Let us take note of the fact that it was not God who chased them away, neither was it God who hid from them. God came looking for them. God was not ignorant of what had happened, He knew exactly what they had done, but still, He came looking for them. Had God's attitude towards them changed one iota because they had taken the forbidden fruit? Absolutely not!! True love does not change. A father loves His children when they are good and when they are bad, whether they fail or whether they succeed, a father loves just the same. So God says, “ I am God and I change not …” (Mal. 3:6). Therefore, God went looking for Adam and Eve as His custom was, even when they had rebelled against Him. God's attitude towards them didn't change.
The Hiding of God's Face
But something had happened, there was no question about that, and what had happened is the greatest and most tragic consequence of sin. Man ran to hide from God, His Father and best Friend. The reality of this change in man's attitude towards God is illustrated in other instances in the Bible. Consider Moses' encounter with God on Mount Sinai:
And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: (23) And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen. (Exo 33:22-23)
It is clear that God's action in this encounter with Moses was intended to be illustrative. God could have shown Moses some kind of face while veiling His glory if He had chosen to do it. When Jesus appeared to Abraham with the two angels, Abraham did see his face and speak with Him in open, face to face communication. So when God told Moses, “you cannot see my glory and live,” God was trying to teach a lesson which has deeper, spiritual implications.
And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. (Exo 33:20)
This was in response to Moses' request, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory. ” This is interesting when we compare it with something the apostle John says in John 1:14. He says,
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
John says, “we beheld his glory, ” but God told Moses, “no man shall see my glory … no man shall see my face and live.” So God hid His face and showed Moses His back parts. There are spiritual implications here which we need to consider. What does God's glory represent? It is God's character which is represented as His glory. In this experience with Moses God was teaching the lesson that it was not possible for a human being to behold the full reality of what His character is like. Such knowledge would be overwhelming to the point of being destructive to fallen man. So what did God do? He showed Moses His back parts. How do we apply this in a spiritual sense?
Man's sinfulness not only makes him afraid of God, but it also distorts the image of God in his mind. When Adam and Eve ran to hide from God He had done nothing to cause them to be afraid of Him. His attitude towards them had not changed, but tragically, their understanding of God had changed and because of their distorted view of God, it was not possible for them to face Him.
Veiled in Darkness
God never changes. Every problem which arises from this sinful situation, every fear which we have of God, every reservation which we have concerning God is based on our misunderstanding of God, it is not based on the reality of who God is or of God's true attitude towards us. God does not impose conditions on us before He will accept us. For example, He does not say, “ if you are not good enough you cannot come close to me. ” When we have this kind of concept of God it is because we are still looking at His back parts, we have not seen His face. In 1 Kings 8:12 we read:
Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. (1 Ki 8:12)
Now this is a strange verse, because in other places we are given the understanding that God dwells in brilliant light. In every picture presented of Him, we find that He is hidden by blinding light, but here, Solomon declares that God has chosen to dwell in “thick darkness.” How are we to understand this? Well, obviously, God is speaking of the way He relates to mankind. In relating to humanity, God has to hide Himself in thick darkness because man is incapable of beholding the full glory of God. So God hides Himself in darkness, not for God's sake, but because of the limitations of humanity, and the misunderstandings which men have of God.
The reality is that these misconceptions have become so deeply rooted in human thinking that even today, among the best of us Christians, these misconceptions still persist and affect our relationship to God at every level. This misunderstanding of God is the factor which has the greatest impact upon our faith and most severely limits our ability to receive the blessings of God.
Yet, God had to dwell in thick darkness in relating to man because of man's incapacity to receive the truth of what God really is like. That darkness still envelops the mind of many people, even today. That is our real problem. But there is a wonderful thought found in 2 Cor. 4:3-6:
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: (4) In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (5) For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. (6) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 4:3-6)
When Moses asked, “show my your glory,” God answered, “you cannot see my face and live,” so God showed him His back parts. Now, here in the New Testament we are given the spiritual application of this. Here we are told that now it is possible to see the glory of God and to still live, because God has revealed that glory in the face of Jesus Christ! So it is possible today, to look upon the face of God and live. But of course, looking at the face of Jesus, what we see is not a physical display of light. When the Bible says we see God's glory in the face of Jesus it is referring to God's character, God's nature. God's attitude to humanity may be seen in full display, revealed in the “face” or in the life of Jesus Christ. This is the point, and in our studies of God, we have to view Him from the light which shines in the face of Jesus, otherwise our concepts will be wrong
In the story of Moses' visit with God on Mount Sinai, we are told of a very interesting phenomenon which took place. It seems that by close association with God, some of that glory of God rubbed off on Moses.
And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. (Exo. 34:29-30)
Many times in the Bible we see this reality demonstrated. Truths relating to God's character are presented with a covering veil because people are not capable of understanding. Until we see Jesus as He is, the gospel will always be, to us, something covered with a veil, poorly and improperly understood. But God tells us that in Jesus Christ He has removed the veil so that all who will can look and see the full glory of God in all its splendour.
But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ. (15) But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. (16) Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. (17) Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (18) But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:14-18)
As we behold the face of Jesus without this veil, we are transformed into the same image by the spirit of God. This is what God has been doing for us; step by step He has been showing us the face of Jesus, that the veil might be removed that we might see and understand Him as He really is.