“…And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat, Exodus 25:17-20 NKJV.
We wrote about the mercy seat in our last post, but these cherubim were part of it. We left them for a separate post because of the place cherubim have in other Scriptures. Most of the time they are associated with various buildings Israel made: the Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, the Temple Ezekiel envisions in his book, Ezekiel 41. But there are other places in the Old Testament where they appear.
In Genesis 3:24, we read that God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden because of their sin, and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Someone once wrote that the cherubim were placed there to keep the way to the tree of life open, but it seems to me that they were placed there to keep the way shut that led to the tree, to prevent access to it. The Scripture tells us about what happened as a result of Adam’s sin: Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” – therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man: and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life, Genesis 3:22-24 (NKJV).
These are unutterably solemn words.
This was an act of inexpressible justice, but it was also an act of incredible grace. IF Adam had eaten of the tree of life after he sinned, he would have indeed lived forever, God Himself said that – but he would have lived forever a fallen sinner, condemned and under the judgment of God. There would have been no redemption, no grace, no mercy, nothing but a live forever in the heartache and misery of sin. It would have truly been the “hell on earth” foolish men sometimes talk about.
They have no idea….
But that’s not the end of the story.
Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin, their nakedness, with fig leaves. Sometimes they are pictured in art like this. But there is no “covering,” no little something we can do to hide what we are in ourselves or what we do in life. There is nothing “good” in anything we do that can cover sin, can take it away. Satan has told us otherwise, so there are all kinds of religions and “good works,” and charities and things, but Scripture says that even the plowing of the wicked is sin, Proverbs 21:4. The things we do merely to provide the necessities of life are sin in the eyes of God.
But someone might say, “Yes, but that talks about ‘the wicked’.”
I’m thankful that there is “good,” humanly speaking. This world would truly be a terrible place if that were not true. I’m sure that even Hitler did “good” in some areas of his life, but that’s only “humanly speaking.” In God’s sight, There is none who does good, no, not one, Psalm 14:1, 3; 53:1, 3, Romans 3:12. According to His standards, which are infinitely higher than our own, and apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re all “wicked”.
“Fig leaves” will never get the job done, never cover our sin, never open the way to the tree of life.
God took away Adam and Eve’s flimsy, ineffective covering and gave them tunics, or coats, of animal skin. We’ve mentioned this before, but God acted this way to show them, and us, that we can only live because of the sacrifice of an innocent substitute.
In a few weeks, it will be Christmas. TV shows, advertisers, retail stores – all are gearing up for this busiest of all seasons. Churches will have their Christmas pageants, and there will be a lot of talk about “the Christmas story.” It will be a time of rejoicing, of family get-togethers, of “the twelve days…”.
Very little of this will have anything to do with the events they’re supposed to represent. God provided coats of skin for our guilty first parents; He provided an innocent Substitute for us.
I’ve often thought that a true picture of Bethlehem would show a little infant in a crib or a bed or whatever Mary might have had to put the infant Jesus in, but falling across this idyllic picture would be the shadow of a cross. Jesus was born in order that He might die.
“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins,” Acts 10:43.
As Abraham told Isaac all those centuries ago, Genesis 22:8, God provided for Himself a lamb.