Genesis 13: Divine intervention

So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.”  When Abram surrendered his rights (he was the elder, after all) and let Lot choose, he probably knew that Lot would choose the better land.  He must have known Lot’s character and temperament well enough to guess his choice.  But Abram left the outcome to God.  It seems like Lot got the better end of the bargain here in chapter 13, but if you know the end of the story, you know Abram was actually the winner.  The well watered plains of Jordan came with a wicked pair of cities whose moral corruption would infect Lot’s family.  Abram didn’t know this, or I think he may have cautioned Lot.  But God knew and by divine intervention Lot chose what was best–for Abram.

Reading: Genesis 13

Genesis 12: Nobody’s perfect

I should qualify that title–no HUMAN is perfect. Even Abram, the “friend of God” and father of God’s chosen people, made bad choices from time to time.  Here in Genesis 12 he lied for selfish reasons, putting his wife in a compromising situation.  He got caught and had to leave town, so he had consequences.  But God was faithful to forgive, and Abram left Egypt a blessed man.  What do I take away from this?  There’s hope for all of us to be friends of God.  God doesn’t expect His friends to be perfect.  He “knows we are dust”–that is, He knows our weaknesses, our broken natures.  And He loves us anyway.  He’s just looking for men and women who desire to know Him, to love Him better.

Reading: Genesis 12

Genesis 11: Babel

“The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”  This is one of the most intriguing verses in the Bible.  Some say the Tower of Babel was an attempt by mankind to build a bridge or stairway to heaven, perhaps as a means of escaping future catastrophes like the flood or even as a means of waging war on God.  Those are just theories, of course; the only hint Scripture gives to their motive is what they (presumably their leaders) said: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  

God had commanded them to spread out–to multiply and fill the earth.  He never intended for Noah’s descendants to remain in one place.  Yet mankind was already in rebellion again, refusing to obey God’s command.  “Make a name for ourselves” sounds pretty ambitious–and humanistic.  Funny how millennia later, mankind is still in love with itself and humanism is the theme of art, entertainment and philosophy.  

Well God took care of the problem; He confused their one language and used their linguistic divisions to break up the party and get mankind to spread out.  I think of the internet today as the “one language” of mankind.  Knowledge of good–and evil–abounds and is at our fingertips.  How long will God let it go on, I wonder?

But this chapter concludes with a man of faith who, like Noah, caught God’s eye: Abram, a descendant of Shem from the city of Ur–not far from where the old Tower of Babel stood.  I always enjoy reading the life of Abram or Abraham.  Any man dubbed “a friend of God” by God Himself is worth studying.  I’m looking forward to a fresh look at his life.

Reading: Genesis 11

Genesis 10: The birth of nations

“These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.”  Genesis 10 gives us a geneology of Noah’s sons, grandsons and great-grandsons.  It describes the birth of the first nations.  What is the point–why is this important?  I always ask that question when I come across a passage in Scripture like this.  I believe every book, chapter, verse, word in the Bible is given for a reason.  God doesn’t waste words.  So why did He share this genealogy with us?  One truth I take away from this reading is that EVERY nation, every race, every people is significant and important to God.  From the beginning, God’s love has been for all men and women.  He sees no color, hears no language or dialect, only men and women who are created in His image and who He loves dearly.

Reading: Genesis 10

Genesis 9: Over the rainbow

Rainbow
Credit: Petr Kratochvil

“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”  Rainbows are one of those natural phenomena which inspire awe every time you see them.  I know there is a scientific explanation for the formation of rainbows, but they are still a little magical to me.   The rainbow Noah saw wasn’t necessarily the first; God simply chose here to declare it a sign of His promise to never again destroy the earth by Flood.  It was a fitting symbol; rainbows are formed by rain, the very thing which brought the floodwaters.  No doubt, the sight of a rainbow in the sky, a sign of rain in the distance, might have filled Noah with dread, and with good reason.  But then God made that promise, and suddenly the beautiful arc of color became a symbol of hope.  We don’t live in fear of global floods today.  But we do have plenty of fears. Has God given us any signs or symbols to remind us of His promises–to give us hope?  How about the cross?  For the believer, the cross should have that same magical inspirational effect as the rainbow.  It should fill us with hope and assure us that God is faithful to keep His promises, from His promise of a Savior to His promise of an eternal home with Him in heaven.

Reading: Genesis 9

Genesis 8: When the storm has passed

“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.”  It took some faith to sacrifice those animals.  At the moment, they like all living things were on the “endangered” list, in a way.  Yet, in the tradition passed down by his godly heritage, Noah worshiped God with burnt offerings–notice it is plural.  He sacrificed more than one animal here.  It was a big family barbecue in honor of their Savior.  With this act, Noah celebrated the salvation of his family from the utter devastation apparent all around him.  He recognized the power and authority of God, as well as the great love and mercy He had shown to them.  It’s a good reminder for us.  We may pass through many trials and even devastating circumstances.  How do we respond when the hardship has passed and we are standing in the aftermath?  It’s easy to forget to thank God when the storm has passed.  But it’s critical that we take time to remember His goodness and offer Him our loving worship.  Those moments are His delight.

Reading: Genesis 8

Genesis 7: Judgement and redemption

“The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family,because I have found you righteous in this generation.”  The Flood is one of those Bible stories which, like the Creation account, sparks a lot of debate and conjecture.  Obviously, if you reject the authenticity of the Bible or deny God’s existence, both of these stories are problematic to say the least.  But even among believers there are so many interpretations and perspectives.  This morning, I meditated on the contrast between the salvation of Noah and his family and the judgment of sinful mankind.

First, I think its important to dispel any suggestion that God was somehow cruel or merciless in destroying the world with a flood.  Consider why He thought it necessary to start over: mankind was thoroughly corrupted.  Men everywhere abused and killed each other.  It was one big war zone in every direction.  “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (Gen 6:5).  God WAS being merciful here.  He saved mankind from itself, choosing the last remaining man with decency and moral character, together with his family, to start over–to give humanity a second chance.  And don’t forget that he gave mankind over a year to heed Noah’s warning and join him in the ark.

Second, look at the ark and think about the comparison to Jesus.  The ark was the only way of escape, you had to believe AND enter, once in side you were all in (completely covered/protected), God sealed the door and kept it sealed.  There are other comparisons to be made, but that last one is interesting.  God had told Noah to cover the ark with pitch.  But what sealed the door against the waters?  Nothing.  Only by God’s grace and mercy did that door stay closed and not leak.  I’ve heard people make comparisons between the wood of the ark and the wood of the cross, suggest that the ark was shaped like a coffin to symbolize life through Jesus’ death, etc.  The big takeaway here is God provided a way of salvation for mankind; Noah and his family believed and showed their faith by entering it; God kept them safe inside the ark; the destruction outside was complete–there was no escape for the unbelieving.

In the Flood account we are given a pretty complete picture of God’s plan of salvation for mankind; there is ONE way offered to ALL mankind to escape the judgement of God on sin.  Reading Genesis 6-7 from this perspective makes this familiar Bible story we heard as children come alive with eternal meaning.  Need help explaining the cross?  Look at the picture given by the Flood.

Reading: Genesis 7

Genesis 6: Mighty men of Mordor

Mordor, credit: http://lotr.wikia.com
Mordor, credit: http://lotr.wikia.com

Genesis 6 is one of those chapters so full of “food for thought” that its hard to pull out one line or verse for it.  Consider the world it describes, for example.  Blessed with an average lifespan of 700-900 years, mankind thrived in the prediluvian world.  Who knows what they achieved?  Imagine if men like Einstein and Edison had lived that long.  We tend to think of the ancient world as simpler and more primitive than ours, but was it always?

But this world was so corrupted by sin that it was rapidly declining into chaos.  Human life had no value.  Men did as they pleased, without regard for others.  Satan’s corruption of mankind was succeeding.  Evil was spreading over the Earth like a shadow, a spiritual darkness that blinded men to the truth about the Creator God and His love.  I imagine a place like Mordor (my fellow LOTR fans will understand that image), a war-zone ruled by cruel men and maybe even demons under one dark lord.  But maybe it was a lot like our world, hiding the darkness with a lot of makeup and money.  I’m letting my imagination run here so I’ll get back to the passage at hand.

Another intriguing thought, who were these “sons of God” and Nephilim?  Answers in Genesis has an interesting article on this question that’s worth reading.  I lean toward theory that the “sons of God” refers to descendants of Seth, who fathered a lineage of men who worshipped God (as opposed to Cain’s lineage who seemed to rebel against God); these men intermarried with the daughters of Cain and gradually fell away from God, that is, they turned from worshipping Him and embraced the way of the world around them.  Nephilim is an interesting word; it’s related to the verb series “to fall” in Hebrew.  Some think that they were giants, others that they were just mighty men.  I’ll let you read the article and decide for yourself.

Probably the most important part of this account is the description of Noah and God’s call upon him.  In the midst of a thoroughly corrupt world filled with violence, Noah “walked faithfully with God” just like his ancestor Enoch.  But God didn’t remove Noah from this world, He gave him a critical mission, to preserve mankind and life on Earth.  I love that phrase, “but Noah found grace (or favor) in the eyes of the Lord.”  I think that as believers we can all relate to that.  Surrounded by an evil world so corrupt that it calls sin entertainment and evil good, we have found grace in eyes of God, who has called us out of darkness and made us His children.  Like Noah, we’ve been given the opportunity, no the “divine mission,” to rescue others from the coming destruction, beginning with our own children and extending to our neighbors near and far, by pointing them to the safety of the Ark, Jesus Christ.

Reading: Genesis 6

Genesis 5: A great epitaph

“Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”  Genesis 5 delivers another genealogy with an interesting story tucked in the middle.  Between Adam and Noah, there’s a man who escaped death and went directly to heaven.  I’ve heard it preached that God did this because Enoch was somehow special, that he was so faithful and obedient God took him home early.  I disagree.  Noah was faithful, but God didn’t take him.  Other men and women in Scripture were faithful, yet God left them here to live out their lives and in some cases to die for their faith.  Was Enoch better than they?   I don’t know why God took Enoch home early, but I do know that those faithful believers God has left here on earth to live and die have had a purpose for being here.  Enoch wasn’t dearer to God than you or I.  But He walked faithfully with God, something we can do.  God loves us as much as he loved Enoch, and He has a purpose for us here.

Reading: Genesis 5

Genesis 4: The Wanderer

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”  I tried that Biblical line on my mother once when I was about 6 or 7.  It didn’t go over so well.  Of all the Bible characters to quote, Cain probably isn’t the best choice.   Two things caught my attention this morning.  First, was the question which sparked Cain’s snarky reply: “Where is your brother?”  It reminds me of the second greatest commandment identified in Matthew 22: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  From the beginning, God has desired and expected us to  love not only Him but also each other.

The second thing was the curse on Cain:  “When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”  Cain sin cost him both his job and family.  The formerly successful farmer who had been so proud of his crops that he thought they should suffice for a blood sacrifice would never again be able to coax food from the ground.  He would be a nomadic hunter and gatherer, ever wandering far from his family.  The punishment is so appropriate and just.  The source of his pride was taken away, as was the comfort of the family he despised.

Yet this passage also demonstrates God’s love and mercy, even for the rebellious son.  When reading the Old Testament, I’m always tempted to gloss over the geneologies.  Here Genesis 4 gives the first geneology in Scripture, the descendants of Cain, which at first glance seems insignificant.  But it occurred to me this morning that this short description of Cain’s children and grandchildren has a point.  In spite of the curse, God did show Cain mercy.  He lived, prospered and raised a family.  He had a lifetime of opportunity to repent and turn back to God.  God’s justice and mercy have always coexisted and always will.

Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.  -Ps 85:10

Reading: Genesis 4