Fig leaves

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Genesis 3:7,21

It’s a cover-up for something shameful.  But it’s hasty and inadequate.  That’s “fig leaves” in the popular understanding.  And it’s precisely the meaning of fig leaves in Genesis 3.

An hour earlier, Adam and Eve were walking around Paradise as king and queen.  They were naked and unashamed.

But the minute they eat the forbidden fruit, sin and shame enter their world and this brings a third power hot on its heels – fear.  Such fear drives them to something that would be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic.  They sew fig-leaves together to make coverings for themselves.  Hasty and inadequate in the extreme.

When they ate from the tree they invited death, broke their friendship with God, forged an alliance with Satan, and unleashed chaos and curse on creation.  Fig leaves were not going to solve their problem!

Their paltry coverings are as ridiculous as their attempt to hide from the LORD in His own garden.  Fig leaves are fear-driven attempts to deal with the problem of shame and guilt.  But they are ridiculous.

Interestingly the Quran also has a story of Adam and Eve’s fall.  In Sura 7:26, Allah has a solution to the inadequacy of the fig leaves.  He tells the couple that the best covering they can strive for is “piety”.  They should clothe themselves in good deeds.

But in the Bible “piety” – our own moral efforts – cannot be the solution to our inadequate coverings.  Our moral efforts are the inadequate covering.  As Isaiah the prophet will say later, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

Human morality is not the answer.  Human morality is a fig leaf on fallen man – a vain attempt to cover our shame and reverse the curse.  The solution is not to clothe ourselves in good deeds.  The true solution is modelled in Genesis 3:21:

the LORD God made coats of skins, and clothed them.

The LORD determined that our covering would not be something we produce.  It would be the gift of the LORD.  And it would be through the death of another that we are clothed.  Blood would be shed.  An animal that did not deserve death would be sacrificed to cover those who did.

And in this way the true covering is modelled.

God does not want us to sew together the paltry fig-leaves of do-good-ery.  He wants us to receive a perfect and enduring covering:

Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 13:14)

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