Sunday, July 31, 2011

Genesis Chapter 8 ~ 377 Days Flood and the Noahic Covenant

Genesis Chapter 8

God remembered Noah and everyone and everything on the ark. The rain stopped, and after 150 days the waters began to recede and the tops of the mountains were seen. At the end of the 40 days Noah sent out a raven. Then he sent a dove, and she returned. Then he waited 7 days and sent her out again and she came back with a freshly plucked olive leaf. Then after 7 more days he sent her out and she didn’t return. The land became dry and God spoke to Noah to go out from the ark and they did.

Noah then built an altar and made burnt offerings to the LORD and the LORD was pleased and said in His heart He would never again curse the ground because of man, and God established the natural cycle of the seasons to be set up.

We usually hear about the flood lasting 40 days and 40 nights. That's true, as far as how long the rain came down. The flood actually lasted much longer. Here's a helpful chart of the timing of everything that John Walton put together on page 14 of his book Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament (Zondervan, 1994). Just click on the picture to make it bigger:

So the flood wasn't just for 40 days and 40 nights. If you count the days from the time Noah's family entered the ark to the time that they left it, it was all over after 377 days!

Normally we think about Noah's ark as children are playing with toys (e.g. Fisher Price's toy "Noah's Ark"). The context that most people think about Noah's ark is when their kids are playing with these toys in the bath tub. I'm not advocating that we shouldn't buy the toys, they actually could be helpful in teaching kids about the story. Too often though, we miss the point of the story. We think about the dove, and the animals, the big boat, torrential rain, the massive waters, landing on the mountains of Ararat. We think about rainbows, and seasons. Now, that's not all terrible, but we often miss the point of all of this. God's wrath! God is pouring out His unmitigated wrath on humanity, and also the animals that live on the land. Don't miss this. However, don't miss God's grace in this either. The text says that God remembered Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark. In the midst of God's wrath there is safety and shelter if we take refuge in God's provision of a rescuer. He remembers His people! Here the rescue plan is Noah, but His ultimate rescue plan is Jesus Christ. Don't lose the forest for the trees. Don't lose God's wrath and His grace in this as you consider the details.

Another quick thing to comment on is the covenant God made with Noah in Genesis 8:20-22. As mentioned a few days ago, this is the third covenant God made in Scripture: (1) the Covenant of Creation (Gen. 2:15-17), (2) the Covenant of Redemption (Gen. 3:15), and now (3) the Noahic Covenant (Gen. 6:18-22; 8:20-22). In the Bible when it says, "made a covenant" the literal Hebrew reads, "cut a covenant". Disobedience of the first covenant's commands resulted in the shedding of blood, namely Adam and Eve's death (and all humanity's death), and after the fall all of God's covenants have been accompanied with the shedding of blood. In the covenant of redemption we see that animals were sacrificed by God to clothe Adam and Eve, but it is ultimately fulfilled in the shedding of Jesus Christ's blood on the cross for the sins of those who will repent and believe. So here, God's covenant with Noah is accompanied by the shedding of blood. We see here that Noah made an offering, and in another sense, the blood of every creature on the land was shed in making this covenant with Noah (we'll see a bit more about this covenant in chapter 9 tomorrow). Covenants were accompanied with promises as well, and we see here that in this covenant God's promise to Noah is that He will never again curse the ground because of man, or strike down every living creature, and that He will set up the seasons. Further, He put a bow or rainbow in the sky as a reminder that He would fulfill this covenant. This covenant is accompanied with a sign to both remind God and Noah and all who would come after Noah about it. Lastly, this covenant is not only with God's chosen people, but for all people who would come after Noah while the earth is in existence in its current fallen state. This is known as a covenant of common grace, because in God's common grace it applies to all people. This is an amazing act of God. In essence in this covenant He is saying, that He will hold back His wrath. In essence He is delaying His wrath in order to work out His greater covenant of redemption by providing salvation through a messiah from Eve's seed (Gen. 3:15), namely Jesus Christ.

Genesis Chapter 7 ~ The Flood!

Genesis Chapter 7

God told Noah to get his family and himself in the ark. God told him he would send rain for 40 days and 40 nights to kill every living thing on the earth. When the floods came Noah was 600 years old. 2 of every animal on earth loaded onto the ark, and the floods took 7 days to come on the earth. The Lord shut them in the ark, and everything God said would happen happened. The water was so high that even all the mountains of the earth were covered by water. God blotted out every living thing that was on the dry ground. The waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.

This is a foreshadow of God’s final judgment. God hates sin, and this is only a glimpse of how He judges sin. To appease God, blood must be shed (Heb. 9:22). This also is a foreshadow of how God would later make a way for people to be saved through His only Son, Jesus Christ. If by repentance and faith we enter the ark of Jesus Christ's body we will safely navigate the waters of His terrible, just, good wrath at the end of days.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Genesis 6:6 & the Impassibility of God

Genesis 6:6 & the Impassibility of God

In today’s post you’ll notice I spent a lot of time trying to explain how Genesis 6:6 does not indicate any change in God’s mind or nature. Just read the passage, it doesn’t seem to be introducing a new characteristic of God’s character that is contradictory to any of His other attributes. This issue boils down to at least two aspects of the doctrine of God or how we understand God’s nature from Scripture.

The first doctrine is that of God’s immutability. Immutability is a big word that basically means He is unchanging in His nature, knowledge, and existence (see point three below in the excerpt “The Anatomy of Theism” by J. I. Packer).

The second doctrine is that of God’s impassibility. Impassibility is a big word that basically means no one can inflict suffering, pain, or distress upon God (see point seven below in the excerpt “The Anatomy of Theism” by J. I. Packer).

Insofar as God seems to be described as undergoing change in relenting or repenting, we have to make a categorical distinction between our emotions and God’s. Why? Well, consider these passages of Scripture:

"God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" (Num. 23:19)

"And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret." (1 Sam. 15:29)

"The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, 'You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.'" (Psalm 110:4)

So how are we supposed to think of God regretting or being sorry here in Genesis 6:6? Well, first if God is sorry, repents, grieves, etc. it is does not happen in the same way that men are sorry, repent, or grieve. Many will say it’s a human (or anthropomorphic) way of describing the actions of God in a way that men can understand it. I think this is true, but it’s more than this. God is being described as dynamic. He is affected in some way by the way people act toward or away from Him. His being sorry is described with the word usually translated “repent”, and it’s used elsewhere when a family member is lost in death. God is feeling deeply here. He is deeply relational, but somehow differently than the way men are. He is repentant without experiencing change of thought, heart, or being. He is meticulously involved with His creation and yet is not subject to being a victim or passively suffering pain. The excerpt below from D. A. Carson’s book The Gagging of God will hopefully clarify how to think about God’s impassibility. The second excerpt below “The Anatomy of Theism” will hopefully clarify an orthodox approach to how to think about the character of God from a biblical perspective. I was blessed for be pointed to these excerpts from footnote 33 on page 118 of Bruce Waltke’s commentary on Genesis.[1] I hope this post will be helpful to your understanding of this aspect of God’s nature.

Excerpt 1: The Gagging of God, Christianity Confronts Pluralism by D. A. Carson (pp. 236-7).[2]

As for God’s impassibility, a number of theologians have studied that subject a great deal during the past half-century or so. Certainly the influence of Greek thought has sometimes treated God as completely emotionless, dismissing the countless instances of the ascription of emotion to God in the Bible as cases of anthropopathy [meaning ascribing human passions on non-humans]. I cannot agree. Where theology has taken that turn it needs to be corrected by the text of Scripture. The profound problem with that stance is that it runs the risk of depersonalizing God; the problem with abandoning every conceivable understanding of impassibility is that it runs the risk of de-absolutizing him. I am inclined to be sympathetic to some such articulation of the doctrine as this:

God is impassible, which means that no one can inflict suffering, pain, or any sort of distress upon him. Insofar as God enters into experience of that kind, it is by empathy for his creature and according to his own deliberate decision, not as his creatures’ victim. The words “of that kind” are important, for this impassibility has never been taken by Christian mainstreamers to mean that God is a stranger to joy and delight; it has, rather, been construed as an assertion of the permanence of God’s joy, which no pain clouds. How the formula applies to the atoning sufferings of the incarnate Son is a special and open question, on which different views have been, and are, maintained. . . . The historical answer [to the question of what impassibility means] is: not impassivity, unconcern, and impersonal detachment in face of the creation; not insensitivity and indifference to the distresses of a fallen world; not inability or unwillingness to empathize with human pain and grief; but simply that God’s experiences do not come upon him as ours come upon us, for his are foreknown, willed and chosen by himself, and are not involuntary surprises forced on him from outside, apart from his own decision, in the way that ours regularly are. In other words, he is never in reality the victim whom man makes to suffer: even the Son on his cross, where “a victime led, thy blood was shed,” was suffering by his and the Father’s conscious foreknowledge and choice, and those who made him suffer, however free and guilty their action, were real if unwitting tools of divine wisdom and agents of the divine plan (cf. Acts 2:23; 1 Pet 1:20).

Excerpt 2: “The Anatomy of Theism” from J. I. Packer’s chapter Theism for Our Time from the book God Who Is Rich in Mercy: Essays Presented to Dr. D. B. Knox, ed. P. T. O’Brien and D. G. Peterson (pp. 6-8)[3]

It will now help us forward if we review the ingredients that make up mainstream Christian theism. Expositors differ on the details, but here is a check-list of the usual items, expressed in as simple a way as the thoughts themselves allow.

(1) Trinity - God is personal and triune. Tritheism and Sabellianism (modalism) are both untrue, and God is as truly three personal centres in a sustained relationship of mutual love and harmony as he is a single personal deity. The three persons of the Godhead are individuated in relation to each other without ever being separated from each other; they are consciously three while yet ontologically as well as cooperatively one.

(2) Self-Existent/Self-Sufficient - God is self-existent and self-sufficient; in Thomist jargon, his existence (being) is identical with his essence (nature), and is necessary in the sense that he does not have it in him, either in purpose or in power, to stop existing. God exists necessarily, inasmuch as he cannot not-be. The answer to the child’s question, who made God? is that God did not need to be made, since he was always there. This quality of God is called aseity: a word meaning that he draws his existence, his life and vitality, a se (from himself). He depends on nothing outside himself, but is at every point self-sustaining.

(3) Simplicity/Perfection/Immutability - God is simple, perfect, and immutable: that is to say, he is wholly and totally involved in everything that he is and does, and his nature, goals, plans and ways of acting do not change, either for the better (for, being perfect, he cannot become better than he is) or for the worse (for it is not in his nature to become worse). Simplicity, perfection, and immutability together are the basis of that glorious divine integrity, fidelity, and constancy which Scripture sees as being worthy of endless praise.

(4) Infinity/Incorporeality/Immensity - God is infinite, incorporeal, immense (“measureless,” as the hymn puts it), omnipresent, omniscient, and eternal: which means that he is not bound by any of the limitations of space or time that apply to us, his creatures, in our body-anchored existence. Instead, he is always present everywhere, really though invisibly and imperceptibly, and is at every moment cognizant of everything that ever was, or shall be, or now is.

(5) Omnipotent - God is purposeful and omnipotent: he has a plan for the history of the universe he made, and in executing it he governs and controls all created realities. Without violating the nature of things or, under ordinary circumstances, the ongoing of natural processes, and without at any stage infringing upon the self-determined, spontaneous, creative, and morally repsonsible quality of human behaviour (the things that we do “of our own free will,” as we phrase it), God acts in, with, and through his creatures to do everything that he wishes to do exactly as he wishes to do it, and by this sovereign action he achieves His goals.

(6) Transcendent and Immanent - God is both transcendent and immanent in his world. On the one hand he is distinct from the world, does not need it, and exceeds the grasp of any created intelligence that is found in it, yet on the other hand he permeates it in sustaining and new-creating power, shaping and steering it in a way that keeps it on its planned course in a steady and stable state.

(7) Impassibility - God is impassible, which means that no one can inflict suffering, pain, or any sort of distress upon him. Insofar as God enters into experience of that kind, it is by empathy for his creatures and according to his own deliberate decision, not as his creatures’ victim. The words “of that kind” are important, for this impassibility has never been taken by Christian mainstreamers to mean that God is a stranger to joy and delight; it has, rather, been construed as an assertion of the permanence of God’s joy, which no pain clouds. How the formula applies to the atoning sufferings of the incarnate Son is a special and open question, on which different views have been, and are, maintained.

(8) Love - God is love: that is to say, giving out of goodwill, for the recipient’s benefit, is the abiding quality both of ongoing relationships within the Godhead and of God’s primary outgoings in creation and to his creatures. This love is qualified by holiness (purity), a further facet of God’s character that finds expression in his abhorrence and rejection of moral evil; towards resolute non-worshippers and wrongdoers God shows the hostility of righteous retributive judgment. Nonetheless, both we and they must acknowledge that their creation, as such, was an act of love, and it is basically the spurning of that love in thankless unconcern that brings them under the judgment whereby God rejects them. This rejection is, in fact, precisely an endorsing and ratifying of their rejection of him.

(9) Relationship to Man - God’s ways with mankind, as set forth in Scripture, show him to be both awesome and adorable by reason of his truthfulness, faithfulness, grace, mercy, patience, constancy, wisdom, justice, goodness, and generosity. For these supremely admirable qualities God is eternally worthy of our praise, loyalty, and love, and the ultimate purpose of human life is to render him that multiform worship and service in which both he and we find our fullness of joy.

(10) Gracious Condescension in Language - God uses his gift to mankind of language to tell us things directly in and through the words of his spokesmen – prophets, apostles, the incarnate Son, the writers of Holy Scripture, and those who preach the Bible. God’s messages all come to us as good news of grace, whatever they may contain by way of particular commands, prohibitions, threats or warnings, for the fact that God addresses us at all is an expression of his goodwill and an invitation of fellowship. And the central message of Scripture, the hub of the wheel whose spokes are the various truths about God that the Bible teaches, is and always will be God’s free gift of salvation, freely offered to us in and by Jesus Christ.

[1] Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis, A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 118.

[2] Carson, D. A. The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 236-7.

[3] Packer, J. I. God Who Is Rich In Mercy: Essays Presented to Dr. D. B. Knox, Theism for Our Time Ed. P. T. O’Brien and D. G. Peterson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), 6-8. I edited this for clarity by bolding and putting parenthesis around points and putting it in block paragraph form. Also, I added headings for clarity.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Genesis Chapter 6 ~ Warning of Wrath and the Promise of Another Covenant

Genesis Chapter 6

The last chapter ended with Noah and his sons, and this chapter begins by describing the cultural condition of the world they lived in.

The daughters of man were attractive to the “sons of God” and they took them as their wives. This was wicked in the eyes of God because He then limited the human lifespan to 120 years. The daughters bore children to the “sons of God” and they were mighty men of old. We don't really know who or what these "sons of God" were. The context here in Genesis makes it sound like it may mean something different than in Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7 and Daniel 3:25 to me, but scholars debate about these things. I'm fairly certain of one thing, they weren't aliens flying in spaceships like E.T. I'm inclined to see the "sons of God" as the sons from the line of Cain taking the daughters of the line of Seth, but it's hard to be dogmatic. The debates of scholars don't effect the main point. Somehow the "sons of God" sinned in the way they took the daughters of man (it seems to be a sexual sin or at the very least a sin committed in sexually lustful way). Like most sexual sin, they took something that wasn't theirs to have (even if it was consensual). They even married the daughters of man, but something in their intent and approach was off. Marriage doesn't justify sin, and just because sin of a sexual nature occurs, this doesn't mean marriage should be forced (that said, it may be the wise. See discussions about Exod. 22:16-17 and 1 Cor. 7:1-5 to think this through more). This was wicked in God's sight, and the culture was saturated with this kind of wickedness. Sin, and more specifically sin of a sexual bent and a re-defining of a proper approach/existence of marriage, was inescapable in the culture. A new narrative is being written by men in this fallen world drawing a distinction between the goodness of God's creation and the evil of the culture that man has created. The refrain of this new narrative where the creation is almost being uncreated could easily read, "and God saw the wickedness of man's heart and creation, He called it sin, and He saw that it was bad."

The Nephilim were also around in these days. They seem to be a different people than the "sons of God". If these Nephilim are the same people referred to in Numbers 13:32-33 then they also appear to be giants. Because of the closeness to the intermingling of the "sons of God" and the daughters of man some think that the Nephilim were their offspring. This doesn't appear to be what the text is saying, it just says that they were on earth in those days. This is kind of like saying, "Guys those were the days when dinosaurs were all over." We'd think, "Wow, that was a long time ago." I don't think this is necessarily saying anything about the origins of the Nephilim. Mankind was wicked and the intentions of their hearts were always evil. God was sorry He made man and was grieved (Gen. 6:6, 7). In fact, as further judgment for sin God determined to limit man's days to 120 years. The long lifespans that we saw yesterday in Genesis 5 are going to eventually decrease dramatically. Because of sin God decided to shorten man's lifespan and blot mankind out, but Noah found favor in God’s eyes. There is hope in Noah.

Noah was righteous, and blameless. God told Noah that He was going to kill mankind, so Noah should make an ark (a boat). God gave Noah instructions of exactly how to build the ark too. Then He told Noah His plans; He would bring a flood on the earth. Yet, He will establish a covenant with Noah, he and his sons and their wives should come on the ark. Also, two of every living creature (male and female) should also be on the ark. Noah did as God commanded him.

This chapter is instructive. First, the sin of mankind is disgusting to God, and in God’s justice He must snuff out wickedness. The unexpectedness of the flood foreshadows the way Christ will return at the end of time to enact the just wrath of God in the final judgment (Matt. 24:37-38; Luke 17:26-27; 1 Peter. 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5). People were going about their business marrying and giving in marriage, and probably buying and trading. It seemed that everything was going to happen according to the “laws” of nature, and that every day will go on as the day before. This is not so. All will change in the blink of an eye. God is giving us only a small glimpse in the flood of what His final end time wrath will look like. This reminds me of the Lord of the Rings. Every culture of Middle Earth was living out their days as they had the days and years before. Nothing seemed to ever change, and yet these stories that were a vague memory in the minds of men started to reveal themselves to be true as soon as the “One ring to rule them all” popped up. The days often seem repetitive and long (kind of like Bill Murray’s character in the movie Groundhog Day). We live in the same family, go to the same stores, work the same jobs, buy the same products, go to the same church, etc. There is coming a time when everything will change. Are you prepared for this? The days and years seem long. People live a full life and die, but this won't always be the case. God will fulfill His promise to judge the living and the dead. As we look back over the millennia of His delaying of wrath and giving of full blessing we should not think of Him as slow, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) He is delaying for our repentance, so that there is time for us to flee His wrath to come (Matt. 3:7; Luke 3:7).

Second, God is gracious to save through one man, one family. Noah is a remnant of faith. Here’s what the hall of faith in Hebrews says about Noah: “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Heb. 11:7) Similar to how later Abraham’s faith would be credited to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:1-10), so it is here with Noah. God even made a covenant with Noah to save him and his family from this flood. Noah’s faith is also instructive. He trusted His God and obeyed His commandment to him. This prefigures Jesus Christ as well. Jesus Christ is the ark upon which we must board if we would safely pass the flood waters of God’s wrath. We must approach and obey God the Father in reverent fear, like Noah, through Jesus Christ.

Third, and lastly, we learn something more about God. We see sin provokes God to wrath. This is nothing different than what we’ve already learned about God, but this passage only further proves that this is the case. But further than that, when we sin God is sorry that He made us, and we grieve God. God is dynamic and interactive with His people, not as a victim of emotions that He is passively affected by, but by His full foreknowledge and choice. Various translations translate the first word "sorry" (ESV, NKJV, NASB, RSV) as (1) regretted (NIV, HCSB) and (2) repented (KJV, ASV). These are an attempt at an English translation of the Hebrew word naham which normally means "repent". Context is king for determining the meaning of a word though, so this word is probably translated best as sorry, or regretted. Why do I say this? Well, look at the phrase that follows, "and it grieved Him to His heart." (Gen. 6:6) The stinging pain of sin that came into the world through Adam and Eve is felt among humanity, but here it is shown to be experienced by God as well, but this doesn't mean God turned from one thing to another, or that He changed course from what He planned. The passage doesn't give any indication of change in God, but a sorrow in God because of the sin in men. The change that causes sorrow or regret here is not a change in the character of God but a change in the character of men. He's sorry He made men, not because He changed, but because men have fallen and rebelled against God. A few other things to notice are, first, this passage is not speaking about God's logic in making a decision. The passage isn't detailing that God is changing in any way. He's not changing His mind, or His course of action. The passage doesn't say anything about the limitation of God's knowledge of what is going on. In fact it does the opposite. He sees all, He knows all the wickedness of all men, and because of that He is sorrowful. Further, He is involved with His people in real time while not being bound to the events or time. His foreknowledge and knowledge of all things is not limited here. This is just illustrating that He is a relationally dynamic God. Second, the passage is not saying that God made a mistake by creating mankind. He doesn't regret that, rather He regrets that those whom He has made to reflect His glory and to love Him have actually rejected Him and are misrepresenting His image, which has been given to them. By their actions they are speaking lies about God, and this brings God sadness. God is sorry He made man, not because mankind was not a good creation, but because of the sin mankind has chosen. He's not changing His mind, or doubting His past actions here.

As Moses wrote this passage it seems that he was illustrating something through three main words in Genesis 6:6 expressing God's grief and the source of it: (1)"sorrow/regret/repentance" (Hebrew is naham), (2) "made" (Hebrew is 'asa), and (3)"pain/grief/troubled" (Hebrew is 'asab). God is sorry he made man and He is grieved. What was Moses doing with these words? Well, he seems to be using these three words as a literary device, an ironic word-play on three descriptors that Noah's father, Lamech (not the Lamech from Cain's lineage), spoke about Noah in Genesis 5:29: "[O]ne shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands." What's the connection? (1) The word for "relief" or "comfort" is the same as for "sorry" (naham). (2) The root for "work" is the same as for "made" ('asa). And (3) the word for "painful toil" is the same as for "pain/grief/troubled" ('asab). If we read this passage in Hebrew we'd see that there's a connection between the prophecy regarding Noah and God's sorrow over the wickedness of man. It's as if we're given a key in Genesis 5 and then God reveals the keyhole that the key fits into in Genesis 6. Noah is the one that God is choosing to be the vessel of relief from His sorrow caused by the wickedness of men, the work of His hands and the cause of grief or painful toil. Only now, we must await the coming flood and see exactly how God will find comfort and provide comfort for the nations from the sin of men through saving Noah and his family.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Genesis Chapter 5 ~ Ten Generations of Adam & The Introduction of Noah's Family

Geness Chapter 5

Here we see the generations of Adam. Again, it says that man is created in the likeness of God: (1) Adam 930, (2) Seth 912, (3) Enosh 905, (4) Kenan 910, (5) Mahalalel 895, (6) Jared 962, (7) Enoch 365 [God took him], (8) Methuselah 969, (9) Lamech 777, and (10) Noah.

The names of Noah’s sons were: (1) Shem, (2) Ham, and (3) Japheth.

A few things to consider from this passage are first the noticeably long life spans of these men. Did they really live to be hundreds of years old? The answer seems to be “yes”. The Bible doesn't appear to be uncomfortable with this. This is difficult to wrap our minds around, but it seems to be the plain meaning of the text.

A second thing to consider is how Enoch’s life is described differently. He didn’t taste death. He walked with God and then God took him. The New Testament even includes Enoch in the hall of faith saying, "By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God." (Heb. 11:5) Jude 1:14-15 tells us a little more about Enoch as well, "It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, 'Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against [the Lord].'" What does this tell us about Enoch? Well, Jude (the half-brother of Jesus) was writing to encourage a local church or even a number of churches (possibly as a circular letter which was meant to be passed from church to church) to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). He seems to be writing in the face of false teaching (Jude 4, 18-19). He gives three proofs seeking to encourage believers to contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints by illustrating God's destruction of the wicked: (1) the first proof is the destruction of unbelieving Egypt, and Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 5-7); (2) the second is that the false teachers are following the way Cain and Balaam, etc. (Jude 11-12); and (3) the third is Enoch's prophesy against false teachers and the wicked (Jude 14-16). Enoch is the third proof outlining how God will judge the wicked who are enemies of the, "faith once for all entrusted to the faith," and ultimately enemies of God. Enoch was a prophet warning of the judgment of God even in the seventh generation from Adam! Enoch was a prophet of the one true and living God. Not unlike how God took Elijah in a whirlwind before he could die a natural death (2 Kings 2:9-12), God took Enoch because He was pleased with him.

Third, every name matters to God. These lists of generations become an important part of God's revealing of His plan of redemption (see the book of Numbers!). They trace Eve's seed to show that God will fulfill His promise to bring a messiah in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. Beyond that, we also see that these lists show that each person is known to God. God is a God of detail, and every name is retained and given account for. I wonder if you ever think, "Out of the billions who have ever lived, how could God regard, remember, or even know anything about me?" I've felt that way in a city before thinking, "What does it matter what I look like, or do, and who cares what other people think about this or that. No one here is ever going to see me again anyway." Well, first of all, these thoughts are patently false. You might see those folks again. I'm not advocating for a life lived in light of the fear of man. It depends what you're justifying. Is it a bad hair day, or is it going on a cussing tirade, flirting with lust, or commiting some other kind of sin? A bad hair day, really, who cares? But sins which accrue the wrath of God against us; friend, flee it. Second, God knows everything meticulously. Don't think that just because there have been billions of people that you'll just be lost in the mix. Everything you do and think is known and seen by God. Quite the sobering thought.

Fourth and lastly, we arrive at the end of this chapter at a new headwater for another generation, namely that of Noah and his sons. The question that stands before us is if they will walk in a wicked way in the description of the generations of Cain, or if they will stand upright and glorify God? Will Noah or his three sons be the seed who will crush Satan, sin, and death?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Genesis Chapter 4 ~ The Affects of Sin and the Offspring of Eve

Genesis Chapter 4

Here we are at chapter four, and we are anticipating the seed of Eve that was promised to crush the head of Satan, and by God's grace Eve conceives and has a child. Her firstborn is Cain, and you can almost hear the anticipation in her voice of expecting a messiah or savior: "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD." (Gen. 4:1) Could this be the messiah promised to save them?

Well, Cain was a farmer, and Abel was a shepherd. They were Adam and Eve’s first children. Both Cain and Abel brought offerings to God from the produce of their trades, but God regarded Abel’s offering and not Cain’s, but it's not because Cain brought grain and Abel brought sheep. Something else was at hand. Something was wrong with the intentions of Cain's heart. God told Cain that sin was crouching at his door, and it’s desire was for him, but he must rule over it (Gen. 4:7). Cain sadly gave in and didn't rule over it. He was talking to Abel one day and he came against him and killed him. Because he killed Abel, God cursed Cain to no longer be successful in working the ground, and he would be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. God also promised that no one should kill him, lest they receive a 7-fold punishment. Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in Nod.

Cain’s generations are (1) Enoch, then (2) Irad, then (3) Mehujael, then (4) Methshael, then (5) Lamech.

The fifth son from Cain's progeny was the first to distort the marriage covenant through polygamy. Lamech took 2 wives (1) Adah and (2) Zillah, and he boasted of killing a man who struck him and said, “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” (Gen. 4:24) It appears that he is boasting that if anyone would come against him God would take revenge on that person 77-fold because of Cain's self-perceived (and self-deceived) great worth. This is brute arrogance.

Adam knew Eve again and they had a son named Seth. Seth also had a son, Enosh. This chapter ends saying, “At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.” (Gen. 4:26)

In this chapter we begin to see the how a fallen humanity will choose to live. God chooses or elects some, and others are outside of His pleasure. Humanity owes something to God, namely offerings and sacrifices, but not just any kind of sacrifice. The offerings and sacrifices that mankind owes to God are the ones that are by faith from a humble repentant heart (Psalm 51:6, 17; Heb. 11:4), ultimately presenting our lives as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). Other than God slaughtering the animals to clothe Adam and Eve, here we see the proto-type of the sacrificial system, which is the only means by which man may engage with God. He is pleased by some things, and not pleased by others. He is a particular God. We will see more glimpses of the sacrificial system in Genesis, and it eventually becomes the systematic and perpetual command for Israel to participate in it. Ultimately, it points to the need for Christ’s shed blood for His people (just read the book of Hebrews).

We also see the nature of sin here. It is crouching at our door and its desire is for people, and too often we are quick to give in and submit to its bloodthirstiness. We see arrogance in Lamech, but we also see hope in the birth of Seth and in the fact that many were beginning to call upon the name of the LORD. Eve's hopes that the messiah was there in her first son Cain were dashed, and yet she conceives again and there is still hope that God will provide a messiah, only now through the line of Seth. God is preserving a heritage in the lineage of Seth, which is the hope of the nations.

Gleanings from Genesis Chapters 1-3

A Few More Reflections on Genesis 1-3

1. Adam and Eve Are Real People
First, just read the text. Adam and Eve seem to be referred to as real people, not a group of people, or a mythical reference to the first man and woman. Scripture just talks about them as real people, so we should too. Further, when Adam and Eve fell into sin they brought all who would come after them into sin as well (Rom. 5:12). We are all by nature sinners (Rom. 3:23) because of Adam and Eve's sin. Those who read this as a good morality tale that inspires us to live better lives need to realize that this isn't the implication of this text. This text has something to say about you and me. This text is saying that all humanity is in rebellion against God, because of Adam and Eve. So for the person who asks the question, "What does this story about two random people in the creation have to do with me?" you need to realize that this has everything to do with you. It explains why you aren't 100% pleased with life. It explains why you have done bad things (i.e. lying, cheating, putting others down, etc.). It explains why misery and pain often are seemingly ever present. Our worst fear isn't reputation and fear of man, but that we have the Omnipotent God as an enemy because of our sin.

2. The Human Race
Second, race. Mankind was not made with references to different races. There is one race, the human race. Technically speaking when we talk about “racism” these days we’re really talking about “skin-colorism” or “ethnicism” not racism in the sense that the Bible applies race to humanity. There is no room for prioritizing skin-color or ethnicity as we’ll see upon reflection of all of Scripture.

3. God’s Relationship and Self-Revelation to Man
Third, the pre-eminence of the importance of man’s relationship to God. The Bible isn't just a collection of stories. It's about God and His interaction with real people. Ultimately, it's about God and you! God is high and lifted up. He is totally separate and other in His holiness, perfections, and aseity or independence. He has attributes that we could never have in and of ourselves (often called God’s “incommunicable attributes”). Yet, He has determined to make Himself known. As an expression of His pleasure He created the earth out of nothing. Not out of any need He had. He was perfectly happy in eternity past in the fellowship of the Trinity. And yet, He desired to create us in this world for His pleasure and our good. Don’t miss this. This God who is unknowable and inexhaustible has condescended to make Himself known, and these three chapters are only the start of the many ways He will reveal Himself. Further, He makes Himself most clearly known in the incarnation of the second person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ. Read these two passages:

Colossians 1:15-20 [1]

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Hebrews 1:1-4

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Praise God for this revelation of God in Christ. We can't miss this though, because of the fact that He is our Creator He has full rights to our lives. What He says goes. There's no room for rebellious questioning. We can fight to understand His ways more clearly, but an atheistic bent in questioning His ways in a derogatory way is not a proper manner in which we can approach Him. His ways are past finding out (Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 11:33-35) and they are good and best even if what we experience is suffering (Jas. 1:17). Therefore, when we think we see discrepancy or contradiction in His character, instead of arrogantly writing Him off as irrelevant in our pride, we must see if there is any way in which they can be harmonized (i.e. His attributes of love and wrath, mercy and justice, unchangeableness and the way He reacts in relation to His chosen people, etc.). His ways are past finding out, and yet, there are things we can know about Him through His self-revelation in His Word. You'll find that while there is mystery in God's ways He is not self-contradictory. We must always remember that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31), so we must tread these waters with reverence and care. By His grace we can know things about Him!

4. Creation and Fall of Marriage and Family Relationships
Have you ever noticed that marriage and family relationships can be difficult? That leads to the fourth and last gleaning from Genesis 1-3. The creation and fall of the marriage covenant and familial relationships. Marriage was created as good and remains good, but in the “fall” not only was each human affected in their relationship to God, but they were also affected in their two most blessed earthly relationships: (1) a mother and father’s relationship with children (and children to parents), and (2) a man and woman's relationship with each other in marriage. These are the two most important relationships other than man’s relationship with God, and they have been twisted by the fall. This means that what comes “natural” after the fall in regard to our desires as parents and children, or as covenantal and sexual beings is not necessarily good and right. We shouldn't be asking people what they think, rather we should be asking what does God think. Well, it appears He has designed things this way for a purpose, and we’ll see that unfold in how He hates divorce, homosexual relations, dishonoring of parents, murder, etc. Similar to the point above, we should recognize that God ordained things this way, and we should fight against our desires to destroy His good designs. Also, it's amazing He didn't just snuff us out when Adam and Eve fell. He determined to continue to bless humanity by allowing life, marriage, and families to populate the earth. How kind of God to bless us all in these ways.

[1] These passages are both from the ESV.

Genesis Chapter 3 ~ The Fall & Covenant of Grace/Redemption

Genesis Chapter 3

We have come to one of the saddest parts of the entire Bible. It is the beginning of sin in the human race, suffering, pain, sorrow, difficulty, and the influence of Satan on the hearts and minds of men. It is the beginning of the estrangement between mankind and God. Yet, there is hope.

The chapter begins, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.” He spoke to the woman first simply asking what God “actually” said. She told him how they could eat of all the fruit in the Garden of Eden, except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She misspoke, however, saying they would die if they touched it, when in fact God said they would die if they ate of it’s fruit. The Serpent responded, “You will not surely die.” (Gen. 3:4) This is shocking in how utter unashamed he is in telling this lie. He plants the idea of rebellion in her mind. He plants the idea that disobeying God would be better than obedience.

She considered the Serpent’s words and saw that the tree was (1) good for food, (2) a delight to the eyes, and (3) fulfilled the desire to make one wise. So she took fruit and ate it, she also gave some to Adam. Their eyes both opened and they knew they were naked, so they made coverings. They heard God walking in the garden in the cool of the day and they hid themselves. God called, “where are you?” They told Him they hid because they were naked. God asked, “who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I commanded you not to eat?” Then Adam blamed the woman. When God asked the woman she blamed it on the Serpent. God then gave out punishments to all three:
(1) The Serpent was cursed, and had enmity put between him and the woman her offspring, he will bruise the Serpent’s head and the Serpent will bruise her offspring’s heel.

(2) The woman would experience multiplied pain in childbearing, and her desire would be for her husband, and her husband would rule over her.

(3) The man’s punishment was that the ground was cursed because of him, and in pain he would eat of it his entire life. Further, working the ground would be difficult. Lastly, all mankind would die and turn to dust just like before God created men.
Then Adam named his wife Eve, because she is the mother of all mankind (Gen. 3:20). God then clothed Adam and Eve by killing the first animals that are recorded in the Bible. God made garments for them out of the skins.

God speaks saying that Adam and Eve have become like Him knowing good from evil. God then took the Tree of Life away from them lest they also live forever. God then banished them from the Garden.

A few things to note about this passage.

First, it is through sin that all sorts of evil, suffering, and death entered the world. Conflict entered the world here through the Serpent’s influence on Adam and Eve. God’s punishment has now come upon Adam and Eve, and all who would be born into the human race. This is referred to as "The Fall" because in the disobedience of Adam and Eve the entire human race was plunged into sin and death. Satan and the ground were cursed, not Adam and Eve; however, Adam and Eve and their offspring will experience something of a cursed life in this fallen world unless God does something to redeem them. Cut off from God's pleasure humanity has no hope unless God intervenes. Now it is not possible for any human being not to sin. We also see that at death we return to the dust and earth. It seems that while alive humanity is not completely cursed, but at death returning to the dust of the ground humanity can be cursed, something must now be done to redeem all of us!

Second, and related to the first point, we see that mankind is in desperate need of a Savior, and indeed the Savior is prefigured here in Genesis 3:15. Some folks call this the "proto evangelium" which means "first gospel". Satan would bruise the heel of this Savior. Eve's offspring is the one who would come bruise or crush the head of Satan. As you read the rest of Scripture it is clear to see that this Savior is perfectly fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity. The seed of the woman who would crush Satan and the power of death is Jesus Christ. Praise God that through the perfect life, penal substitutionary death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that redemption has been accomplished for those who will turn from their sin in repentance and believe in the good news of the gospel! Without this good news we would face God's eternal wrath in hell.

Third, God again refers to Himself in the plural, “Us,” pointing at His triune nature existing as one God in three persons. (Gen. 3:22)

Fourth, we see God's mercy and grace to Adam and Eve to not finally curse them here and now, His gracious act of sacrificing animals in order to clothe them, and His giving a promise of a Savior through their seed is thought to be the super-structure of the second covenant in Scripture (since God is all-knowing of all things both past present and future some have said this was the first covenant). This is often understood as the (1) covenant of grace, or (2) redemption. This covenant seems to be between the "Us", between the three persons of the one true and living God, because God makes promises, but the terms or the obligations that each party must undertake to fulfill the covenant doesn't include any obedience by Adam and Eve, but rather God Himself! This again is a forward looking to Jesus Christ.

The grand scene is set for the gospel to come. When all seemed to be lost, and there was no hope, God gave a glimmer of hope in this first glimpse of the gospel in Genesis 3:15. The story will now intensify and play out of how God will bring redemption to this fallen race through the lineage of Adam and Eve, then Abraham and Sarah, then all the way down to Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Genesis Chapter 2 ~ A Covenant God & Covenant People

Genesis Chapter 2

The first three verses of this chapter wrap up what happened after the sixth day of the creation in chapter 1: God finished His work, and He rested. So He blessed this day and made it holy. This is the foundation of how the rest of the Old Testament understands the Sabbath day. Then in verses 4 through 25 we are given another account of the creation centered specifically on the creation of man and woman.

God made man out of the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into man’s nostrils. This is how humans became living creatures. God also planted the Garden of Eden in the east and put this first man there to work it and keep it. There were two notable trees there: (1) The tree of life, and (2) The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Four rivers flowed from this garden too: (1) The Pishon, (2) The Gihon, (3) The Tigris, and (4) The Euphrates.

God made a covenant with man and commanded the man not to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but told him to freely eat of any and every other tree. God told the man he would surely die if he ate of the forbidden tree.

The first man is identified with the proper name of Adam (Gen. 2:20), and God said that it wasn’t good for the Adam to be alone, so He created a woman to be a helper. None of the animals God had created were suitable. God created this woman by causing Adam to fall into a deep sleep and God took one of Adam’s ribs and God made that rib into a woman. God brought the woman to Adam and he called her “Woman” (Gen. 2:23).

This chapter shows us how God created the woman as a helper for Adam, the foundation of marriage as a covenant whereby one leaves father and mother and holds fast to a wife (for men) or a husband (which can be implied from the text for women). We also see that in this marriage that neither party should be ashamed in their nakedness before each other.

We also see how God gave Adam a command, which indicates a covenant between God and Adam. Folks have referred to this covenant with a number of names: (1) Adamic covenant, (2) Covenant of Works, or (3) the Covenant of Creation (see Michael Lawrence, 58-9 & Meredith Kline, 107-17 ). To walk in a joyful and uninhibited relationship with the the Creator-God who is above all things Adam must obey Him. Adam must do what God would have him do, not necessarily what Adam wants. The outcome of disobedience is simply stated as death. To be alive to God could be acheived if Adam would act in the ways that God demands of him.

It is interesting to note that the covenant of marriage comes in the same chapter that the covenant God made with Adam is introduced. God is a covenantal God, so by virtue of the fact that we have His image in us we are to be covenantal relationally. This is most clearly seen in the marriage covenant. It is as if God is conceptually connecting these two covenants together (they aren't the exact same, but there are similarities). Marriage says something about God, and God's attribute of being Creator has a commanding control on how we conceive of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman. To disconnect the two is to deny God's authority as Creator-King. To mis-represent either God's covenant with mankind whereby He is clearly shown to have authority and kingship over us, or to mis-represent the marriage covenant is to deny God's goodness. God has made man the head of woman in the marriage relationship (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23). Male headship rooted in the creation order is also a reason that Paul argues that men should be in authority over women in the local church (1 Tim. 2:13). This is similar to how Adam was made the covenant representative or head of the entire human race (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45), ultimately setting up the category for the need of a second Adam, Jesus Christ, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

In this chapter God is clearly seen as the sovereign Creator-King with authority over all things.

In Genesis 2 the plot of the Bible begins to thicken. By virtue of his nature and very existence, Adam, and now the Woman, must not eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The question is, "Will our first parents obey God, or will they oppose Him, and if they disobey God what does that mean for us?"

Monday, July 25, 2011

Genesis Chapter 1 ~ In the Beginning

Genesis Chapter 1

This is a beautiful chapter of the Bible. The first words! Here is the first account of God’s speech that we have any knowledge of. And through His speaking He created everything out of nothing. Here is what He created:

Day 1: Light/Day/Morning, separated from the darkness/Night/Evening. (He called the light good)

Day 2: Waters separated by an expanse called heaven.

Day 3: Dry Land/earth separated from the waters/seas. (God saw that it was good). Vegetation yielding seed. (God saw that it was good)

Day 4: Lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate day from night, to be signs for seasons, and for days and years. The greater light (the sun) to rule the day, and the lesser light (the moon and stars) to rule the night. (God saw that it was good)

Day 5: The waters swarmed with living creatures, birds to fly in the expanse of the heavens. The great sea creatures, every winged bird. He blessed the creatures and told them to be fruitful and multiply. (God saw that it was good)

Day 6: All the creatures on the dry land. (God saw that it was good) Then God created man and commanded him (man and woman) to rule over the creation. (And God saw all that He made and it was very good)

These can easily be put into pairs: Day 1 and 4 correspond, God created day and night on day 1 and on day 4 God created the bodies that set apart day and night. Day 2 and 5 correspond, God created the waters and the sky on day 2 and on day 5 God filled the waters and the sky with creatures. Day 3 and 6 correspond; God created the dry land on day 3 and on day 6 He filled it with animals and people. On each corresponding day God made something and then he filled it.

A few last things to note is how God is described in this chapter. This is a God who has no beginning. The word to describe Him is a general word for God, Elohim, not His personal divine name. Also, notice that this God describes Himself in the third person plural, “Us,” and “Our.” (Gen. 1:26) This God also has no beginning. In the beginning He simply was! We also see that God exists in the form of a spirit (Gen. 1:2).

We know from Colossians 1:15 that Jesus was present in this creation, and that it was through Jesus that all things were created. The Trinity, One-God in three persons is all over this passage: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Further, this God put His image in the people He created (Gen. 1:26, 27). This is an incredible thing that God would begin to reveal His nature and character in comparison to His creation, which is entirely dependent upon Him for existence, and it appears for sustenance as well. This is the beginning of the work of God and the existence of man. This is the beginning of all things that are created. God’s speaking flings all existence into being. This is the grand scene, the canvass, upon which God will paint the story that shows Him to be glorious through the cross of Christ. We must perk our ears to hear from this God in the Word to see what is next.