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God and Nakedness

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
June 4, 2024 12:01 am

God and Nakedness

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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June 4, 2024 12:01 am

Marriage is meant to be a safe haven where shame does not exist. Today, R.C. Sproul uncovers the connection in Scripture between nakedness and shame.

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R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was known for his ability to winsomely and clearly communicate deep, practical truths from God's Word. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, first minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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There's no human being in this whole world who knows me better than my wife. Do you know what that means to me? That the person who knows me the best loves me?

The person who has seen me naked, body and soul, loves me? Is it any wonder that God uses the human institution of marriage as the supreme image to communicate to His people the relationship that He wants with them? That Israel in the Old Testament is the bride of Yahweh. The church in the New Testament is the bride of Christ. Marriage is a gift from God, not a burden. It's a precious gift providing a relationship, companionship, whereas you'll hear today the husband and wife can be naked and unashamed. It's also a gift as it paints the beautiful picture of God's covenantal relationship with His people. This makes today's distortions of marriage even more grievous.

It should motivate us all the more to pursue a godly marriage. You're listening to the Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind. I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. This week, R.C. Sproul is helping us think about marriage from a biblical perspective, and on Friday we'll be joined by several special guests to address some practical questions that have come up in recent years as it relates to gender and sexuality.

So stay with us all week and don't miss Friday's episode. Well, here's Dr. Sproul on God and nakedness. I'd like to welcome you again to our series of studies on Christian marriage, and in this session today we're going to be considering the theme God and nakedness, God and nakedness. And I'd like to direct your attention first of all to a somewhat strange story that we find in the Old Testament that concerns the patriarch Noah. Everybody's heard of Noah, Noah and the flood, Noah with the boat, the two by two and all of that. But what happened to Noah after the flood?

What happened after the waters receded and they came safely to dry land? Well, we read in the ninth chapter of the book of Genesis this very brief but I think strange story. It says in verse 20, And Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard. And he drank of the wine and was drunken, and he was uncovered within his tent. Now Ham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. And Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father and their faces were backwards so that they did not see their father's nakedness.

Isn't that a strange account? Here's Noah. He begins to cultivate a vineyard and then he harvests the grapes and makes wine and drinks too much. He goes into his tent and he's in a drunken stupor, and in his drunkenness he's rolling around and he is exposed.

He's nude. And then we read how his one son comes into the tent and it says he looked upon his father's nakedness. Notice it doesn't say that Ham came in and looked at his father's drunkenness. And then he runs outside and he tells his brothers, we have to reconstruct this. But obviously Ham is amused at finding his father in this compromising and embarrassing situation.

And so he makes hay out of it. He goes out and he says to his brothers, you ought to go in there and see the old man. He's drunk as a skunk and he's stark naked in there.

Well the other two brothers, instead of exploiting their father, they take a cover and they stretch it between themselves lying it over each other's shoulders and they walked backwards into the tent and as they were moving they draped this cover across their father. They covered his nakedness. Now if you read what follows in the text when Noah grows old and it's time for him to pass along the patriarchal blessing, he pronounces his blessing upon Shem and Japheth, but he pronounces a curse upon Ham because he looked upon his father's nakedness. Now what's going on here is that the ancient Israelite people were so uptight about nakedness that they couldn't stand to be seen without clothes even in the context of the family. An interesting study is to go through the whole Scripture and see what the Bible says about nakedness, about nudity. We see for example that in warfare in the Old Testament, if you were to defeat your enemy in war and in battle, the consummate insult to the dignity of your enemy was not simply to strip him of his arms and of his booty, but to strip him naked and parade the enemy in chains without any clothes.

That was to reduce the enemy to total humiliation. It's not by accident that part of the penalty that the executed criminal had to undergo in antiquity was to be executed virtually naked, even as Christ was exposed to that kind of humiliation on the cross. But where do those ideas and images come from? I think to get a handle on it we have to go even earlier into the Old Testament back again to the Garden of Eden, back to the creation account which we considered briefly in our first session. You remember we went over the story of how God had made man and then made woman as a special act of creation and how excited Adam was when he first beheld his wife and said, this is flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, and so on. Well, the second chapter of Genesis ends in a very strange manner. We read, and Adam said, this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh. Now when somebody is writing something like that, you come to the climax of the statement, you put a period there, and then you have a transition into your next thought. But here we have like a dangling participle, like a concluding unscientific postscript just sort of attached to the end of chapter 2 of Genesis these strange words, and they were both naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed.

What does that mean? They were both naked, and they were not ashamed. Why does the author include that in the text? I'm not sure except that the author of Genesis picks up on that in the next chapter where we read how God gives prohibition to Adam and Eve and puts rules and regulations around how the Garden of Eden is to be used. And we now see the entrance of the serpent, and it says, now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the field. And we read of that primordial temptation where the serpent comes up and entices Eve and Adam and saying, you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And how our first parents then succumbed to the temptation and ate of the fruit of the tree.

And now suddenly there's a there's a radical change in the whole atmosphere of Eden. Formerly when God would walk in the cool of the day into the garden, as he would come into the garden, we could see Adam and Eve rushing to be in the presence of God. They were basking in the glory of God. They experienced intimacy and communion with their Creator there in the garden. But then they disobey him. And now when God comes into the garden, what do they do?

They hide. And it says, as soon as they sinned, behold, their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked. I wonder what the psychological significance of that is. That the first experience of human guilt was not expressed in terms of saying their eyes were opened and they knew that they were sinners. Their eyes were opened and they knew that they were guilty. Their eyes were opened and they knew that they were wicked.

That's not what it says. It says that their eyes were opened and they became aware of their nakedness. And so their first impulse is to run and to hide, to cover themselves. No longer could it be said that they were man and woman, naked and unashamed. Now they are naked and ashamed.

Now before we explore that too much further in terms of its significance for marriage, let's see how God responds to that. When God comes into the garden, he calls for his creatures. Adam, where are you? They're hiding. And God said, why are you hiding?

And what did they say? We're hiding because we're naked. Not we're hiding because we're sinned. We're hiding because you've been naked all along. You were naked the day I made you. You were naked every time I fellowshiped you in the garden. Why should being naked cause you to hide?

Did you eat of the tree? See their confession of their awareness of nakedness, God understood as a confession of an awareness of sin. So we see this strange connection here between nakedness and guilt. Now have you noticed how our culture responds to human nakedness? I mean we've gone through the sexual revolution. We've seen the advent of Playboy magazine and Penthouse and all the rest of them. And we've seen the censorship standards be changed on television and in the movies so that now nudity is commonplace in the film industry, in magazines and so on. It seems like as a people we're almost preoccupied with nudity, not only female nudity but male nudity, where famous people will pose in the bathroom and women will scramble to go by so they can look at pictures of men who are naked. I mean men have always done that, but now women are doing it. We saw the phenomenon a few years ago of streaking, where people take their clothes off and run down the street.

But notice that there was something interesting to me about streaking that it wasn't called strolling. I mean we sort of have ambivalent feelings about nakedness. Everybody I think knows what it feels like to be able to go home, take off your tie and say, I just want to relax and step into the shower and I don't have to worry about whether my tie's crooked or if my shirt's pressed or so on. There still is a sense, friends, where we are looking for a place where we can be naked and unashamed. But with all of our sophistication, all of our boldness and all of our so-called adult maturity, nakedness still makes us nervous.

As skimpy as the bathing suits may be, you can still rely on the fact that staple items in the stores include shower curtains and window blinds and drapes. People do not walk around naked in ordinary life. Remember Desmond Morris' study of man from an anthropological perspective and he titled his study, Man, the Naked Ape.

He showed that we were just one of 70 or 80 different primates in this world, all different kinds of monkeys and apes and gorillas. And the thing that distinguishes our apeness from the rhesus monkey or the orangutan or the gorilla is that we're the only one who's not totally covered on our body with body hair and so we have to go and buy clothes. Nature adorns the rest of the animals. Do you ever see other animals running around in department stores buying suits and ties? I mean, we see dogs with scarves and shirts and all of that, but only because humans put them there. But we worry about clothes. Well, why is it that of all of the species of life on this planet, we are the only one who use artificial forms of clothing? Where did clothes come from in the first place? I'm impressed by the fact that when God came into that garden and He found Adam and Eve hiding, they were scared, they were nervous, they were embarrassed.

What are you doing there? We're hiding because we're naked. God could have said, God could have said, all right, you disobeyed me.

Tough luck. You spend the rest of your days running around, shivering and embarrassed, being totally naked and let all of creation laugh at you. But even when God speaks in judgment for their sin, He tempers that judgment with grace and with mercy. And the very first act of redemption in human history was when God made clothes for His naked creatures. And God said, here, and He covered their nakedness. Trace that throughout biblical history. How the prophet Isaiah, for example, speaks of us in our human sinful condition saying that our righteousness is as filthy rags. The whole concept of the atonement in the Old Testament and in the New Testament centers on this idea, covering, that Christ is a covering for our sin. There's a sense in which the earliest symbol or image of the ultimate redemption was that tender act when God came down and clothed His naked children.

What can we learn from that? Well, I think one thing we can learn is that God allows us to wear clothes. God allows us to wear clothes. We in our society hear from everybody saying, you've got to be open.

You've got to let it all hang out. We'll go to therapy sessions, group discussions where people are encouraged to take their clothes off because the psychiatrist understands the symbolic link between physical nakedness and spiritual and emotional nakedness. And so in order to encourage us to let down our barriers so that we can be open and honest, they will encourage us to take our clothes off. And God says, wait a minute, you don't have to take your clothes off. I don't have to reveal my innermost being to everybody who comes along and wants to have a piece of my mind or of my soul.

God gives us the right to privacy. We have learned a long time ago that we can't indiscriminately bear our souls to everybody because everybody here has experienced this problem in your life. Maybe when you were a little girl or when you were a little boy, you did something bad and you were embarrassed about it and the guilt was weighing on you. And so you went up to your best friend and you said, got to tell you something, but promise me that you won't tell. And then you tell your friend what you did. And then the next day, it's all over the school. Is there anyone for whom that never happened?

We've all experienced that. And so we learn, don't we, to be careful. I told somebody a secret.

They jumped on my soul. So I'm going to be careful the next time. I'm going to hide. I'm going to stay concealed. I'm not going to let everybody know what I'm thinking.

I'm not going to let everybody know how I'm feeling. We become masters of hiding ourselves. And we need that. We don't have to expose ourselves to everybody. God gave us clothes. But in spite of that, we still yearn for paradise restored. We still long for someplace where we can again be naked and unashamed.

And guess what? There are two places that God has provided for us where we can be naked and unashamed. The first is in His presence. There is no place on this planet where I am more comfortable than I am in the presence of God, partly because I know I can't fake Him out, partly because I know all of my subtle games of concealment and being the artful dodger and directing His attention away cannot fool Him.

So I mean, there's this total hopelessness about it. He knows me. He knows when I sit down. He knows when I stand up before words even formed on my lips. He knows that. So there's a sense in which I can't escape His vision.

I can't escape His gaze. I am laid bare to God whether I want to be or not be. Now, a lot of people are made nervous by that. Most people do not want God to look at them. Most people want God to overlook them. And that's the tragedy of the unbeliever, is that the unbeliever has never experienced the benevolent gaze of God, where God looks at that person and sees him in all of his sinfulness and says, I love you. To me, that's what the gospel is all about, is that the God who knows me in all of my nakedness loves me.

How else could David say, search me, O God. Know me. Know my thoughts. Know my hearts. See if there's any wicked way within me.

Cleanse me. Because there's something about God that when we come to Him, even in our guilt, though He rebukes us and admonishes us and corrects us and chastises us, He never ever humiliates us. There is a tenderness about His judgment as He seeks to correct us so that we can be comfortable in His presence. That's one place. That's the supreme place.

But the second place, humanly speaking, where God has provided for people to be naked and unashamed is in the holy bond of marriage. There's no place in this world among people where I am more comfortable than with my own family. When I'm with my family, I can relax. I don't have to perform. I don't have to meet people's expectations.

I can relax and be myself, put my shoes up on the table. My family know me. And as I said a million times, there's no human being in this whole world who knows me better than my wife.

We've been married for 25 years. We went together for eight years before that. We grew up together in the same town. We were in kindergarten virtually together.

Well, not kindergarten, second grade. In fact, we both met our third grade teacher last night. And there she was saying, you two are still hanging around together.

After all these years, so we share that common background and common friends and so on. We know each other. She knows what I'm going to say before I say it, how I'm going to respond before I do it. But she doesn't know everything. She can't get inside my mind like God can. She can only know what I unveil to her, what I am willing to expose of myself to her. But here's the thing, even given those barriers that remain, she knows me better than any human being on this planet knows me.

And guess what? She loves me. Do you know what that means to me? That the person who knows me the best loves me?

The person who has seen me naked, body and soul, loves me? Is it any wonder that God uses the human institution of marriage as the supreme image to communicate to His people the relationship that He wants with them? That Israel in the Old Testament is the bride of Yahweh?

The church in the New Testament is the bride of Christ? Because that image of marriage is to demonstrate intimacy and a depth dimension of communion where we're comfortable. Is it any wonder why one of the most emotionally devastating human experiences a person can go through is a divorce? When your partner walks out, what's happening?

What are you experiencing? You're experiencing just the opposite where you realize that the person who knows you the best in this world has just rejected you. That is brutal to a human being and makes a person very fearful of ever becoming naked again. But God has given us an institution with safeguards as well as with responsibilities and saying, here you can be naked. Can you be naked in your marriage? Do you know your partner?

Do you feel like you're known? The worst complaint we hear all the time, my wife doesn't understand me. When that happens, there's a breakdown in intimacy. The clothes are coming on because something is being hidden and concealed. Some of the marriages that I observed are really games of hide and seek. People are trying to prevent each other from knowing each other. And so if we're going to have that experience of being naked and unashamed, we've got to learn how to know each other.

That was R.C. Sproul on this Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind from his series, The Intimate Marriage. If you'd like to study the complete six-part series, you can request lifetime digital access to all the messages and study guide. And the study guide also includes helpful discussion questions as you possibly work through this study with your husband or wife. You can request your copy and give your donation of any amount when you call us at 800-435-4343 or when you visit We'll also send you two copies of a new resource from Ligonier Ministries, a field guide on gender and sexuality. This brand new book answers many pressing questions, including if it's okay to use people's preferred pronouns, how to respond if you're called bigoted, and whether there is hope for those who have sinned sexually. Request this resource bundle today at And of course, the link is always available for you in the podcast show notes. In marriage, it's so important to truly know your spouse, and R.C. Sproul will explain why tomorrow, here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-04 02:39:09 / 2024-06-04 02:47:59 / 9

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