Tag: Genesis

Faith Stumbles

Genesis 12:10-20 

 This one of several situations in Abram’s life that makes convincing case for authenticity of Scripture. Abram not looking like much of a hero here, non-inspired author likely to leave out or spin it somehow. We appreciate reading accounts like this in Bible, not that we take pleasure in Abram’s sin, rather we take comfort in God’s grace and mercy.

God not like some who thought it good to try breeding master race, promoting eugenics (think Adolf Hitler, Margaret Sanger and PP). Instead, takes people the way they are, broken and imperfect, shapes into kind of people he wants. In process, uses them in all manner of ways to show his power and wisdom.

Common approach to prominent OT figures like Abram to highlight some of major events, tell the stories, all moderated by conclusion in Hebrews 11. Don’t always consider that Abram like everyone experienced a faith journey. He was born again when an adult but not as a spiritual adult. Was a process for him to get from idolatry in Ur to true worship in Canaan. God used experiences all along way to grow and mature Abram. Yet from Gen. 12:4 onward, Abram was moving by faith – faith mixed at times with sight, sometimes walking steadfastly and at other times stumbling. Yet throughout it all, God considered Abram a man of true faith… vital to remember that.

Years down the road God described Canaan as “a good and large land, …a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8) For Abram, land of promise didn’t look very promising, certainly nothing like God informed Moses. As always, God had purpose in that… for Abram and Sarai… and for us.

A. Abram doubts and deceives  v.10-13

doubts God’s interest/ability to protect

no record here of Abram asking God any questions – did later, doesn’t seem to have become a habit yet, faith young and small

Abram had great responsibilities… flocks, herds, servants, wife… and no known local support network for help, no idea how long famine would last

Abram’s solution

go to the commercial breadbasket, Egypt – had dependability of Nile for irrigation, transportation, probably some storage too

had not abandoned promise, went down to Egypt to “sojourn”… temporarily – probably intended to return to Canaan later

lacks faith, courage, love

problem not going to Egypt, cp. Jacob; issues lay elsewhere – failure to trust God, ask God, relying instead on own wisdom for solution

still lacks courage – Gen. 20:13 “And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is your kindness that you should do for me: in every place, wherever we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”‘

given practices of many cultures, esp. those in power, Abram right to be concerned for safety… but could safely trust God

even if couldn’t anticipate everything (figured they’d ask brother first), still showed willingness to put wife in danger to save self – given later events, safe to say Abram’s faith grew very slowly

B. Pharaoh’s give and take  v.14-16

no negotiation

it was Pharaoh, after all – he wanted, he took, maybe dealt with fallout later… not the way Abram expected things to work

would have been customary to approach brother in absence of father, reach formal agreement about terms – that would be Abram’s opportunity to figure out what came next to protect both of them

“rewarded” Abram generously

Abram’s importance measured by personal wealth… size of wagon train – substantial enough to gain Pharaoh’s respect

Pharaoh’s regard for Sarai added to honor shown Abram… treated well “for her sake” – Abram’s wealth greatly increased, either by Pharaoh’s direct gift or encouragement

now Abram is in real pickle – if he accepted gifts from Pharaoh, would imply his condoning Sarai’s presence in Pharaoh’s harem

his wife is at risk should Pharaoh press his advantage; Abram’s life is at risk if he confesses to practicing deception – he had told truth, just not all of it

C. God intervenes  v.17-20

protects Sarai from dishonor

God doesn’t break a sweat, simply does what will make his point most effectively – protected Sarai and uncovered deception

whatever kind of “plague” or “disease” God sent on Pharaoh and his household so out-of-ordinary they figured out the source

prevents Pharaoh from serous sin

at this point both Sarai and Abram at great risk – together they have brought great embarrassment on Pharaoh and household

Pharaoh prevented by God from bringing shame on Sarai and taking revenge on Abram for his deception and consequences

provides material blessing to Abram

could have stripped of all possessions, sent packing for the border – instead, sent away with all his stuff… incl. what he had gained during stay in Egypt

Abram and Sarai not out of danger yet – 2 risks: men who want revenge / points with Pharaoh, men who might want Sarai

gave “military” escort to ensure Abram and all his entourage and belongings left the country… safely – Pharaoh wanted to be sure he was done with the plague

D. foreshadowing and reassurance

famine => to Egypt

probably more common than Bible indicates – didn’t seem to be very innovative that Jacob’s sons sought grain in Egypt

by Joseph’s time was significant regular trading probably from Orient to Egypt and back, “simple” choice for Jacob and family to move to Goshen… at least temporarily

plagues

when actions of Pharaoh and Egyptians put God’s people in danger, God used consequences selectively to bring about change

God obviously successful on behalf of Abram and Sarai, would be just as successful later during time of Moses

plunder

because of deception Abram deserved to lose all Pharaoh gave, because of unbelief / lack of faith deserved to lose God’s blessing

God designed otherwise, used Pharaoh as means of blessing for God’s people just as he would do when Hebrew children left Egypt… with great plunder (Ex. 12:35-36)

God’s faithfulness, not Abram’s

easy for us to criticize Abram, accuse of being faithless – remember his faith young and small, needs to grow

at same time… does not seem that Abram lived up to the understanding of God that he had even then

recognized who it was who called him, understood it was God who made him a wanderer, did build altars and worship

yet, seems he did not pray before acting, did not trust God to direct beyond identifying land, or provide protection

was entirely and solely due to God’s faithfulness that Abram, Sarai, Lot, et al went and returned to Canaan safely

Even when Abram’s faith stumbled, God did not abandon, did not chastise. God showed great patience with Abram, continued to provide opportunities for his spiritual life to develop, his faith to grow. Was the hard things that ultimately developed Abram’s spirituality – leaving first life, famine, childlessness, judgment on Sodom, sacrificing Isaac. Was at each of these (and other) points in his life that Abram grew to know and trust God.

Good lessons here for us, both what to do and what not to do: trust God, ask for direction, don’t try to deceive. And more: praise and thank him for his loving patience and his mercy, that he uses frail imperfect people with weak faith to do things that are part of his eternal plan.

God Calling

Genesis 12:1-9 

1:1-11:26 make extent of mankind’s problem plain – so far nothing has permanently addressed spread of evil. Man cannot fix it, God must be the one to keep promise of 3:15 if to be any hope at all. 11:27 forward, God begins to tell story of how he will keep promise… to the world (not merely descendants of Abram; cf. Isa. 49:6).

God has always had the entire human race in mind. His intent has always been to save all kinds of people from all kinds of places and heritages. God did not have a plan for the Jews and then decide to be nice to Gentiles when the Jews rejected his Son. We are 12 chapters into Genesis and still no distinction between Jew and Gentile yet people have found favor with God – Enoch, Noah, now Abram.

Keep in mind – there is much of what God was doing that never made it into the Book. Things like how did Melchizedek know about the true God. What we do have is focused account of God’s actions and purposes that God intended his people to know. Here he makes it explicit his plan of redemption – is becoming more focused in implementation, maintaining worldwide comprehensive breadth in application. God will carry out his purpose of a Redeemer through the line of one family and he will redeem people from the whole world.

Next stage in the story begins with command from God to fellow who didn’t know him very well. Seems God may have had to repeat his command, included some pretty amazing promises along with command. Abram did obey… eventually… after a fashion. More on that as we go along. One thing God makes clear from beginning – this is his program, he will be using people to carry out certain tasks, but God is the one in charge, God is the one making it all happen.

A. God commanded  v.1

before they left Ur

according to Stephen’s testimony, Abram had close encounter with God while still in ancestral home – read Acts 7:2-4 

Stephen also makes clear that further action was needed by God to get Abram from Haran to Canaan

entirely possible Abram had little to no basis on which to trust God – may not ever have heard the stories

repeated in Haran

Abram knew what he had, what he could see and evaluate – how much (if any) could he trust to God… no personal history

probably knew what awaited him down the road, cf. Gen. 11:31 – knew at least by reputation peoples who lived in Canaan

had his servants who would fight if required, no other near allies to help in emergency – how could God help him?

a reminder

God didn’t pound on Abram, didn’t pick someone else, rather told him again what Abram was to do, what God would do

on one hand, some magnificent promises made to Abram – on other hand, some major sacrifices required from Abram

starts with country, then tribal connections, finally personal family – God expecting Abram to make completely fresh start in new place… with God as his safety net

no wonder Abram held up by many in Bible as hero – did not have great personal courage,

B. God promised  v.2-3

over and over God states what he will do, no hint of any bargaining or contract negotiations – God declares his intent, seemingly takes it as given that Abram will respond with obedience

a land 2x

first is abstract idea, go “to a land that I will show you” – not real clear at that point what it meant for Abram

wasn’t until after Abram arrived at destination that God shed more light – this is the land I will give to descendants

God didn’t tell everything up front – part of process used to develop Abram’s faith, requiring action w/o having all the details

a nation

Abram already someone with standing in family and community – tribal chieftain, some degree of personal wealth (ch. 14, 318 trained servants born in his own house to rescue Lot)

Abram would not expect this great nation to be natural offspring – remember, Sarah was barren (without any question)

many try to make themselves great nation, only handful who ever succeed in being remembered… rest go in dustbin of history – yet when God makes great nation, whole different story

blessing 4x

if (just from what is recorded here) one word theme, would be “bless/blessing” – certainly only something God can do

this typical of how God works: “I will bless you and you shall be a blessing” – God gives good things to be given to others

God’s blessing not just for Abram’s benefit, intended to provide good that impacts entire world, every family in some way

principle is here somewhat cloaked, made somewhat plainer in Gen 26:4 – “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”… esp. since Paul’s explanation (Gal. 3:8-16)

Paul calls it God preaching “the gospel to Abraham beforehand”, seeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith

a name

completely different situation from previous chapter – Gen. 11:4 “let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

God would make a name for Abram that would be spread over the face of the whole earth… wherever Christ is worshiped

outcome of God making a name would be blessing for countless people, small hint of rolling back curse / effects of sin

distinction

God already started to make distinctions, singling out Abram from all the rest – reinforces that, promising blessing for those who have something in common with Abram

know from later Scripture God has matters of faith primarily in view here – those who take Abram and what he stands for lightly will be cursed by God

can also be understood that God in some way will protect Abram from harm, ensuring his posterity and covenant promises

C. Abram obeyed  v.4-9

he departed

finally got the point and had the courage / faith (Heb. 11:8) to leave – knew he was headed for Canaan, beyond that…???

perhaps at this time Abram figured Lot would be the one to carry on after him – didn’t come up with excuses to leave him behind with his other uncle

took all his possessions and people with him: Sarai, Lot, servants, livestock, set off for Canaan – kinda like Oregon Trail

he built altars

somewhere along the way, perhaps during stay in Haran, Abram learned how to worship YHWH rather than way of his ancestors

the building of the altars by Abram in the land of Canaan immediately after his immigration, symbolizes, as I have already noted earlier, the dedication of the land to the Lord and to His service. From this we clearly learn the purpose, according to the Torah, of Abram’s settlement in Canaan. Cassuto

places where Abram built altars significant when Joshua returned with Hebrew children to take possession: Shechem, Bethel, Ai

he kept going

has journeyed the length of the land God promised to him – his faith adequate to get him there, prompted him to worship, not strong enough for him to stay

don’t be too hard on Abram, God still growing his faith – would be some bumps in the road, bruises for Abram and Sarai

Yet one thing is clear – God made promises, God will keep his promises, God’s purpose in all of this was to bless Abram and Sarai beyond their wildest dreams… in spite of their failings. And those blessings come all the way to us and beyond. If Abram could trust God to be faithful and provide for his needs even with all he asked Abram to give up, so can we. Whether God has large or small ways to use us, the rewards of serving him far outweigh the costs. When God calls, obey him confident that he will remain faithful to all his promises.

The Book of Shem

Genesis 11:10-32

God never changes yet he is not always predictable. God often does things that surprise us, at first make little sense yet turn out wonderfully well. Once again, God works in unexpected way as recounted in our text. Not as obvious since we are so familiar with what comes next. Try to hear it as for first time, be amazed at God’s genius.

Structure of the book: Gen 1 to 11:9…  4 events — [ 11:10-25… bridge ] — 11:26 to ch. 50: 4 people; Creation / Fall / Flood / Dispersion — Abraham / Isaac / Jacob / Joseph

Know that God made big promise in the Garden, rightly assume story that follows is somehow connected with that promise. When came to crisis point, God found righteous person to preserve and carry on line of descent. At least is what happened at time of Flood – Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, Noah was a just man, Noah walked with God. Noah and family were saved by God in the Ark.

Another crisis, when population concentrated in Shinar dispersed by God to fill the earth. And we come to the book of Shem, expect to learn that Shem carried on his father’s legacy. Would make sense to us that God’s chosen instrument, his preferred line of descent would be through those who were faithfully devoted to serving true God. Let’s see if God thought the same way.

A. this is Shem  v.10-26

decreasing lifespan

no mistaking the trend here – previous “genealogy” (10:1ff) only identified relationships, not ages

two-fold pattern here: age at birth of first child, then total – significant change from generations prior to Noah

in nearly every case (Terah a notable exception) having children at younger age, living substantially shorter lives

sad fact: out of this list of ten generations, Shem outlived every one incl. Abraham exc. Eber – died when Jacob was 50

“and he died” absent

much more hopeful presentation of genealogy – told how old when first child born, told how long they lived after

death certainly had not disappeared but does not have same focus here – emphasis on life… even though of diminishing length

whatever changed during / after Flood, is clear God intended human life to continue for the foreseeable future – lifespans were stabilizing… Shem (600); Arphaxad/Salah/Eber (400’s); Peleg thru Jacob (200+); Joseph (110)

peoples vs. a person

concern with genealogy of Ham/Shem/Japheth to show connections of various people groups, their geographic location

geography only minor consideration here – is as though the recorder drew line from Shem to Abram, then filled in details

know from other parts of Scripture God had not abandoned “the world” but he surely devoted more resources to Father Abraham

B. now Terah  v.27

connecting link

Terah gets his own “genealogy” yet he’s not the one remembered – we remember Shem, of course Abraham, maybe Nahor

names are important, were to Terah – probably gave his father’s name to his son, the kind of thing we would be apt to do

uncertain the actual derivation of names but do seem to have religious connection, not same religion as later names though

but a stranger  (Josh. 24:2)

know from Joshua’s declaration that Terah was religious man, we suspect that influenced choice of his name and some relatives

would not expect at this point in Genesis that Terah worshiped false gods, yet he and family worshiped moon as primary deity

what in the world is God doing, singling out idol-worshiper for special treatment? couldn’t he find better material to work with?

Shem was still alive, must have been some other relatives who hadn’t departed from faith of his father Noah… yet God chose to go different route

yet important

for reasons primarily known to God, Terah is the one singled out for greater attention, singled out by Joshua also

and… Terah is included by Luke in his genealogy of Lord Jesus – one more example of God’s greatness and wisdom

who but God would or even could use someone like Terah and his family to form into a people and heritage for his Son

C. then Abram  v.28-32

three more sons

Adam had three sons we know by name, so did Noah – Terah follows in that same pattern… at an advanced age

Terah was more than twice the age of his ancestors when his sons were born – is that portent of future troubles?

we know from later on in story will not be only Abram who has important part to play in redemptive history

distinct but related destinies

all born and grew up in Ur – Haran reached adulthood but not much more than… fathered a son, died soon after

meant Lot, Terah’s grandson and Abram’s nephew had responsibility to carry on his father’s name/heritage

Nahor, named for grandfather, eventually settled in Haran after marrying his niece Milcah (grandparents of Rebekah)

and then Abram, emigrated with Terah, Lot, Sarai from Ur to Haran – settled there, perhaps b/c of Terah’s frailty

an uncertain future

time to ask that question again, what is God doing? – he promised a seed, a child and look who is getting the attention

an old man, his grandson, his son and daughter-in-law who have no children… and no hope of ever having any

a point the inspired writer made sure we understand – “Sarai was barren; she had no child”

will it be the adopted son? Lot would be Abram’s responsibility after Terah died… or did God have something else in mind?

We get it… yet we don’t. How could those who either had witnessed God’s mighty works or had the witness of those who did make up their own gods to worship? Then look at own families, realize same thing is going on today – those who have grown up in the church, seen God’s hand at work and yet worship gods of their own making.

This “genealogy” then gives us great comfort and hope – while God often does perpetuate saving faith in families, he is not limited to working that way. God can, just as easily for him, reach down and save and use someone from thoroughly pagan family as from a churched one. God often works in unlikely and surprising ways… like choosing couples who could not have children to have children… important ones.

When God does things like that, we go “wow! look at what God did!” And that is precisely how we should respond, recognizing his amazing power and wisdom and giving him the glory. At same time, should not think we, or anyone else for that matter, are so insignificant as to escape God’s notice or use. In fact, the more insignificant the better at times… so that God receives even greater glory.

So… expect God to do the unexpected, use the unimportant, and accomplish the unimaginable. All he wants from us is willing obedience, presenting our bodies as living sacrifices for his use, committing to giving him the glory in all things. 

A Contest of Wills

Genesis 11:1-9 

Is easy to quickly pass over part of Creation Mandate God gave to Adam and Eve – Gen. 1:28 

“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Often focus on things like God’s blessing, fruitful, multiply, dominion. Full impact of “fill the earth” doesn’t really get to us. Same true for Mandate Reprise in Gen. 9:1. At both times God said same thing, was not a suggestion… was a command. God’s clear intent and design was that mankind would populate and manage the earth, all of it. Embedded in God’s design were several things: mankind’s ability and desire to do as God commanded matched by capacity of earth to support widespread development and population.

Sin and its consequences changed man’s ability to perform to God’s expectations but did not destroy either man’s or the earth’s capacity to carry out God’s command. Sin also altered man’s desire to obey God’s commands yet God did not give him new set of rules to follow after either Fall or Flood. Not the thrust of this passage yet still related: this all has bearing on things like environmental policies, urban design, agricultural practices, exploration, energy development, and much more.

Bottom line here much more fundamental – is that old issue of obedience, respect for God’s authority all over again. Have already seen repeatedly God has his limits – will tolerate disobedience only up to a point before he takes decisive action.

A. the setting  v.1-2

one language and speech

opening statement makes clear to reader – chapter 11 does not follow chapter 10 in time, this is flashback to explain

approx. 2000 years since creation, plenty of elapsed time for significant diversity of language… had not happened

same language, speech patterns, even vocabulary were universal – anyone from anywhere could communicate freely with whoever they encountered

nomadic lifestyle… for a while

did pull up stakes… after ark rested on Ararat – living in temporary dwellings, relatively easy to move to different location

 w/i about 100 years found fertile, productive, temperate plain – why look any farther for good place to stop

might have been ok if some had gone one direction, some another – appears even though got multiplying part right, weren’t making much progress toward filling the earth

social ties kept entire population close enough together no opportunity or need for diversity of language/vocab – still common lifestyle, activities

put down roots

don’t need to work hard to imagine kinds of conversations – nice place, plenty room, too much work to move… discontent, excuses

not nearly enough time to forget God’s command – Noah and other 8 from the ark still alive, anyway, for another couple hundred years

things led to things, those conversations resulted in plan… to purposefully do what was contrary to God’s stated intent

B. they said  v.3-4

let us make bricks

perhaps Nimrod the leader, persuaded others that his vision for future a good one – easy to put down roots / stay in one place, much harder to build cities, required leadership/management

working toward some kind of permanence, using more durable materials than tents would be made of, better even than sun-dried

something Hebrew children could really relate to, labor involved in making the bricks, gathering fuel for firing kilns

let us build a city

in this step of the plan, more of their intent revealed – this city to be place of “protection”, gathering point seen for miles

not clear that stated intent of tower to be place of worship, stairway to heaven – more likely a monument to their achievement

certainly evident their aims purely self-centered, elevating themselves in status, importance by own efforts

let us make a name

now declare plainly their intention to rebel against God’s command, to take future in own hands, make according to own design

under mistaken impression if only made themselves big enough deal that God could not scatter according to his design

cannot read through account w/o being confronted by man’s audacity just a century post-Flood

C. God said  v.5-7

he came down

thought they could raise themselves to heaven, yet at highest reach God had to come down”

is something that will never, even in next life, change – because God is Creator and we creatures, he will always have to come down, stoop to engage with his people

he saw

God not lacking for information, did not need to make closer inspection to figure situation out – another reason for describing God’s actions this way

way of describing situation to show God not acting arbitrarily, not reacting to circumstances – was deliberately following his eternal purpose

he spoke

certainly not ringing endorsement of mankind’s “progress”, rather declaration of the opposite… and potentially dire results

in significant ways doing opposite of God’s design – one people mass, one way of living/communicating, one pursuit… evil

mankind had made his propositions, set up contest between his will and God’s – we know who won that contest

man had said “come, let us… do our thing”, God parroted “come let us go and do” with much different results

D. God did  v.8-9

scattered them

entire population of world joined together in plan to actively resist God’s purpose – refusing to willingly scatter over earth, determined to thwart any attempt to scatter them

God had his way, scattered them anyway in spite of their wonderful city – used failure to communicate as means

ended their building

Tower not the big deal, was the city in total and what it represented – monument to man’s greatness, ability to govern his own future contrary to God’s purpose

is easy to see the problem, just look at cities today – yes, more people more problems; but… evil prospers in large groups in ways it doesn’t in small ones

confused their language

multitude of languages not result of man’s inventive genius – is result of rebellion, consequence brought by God

are still dealing with fallout from that today: need for org’s like Wycliffe, NTM, etc. to overcome language barriers to spread of Gospel

Couple takeaway’s – doesn’t matter the particular circumstances, in a test of wills God always wins. Is true on individual basis as well as large group. Can save us a lot of personal frustration to remember that. Also source of great comfort and encouragement – no matter how broad opposition to God’s plan, he has all means necessary to frustrate their efforts and turn them to his own use.

And you get this one for free, bigger not necessarily better. In fact, consistent theme throughout Bible is that of God accomplishing great things with small ones. Using weak and powerless to frustrate the mighty. Resisting the proud and giving grace to the humble. One reason for that – so God will be magnified and glorified, the focus of attention.

The Sons of Noah

Genesis 10:1-32 

This not one of the top 10 go-to texts for aspiring preachers. Are even seasoned ones who probably would choose another one. Yet are some good and important things to learn from chapter filled with strange sounding names.

All this of great significance to people Moses most concerned with, Hebrew children. They needed this story because gives answers to ultimate questions. Every generation including ours needs it for same reason. Names given here probably largely familiar to Hebrews, doubtful whether many grasped all the connections and their place in it all.

Not simply list of names useful for constructing family tree. Not even useful for figuring out elapsed time… no age or life-span numbers given. Not even certain if names listed in birth order, especially since introductory sentence follows different order from subsequent listing. Is not a complete listing of names yet contains details found nowhere else in ancient literature.

Repeated summary statement in v.5, 20, 31

From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations. 

These were the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands and in their nations.

These were the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations.

No explanation given to bridge between way of life before the flood and after. Idea of languages, lands and nations certainly well-known to Moses and Hebrews… no surprise there. How it all happened not necessarily well understood, something Moses will take care of next. Understanding what is taught here in Table of Nations helps them and us with question of identity, sense of place, God’s purpose and their part in it.

A. identity

who you are

descended from Adam and Eve for sure, through line of Seth and then Noah… but what about after the Flood?

have to wait until end of list before names would start getting personal – descendant of Shem: Eber, then Peleg (25)

next chapter with Shem’s genealogy continue story, identifying these as direct ancestors of Abraham… the limb on family tree where they were attached

two possibilities: Eber perhaps the source of name “Hebrew”; Peleg: “in his days the earth was divided” perhaps reference to division/scattering explained in next chapter

who they are

Japheth listed first, descendants of only two of 7 sons named (selectively) – ancestor of Gentile peoples including us

next Ham’s people, significant commentary included in this section – details given about Nimrod, pertinent to next chapter as well as Israel’s future

seeds of unrest / rebellion already beginning to show – Nimrod described as “a mighty hunter”, not a good thing

Nimrod all about empire building… starting with Babel/Babylon, then Nineveh, later known for rebellion against God and oppression of his people

what happened

descendants of Noah did indeed through their many offspring replenish the earth, probably not how they expected!

somehow there came to be different languages / families / nations… but not different races

yet even for all the differentness and what it would lead to, still related – enemies at times yet family

B. place

where you are going

headed for Canaan, the land God promised – Moses language changes v.16, identifying peoples rather than individuals

should have encouraged Moses’ contemporaries – all the “-ites” descended from Noah’s grandson Canaan… the one he cursed, said would serve others

implied warning perhaps in how borders of Canaan identified – Sidon and Gaza ok for north/south, but Sodom and Gomorrah?

who your neighbors will be

neighbors would be Assyrians and Babylonians, then further away the families of Japheth reaching outer limits of known world

knew about some of neighbors in Egypt and northern Africa, now have clearer teaching about their ancestry

brief reference to coastland people indication that neighbors more than just the ones you can see over the next hill

center of the world

would be easy to understand from this political-historical-genealogical account that land of Canaan the hub of human activity

from that area where concentrated population had been dispersed, where major social and commercial routes intersected

Japheth’s people an arc NE to NW of Canaan, Ham’s people S and SW, Shem’s people S and E, Mediterranean to W

C. purpose

one God

if was one God over original one family, is still same God over all their descendants – includes Hebrew children… and us

may seem like for a time Israel was focus of God’s attention – did certainly receive special favors / treatment

at same time, God has always had entire world, whole human family in view and he is Lord over all of them

one race

Acts 17:26 “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings”

racial distinctions and racism as we know it not God’s way of looking at mankind – in his view are one human race

one Redeemer

God has had a plan from the beginning, articulated in miniature form to Adam and Eve – at no time has God deviated from or abandoned his one plan

instead he has governed his creatures and their actions to bring about that one plan, preserving the line of people from Adam through Seth and Shem down to Jesus

Regardless of how it looks in world today, God is still Lord of the nations. He has a plan for the nations, to “redeem us to God by His blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9) We are included in his plan, are privileged to be part of his plan – we are his ambassadors, carrying truth of Gospel to all who will hear. Should do so, confident that God will continue to move his plan forward, that Christ’s kingdom will advance. We know the good news, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, to give hope to the hopeless, to heal the brokenhearted and set captives free.

My Three Sons

Genesis 9:18-29 

Hard to wrap minds around just how quickly the bright beauty of rainbow turned to black ugliness of awful sin. Makes it even harder to understand when consider cultural context. Noah living with family surrounded by depravity so horrendous God compelled to end it by massive judgment… and Noah stayed the course. Faithful to God, beacon of right living and doing, consistent obedience to God in face of continual persecution and temptation. Yet when were only 8 adults and few children, Noah couldn’t keep it together… and neither could youngest son, Ham (Gen. 9:24; 10:21)

Some lessons in all that for us: God didn’t finally give up, start over with fresh material. Still committed to promise made to Adam and Eve about a redeemer, holds true today and in future. Eve tried to blame serpent, Noah didn’t have that exact excuse. Couldn’t blame sin on his external environment – was far less corrupt than pre-Flood… and he still sinned. Yet God didn’t cast Noah aside either. Singled out Noah along with Daniel and Job as examples of righteousness… 2000 years later during Babylonian captivity. God is truly “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth”. Ex. 34:6 

In spite of man’s best efforts to push God away, off his position of authority, and try to be fully autonomous, God refuses to be set aside. Instead, God faithfully and firmly stays in control, governing his creation according to his purpose. This scene in the Genesis drama not only concludes Act III, The Account of Noah, it introduces the next Act and the Table of Nations fractured at Tower of Babel. God continues to amaze with his gracious treatment of his very human children.

A. they multiplied abundantly  v.18-19

we know our earliest ancestors by name

God continues the pattern, contrary to competing narratives – not only our ancestors, those of Lord Jesus also clearly identified

is big deal: God made us relational… because he is… and we’re made in his image… so, relationships have great significance

they obeyed God’s command

were told twice to multiply, to fill / replenish the earth – apparently they did well enough since God said earth was repopulated… and we’re here

all they had was God’s spoken word… to Noah, maybe a rainbow or two – gave sufficient confidence to have sizeable families – 16 sons between them, plus daughters

God blessed their obedience

that they had large families who had large families confirms God’s blessing – know from later on, if God says “no”, will be no kids

God so orchestrated whole process that gene pool stayed healthy enough for many generations of healthy offspring, even today

B. they were fruitful  v.20-21

of first importance after worship: food

don’t know how supplies on ark were holding out, were certainly greatly diminished – apparently enough natural forage for animals…God let them out of the ark!

hard to imagine hunter-gather lifestyle conducive to rapid population growth – needed cultivation for predictable and adequate supply of food

obeyed second part of God’s command

likely took next season’s seed on the ark, at least had some of what they took for food that could be used for planting

would be in keeping with Noah’s character to plant more than grapes to provide for family – probably encouraged sons also

the ground responded

think about what the ground has been through – completely inundated by flood with who knows what in the water

yet 1000 years later, could produce grape clusters that took two men to carry, 2000 years later clusters “two cubits long”, 7 gallons of wine from one vine, 90 bushels of figs from one tree (Geography of Strabo)

C. they were sinful  v.22-24

Noah started it

no surprise, Noah took Noah with him on the ark – which means… his issues went with him, sinfulness included

could try to blame his disappointing behavior on the neighbors… except, he had significant part in their training too

Noah no more or less blameworthy than many others who have experienced moral lapses later in life

Ham continued it

just like dad, Ham could try to rationalize, blame, excuse his disrespectful behavior but… each responsible for own actions

may seem like Noah overreacted (compared to today’s values) – remember, were 8 foundational building blocks of world’s civilization – any serious threat to God-ordained order, esp. inter-generational, would have dire consequences

Shem and Japheth avoided it

all were old enough to know better, two older sons did better – set proper example for Ham and all who know the story

make good case that those who are sinners by nature do not have to sin at every opportunity – can do what is right, show compassionate respect in spite of bad example / temptation

D. they had a future  v.25-29

both individuals and representatives

story as recorded very compressed, some detail and much time passed over silently – if sons listed in order (10:6), Canaan youngest son like father (maybe 5 years or more after leaving the ark)

certainly Noah’s pronouncement had relevance to individuals named – by singling out Canaan, shows later generations in view

at least some foreshadowing of what would occur later in history… after dispersion of peoples from Tower of Babel

looking back with hindsight, can see how Canaanites did become servants of Shem’s descendants – even later, how in Christ descendants of Japheth and Shem can live together peaceably

all sinners, yet…

Flood served God’s purpose, yet did not eradicate sin – his plan/purpose for humanity still needed to include provision for Someone to rescue fallen man

will eventually see how, even though oldest son got greater portion, Shem and descendants would lead up to birth of a Savior

all part of God’s eternal plan

harsh curse pronounced on Shem’s youngest, God changed typical ordering of older sons, yet all three had a future

none were excluded from life or participation in God’s plan of redemption – what great unwarranted favor from merciful God

Noah himself greatly blessed by God – lived (350 years) to see his 10th generation, Abraham – observe just how well God kept his promise

Remember Moses’ / God’s purpose in recording what is contained in first chapters of Genesis – first, to give mass of Jewish slaves recently escaped from oppression in Egypt answers to their ultimate questions: who are we, where did we come from, why are we here, where are we going. Is for our learning also :-)

This extended scene serves both as a warning and a comfort/encouragement. Even in newly populated world, sin never far away… even from those God commends for righteousness. Basic rules about right and wrong haven’t changed – while encouraging, also warning that sin comes with consequences. At same time God shows unswerving commitment to redemption. He has not and will not abandon frail fallen human beings. Instead, promises hope and future while continuing to sustain his creation / creatures until the end.

Is a basic outline of what God intends found in Noah’s pronouncement regarding his sons: each of three sons and their descendants has a place in God’s big plan. Canaanites will suffer severe consequences for their sin but will not be exterminated – reduced to servitude but not destroyed. Descendants of Japheth will live apart for a while but eventually find peaceful coexistence within Shemite community. What God starts with the Shemites will grow to include the Japhethites. What a big God with a big plan… that includes us and our church families and our loved ones. God grant we do our part to bring others into his family.

God’s Rainbow

Genesis 9:1-17 

Don’t have to look hard or far to see ways Satan / agents work to appropriate and distort good things God has done. Take the rainbow for example. Minor detail, colors adjusted from accepted standard. Major detail – according to God’s word the Bible, significance and symbolism turned on its head. More on that later. Then terms / expectations of God’s covenant flatly contradicted by latest reporting from scientific community.

May be ignored, ridiculed, even persecuted. However… for our own sanity and safety as well as that of our neighbors, need to grasp and stand firmly on principles given to us in these first chapters of Genesis. Are foundational to all of life, our understanding of world in which we live as well as rest of God’s word.

Is to some extent a reissuing of previous covenant with Adam and Eve yet with some significant differences. As God continued to communicate with Noah, made his expectations clear, declared his own intentions for the future, graciously gave visible reminder as source of hope and encouragement. Are indicators in text of three divisions: v.1-7, you/yours; v.8-11, I/Me/My; v.12-17, us (implied), between Me and… In all of this, God makes clear that order established at creation continues – relationship between man and God, man and man, man and environment to follow same patterns decreed in the beginning.

A. terms of the covenant v.1-7 (you)

fill the earth

same mandate given to Adam and Eve, Gen. 1:28 – no room for laziness there, for Noah or any of his descendants

God’s intent sure seems to have in view people spread out liberally all over the inhabitable earth

no clear command forbidding concentration into cities, certainly no indication mankind could overdo it in reproducing

apparently a big deal for God, he issues command twice, v.1 and 7 – to be no misunderstanding of God’s intent

and… adds to mandate the second time: “bring forth abundantly in the earth” – intention that mankind would do everything necessary w/i God’s boundaries to satisfy his mandate, he will enable to have lots of offspring

manage the earth

all the earth can produce is given to mankind for his support and use – mankind given authority over natural resources

with authority always comes responsibility… to use authority wisely and well – God expects man to manage as God would

goal is to make earth as productive as possible, overcoming hindrances imposed by the curse – requires lots of people

proper management includes good planning for future – wherever possible, leaving things in better condition for next gen

raises serious questions about setting aside large tracts of land for preservation – by God’s design much of natural world needs human supervision

remember human life is sacred

God doesn’t play games with lives of those who bear his image – and that’s the piece missing from most discussions about justice of death penalty

logic: unlawful taking of human life so egregious insult and sin against God that He requires life of perpetrator

God knowingly assigned responsibility to fallible humans to act as his agents for justice, expects them to do the job

NOTE: current climate science takes strongly and actively opposing position, trying to mandate what is contrary to God’s declared purpose – Climate Emergency, Atrahasis

B. parties to the covenant v.8-11 (Me)

God

like all of God’s covenants, he speaks first declaring his purpose – is God who sets terms, establishes details, is all of his doing

no negotiating over the terms, completely God-sided – since God unilaterally institutes it, he decides if/when it ends

no automatic “breach of contract” clauses that kick in – good thing, considering man’s repeated failures

God also obligated himself to do all that depended on him to ensure success of covenant parties – keep earth productive, supplying offspring to both man and creatures, blessing man’s management efforts

Noah and “family”

God didn’t leave anyone out – covenant embraced Mr & Mrs Noah, also his present and future descendants

no conditions stated that they had to meet in order to receive covenant benefits – simply given commands and assurance God would keep his part of covenant

all generations following Noah for duration of covenant could expect to benefit from what God promised – natural order would continue, planet would be able to support all life on it

living creatures

even though animal kingdom now fearful of mankind, creatures would still serve God’s designated purpose, would cooperate with man’s managing

no living being need fear results of obeying God – so much for argument “don’t want to bring kids into this kind of world”

God would / will be faithful to his promise/covenant to sustain and bless living things until his appointed time of the end

C. the sign of the covenant  v.12-17 (us)

the rainbow

a sign only God could give – man cannot make or alter this kind of rainbow – another indicator re-established order would continue

has particular sequence and range of colors defined by how God has designed properties of light and water

not just day/night, seasons, living things that would continue – order and processes at molecular level, properties of matter will maintain… by God’s decree

a reminder

serves as reminder for us of God’s good promise – also means that if rainbow appears, God is still committed to promise and will act accordingly

each time it rains & rainbow appears, confirms yet again God intends mankind to have a hope and a future

Satan, otoh, co-opted rainbow, made it sign of hopelessness and destruction – flagrantly opposing God’s plan and purpose

the promise

the negative: “waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh” – pretty certain climate change won’t do it either! regardless of what Chicken Little says

the positive: all that depends on God for his eternal purpose toward mankind to be fulfilled will be done without fail

Satan using many different agents to deny or distort the truth, turn God’s ordained order of things on its head, promote message of hopelessness and destruction. Bible has much different message – is one of hope and forgiveness and redemption that leads to glorious future.

First, we must be careful to understand the truth and not be taken in by lies. Then, confidently declare God’s truth and leave results to him. And remember, God made the rainbow!