Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the close of day. Before they ate of the forbidden fruit, this probably would not have been a problem. They might have talked and walked with God without fear. But now, now they are in fear. They knew they did wrong and they "hid themselves from the presence of the Lord."
Nelson Study Bible (NSB) notes: The scene is pathetic and sad. Here comes the Lord ofr an evening walk and a cozy chat. But Adam and Eve, who have "become wise," cower in the trees to avoid being seen by the Creator of the universe. What had been a perfect, shameless fellowship has turned into dreadful fear of God-not fear in the sense of true piety, as with Abraham, Moses, David, and Solomon-but the raw terror of being discovered in the wrong.
How true this reaction of hiding still is today. How often do people cover up their sins or try to hide them? How often do we push them aside, not daring to let others see the mistakes we have made? How terrifying it is to have our sins exposed to the light of day. How awful we feel to have to answer for what we have done. Especially when we feel that what we have done is a grave misdeed. Adam and Eve were given one negative commandment. Don't eat from this tree. Adam (may have) even added not to touch the tree. And still this wasn't enough. Stripped of the protection of the law, for that is what the commandment did, was protect Adam and Eve in the Garden, they are now naked and vulnerable.
Their fig leaf coverings do little to hide the fact that they have sinned. In fact, they do quite the opposite. By virtue of having made themselves leafy coverings, they proclaim that they know they are naked. Before, their nakedness was no cause for shame. They had no reason to cover up. Now, with their eyes having been opened, they feel a need to cover their nakedness. And they still hide from God.
And God called to Adam, "Where are you?" Did God not know where Adam was? Could God not see Adam? On the contrary, if we say that God is omniscient, then He knew exactly where Adam was. He could perfectly see Adam hiding in the trees. Why ask this question?
And here we see the beginnings of God's attributes of Justice and Mercy working side by side. The text, when speaking of God, uses the names YHVH Elohim (Lord God). The rabbis say that YHVH signifies God's attribute of mercy and Elohim signifies His attribute of justice.
Had God been merely just, He would have immediately brought death upon Adam and Eve. There'd have been no questioning, no pleas for forgiveness. They were told the law and the penalty for breaking that law. Justice would demand that the penalty be carried out.
Had God been merely merciful, there'd have been no punishment at all. They would have been forgiven and allowed to stay in the Garden. There'd have been no consequence for their behavior.
There must be both justice and mercy. Actions have consequences. Sin must be accounted for. And at the same time, if He took account of all our sins, who could stand before Him? Judgment must be tempered with mercy.
And so God takes time to talk with Adam and Eve. God, who already knows the answers to the questions He's going to ask, gives Adam and Eve a chance to account for themselves.
Where are you? A question we should ask of ourselves every day, maybe even several times a day. Where are we? Where are we in terms of our walk with God? Where are we in terms of loving our family, our neighbors, the stranger? Where are we in our devotions? Where are we? Are we at school, at work, at play, at home, at church, at shul, at a restaurant, at a movie theater, out shopping, hanging out with friends, at a game? Where are we? And what are we doing there?
If we engage in gossip or evil speech, where are we in terms of loving God and loving our neighbor?
If we be at church or shul but our minds and hearts are unrepentant, where are we?
If we fill our eyes and ears and minds with sights and sounds that encourage us to be violent, to be immoral, to be selfish, to be greedy, where are we in our walk with God? Can we say that such things don't affect our walk with the Almighty? If so, amen and hallelujah, may your strength increase. If they do affect our walk, maybe we should be more careful about what we let our eyes to see and our ears to hear.
Where are we? Are we hiding from God because of our sins? Are we hiding from the poor, the widow, the orphan and the stranger because they make us feel uncomfortable? Are we hiding from our neighbors? Are we hiding from ourselves, not willing to face and struggle with our problems? Where are we?