Saturday, September 29, 2018

Genesis 9:8-17

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

Walking into a grocery store in Black Mountain, North Carolina, I saw a row of people looking across the parking lot and taking pictures with their phones. Once I realized they were not photographing me, I glanced back to see the fullest, most colorful rainbow I've ever seen. I pulled out my phone to take a picture as well.

The strong rain had subsided to something of a sprinkle, and the sun had emerged. The rainbow marked a new beginning.

Humanity was not created to die, but with sin death entered the world. The nature of sin was so infectious that the Lord determined to destroy the created order (cf. Gen. 6:5-7), only "Noah found grace" (cf. Gen. 6:8).

The covenant with Noah (cf. Gen. 6:18) involves a re-creation act. Soon after this re-creation, just like in the Garden of Eden, we read of Noah's sin and the revelation of his nakedness (cf. Gen. 3:7; Gen. 9:20-22). Notably, then, the grace of God through Noah would not suffice to stem the tide of sin's power. Someone or something greater was needed, and that's why we see rainbows.

The rainbow has the shape of a battle-bow (qeset). It arches in such a manner as if someone intends to shoot an arrow at an enemy or at some prey.

Sally Lloyd-Jones in The Jesus Storybook Bible explains, "God's strong anger against hate and sadness and death would come down once more - but not on His people, or His world. No, God's war bow was not pointing down at His people. It was pointing up, into the heart of Heaven."

The pierced body of Christ is the only remedy for the wrath that humanity's depravity deserves. The flood waters would prove unsuccessful in purifying the earth from sin; such purification could only come by the cleansing blood of Jesus for everyone who believes (cf. Tit. 3:3-7; 1 Pet. 3:18-22).

Robert Lowry's inspirational hymn begins: "What can wash away my sin?/ Nothing but the blood of Jesus;/ What can make me whole again?/ Nothing but the blood of Jesus./ Oh! Precious is the flow/ That makes me white as snow;/ No other fount I know,/ Nothing but the blood of Jesus."

Christians are promised new beginnings because of the atoning blood of Jesus. The old covenant, like the one initiated through Noah, is replaced by a new covenant (cf. Heb. 8:13).

The prophet Isaiah proclaims, "Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, and now it shall spring forth. Shall you know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert" (Isa. 43:18-19).

A number of individuals have gone through a traumatic divorce even though they did not desire it. Often, children must also deal with the pain it causes. The Lord promises to even make a road in this wilderness.

All of us face the sense of helplessness that comes from seeing loved-ones suffer, and all of us suffer when loved-ones leave us behind in this world. The Lord promises to even spring up rivers in this desert.


God will do a new thing. He places rainbows in the sky!

Warren Wiersbe proposes Noah saw the rainbow after the storm, the prophet Ezekiel saw a rainbow during the storm (cf. Ezek. 1:28), and the Apostle John saw a rainbow before the storm (cf. Rev. 4:6-7). He concludes, "The personal lesson for God's people is simply this: in the storms of life, always look for the rainbow of God's covenant promise."

You may see the rainbow before the storm, during the storm, or you may have to wait until well after the storm. Still, if you place your faith in Christ you can rest assured that a glorious rainbow awaits that is far greater than the one I saw in a grocery store parking lot.

Maybe today you need to hear this word from Jesus: "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5). Maybe today you need to learn a lesson from the rainbow.


TAKE TIME TO RESPOND:

I especially need to be reminded of God's "rainbow promises" to me right now because:

____________________________________________________.


TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from Best Devotional Commentary - James Montgomery Boice emphasizes the Lord's repetition of the covenant details to Noah in chapters 6-9 of Genesis. "Why this reiteration? It is not for the sake of God, who does not need to repeat things, but for the sake of Noah who needed to hear them. He needed to be reassured. He was wounded in soul. ...
     There is a book by William Styron entitled Sophie's Choice. It tells the story of a young Jewish woman who survived one of the German death camps. She was confronted with a choice as she entered the camp. This choice is not talked about in the early pages of the book. It comes out only in the end. But when you get to it you know that it alone explains the agony of the earlier pages. As Sophie entered the death camp she had two children with her. One of the guards, apparently on a whim, told her she could keep one child but would have to let the other go off to the furnaces to die. This marred the mother irredeemably, and in the end she committed suicide because she was not able to cope with the past. There are people who have wounds like that - people who have suffered loss and tragedy.
     To you I say, God is the God of beauty. God makes signs of beauty to say, 'I know that life is filled with tragedy. Sin is ugly. But I am the God of beauty. I am the God who can overcome these things, and I call you away from them to Myself.' At the end of the Bible, in Revelation, we have a picture of God sitting on His throne around which is a rainbow. Look forward to that and let God's beautiful sign minister to your soul" (Boice).

from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - "This passage is completely given over to God's initiative in making a covenant with all humankind. The repetition of the commission given to Adam demonstrates that with Noah there is a new beginning, but one that required a covenant. It was now necessary to have a covenant with obligations for men and women and promises from God because people might begin to wonder whether God held life cheap or whether the taking of life was a small matter. This covenant through Noah declared that God held life sacred and that humankind too must preserve life in the earth" (Ross).

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Genesis 6:5-22

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

Here we have a text that establishes a significant theological thrust of Scripture. For in it we see the effect of sin on humanity as well as the entire creation (cf. Rom. 3:10-18; Rom. 8:22), something of the nature of God (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9-13), and the splendor of grace (cf. Eph. 2:1-10).

At this time in the biblical record, the creation was covered with a canopy. No rain had yet to fall from the heavens, but the soil of the earth was watered through a mist from the ground (cf. Gen. 2:5-6). Even the original Garden of Eden still remained, albeit humanity could no longer access it (cf. Gen. 3:24).

The original sin of Adam's perversity was expansive, magnified by humanity seeking eternal life apart from the presence of God by intermixing with those not of "its kind" (cf. Gen. 6:1-4). The depth of sin impacted not only humanity but all of creation as well (cf. Gen. 6:5,13).

For those curious, dinosaurs existed at this stage in history, many of them became exceedingly vicious as sin spread throughout the created order, and most all of their kind were destroyed in the flood waters. Suffice it to say that not every animal was brought onto the ark; rather, the biblical account speaks of every kind of animal (cf. Gen. 6:19).

The wickedness of creation grieved the Father's heart, and He repented that He had made man. I do not intend to speak to the anthropomorphic language the Bible often uses to help us understand the personhood of God, only to say that the Lord is not like us and that He transcends us (below, I cite an observation B. H. Carroll makes). I intend, however, to make two distinct observations:
1. As a holy God, He could not stand for the sinfulness of humanity. This aspect of God's nature demands justice.
2. As a loving God, He would not let the earlier promise of deliverance through the seed of the woman go unfulfilled (cf. Gen. 3:15).

In relation to #1, God said He would flood the earth. Such a thought would seem laughable to the wisdom of the world, seeing as how it had never rained. Yet, as the biblical record will continue to show, God uses what the world regards as foolishness to shame those who would boast in their own strength (cf. 1 Cor. 1:20-31).

In relation to #2, God shows Noah grace. Such a huge word, "grace." It literally involves or means God stooping down to show unmerited favor to someone. Noah did not earn or deserve salvation; it was God's free gift to him.

Yet, grace does produce fruit. That which grace yields is faith. Noah believed the Lord would send a flood and that he was to build an ark as a means of salvation from that flood.

That which grace yields is righteousness. Like his great grandfather Enoch, Noah conducted himself in a manner that was ethical, not overcome by the wickedness of his generation.

That which grace yields is integrity. More than just not being overcome by wickedness, Noah stood for that which was good. Like his great grandfather, Noah preached to an unbelieving world the message of God (cf. 2 Pet. 2:5).

That which grace yields is relationship. Like his great grandfather, Noah "walked with God." This expression communicates intimacy. It describes a son or a daughter who is not so much as concerned about breaking rules as he or she is concerned about breaking the Father's heart.

I would be remiss here if I did not ask, "Have you been touched by grace?" You might respond in turn, "How would I know?"

The answer to your query is the primary lesson I think the introduction to the flood narrative teaches. Let it be clearly noted that you would know if you have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ so as to walk with God as a son or daughter through the Holy Spirit who now lives in you, given to a life of righteousness and integrity.

Indeed, there is great testimony to the theological thrust of Scripture in this passage from Genesis 6. The original creation would be destroyed because of human sin (including the original Eden), but a new creation would emerge because of God's grace. So let it be that you would die to sin in Christ and emerge as a new creation (cf. Rom. 6:3-4). So let it be that you would rest secure in the Ark of Christ's salvation now, prepared for the judgment at His Second Coming and the ushering in of a new Eden.


TAKE TIME TO RESPOND:

The way I understand what it means to be touched by the grace of God entails:

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TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from runner-up to Best Devotional Commentary - "When it is said: 'God is not a man that He should repent,' it means, as men repent. A man may change his mind when he gets more light on a subject, or he may change his mind from mere instability of character. The Almighty never changes His mind from either of these considerations. His very unchangeableness of nature, however, necessitates a change of mind and conduct toward a creature who has changed moral positions toward Him" (Carroll).

from Best Academic Commentary - "We are simply told over and over again that Noah obeyed God: clearly he believed the divine warnings and acted on them and so could be described as a man of faith. When the flood subsided, he patiently waited until the earth was dry. Then he offered a sacrifice. But he never speaks" (Wenham).
     Let me add to this observation that Noah's silence in the account says much about his relationship with the Lord. Noah does not dispute, does not question, does not grumble, he just does. As men and women of faith, we should take from Noah's example a great lesson that James would later stress: "But prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not hearers only. Otherwise, you are deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22). Best we walk the walk more than we talk the talk. Yes, that's convicting.

from runner-up to Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary -   "Understanding this narrative in its literary context reveals many similarities between the flood narrative and the creation narrative of Genesis 1. In both we have the tehom, 'the deep' (7:11; 8:2; cf. 1:2), the earth covered by water (7:24; cf. 1:2), the ruah (Spirit or wind) of God over the waters (8:1; cf. 1:2), the waters recede (8:1-5; cf. 1:9), dry land appears (8:5; cf. 1:9), the classification of animals (6:20; 7:14,21,23; cf. 1:21, 24-25), God blesses them (9:1; cf. 1:28), 'be fruitful and multiply' (8:17, 9:1,7; cf. 1:28), and human beings in God's image (9:6; cf. 1:27). In other words, the narrator wishes us to understand that the flood is the undoing of creation and the world after the flood is a new creation, or at least God's new beginning with His creation" (Greidanus).

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Genesis 6:1-4

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

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 RESPOND:

I need to trust God's deliverance in my life from the "giants" of:

___________________________________________________.


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

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

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 RESPOND:

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).