When many Christians read the Bible, it is possible that an underlying notion exists that the Old Testament presents a different picture of our God than that of the New Testament. Not wholly different altogether, but different nonetheless. God expresses His judgment and wrath in an overwhelming sense, whereas, in the New Testament, He is shown as a much more gracious and loving Father. Or so it goes.
And we might read passages like John 1:16-17 and believe it helps underline this thinking:
16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
But I want to suggest to us that our God, as revealed in the old covenant, is full of grace, mercy and love. Of course, Jesus is the greatest expression of God’s love and grace, the exact representation. He is grace and love incarnate. But our God has always been a God full of ferocious chesed and agape from the beginning. And He has always been a just God as well, though I would argue His justice is about making things right, which becomes good news for believers, but bad news for non-believers.
And so, in Genesis 3, maybe the great black mark for humanity, where our first parents ruined it for us all, I still believe we can find great expressions of God’s grace even in the midst of pronouncements of judgment.
Let me suggest 6 points of grace:
1) The seed promise of the gospel (Gen 3:15). Here we find what theologians call the protoevangelium, or the first gospel. The promise that a seed would come from the woman to crush the serpent, the great enemy of God and His people.
2) Woman would still bear children (Gen 3:15-16). This was important on 2 accounts. First, this would allow for the original Great Commission of Gen 1:28 to continue, in that they could continue to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Secondly, we are told that the seed was going to come from the woman, and so she needed to continue to be able to bear children to bring about this all-important seed.
3) Man would still work (Gen 3:17-19). Some might imagine that work was part of the curse. But it was not. Work is good and part of God’s good purposes from the beginning. Rather, the curse was that man would now work by the sweat of his brow.
4) Food would still be brought from the ground (Gen 3:18-19). Just as God could have shut up the womb, so could He have shut up the ground from producing food. But God graciously allowed for the provision of daily bread.
5) Naming of his wife (Gen 3:20). After the Fall, Adam names his wife Eve, meaning ‘life’ or ‘living’. Now, it could be argued that this was Adam’s action, not God’s. But something must be going on in the account here. Adam could have responded wrongly, negatively or even worse – like how his son, Cain, would react in Gen 4. But with God’s grace evidently present within the whole account, here we have an extension of that grace as Adam names his wife Living.
6) God’s provision of skins (Gen 3:21). In the loss of innocence, these skins were given to cover the nakedness of our first parents. And, of course, here was the first blood spilt, a picture of the blood-spilling event of the cross, the ultimate expression of God’s love and grace.
So I hope you can see a little bit of the generous grace of our God, even at the worst point of humanity. Covenant had been broken, self-worshipping independence had come in, and all seemed lost. But, being the Father that He is, God steps in with both judgment and mercy, discipline and grace, justice and love. And of course, these characteristics meet in Christ at the cross.