Thursday, September 13, 2018

Genesis 6:1-4

The first verse of Genesis 6 is a continuation from the previous two chapters, which give a broad overview of the fast and vast multiplication of humanity. Genesis 4 outlines the line of Cain and Genesis 5 that of Seth. An interpretative challenge then arises in 6:2-4.

Debate swirls around who the "sons of God" were. The two most prominent perspectives are that (a) they represent the godly seed through Seth's lineage who intermarried with the ungodly seed of Cain's descendants, or (b) they were angelic beings.

The likes of Augustine (City of God), John Calvin, and Keil and Delitzsch espouse the first view. For the sake of space, I commend you to those renowned biblical scholars for support of that interpretation.

I hold to the position that the "sons of God" were fallen angelic beings for a number of reasons.

To begin with, Moses was addressing a chosen people to stress the monotheistic nature of the one true God. He was communicating to the Hebrews amid their exodus about how they had come to their current state of affairs. Genesis, in fact, traces the story that led to Israel finding itself in physical bondage before encountering the redemptive promises of Yahweh.

Theologies emerged throughout various people groups (Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, etc.), of which marriages between gods and humans were prominent. The Gilgamesh Epic, a legend whose heroic figure descended from such a union, certainly would have become well known among the Jewish people. I contend those theologies and legends sprang up as "shadows" of historical realities. In other words, nations naturally proposed explanations regarding the creation account and subsequent happenings, only their versions were a perversion of the truth. Nahum M. Sarna posits that this narrative in Genesis was thus told as a means of combatting the emergent polytheistic mythology.

Moses is setting the record straight. Yes, there was in fact an historical moment when members of the spirit world had intermixed with humanity. As a result of their offspring, Nephilim, or giants like those perpetuated in pagan mythology, for a time roamed the earth. These figures intensified the wickedness of humanity who had chosen willingly to inter-mix with those not of their own kind.

The reference to Nephilim in Numbers 13:33 has a different connotation but ultimately carries a similar message as in this earlier record. For, yes, there will also be the occurrence of a cataclysmic flood (incorrectly re-told in the Gilgamesh Epic) where God will show Himself greater than all created beings: the pre-flood giants would not survive the Lord's judgment. In Numbers 13 Israel should have trusted God's hand of deliverance, even when they were comparing the might of Canaan's military forces to giants.

Beyond the historical and theological circumstances resides an exegetical matter. Each time the phrase "sons of God" appears in Scripture (Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7) it literally means "spirit beings." Some will object based on Jesus' teaching in Matthew 22:30 that angels could not have taken to themselves human daughters as wives with whom to have offspring. Yet, as Henry M. Morris explains, "When Jesus said that the angels in heaven do not marry, this does not necessarily mean that those who have been cast out of heaven were incapable of doing so."

In addition to the Hebrew word choice that points to "spirit beings," those studying Genesis 6 should cross-reference the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 as well as Jude 6-8. The sexual deviance had become so evil in Sodom and Gomorrah that the men sought to have intimate relations with those not even of their own kind (visiting celestial beings).

Of greatest significance, however, is that Genesis 6:1-4 should teach us a lesson about how original sin persists in the human heart. Throughout the pages of Scripture and the annals of humankind is the prideful longing of men and women to exalt themselves as a "god" (cf. Gen. 3:1-6). At the root of what takes place between the sons of God and the daughters of men is the attempt of humanity to procure eternal life without the Lord. No such possibility exists.

We can do nothing to secure salvation apart from God's grace, as we will see in the next blog entry. For now, let it be stated clearly that a supernatural birth would later occur of the Lord's choosing when the Creator united Himself "to human nature in the Virgin's womb" (Gordon J. Wenham). It is only because of the birth and ministry of the God-man Jesus, who was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15), that an opportunity exists for humanity to enjoy eternal life.


TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

I need to trust in the hand of God's deliverance from the following Nephilim in my life:

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TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from Best Devotional Commentary:  "Satan was in the garden when the promise of a deliverer was given (cf. Gen. 3:15). ... Like Eve, he too must have thought that Cain, the woman's offspring, was the deliverer and must therefore have plotted to turn him into a murderer. He succeeded! He corrupted Cain by getting him to murder Abel, thereby eliminating one of Eve's children and rendering the other unfit to be the Savior. Yet Satan failed! For, as he was soon to learn, God simply continued on His unruffled way to develop the godly line through which the deliverer would eventually be born. What was Satan to do now? At this point he conceived the plan of corrupting the entire race by the intermarriage of demons and human beings. The Savior could not be born of a demon-possessed mother. So if Satan could succeed in infecting the entire race, the deliverer could not come. In narrating this incident, Genesis 6 is saying, in effect, 'Meanwhile, back at the ranch the villain is still hatching his plots.'
   Satan is still doing it today. Because he is a being who learns by experience, he is a much wiser and more dangerous devil today than he was in the time before the flood. A person who knows this and who knows that we struggle 'not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms' (Eph. 6:12), will fear Satan and draw near to Jesus who has defeated him" (Boice).

from Best Academic Commentary:  "Some commentators have suggested that 120 years (v.3) represents a period of grace before the flood. It may be, however, that the author thought of the 120 years as a maximum life-span that was only gradually implemented; cf. the slow-acting curses of Eden 3:16-19. In the post-flood period, the recorded ages steadily decline (ch. 11), and later figures rarely exceed 120" (Wenham).

from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary:  "The wording of verse 2 recalls the fall of Eve in the garden (3:6), for when she saw that the tree was good, she took and ate. In that passage the motivation was to be like God; in this passage the barriers between the 'sons of God' and the human race also seem to be challenged. ...
   Here, then, humankind had overstepped the boundaries again, trying to assume the role of divinity and hoping to achieve immortality. God, through Moses, set the record straight by confronting the mythological ideas directly: do not believe the gentile myths concerning the divine origin of the men of renown; in the end all must die, for all are flesh ('the end of all flesh'). The passage goes on to say that those who survive the judgment and become immortal do so by grace alone; moreover, those who are recipients of grace will walk with Him in righteousness, not living according to the corrupt practices of the world" (Ross).

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Genesis 5:21-24

Several questions about the first book of the Bible have often perplexed me. I can readily identify two of my questions from a cursory reading of Genesis 5:21-24.

1. How are we to reconcile the age ascribed to humanity in the early pages of biblical history?
2. What are we to make of Enoch (and the later account of Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11) having never tasted death but being taken up into the presence of God?

As to the first question, humanity was not originally created to die and "the condition of man in paradise would not be immediately exhausted" (Keil & Delitzsch). Yet, over time, as people became increasingly separated from the presence of their Creator, their longevity of life began to decrease significantly. The fact that some individuals now live into their early 100s falls under the category of what theologians refer to as common grace.

The second question is more perplexing to me, primarily because I wonder about what it suggests about the afterlife. We know that the apostle Paul says that the dead will rise at Christ's second coming but, until that event, believers who have died remain separated from what will ultimately become their glorified bodies (cf. 1 Cor. 15:35-52; 2 Cor. 5:1-10). Yet, what of Enoch and Elijah who never tasted death?

In my research and contemplation on this subject, I propose a few conclusions for you to ponder.

Notably, Christ is the first fruits of the dead, meaning He is the first to experience resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20-23; Col. 1:18). Scripture does not say that Jesus is the first to experience a glorified body, only that as the second Adam, after having tasted death, Christ was fully resurrected to a glorified state. Those who perish in Christ will receive their new glorified body when Jesus returns. Until then, their soul finds rest in the heavenly realm awaiting the full consummation. Where we reside and what this looks like no one can ascertain: the fact that Moses was "identifiable" at the Mount of Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:3) fills my heart with curious anticipation.

Theologically, as to Enoch and Elijah, I believe they provide a precursor to the hope that resides for the people of God. Those who "walk faithfully with God" (Gen. 5:21, 24) and who are alive at Christ's return will be immediately taken up to a glorified state. Enoch and Elijah were never resurrected because they never died; however, they could have been instantly glorified (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Some have even speculated that Enoch and Elijah were taken up in advance of when they shall stand as the two witnesses of Revelation 11, in which case they will both eventually taste death (cf. Rev. 11:7).

Practically, I believe what we read about Enoch in Genesis 5 should challenge every follower of Christ. Enoch was not sinless. In fact, the text indicates that his relationship with the Lord did not begin until he turned 65. And, as is true with every believer, something sparked his pursuit of God. For Enoch, that something appears to be when he became a father (cf. Gen. 5:21-22).

Once Enoch trusted in the hope found only in the promises of God (which find their "Amen" in Christ), he gave himself completely to that relationship. Jude 14, 15 makes it clear that Enoch offers an example of one who stood up and stood out for the Lord during some of the most perilous of times. An example, by the way, that I contend had a profound influence on his lineage - upon his son Methuselah, down to his grandson Lamech, and along to his great grandson Noah!

So, in spite of my unanswered (perhaps unanswerable) questions, one definitive truth from the historical account of Enoch stares each of us in the face. If we are a follower of Christ, we are called to walk faithfully with Him so as to proclaim the Gospel in these perilous times and to leave an example of godliness for those who will come after us. This is the main lesson we should learn from Enoch.


TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

That which sparked my desire to follow after Christ and to leave a legacy of godliness was: 

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TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from runner-up to Best Devotional Commentary - "When it is affirmed of Enoch that he walked with God, it implies that there had been a time when Enoch and God had not been at agreement, but that something had occurred to put them at agreement, and that after this agreement they had then walked together" (Carroll).
     Let me also add a word from the Apostle Paul here: "Much more then, having now been justified by [Jesus'] blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:9-10).
     Reconciled essentially means to be put back into agreement with. To be in agreement with God, Enoch had to trust in the promises of the Messianic seed. To be in agreement with God, we must trust in the fulfillment of those promises in the death and resurrection of Christ. Are you in agreement with God? If so, through the indwelling and communing presence of the Holy Spirit, walk with Him.

from runner-up to Best Academic Commentary - "The phrase 'walked with God,' which is only applied to Enoch and Noah (ch. 6:9), denotes the most confidential intercourse, the closest communion with the personal God, a walking as it were by the side of God, who at that time still continued His visible social intercourse with men (vid., 3:8). It must be distinguished from 'walking before God' (ch. 17:1; 24:40, etc.), and 'walking after God' (Deut. 13:4), both which phrases are used to indicate a pious, moral, blameless life under the law according to the directions of the divine commands. The only other passage in which this expression 'walk with God' occurs is Mal. 2:6, where it denotes not the piety of the godly Israelites generally, but the conduct of the priests, who stood in a closer relation to Jehovah under the Old Testament than the rest of the faithful, being permitted to enter the Holy Place and hold direct intercourse with Him there, which the rest of the people could not do" (Keil & Delitzsch).

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Genesis 4:1-15

The playwright Christopher Marlowe personifies envy as a person unable to read who wishes to burn all the books in the world. In other words, envy is more than just wanting what another person has; envy involves wishing that another individual did not have what you desire.

Many of us, I think, can admit to wrestling with envy. It is the sin with which I most struggle. As a young, single man, I envied others who appeared happily involved in a romantic relationship. In my professional life, I have envied others who were given opportunities I thought I deserved and who were recognized for their accomplishments.

When we harbor bitterness and when we resent seeing someone else enjoy blessings that we crave, it translates to the destruction of our relationship with God and with others. Envy kills.

The deathly nature of envy looks like a Greek fable. An Olympic competitor was so envious to see some citizens raise a statue in honor of one of his rivals that he went out late each night to try to tear down the monument. After repeated efforts, the athlete succeeded in knocking the statue from its pedestal. The irony is that when the heavy monument fell, it did so on top of the envious man, thereby crushing and killing him.

Genesis 4:1-15 records the account of two brothers, Cain and Abel. Both brought an offering to God but only Abel brought his best or first fruits. As a result, God respected Abel and his gift, but "He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell" (Gen. 4:5).

Cain wanted what Abel had, only without the attitude of Abel to receive it. Instead of allowing the root of bitterness to flare up in his heart, Cain needed to turn to the Lord in faith with a similar love as that of Abel. Nevertheless, Cain became envious and that envy led to the murder of his younger brother.

Even after this horrendous crime, the heavenly Father gives Cain (like his parents before him) an opportunity to confess. But Cain, in the same pattern of his mom and dad, tries to cover up his sin. His attempt proves unsuccessful, for Abel's blood calls out for justice from the ground.

Abel's life was unjustly taken, so his blood cried out from the earth for revenge. That is what all our murderous, envious Cain-like hearts deserve. Yet, the author of Hebrews presents a better word. Christ's life was unjustly taken, only His blood cries out from the cross for reconciliation. Jesus revives.

In her poem Envy Went to Church, Elva McAllaster concludes: "Envy went to church this morning./ Being Legion, he sat in every pew./ Envy fingered wool and silk fabrics,/ Hung price tags on suits and neckties./ Envy paced through the parking lot/ Scrutinizing chrome and paint./ ... Envy thumped at widows and widowers,/ Jabbed and kicked college girls without escorts,/ ... He liked his Sunday scores today/ But not enough:/ Some of his intended clients/ Had sipped an antidote marked Grace,/ And wore a holy flower named Love."

Let us sip of grace, clothing ourselves in love rather than envy. Let us say, "Christ, You are enough for me."


TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

I can recall a time in my life when envy destroyed: 

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TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from Best Devotional Commentary - "What Cain should have done when he heard God's words of judgment is to have fled to God, rather than from Him. He should have fallen on his knees and begged God, however great his sin, to forgive that sin and not allow it or anything else to drive him from God's presence. ... Cain, we are told, 'went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden (v.16). Do not let it be true of you that you 'went out from the Lord's presence.' Flee to Him, and find in Him the One you have needed all along" (Boice).

from Best Academic Commentary - "Alienation from God leads to fear of other men (cf. Job 15:20-25). Certainly it is the fear of retribution that is the heart of Cain's complaint. 'Anyone who finds me will kill me.' Whom he feared has perplexed commentators, since according to the Genesis account there was no one else around but his parents. This may indicate that the story of Cain and Abel was originally independent of the stories in chapters 2 and 3. However, it is unlikely that the editor was unaware of the problem created by juxtaposing chapters 3 and 4 in this way (cf. Westermann, Gunkel). Most probably he envisaged other descendants of Adam seeking to avenge Abel's death" (Wenham).

from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - "I would word the expository idea in this way: Those who worship must have as their goal always to please God so that they will not allow sin (envy and hatred) to work its ruinous ways in their lives. This formulation centers on the warning that God gave Cain but includes all the major facets of the story. Anytime a person is filled with envy and anger over God's blessing on others, there will be disaster if that anger is allowed to run its course. Cain has become the abiding example of this pattern" (Ross).

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Genesis 3:8-13

A former seminary professor of mine spoke of potty training his 3-year-old son. On one particular morning, his son stood up on a chair and began to do "his business" in the floor. My professor yelled out, "What are you doing?"

He obviously knew what his little boy was doing, but his question (mostly out of shock) at least gave the little boy a chance to explain himself. As parents, we want our children to own up to their misgivings and improper conduct. We want them to acknowledge wrongdoing and learn from it.

God is a Father. When Adam and Eve disobeyed in the garden, God gives them opportunity to own up to their sin. God is not aloof or ignorant to what has happened. The Lord's queries of "Where are you? What have you done?" (Gen. 3:9,13) do not suggest He is less than all-powerful or all-knowing. Instead, God's response is that of a Father.

Too often, however, instead of owning up to our failings we try to cover them up.

Notice that Adam blames his wife. "The woman You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate" (Gen. 3:12).

Once when my wife and I were leaving her grandparent's home I thought she had left her cell phone at their house. Frustrated, I told her that we had to turn and go back (all of 1/4 of a mile). When she went inside, her father called her cell number. To my surprise, I had her phone in my pocket!

When she returned to the car, I told her she had the phone in the vehicle the entire time. Having already blamed her, I was now set on "saving face." I lied. Like me, many people have a tendency to blame others for their misfortunes, mistakes, or mishaps.

Notice that Eve blames the snake. She says, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate" (Gen. 3:13).

As a toddler, my oldest son had a propensity of running into solid objects like counter tops, tables, chairs, etc. Even though these objects were set in place, Whitman remained convinced that they were to blame for him suffering some personal hurt. Like my son, many people have a tendency to blame various things or circumstances for their own poor choices.

Notice that Adam and Eve both blame God. Adam says, "The woman You gave me." Eve essentially says, "The snake You made."

Don't we have a tendency to blame God when things do not go as we think that they should, or when we face consequences for poor decisions? Instead of taking ownership for ourselves, we shift blame. Instead of repenting, we excuse ourselves.

Learn a lesson from Adam and Eve. Do not point a finger at others or at circumstances or at God but accept responsibility for yourself.

More importantly, learn a lesson about Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 reads, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

Jesus reverses the pattern that Adam and Eve set. Rather than point an accusatory finger, Jesus - who was blameless in all things - takes our blame onto Himself. All you must do is believe and confess: Christ stands waiting to take your blame and render you forgiven!


TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

I have a tendency to cast blame or excuse my own sin when: 

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TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from Best Devotional Commentary - "The first scene is creation, in which God alone is active. He speaks and the worlds come into being. The second scene is domestic. It involves God, Adam, and Eve, as God makes a place for the man and woman and prepares each of them for the other. This scene fills chapter 2 and ends on the notation: 'the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame' (v.25). The third scene is the temptation. In it the characters are Adam, Eve, and Satan. It ends with the fall. Beginning with chapter 3, verse 8, we come to a fourth scene in which God now enters the garden to confront the other three. This is a judicial scene, a scene of judgment" (Boice).

from Best Academic Commentary - "Here the sins of the various characters are elicited from their own lips. But there is a certain gentleness about the inquisition. Delitzsch remarks, 'It was God their creator, who now as God the redeemer was seeking the lost.' By reverting to the term The Lord God  from v.8 (cf. 'God' in vv.1b-5), the narrator hints that God can still be man's covenant partner as well as his creator and judge" (Wenham).

from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - Regarding the man, Ross points out that the truth finally comes out: "I ate." Regarding the woman, Ross indicates that her confession to God's original question finally comes out: "I ate." He then concludes, "In the dialogue the Lord shows His majesty and potency by asking penetrating questions, and the humans appear fearful and defensive with evasive excuses. Eventually they did confess, and it was sufficient" (Ross).