“Restore us, oh God
Make you face shine on us,
That we may be saved.”
~ Psalm 80:3
The cry for restoration is not a new cry. Humanity has been crying out for restoration since Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden. Since the moment they ate the forbidden fruit, humanity’s relationship with God has been broken, strained, not what it was designed to be. Take a moment and just imagine what it would be like, as the sun starts to set, strolling along a stream or lakeshore and just chatting with God about whatever is on your mind.
“I have to say God, that giraffe sure is funny looking with his long neck and tall skinny legs. But he sure has been helpful to provide a glimpse above the trees when I get myself a bit turned around and need to find my way back to juniper tree where I told Eve I would be in the afternoon.”
“God, how is that the sun provides light and heat? Why doesn’t the moon provide the same warmth as the sun?”
“What’s it like where you live? Do you have animals and trees like Eden does? Am I ever going to be able to see your home?”
“The color of the sky today is so pretty. What are the words I should be using to describe it? And what are those items which float in the midst of the sky? How do they get there? So they do anything special?”
Adam and Eve’s questions and observations would likely have seemed so innocent to most of us today. And rightly so. They did not yet know sin or any of its consequences. They didn’t know sickness, death, and disease. They didn’t know what it was to go hungry, to feel anger, shame, or sadness. So many of the experiences we are trying to make sense of in our world today simply were not part of Adam and Eve’s experience when they were walking and talking with Jesus in the Garden.
Isn’t it interesting all that has happened in the world because of one piece of fruit eaten so very long ago?
I have to wonder if God felt the break in His relationship with Adam and Eve the moment they ate the fruit. What reaction did the angels have in heaven when they say Eve listen to the serpent instead of to God? Did the rest of creation feel the shift, the breaking of the relationship between God and man? How soon did the entering of sin into the world affect the rest of creation? Was it right away or was it when God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden? All of these wonderings reflect a singular reality: humanity’s relationship with God was broken beyond our ability to repair.
Still today we are unable to restore our relationship with God all on our own. We need His help. A great story to illustration this reality is found in the Gospel of John. John 8:1-11 tells a well-known story of a woman who is caught in the act of adultery. The Pharisees have dragged her in front of Jesus to use her as a pawn in their attempt to trip Jesus up and force him into a situation where there are no right answers. The law of Moses, the law of the Jewish people to which Jesus belonged, demanded she be stoned. Jesus taught of God’s desire to extend forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Roman law, the law of the land, forbid anyone but Roman officials to condemn a person to death.
Jesus doesn’t reply right away, but bends down and starts writing some unknown message in the sand. Lots of people have speculated over the years as to what exactly he wrote, but no where has it been recorded. When pushed for a response, Jesus stops writing, looks up, and simply says the person who is without sin is free to throw the first stone at the woman. Then he returns to his writing. Her crowd of accusers drop their stones and walk away. None of them are without sin. Jesus doesn’t deny that the sinner deserves to be punished, but he does point out that they don’t deserve to be punished by other sinners.
Eventually only the woman, whose name we never learn, and Jesus are left alone. In her eyes, Jesus is still a man who is a teacher and follower of the Law of Moses. She has no reason to believe that Jesus won’t look up and say, “Well, since I’m the only sinless one here I guess I better get on with stoning you.” But Jesus doesn’t say that. Instead he tells her that if no one else is able to condemn her than neither shall he, forgives her, and gives her a chance to have a new life.
In that moment, Jesus quit literally restores her physical ability to live her life. As a devout Jewish man, he knew and lived by the Jewish law. But more importantly, as the Son of God, He understood that mercy and grace where just as important as consequences and punishments.
In reality, we deserve the same fate as the woman in John’s story. Romans 3 reminds us that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Every. Single. Person. Only Jesus lived a life with no sin. It’s an important truth to grasp because Romans 6 teaches us that wages of sin are death.
There is no distinction between “big” sin and “little” sin. For any sin you commit, the penalty is death. Why? Because all sin, no matter how small, separates us from God.
The good news is that, just as Jesus restored the woman’s ability to physically continue to live by extending grace and forgiveness, so he restores our ability to dwell once again in the presence of God through His death on the cross. Just over a week ago we celebrated Easter. We celebrated how Jesus conquered death and rose from the grave. We celebrated our pathway to once again be so close to God as to physically dwell in His presence being restored.
- Michael Card has a great song reflecting on the story from John 8. You can check it out below!
- We like to think that sin doesn’t hurt anyone except ourselves. But I’m betting we can all think of a time where another’s person’s wrong actions and choices hurt us. What sin in your life have you been ignoring believing it can’t possibly hurt anyone else?
- If you could spend an evening walking and talking with God in the Garden of Eden, what would be on your mind to talk about today? Would it be something rather innocent or would it be something which reflects the reality that we live in a sinful and fallen world?