediately Nathan absolved him: “The LORD has taken away your sin” (2 Sam. 12:13, NIV). In Psalm 32, David recalls this moment (or one like it): “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of the my sin” (Ps. 32:5). Did you catch that? David said that when he stopped covering his iniquity, God forgave him. When he came out of hiding, God covered his sin.
God gave Adam and Eve a chance to come clean. But they wouldn’t confess, and so he cursed them with death and toil and pain in childbearing (Gen. 3:16-19). Then he expelled them from the Garden of Eden, posting a cherubim with a flaming sword to keep them from eating from the Tree of Life and remaining in their guilty state forever (Gen. 3:24).
But God didn’t send them away naked, shivering in the cold and clutching at fig leaves on their way out of the Garden. No, God had mercy and compassion on them. He promised them a Savior (Gen. 3:15). And he killed animals for the first time, shedding blood to atone for their sin. God himself turned tailor and made clothes out of animal skins to cover their nakedness and shame (Gen. 3:21). Earlier, Adam and Eve futilely attempted to cover themselves with fig leaves, but they were still exposed. So God did for them what they couldn’t do for themselves. He covered their sin—just as he did for David and does for us. When we come out of hiding, God covers our sin.
In the Psalm, David sings, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Ps. 32:1). In his mercy, God covers our sin—not with the skins of animals, but with the life of his Son Jesus. Indeed, St. Paul writes, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:27). When God looks at you, he doesn’t see your nakedness, your guilt, your shame, or your sin. When God looks at his baptized children, he sees only Christ. We are wearing Jesus! And so, instead of running from God, we can run to God. Instead of hiding from God, we find refuge in God. “You are a hiding place for me,” David writes (Ps. 32:7a). We hide in the wounds of Jesus: his hands, his feet, his side. We don’t have to be afraid of God anymore because Jesus’ blood covers our sin, and he is our hiding place.
God is saying to you, “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” No matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’re trying to cover up, when you hear God calling, “Where are you?” I hope you will say, “I’m here, Lord! Rescue me! Save me! Cover me with your love.” And he will. In the name of Jesus. Amen.