Questions don’t just drive us forward; they seek us out. They tell us where we are. They can even tell us where we’re going. And one of the greatest questions I believe God asks us is a very simple one. It’s a question he asked Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:9. And it’s a question he may very well be asking each of us today: where are you?
A lot of Christians think that Genesis 3:15 is the first foreshadowing of the gospel. I don’t think that’s quite right. Silence is judgment; speech is grace. The fact that God opened his holy mouth after creatures had rebelled against him is the first glimmer of gospel hope. That’s why it makes so much sense for the consummation of the gospel, Jesus Christ, to be referred to as “the Word.” It’s speech that saves.
How God’s Question Functioned
Take a minute and return to Genesis 3 with me. The all-powerful, ever-present God knows what’s happened. He foresaw it in eternity pass. It doesn’t take him by surprise. He knew this would happen even before Adam and Eve felt a tinge of temptation. It’s in this context—the all-knowing, ever-present, history-shaping truth of who God is—that the Lord utters a question. “Where are you?” Now, work through the logic.
- He already knows where they are.
- So, why is he asking the question? He must have a reason.
- If he already knows where they are, then maybe the question is to help them, not to help him.
Indeed, the question does help them. The question functions as a spiritual identifier, helping them see where they are, how far from God they’ve tried to go, but also how futile their attempts have been (Ps. 139:7-12). “Where are you?” doesn’t mean, “Tell me where you’re hiding.” It means, “Admit where you are . . . because I already know, and I’m seeking you out.” God’s question is an invitation to grace.
The Grace of a Question
Questions can be an act of grace. We’re just so bent on information transfer that we don’t see it; we don’t see the relational context for questions. God wasn’t trying to elicit information from Adam and Eve. He didn’t need that. He didn’t need them either. But he wanted them. That—right there—is the mystery of God. As Dane Ortlund has pointed out in Gentle and Lowly, God’s very disposition is to seek out those who fall, those with scraped knees and dirt stains, those who don’t deserve grace and second chances. He doesn’t just make exceptions for such people. Rather, they are his heart’s desire. They are the ones he’s after. God is, as Francis Thompson put it long ago, the hound of heaven. I love the image he creates with these lines.
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter. Up vistaed hopes I sped; And shot, precipitated, Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears, From those strong Feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, And unperturbèd pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, They beat—and a Voice beat More instant than the Feet— 'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.'
Those strong, ground-thudding feet of God . . . and the beating Voice. Like a great and holy hound bounding down the clouds from eternity, God seeks us out. His footsteps follow. He never gives up the chase.
Why do we seem to overlook this? We focus often on God as the all-powerful Creator. And God loves to create. He loves to make and mold matter, to work wonders with his words and raise ocean waves with holy breath. But that’s not all of who he is. He loves to redeem, to restore, to revive the weak roots of human souls and straighten their stems so their tired heads can gaze up at him. That’s why he speaks. That’s why he uttered that question in Genesis 3:9. It was an act of grace, an open door that led down a path some thousands of years, to the sprout and blossom of himself incarnate. And when that flower had been pressed into wood, dead as a dried daffodil on the window sill, he brought it back again.
And then there were some two thousand years again. And now it’s you. Now it’s me. We’re still the beneficiaries of the grace that came from that simple question in the garden, the beginning of the gospel: Where are you?
Ask It Now
It’s worth asking yourself this very question right now. God, as he did back then, already knows the answer. The question isn’t ultimately for him; it’s for you. It’s for me. “Where are you?”
It applies to your soul, not just your body. “Where are you?”
It can prepare you for grace and give you direction. “Where are you?”
It can turn your shoulders back towards God’s brilliance, as flowerheads turn to the sun. “Where are you?”
If you’re a Christian, you may have forgotten the answer. That’s okay. Remind yourself. “I’m in Christ, and he is in me. I am a house for God’s Spirit. I am a temple for my Father. I am in three divine persons. That’s where I am, and that’s where I’ll always be.”
God never asks where we are so that he can locate us. He asks where we are so that we can locate him . . . all around us, because he’s never absent. And his grace has always been one Word away.
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