Archive for the ‘Genesis’ Category

Genesis 18-19, “Promise, Prayer, Provision, Perversion”

There are some stories in the Bible that make us cheer; others make us cringe. As we’ve noted at other times, the Bible is an extremely honest book, showcasing both the victories of our heroes as well as their jaw-dropping sinful mistakes. In Genesis 18-19, there’s a bit of both. Abraham is a hero, dedicated to the righteous character of God and confident in the invitation to pray to Him – Sarah stumbles a bit in her faith in light of impossible circumstances…and then there’s Lot. Lot goes from good to terrible, to good again and terrible again. He had never been consistent in his own walk with the Lord, and his inconsistency led him to awful consequences.

For context, this comes out of a long section of Genesis following the life and faith of Abraham. Originally, we knew him as Abram, and he faithfully followed God on nothing else but God’s call and promise. Abram has had his own ups & downs (and will have more!), but in the end, he has shown himself loyal to God, trusting God’s promise. Even when Abram rescued Lot (and many people of the city of Sodom) from being prisoners of war, Abram refused to bow to the bribery of the king of Sodom, reserving his worship and loyalty for the Most High God alone. God had made His covenant promise with Abram, even changing his name to Abraham, signaling the many nations which would arise from his sons.

When Genesis last left off, Abraham was 99 years old, and still without a son through his wife Sarah. There was one child born to him, but it was through Sarah’s maidservant Hagar, all done in a foolish attempt to shortcut the promises of God. God appeared to Abraham once again, affirming that God’s promise would not be fulfilled through the son of the shortcut, but through the son given by grace. In a year’s time, God would return to Abraham and Sarah, and they would begin to see the results of their 25 years’ worth of waiting. (17:21) Once more, Abraham responded in faith, giving himself and his whole household the sign of the covenant: male circumcision, and he waited upon the Lord, trusting that God would provide.

That provision comes as chapter 18 begins. God comes once more to Abraham, telling him of his wife’s soon pregnancy, as well as God’s plans of wrath toward the city of Sodom. That sets in motion a number of events that leads to another rescue of Lot from Sodom, but also the consequences of Lot’s decision to live in the middle of such a sinful, evil people.

There is a promise of a son – a prayer for the undeserving – the provision of grace & judgment – and (sadly) the perversion of God’s mercy. God does give mercy to undeserving people. Trust Him and His righteousness!

Genesis 18

  • Promise of Isaac (18:1-15)

1 Then the LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day.

  1. Just your typical afternoon theophany. Abraham was relaxing in the shade, when all of a sudden God and two other angels came to him.
  2. This was none other than the pre-incarnate Christ Jesus! Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), so any time God “appears” to someone in Scripture, it is the 2nd Person of the Trinity. This encounter was actually affirmed by Jesus, as Jesus affirmed His deity to the Jews in Jerusalem. John 8:56–58, “(56) Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” (57) Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” (58) Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”” Abraham rejoiced, because Abraham saw God. Jesus basically said, “That was Me.” Jesus is the I AM.

2 So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, 3 and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. 4 Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” They said, “Do as you have said.”

  1. Immediate show of hospitality. Polite hospitality was a cultural norm, but Abraham seemed to go up & beyond the norm, giving to the three men the honor and reverence normally due to kings. Abraham bowed low to the ground. There was something about this group that got his attention. Did Abraham suspect this was the Lord? It’s unclear at this point in the text (from Abraham’s perspective), but it will become clearer soon enough.
  2. What Abraham did set an example for all to follow. Perhaps the author of Hebrews had this very event in mind: Hebrews 13:1–2, “(1) Let brotherly love continue. (2) Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” You never know who you’re going to talk with from day to day. We might as well treat every guest as if he/she was a potential angel!

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” 7 And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. 8 So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.

  1. Notice that Abraham and Sarah got personally involved. Obviously Abraham would need help from his servants for the animal slaughter and cleaning, but he didn’t simply delegate everything out. These were his guests (and potentially Abraham was already thinking about his God), and this was something he was going to do personally. (Worship can’t be delegated!)
  2. Notice also Abraham’s attitude. He didn’t sit with his guests to dine. Although an entire feast was prepared (a whole calf!), Abraham stood on the side. He didn’t act as a host, so much as a servant. Perhaps he didn’t think himself worthy to dine with these special guests – perhaps he had something else in mind. Either way, Abraham’s heart was to serve; not to be
  3. With dinner done, it’s at this point that things start to get interesting…

9 Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” So he said, “Here, in the tent.”

  1. Intriguing question with which to start. God knew that Sarah was listening, and He wanted Sarah to know that God knew she was there.

10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)

  1. Revelation of His identity. At this point, there would have been no question God was the one dining with Abraham. God was the only one who could promise Abraham a son & who had promised him a son on other occasions. For Him to refer back to that promise was a clear indication of who He was.
  2. Repetition of the promise. The things promised in Chapter 17 are repeated here. It wasn’t the servant wife Hagar who bears the son of promise; it was the original wife Sarah – the one for whom pregnancy was impossible. This is the wife who’s hope of a son was only that of a miracle of the grace of God…and that’s exactly what God wanted to do. That son is again promised, and the promise was coming soon.
  3. Recognition of the time. For God to say “according to the time of life,” was for Him to put a countdown clock on the timeframe. Scripture doesn’t say exactly, but it was certainly to be within a year that Sarah would get pregnant and bear the son.
  4. The point? God had made these promises before – each time, gradually becoming more specific. Abraham and Sarah had waited & waited, but the time had come. God’s promise would be fulfilled!
    1. It always is! It may not be in our preferred timeframe, but it’s always in the perfect time of God.

11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

  1. Remember that Abraham and Sarah were 100 years old & 90 years old, respectively. Most definitely, they were beyond “the age of childbearing.” Sarah’s response to this was much like her husband’s: she “laughed.”
  2. It is a funny situation, but there’s one crucial distinction between her laugher and her husband’s. It was months ago that Abraham laughed, when first hearing the promise of God that a child would be born to a centennial couple. That was a natural reaction to an impossible promise (though possible through the power of God). But that was in the past; this was the present. Both Abraham and Sarah had time to reflect on God’s promise, to think about His power, and to put faith in His word. This repetition of the covenant promise wasn’t catching Sarah off-guard; it was catching her in her unbelief.
  3. God called her on it…

13 And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh!”

  1. The promise of her pregnancy was now given four times (17:16, 17:19, 18:10, 18:14). This was not something to be doubted! God’s word can be believed the first time, but when He repeats it, we definitely have no excuse!
  2. Why is it we doubt God’s word? Because we believe it’s too hard – we believe it’s unrealistic – we believe it cannot happen. Perish the thought! Is anything too hard for God? Jeremiah 32:26–27, “(26) Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, (27) “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Nothing is impossible for Him! If He can create the universe – if He can raise Jesus from the dead – if He can give us new life & turn us into new creations, what is there He cannot do?
    1. Trust God! Our God is able!
  3. Sarah’s doubt was bad enough; her deception was worse. Her fear was understandable, but it wasn’t an excuse for her lie. Not that it was possible to deny her laughter or deceive God. The only person she was lying to was herself; she couldn’t lie to the Lord. (How do you lie to a God who knows everything?)
  4. Yet even here, there is mercy. Don’t miss what isn’t written: any mention of God’s condemnation of Sarah for her lie and her laughter. God pointed out her laughter, and corrected her on her lie, but He did not condemn her or judge her. He had the right to do so, but He knew this was born out of fear and doubt. He saw her heart, and extended mercy to her.
  • Prayer of Intercession (18:16-33)

16 Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way. 17 And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, 18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

  1. Abraham basically walks them out, and God reveals to Abraham His mind & plans. Similarly, we have the Spirit, so we have the privilege of knowing the mind of God (1 Cor 2:11-12).
  2. Why? Simply because of grace. God subtly repeated His covenant promise to bless Abraham, so it was right to reveal to Abraham His plans. One day, Abraham’s descendants would help administer the worldwide kingdom, so Abraham may as well get involved now. Abraham hadn’t done anything to deserve this position of trust; God simply gave it. 

19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

  1. What was the relationship? God knew Abraham, in order that Abraham’s children would know God. That’s us! We know God’s character & God’s promises. We walk in His ways, in order that God might be glorified.

20 And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

  1. God to investigate the sins of Sodom. Just as God investigated the activity at the Tower of Babel, He was doing so again with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Gen 11)
  2. Question: How does this relate with God’s attribute of omniscience? It doesn’t affect it at all. God is simply using human language with Abraham to describe how His attention is about to be placed upon Sodom.

22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

  1. The righteous cannot share the fate of the wicked. Really? What about when Christians perish in natural disasters, same with non-Christians? Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, etc., take out righteous & wicked alike. Likewise with man-made disasters such as war or other random violence. Our faith does not exempt us from trial and tragedy. BUT (and this is huge!) it does exempt us from the wrath of God! Saint and sinner alike live in a fallen world with the results of the fall, but when it comes to the righteous judgment of God due to sin, that is something saints do not Jesus took the wrath of God upon Himself, so that we don’t have to. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through Christ (1 Ths 5:9). In this particular instance of Sodom, this was the wrath of God, so Abraham could confidently declare that God would never “slay the righteous with the wicked.” God’s holy character would prevent Him from doing it.
  2. Trust the righteous character of God! God always does what is right.

26 So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”

  1. Abraham had prayed boldly, and some might suggest arrogantly. How did God respond? Graciously! God did not see Abraham’s bold prayer as wrong in the slightest. Abraham was invited to boldly pray according to God’s promise and God’s character, because those are things in which we have confidence to pray. God will never go against His word – He will never go against His nature. Abraham did not pray for Abraham’s will to be done, or for Abraham to be honored; he was praying that God would be honored through God’s act of mercy. That is a prayer that can always be boldly prayed!
  2. And it would be continued to be prayed. This begins a long conversation of what seems to be haggling or negotiating between Abraham and the Lord God…

27 Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: 28 Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?” So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.” 29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?” So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.” 30 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.” 32 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” 33 So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.

  1. This was Abraham’s intercessory prayer for Sodom. He went from 50, to 45, to 40, to 30, to 20, to 10. Notice that he’s praying for Sodom only obliquely; he’s really praying for the righteous men and women who might be found there. On a personal level for Abraham, he’s really praying for his nephew Lot.
  2. Question: Was this right for Abraham? Was he being disrespectful? Yes, this was right; no, he wasn’t disrespectful at all. Abraham maintained a proper attitude of reverence and humility throughout. And yes, God wants us to pray for others! To Ezekiel, God said that one of His condemnations of the leaders of Israel was that there was no one who would “stand in the gap” interceding for Israel that God might show mercy to them. (Eze 22:30) God wants us to stand in the gap.
  3. In fact, it could be argued that God wanted Abraham to pray this intercessory prayer. Why else would God have taken the time to inform Abraham of His plans?
    1. Who are we praying for? Who needs our intercession?
  4. Abraham’s prayer would indeed be answered (as is seen in the next chapter), but sadly, there weren’t even 10 righteous people within Sodom. Out of a city of hundreds, only a handful of less than 10 worshipped the Lord at all. (Even so, God still knew them and saved them!)

Genesis 19

  • Provision of Judgment; Provision of Mercy (19:1-29)

1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground.

  1. Notice where Lot was sitting: “in the gate of Sodom.” Culturally, it was normative for city leaders to sit in the city gates, which begs the question of whether or not Lot had a position of leadership. Considering the wickedness of Sodom, this doesn’t speak highly of Lot. If he wasn’t a leader, what was he doing there? It’s possible he was on the lookout for travelers, knowing the reputation of Sodom. Perhaps he sat there in order to offer protection to those who entered.
  2. Either way, it still doesn’t speak highly of Lot. What on earth was he still doing there? He already made the mistake of getting caught up with Sodom during the regional war. Why hadn’t he left with his family & settled elsewhere? He should have; he didn’t.
  3. Whatever the case, Lot hadn’t completely left all his morality behind. He quickly demonstrated the same heart of hospitality as had his uncle…

2 And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.” 3 But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

  1. Again, Lot likely knew the open square was dangerous, which (aside from his hospitality) was the reason he “insisted strongly.
  2. Like his uncle, “unleavened bread” was baked, as it was able to be served quickly without giving it time to rise. Think pita bread or wheat tortillas.
  3. While they are feasting inside, trouble is brewing on the outside…

4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”

  1. The entire city turned out for terrible purposes. Their stated desire was sexual brutality. They wanted to “know” the strangers, the word “know” being the normal euphemism for sexual intercourse. This was homosexual sin, no question.
  2. It should be noted that sexual perversion wasn’t the only sin of Sodom. Ezekiel 16:49–50, “(49) Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. (50) And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.” Even so, sexual sin was part of Sodom’s sin, even if not explicitly mentioned by God to Ezekiel (though it was likely included in the “abomination”). The sexual perversion was obvious; their treatment of the poor was not. Ezekiel 16:49 cannot be used to justify the perversion of the Sodomites.

6 So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, 7 and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! 8 See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”

  1. Lot has shown poor judgment in the past; here he scrapes the bottom of the barrel. On the good side of things, Lot has a sincere desire to protect his guests. The very “reason” he insisted the angels stay with him was to offer them protection (although he didn’t know at the time they were angels, fully capable of protecting themselves). On the horrendous side of things, Lot seemingly has no desire to protect his own daughters. Out of his children, he had two virgin daughters still at home, and he was willing to hand them over to the mob to be gang-raped.
  2. At this point, Lot shows himself to be no better than the sexual perverts of the city. Those who don’t provide for their own families are worse than unbelievers…

9 And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door.

  1. Apparently it wasn’t the first time Lot opposed Sodom’s evil. The mob was sick of it & tried to rape him, instead.

10 But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11 And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door.

  1. Angelic rescue & miraculous defense. They struck the mob blind. All of a sudden, the angels rescued the man who was attempting to rescue them.
  2. How evil were the Sodomites? Even in their blindness, they persisted in their attempt to get at Lot. This was mankind at its worst. Its no wonder they were to be judged by God! (Our own overall culture is sadly little better.)

12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place! 13 For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.

  1. Sparing the righteous from the wicked – but they still needed to act. The angels extended the mercy of God to Lot and his family, but they would have to respond. Lot needed to warn the others, and they all needed to do what was necessary to get out.
    1. God offers to save all, but we still need to respond.
  2. Lot gave the warning, but he was ignored. His sons-in-law laughed him off, believing him “to be joking.” Why was Lot ignored? Perhaps his credibility among his sons-in-law was shot, due to the way Lot had lived his own life.
  3. BTW: How could Lot have sons-in-law if his daughters were still virgins? Two possible scenarios. (1) Perhaps his daughters were betrothed, but not yet given to the sons-in-law. (2) Lot had more than only two daughters. There were two unmarried virgin daughters, but others who had married other men. 

15 When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.” 16 And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.

  1. Time was up, but still Lot lingered! For whatever reason, he held back. Something attracted him to that place – he had gotten far too familiar with that place of sin.
    1. Beware not to linger with sin! The more we’re around it, the more we’ll want to be around it. That’s what happened with Lot. With him, it began slowly as he lived on the outskirts & gradually moved in & even became known in the community. Likewise with us. A little leaven leavens the whole lump – a little sin soon spreads. Don’t give it even an inch. Don’t linger!
  2. In the end, what was the only reason Lot and his family was saved? The grace and power of God. If the angels hadn’t taken them by the hand, they would have been consumed with Sodom.
    1. What is it that saves us? The grace and power of Jesus…period!

17 So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”

  1. Instruction for survival: get out, get going, go to the mountains.
  2. Command not to look back…keep that in mind for later.

18 Then Lot said to them, “Please, no, my lords! 19 Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die. 20 See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.”

  1. Even here, Lot doubts. He doesn’t trust the power of the Lord to deliver him. God (through the angels) already hand-delivered him (literally!) out of the city of Sodom. Why didn’t Lot trust God to deliver him from the evil in the countryside on the way to the mountains? Lot allowed fear to overtake his faith.

21 And he said to him, “See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. 22 Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

  1. Once again, God’s mercy! He allowed the stop in the little town of Zoar.

23 The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. 24 Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. 25 So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

  1. Total destruction. Everything was destroyed, even the plant life. Harsh, but just. This was the righteous judgment of God.

26 But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

  1. What happened? Lot’s wife took God’s grace for granted, and she disobeyed the warning of verse 17. Lot had lingered, but left; his wife had left, but her heart lingered behind. As a result, she was judged right along with the rest of the city.
  2. When God calls us out, we need to come out. We cannot afford to look back.

27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD. 28 Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace. 29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt.

  1. Abraham was a witness to the judgment of God.
  2. Abraham’s prayer was answered. “God remembered Abraham.” The one righteous man found in the city, and his two daughters, were saved. 
  3. Question: How on earth can Lot be considered righteous? Knowing Lot’s reputation in the city, among his family, and how he even offered up his own daughters to sexual brutality, how could he be included in the “righteous” that were saved? Even the New Testament refers to Lot as righteous (2 Pet 2:7). Answer: because God saved him solely through grace. Lot was not righteous because of his deeds (far from it!); Lot was righteous because God made Lot righteous. Lot was righteous because God chose to see him as righteous. That’s grace. Ephesians 2:8–9, “(8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
  • Perverting God’s Mercies (19:30-38)

30 Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave.

  1. Lot finally made it to the mountains to which he was originally told to go. Apparently, he feared Zoar more than he thought he would, and he continued to flee. One wonders, however, why at this point Lot simply didn’t go back home to Abraham. Surely his uncle would have received him back. It wasn’t as if Lot had flocks or large possessions any longer – everything had been lost in Sodom’s destruction. It was just him & his two daughters. They could have gone back to Abraham and found refuge & a godly safe spot. Instead, Lot continued on his own, and continued to get into trouble.

31 Now the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.”

  1. Daughters had lost hope. They lost perspective.
  2. They also lost all fear of God. They had adopted the morality of Sodom.

33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 34 It happened on the next day that the firstborn said to the younger, “Indeed I lay with my father last night; let us make him drink wine tonight also, and you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.” 35 Then they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.

  1. Each surviving daughter had an incestuous night with their father…a terrible result of terrible parenting on Lot’s part.
  2. As an aside, this is part of the danger of drunkenness. All of this was made possible because Lot allowed himself to get stone-drunk, not just once but twice in a row. 

36 Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. 37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. 38 And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day.

  1. Explains the origins of Moab & Ammon, nations with which Israel would later have many conflicts. An unsavory beginning explains some of the unsavory relationships Israel would have with them.

Conclusion:

Biblical history isn’t always pretty, but it’s always the truth. Scripture holds nothing back in the portrayal of sin – both among those who are adamantly opposed to God, and among those who supposedly worship Him.

However men and women act in our inconsistency, the one thing we do know is that God is never inconsistent. He always acts according to His holy righteousness, showing judgment and wrath as well as mercy and grace.

All of that is on display here. There is grace in how God approached Abraham and Sarah, repeating the promises He had made to them, and allowing Sarah to have her doubts. There is mercy in the invitation given to Abraham to intercede for Sodom, as Abraham appealed to the holy character of God to always do what is right. There was grace in how God’s angels entered Sodom, allowing Lot the opportunity to appeal to his family, and ultimately pulling Lot out of town before the destruction came. There was mercy in even allowing Lot and his family to live, knowing the terrible perverted days that awaited them.

Did Abraham, Sarah, Lot, or anyone else deserve God’s mercies? Nope. He still extended them. God does not shut His eyes to sin, and He most certainly judges it in holy righteousness, but He still gives people the merciful opportunity to repent of sin and trust in His grace. Abraham, Sarah, and Lot experienced that grace…and so have all those who have trusted Christ as Savior and Lord.

Make sure that your trust is in the righteous God! He is our only hope!

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Genesis 16-17, “Can’t Shortcut the Covenant”

People get into trouble with shortcuts. On roadtrips, we’ll take what we think is a shortcut and end up going through the wrong town. On trails, shortcuts can be dangerous, should signage not be clearly marked. On the lighter side of things, shortcuts can get us in trouble on our phones. Use the automated suggestion or auto-correction too often on your texts, and you can end up saying things you had no intention to say!

People often look for shortcuts for many things in life (careers, money, weight loss) with varying degrees of success. But they always fail when they attempt to shortcut God. There are no shortcuts with God and His promises. We are either reliant upon His grace, or we’re not – there is no in-between, and no shortcut around Jesus. We can’t manipulate His promises, nor add to what He provides. Yet that’s exactly what we so often attempt to do.

In that, we’re no different from our biblical heroes.

Abram had followed God’s call to leave the land of Ur (Babylon) to come to Canaan. That had taken a huge leap of faith, but he soon had a lapse of faith and went down to Egypt during a time of famine. Thankfully, God intervened and Abram returned to the land of promise & he trusted in the Lord’s provision. Time passed, and Abram was forced to rescue his nephew Lot as the result of Lot’s foolishness in getting caught up with Sodom (and becoming a POW). God made Abram victorious under impossible circumstances, and Abram celebrated by worshipping God alongside Melchizedek, the king of Salem (Jerusalem) & priest of El Elyon (God Most High). Abram had demonstrated his loyalty unto the Lord, and soon refused a bribery attempt from the king of Sodom. Soon after, God appeared to Abram once again with His promise, and Abram believed God, with God accounting to him righteousness. It was at that point God cut His covenant with Abram, giving him a one-sided commitment of His promise, ensuring that every word He spoke would come to pass.

They were glorious days for Abram! But time passed, and faith waned. Like the rest of us, Abram had good times & bad times in his commitment to God. There’s no doubt he trusted the Lord, but he had a difficult time seeing how God’s promises would come true. His wife Sarai was no different. Promises had been made, but the two of them were getting older, and they couldn’t understand how promises would be kept. That’s when shortcuts began to be plotted, and that’s where things started to go wrong.

What they needed is what we need: to forsake reliance upon our flesh, and to trust solely in the grace and promise of God. There are no shortcuts around it!

Genesis 16

  • Sarai’s shortcut (16:1-6)

1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.

  1. The problem: Sarai was barren. The inability to bear children was a tremendous burden then, as it is today. Women are often viewed as somehow faulty or “broken,” which is bad enough – but for this particular woman, it was even worse. After all, the promise given by God to her husband was that he would become a great nation. Yet he was an old man, and she was not much younger. Sarai was already past the age of child-bearing. How could God’s word come to pass? The more months that went by, the more she fell into resentment and despair. She felt like she had to do something about her problem, so she came up with a plan.
    1. What was a problem for Sarai was actually an opportunity for God’s glory to shine. She saw it as a punishment; in reality, it was providential. It was in the most impossible of circumstances that God would cause His power to be known. (Not unlike with Jesus’ resurrection!) In our weaknesses, He is strong!
  2. The “solution”: surrogate motherhood. It was legal, but it was certainly not recommended. Culturally, what Sarai proposed was acceptable, but nowhere did God ever command such a thing. This was a human idea – one born of the flesh…and it would get them all into trouble.
    1. BTW: God’s plan for marriage is always one man + one woman, humbly submitted to God & to each other, for life. There are many Biblical characters who have multiple wives, none of which were ever commanded to take multiple wives by the Lord. Any time people deviate from God’s plan for marriage, their marriages invariably hit the rocks.
  3. Notice Hagar’s ethnicity: Egyptian. Where might Sarai have acquired this maidservant? During Abram’s fall into Egypt. [Genesis 12:10-20] Abram came up out of Egypt with much wealth (including male & female servants, Gen 12:16), but not all his wealth was beneficial. Some of it was a stumbling block!
  4. This was Sarai’s plan – what was Abram’s response, when she ran it past her husband? “And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.” Abram followed in the footsteps of Adam…not a good example! Lack of leadership – lack of faith.

3 Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. 4 So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.

  1. They had waited 10 years, though from what starting point, we don’t know. Perhaps it was 10 years after the return from Egypt – perhaps it was 10 years after Abram’s rescue of Lot. Either way, it was a long time. That was a long time to wait, but not long enough. (God’s promises are worth waiting for!)
  2. Hagar was a wife to Abram, but she was still a slave to Sarai. Not equal footing; not a good idea. Even if they had equal footing, it still would have been a bad idea because it was still an attempt at an end-run around God’s promise.
  3. Once Hagar conceived, there were immediate problems. She “despised” Sarai, most likely thinking that she was now to be the favored wife, since she was the one soon to bear Abram’s child. Already jealousy came into play, and it didn’t bode well for the future.

5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The LORD judge between you and me.” 6 So Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.

  1. Sarai became unfairly angry. She lacked any sense of personal responsibility. This was her plan, and her treatment of Hagar as nothing more than a servant. Even then, she blames Abram for Hagar’s attitude. Everyone is to blame except herself. (Usually the first sign of a problem!)
  2. That said, Abram did bear quite a bit of blame. He lacked leadership at the first, and lacked leadership in this as well. Neither did he try to protect his first wife from her plan, nor did he protect his second wife from ungodly attack. Abram had a God-given responsibility as the head of his household, and he totally dropped the ball.
  3. Sarai took out her anger on Hagar, humbling her by how she “dealt harshly with her.” The same word could be used in one’s own humility with God, or when someone is humbled in warfare by a conquering enemy. With Sarai & Hagar, it was the latter.
    1. This was the mother of the Hebrew race! She should have known better. This is what happens when we handle problems in our flesh & selfishness. We go from bad to worse.
  4. Just as God intervened with Abram when he had his lapse of faith in Egypt, so does God intervene with Sarai when she had her lapse of faith with her Egyptian. 
  • God’s solution (16:7-16)

7 Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.

  1. 1st mention of the “Angel of the Lord.” Although it’s not always the case, usually the Angel of the Lord seems to be an appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus. As God the Son & the Logos/Word of God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity has always existed – He simply hasn’t always had an incarnate body. That did not come until He was conceived within Mary. Yet the Son did appear several times throughout the Old Testament, for He is the image of the invisible God. Virtually any time God is physically seen by the Old Testament saints, it is an appearance of God the Son. Sometimes that appearance took place in the form of an angel, by which He would appear as a man, but with heavenly glory and authority. Here, we find this Angel speaking the very words of God in the first-person, making it very likely this is Jesus Himself.
    1. Where is Jesus in the Old Testament? Everywhere! On what page is the gospel proclaimed? From the very first, onward!
  2. To say that the Angel “found” Hagar does not mean that He lost her. Rather, it means that He intentionally searched her out. This is grace! After all, this is not a woman included in the covenant promises (apart from being a part of Abram’s house) – this is not a woman deserving of anything from the Lord God. Yet God gave grace anyway! He searched her out, and spoke to her in her time of need.
    1. Do we deserve anything from Jesus? Not in the slightest. But He searches us out, offers us grace, and brings us into a covenant we never earned.
  3. Where was Hagar headed? Back to Egypt. Scholars aren’t exactly certain about the location of “Shur,” but it seems evident it was on the road to Egypt. If she couldn’t find safety in Abram’s house, then she would go back to the only other home she knew. The sad part is that at least in Abram’s house, she had the opportunity to know the Lord (even if she never worshipped Him); in Egypt that opportunity would be lost.

8 And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”

  1. God’s question to Hagar is reminiscent of God’s questions to Adam & Eve. “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9) It’s not that He lacks information; He wants Hagar to offer it. He wanted Hagar to open up to Him, confessing to Him her own need for His grace and intervention. (Have you ever felt God prodding you for a response? Perhaps even tonight!)
  2. Hagar answers honestly, but incompletely. It’s true that she fled Sarai, but that wasn’t exactly the whole story. First, she never answers the question of her destination, but (more importantly) she never mentions the reason for her flight. Sarai’s harshness might have been the reason for Hagar’s leaving, but Hagar seems to have understood that she bore some of the blame as well.
    1. If we’re going to deal with sin, we need to confess it for what it is. We need to call it by name, instead of tip-toeing around it, sanitizing it. “I’m fleeing my mistress” sounds a lot better than “I was insubordinate and disrespectful to my mistress, and I didn’t want to bear my punishment.” Likewise, “I’m lonely” sounds better than “I’m having an affair” or “I’m looking at pornography.” We come up with half-excuses, hiding our full sin. The problem is the only person we’re fooling is ourselves. God knows the truth; we may as well admit it to Him!
    2. And when we do, we find forgiveness & cleansing. (1 Jn 1:9)
  3. Hagar wasn’t as open as she needed to be, but God still reached out in grace.

9 The Angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” 10 Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.”

  1. The Angel commanded Hagar’s repentance and humility. The Hebrew word for “return” is the same one often translated “repent.” Hagar needed to repent of her attitude and her actions – she needed to turn around and go back to where she belonged. She needed to humble herself, and submit to the authority over her, even if her authority (Sarai) was unfairly angry with her. Even so, Sarai still wasn’t the highest authority – it wasn’t the final place of repentance for Hagar. Ultimately, she was to turn around and trust the plan of God. By trusting where God had placed her, she would be trusting the sovereign plans of Almighty God.
    1. Repentance & humility…that’s always God’s solution regarding sin, and it’s perfect!
    2. What better place is there than to place ourselves in the care of God? We can trust His plan for us, His provision for us, and His grace towards us. Even when we cannot immediately see something God, we can turn our eyes toward God & trust Him.
  2. The Angel also affirmed that God’s plan for Hagar was good. He had a very specific plan in mind for her and her seed/descendants. She would not bear the seed of the covenant, but she would bear a race that would be multiplied by God.

11 And the Angel of the LORD said to her: “Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has heard your affliction. 12 He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”

  1. Why “Ishmael”? “Because the LORD has heard” her. YHWH was well aware of her “affliction” and suffering. She may not have been included in the covenant blessing, but God still knew her and heard her, being the Sovereign Creator He is. Ishmael = יִשְׁמָעֵאל; the root word being שָׁמַע (as in the “Shema,” = “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One”) + אֵל (God). God heard her, and God acted.
    1. God hears us, because God is merciful! He reaches out to us before we ever reach out to Him.
  2. God also gave some promises about Ishmael’s future. – Wild like a donkey. (NET) “The prophecy is not an insult. The wild donkey lived a solitary existence in the desert away from society. Ishmael would be free-roaming, strong, and like a bedouin; he would enjoy the freedom his mother sought.” His descendants would carry on that legacy, but taking it to a worse extent. Ishmael is the father of Arabic nomads, and thus one of the patriarchs of the Islamic religion.

13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

  1. Her son was named after the God who hears; she worshipped God as the “God-Who-Sees.” God did indeed see her, just as He sees every man, woman, and child in the world.
  2. Interestingly, there’s no indication that Hagar knew God by faith, in the same way Abram did. She does not call upon God’s covenant name, but rather appeals to the generic God of the universe. She had a direct revelation of God, but it does not seem she had any lasting faith in God.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

  1. Hagar was obedient to the Lord, and returned home to Abram and Sarai, and Abram was obedient in naming the child according to the Lord’s command. Every time he called out that name, Abram would be reminded that God heard. God heard Hagar in her suffering (the suffering which Abram had allowed), and God heard Abram in his own times of doubt. There was conviction & comfort in the name of his firstborn!

Genesis 17

  • Speaking the covenant (17:1-8)

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. 2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.”

  1. Chapter 16 left off with Abram being 86 years old; chapter 17 opens with him being 99. 13 more years have passed before another word from the Lord comes.
  2. El Shaddai. Precise translation of “Shaddai” is unknown – current theories lend towards a destroyer or a mountain, either being symbolic of incredible power and strength. LXX normally translated it as “all-powerful” (παντοκράτωρ, though untranslated here), and Vulgate as “omnipotent,” (omnipotēns).
    1. This is our God! He is the Almighty One – He is the God with the power to build, to sustain, and even to destroy. He has destroyed the twin enemies of death and sin, and His power is without equal! He is El Shaddai, our Jesus!
  3. In light of the Almighty God, how was Abram to walk? (I.e., how was he to habitually live?) As “blameless,” like Noah (Gen 6:9). Faultless, whole, innocent, perfect. Obviously not possible without the power of the Holy Spirit & the grace of God, but that’s the point. Abram was to live his life completely dependent upon the Lord (something which was lacking in the previous chapter!). When/if he did, then he would be blameless – he would be walking in the righteousness and holiness of God.
    1. This is still the response of God’s people to God’s character. The Bible (OT and NT) tells us to be holy, as God is holy. (Lev 19:2, 1 Pt 1:15-16)
  4. What follows God’s relationship with Abram? God’s covenant with Abram. Remember, the covenant had already been made & sealed in chapter 15, with God’s glory passing through the cut/divided animals. Here, God says that He “will make” it, not meaning that it had not already been made, but that it had not yet been fulfilled. The time was at hand.
  5. The other idea is that God would make this covenant. It wasn’t Abram’s hand or Sarai’s hand that would bring these things to pass; it was God Himself.
  6. When God did so, the blessing would be tremendous! When He said that He would “multiply [Abram] exceedingly,” the Hebrew is repeated for emphasis. It might be translated, “and will multiply you exceedingly exceedingly.” God’s covenant blessing would be beyond Abram’s comprehension.

3 Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.

  1. “Abram” = exalted father. “Abraham” = father of nations/multitudes.
  2. Why the name change? It is due to God’s work and God’s blessing. 

6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.

  1. Abraham would have an everlasting nation.

8 Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

  1. Abraham would have an everlasting possession of land.
  2. Don’t miss the very end of the covenant promises: “and I will be their God.” This is the defining aspect of the Abrahamic covenant: faith in the true God. … This is how Gentile-born Christians can be included: Galatians 3:7–9, “(7) Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. (8) And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” (9) So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”
  • Sign of the covenant (17:9-14)

9 And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.

  1. Response to the covenant: obedience.
  2. Why circumcision? It was a cutting away (removal) of flesh, symbolizing the removal of fleshly sin from a person’s life – cutting away that which would separate them from God.
  3. Note that circumcision doesn’t form the covenant relationship between God & Abraham; it is a “sign” of the covenant between them. Abraham was not saved by obedience & cutting; he was saved by God’s grace due to faith.

12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. 13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

  1. Who was to be circumcised? All males in every Hebrew household. If they were included in the covenant blessings of God given to the Hebrew nation (which was everyone within the borders & tribes), then they were to take part in the covenant sign.
  2. FYI: Why eight days old? Because according to some reports, that’s when an infant develops the ability to naturally clot blood due to a natural increase in Vitamin K in its system.

14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

  1. No circumcision, no covenant. They were to cut their flesh, or be cut off from God.
  • Son of the covenant (17:15-22)

15 Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.”

  1. “Sarai” and “Sarah” both mean princess, but there was still to be a change in Sarah’s identity. Why? God’s grace and intervention.
  2. Interestingly, Sarah only ever had one child her entire life. Yet from that one child came whole nations. From that one child came the King of kings. One child born to an old woman truly changed the world!

17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

  1. Abraham “laughed.” Was he being disrespectful, or unfaithful? Later, there is an incident with Sarah that implies she might have experienced a bit of that, but nothing is said her of Abraham. Here, Abraham laughed simply because it was funny. A child born to a 100 year old man & a 90 year old woman? The world had never heard of such a thing. When we think about it, it’s pretty humorous!
  2. What makes it funny is its impossibility from the standpoint of man. But that’s what makes it such a great witness of God, because with God, all things are possible!

18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” 19 Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” 22 Then He finished talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.

  1. Probably unsure what to fully believe about the promise of son not-yet-given, Abraham intercedes for the son he currently has (though seemingly yet unacknowledged as his heir). God refuses him, and for good reason: there is only one son of the covenant. It wouldn’t be the son born from the plans of men; it would be the son given by the power of God.
  2. Even so, Ishmael was still to be blessed. In many ways, God’s blessing upon him would mirror God’s blessing upon Isaac: 12 tribes/princes, and an exceedingly fruitful nation. God would give mercy & grace – but it would never change the fact of His covenant passing to Isaac. (“Isaac” = laughter, an ironic reminder from God of Abraham’s & Sarah’s response to the promise.)
  3. God makes one other promise: a timeframe. By this point, Abraham had waited nearly 25 years for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a descendant. Now they were barely 12 months away. There was still a bit of time to wait, but not long. The time was at hand!
  4. What was Abraham’s response to all of this? Obedience! 
  • Show of the covenant (17:23-27)

23 So Abraham took Ishmael his son, all who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very same day, as God had said to him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 That very same day Abraham was circumcised, and his son Ishmael; 27 and all the men of his house, born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

  1. There was no delay in Abraham’s obedience. He did what was necessary to circumcise his entire household that very day.
  2. As an emphasis for how long Abraham waited, his age is stated once more. The day he was circumcised, he was 99, and his oldest son (though illegitimate) was 13. We circumcise babies within minutes (or sometimes days) of their birth…they never remember the act. No doubt Abraham & all the rest did!
    1. We’re never too old or too young to commit ourselves to following the Lord.
  3. Question: Ishmael was circumcised, but he wasn’t in the covenant, apart from experiencing the blessing of being around Abraham. There’s little to no indication that Ishmael ever had faith or passed on the knowledge of God to his descendants. What good did his circumcision do? He was circumcised in his flesh, but not in his heart. Ishmael’s act was only ritual, not accompanied by faith. Without faith, it was virtually useless. Romans 2:28–29, “(28) For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; (29) but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”

Conclusion:

Abraham and Sarah had attempted a shortcut to God’s promises, but there was none. There is faith, or there is nothing. God would truly be abundant with His blessings, but they had to trust – they had to walk by faith. Works of the flesh did nothing but get them (and their descendants) into trouble. The flesh needed to be cut away, so they would walk in the spirit by faith, being humbly submitted to God.

Don’t rely upon shortcuts – don’t rely upon works of the flesh. Cut yourself off from those things, and rely solely upon the grace and promises of God!

Trusting God Alone

Posted: April 5, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 14-15, “Trusting God Alone”

One of the things to love about the book of Genesis (and the Bible as a whole) is its honesty. There are times that it shows the heroes of the faith doing well, and times it shows them failing miserably. When they fail, our hearts break; when they do well, we rejoice. For Genesis 14-15, this is one of the times we can rejoice! 🙂

What takes place in the life of Abram in these two chapters are pivotal events – things to which the New Testament often return. These are some of the moments when the man called the “Father of faith,” demonstrates why he has that label. Not that he always did well. Abram, like all of us, was a mixed bag. He had been called by God to live his homeland of Ur in Babylon, and God promised him a land, a nation, a name, and the opportunity to be a blessing to all the world. Initially Abram followed the Lord, saw the land of his future inheritance, and did well. Afterwards, Abram had a crisis of faith during a famine and almost lost it all in Egypt. He misled Pharaoh regarding the relationship with his wife Sarai, and by all rights, should have been killed by the king of Egypt. Yet God protected Abram, even bringing him out of Egypt with great wealth. (God is merciful!)

From there, Genesis showed Abram back in the land, eventually coming to a crisis in his family as he and his nephew Lot each grew too prosperous to dwell side-by-side. This time, Abram trusted the Lord as he gave the pick of the land to Lot, who chose what he believed was the better portion (but would soon lead to his downfall). Lot settled not far from Sodom, which was already known as an exceedingly wicked city. As for Abram, his trust in the Lord was well-placed, as God declared how Abram would receive all the land he could see…and even more.

What happens now is that Abram continues to walk in faith. He’ll have future crises later, but at the present, he trusts God. His faith is in God alone, and his relationship with God is itself a blessed reward…just as it is with us. God blesses us not because we’ve earned anything, but only because of His grace. He Himself is our reward because Jesus Christ is our Lord, Savior, and Friend…and His blessing of salvation comes through faith alone.

Genesis 14 – Abram the worshipping warrior

  • Regional war (14:1-12)

1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, 2 that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 4 Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

  1. Because of the age of the original writing, some of the places are difficult to identify & others have changed names through the centuries. Most likely, Shinar = Babylon, Ellasar = eastern Turkey, Elam = elsewhere in Iraq, “Nations” is the translated form of “Goiim” (NASB, ESV) = perhaps referring to the Hittites. The other city-states were located east of the Dead Sea (“Salt Sea”) in modern-day Jordan. The overall idea is that a confederacy of kingdoms, led by Chedorlaomer, expanded their imperial rule out to the lands neighboring Canaan/Israel. The five Transjordanian city-states served this way for 12 years, but eventually rebelled and went to war. (War has always existed in the Middle East!)
  2. The Bible does not typically follow the politics of the world outside of Israel, but when it does, it is usually because it affects God’s people in one way or the other. That’s the case here, although it takes a while for the scene to be set. For now, the regional conflict and players are described.

5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim, 6 and the Horites in their mountain of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is by the wilderness. 7 Then they turned back and came to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Hazezon Tamar. 8 And the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim 9 against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.

  1. Chedorlaomer, along with the other three kings, came with their armies against the five rebellious cities, and basically ran rampant along the way, easily winning all their battles. Wherever they went, they experienced victory, and those rebelling against them fled.

10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. 11 Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. 12 They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

  1. Although we might expect the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah to have the homefield advantage, the topography of the land actually worked against them. Their armies were bogged down by the asphalt/tar, and Chedorlaomer was able to defeat them, and loot them entirely.
  2. Part of what/who was looted was Lot. He had gotten caught up in the troubles of Sodom, not only because he had originally chosen to live close to the city, but because over time he chose to live in the city: he “dwelt in Sodom.” Lot had chosen to compromise once, and that only opened the door to more compromise down the line. Although Lot knew better, he was soon living among the wicked of the wicked.
    1. For Christians, sin is a no-compromise issue. In military terms, it’s no-quarter. We cannot reason with sin, nor compromise our values or the word of God. We are to reckon ourselves dead to it (Rom 6:11). That’s the only way to deal with it.
  • Abram rescues Lot (14:13-16)

13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram.

  1. Out of the grand defeat of the five local kings, there were some survivors. Apparently one knew of Lot’s relation with Abram, and that’s where the person ran. Abram had settled in the land shown him by God, even developing friendships with his neighbors. Those friendships were about to come in very handy!
  2. FYI: First mention of “” Scholars are uncertain as to the etymology. It’s possibly derived from “Eber,” one of the sons of Shem (Gen 10:21). A different ethnic group was known as the “Habiru,” who were warriors – it’s possible the context pulls a bit of the warrior imagery for Abram. He was but one man, but he was known as powerful & someone not easily intimidated. Others believe that the name “Hebrew” is derived from the word for “slave” (‘eved), referring to Abram’s act of serving the Lord. Whatever the origin of the term, the name stuck! To be a “Hebrew” is to be a child of Abraham, and thus a servant of the Living God, by faith sharing in the inheritance of Abraham.

14 Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus.

  1. The scene is fairly incredible for casual readers of Genesis. To this point, it would have seemed as if Abram was a wealthy shepherd, but little more. Although it was true that his flock and Lot’s flock had grown too large to dwell together, it would be easy to think of Abram as having a few servants, but a small household overall. Not so! Abram had “three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house.” Abram had 318 men ready for battle – no telling how many women and children were with them. Before Abram ever had a child of his own, he was responsible for a small town’s worth of people. Truly this man was wealthy, incredibly blessed by God! 
  2. Additionally, these men were “trained” – they were prepared for such a time as this. Abram hadn’t sat around eating grapes & figs, kicking back on his wealth. He knew danger existed out in the wider world, and he needed to be ready at any time to defend himself or his loved ones. He may not have lived in constant battle, but he was prepared for it when it came.
    1. What do you do in terms of preparation? How have you trained yourself for the spiritual battles sure to come?
  3. Dan” is probably anachronistic, meaning that this was not the original name of the town in the days of Abraham. But neither is it likely a reference to the future tribe of Dan. Remember that Genesis was written/edited by Moses, and when Moses wrote, the tribes of Israel were not yet settled in their regions. When they did settle, Dan’s home was coastal, almost the midpoint between north & south…a location not in view here in Genesis 14:14. This most likely refers to a town much further north of the Sea of Galilee, showing the extent to which Abram pursued the army of Chedorlaomer.
    1. The point? Even if Moses as the editor did update the location names, he did so in a way that his original readers would understand, and that is trustworthy. We don’t want to let similarities between other named locations cause us to doubt the truth of God’s word.
  4. In any case, be careful not to miss the forest for the trees. Abram pursued the enemy a long way! When he learned his nephew was in trouble, Abram didn’t delay – he did what was necessary to rescue his family. When it comes to family, you do what needs to be done, and Abram was no exception.
  5. And he was successful! 

16 So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.

  1. Abram, Mamre, Eshcol, and Aner won the victory! Taking their 318 men against the armies of Chedorlaomer and the three other kings, the Hebrew came out on top. From a military standpoint, these were unbeatable odds. The four kings had no trouble defeating the combined armies of Sodom, Gomorrah, etc., but when it came to Abram & his men, things were profoundly different. 
  2. What made the difference? The blessing and power of God! God was with Abram, and that made all the difference in the world. It didn’t matter that Abram had 318 men – he could have had three…and it still would have been more than enough. When God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)
    1. This is a bit of a preview of God’s relationship with the future nation of Israel. Especially when we remember that Moses was writing/editing this for the Hebrew nation as they were on their way to the Promised Land (either initially, or during their 40 years of wandering). If they wanted proof that God’s promise that one man could turn aside 1000 (Dt 32:30), then they need look no further than Abraham. He experienced this blessing of God centuries before the law of God was ever given! Abram walked by faith – exactly what all of the Hebrews ought to have done all along. (And exactly as we ought to do today!)
  • Abram chooses Salem vs. Sodom (14:17-24)

17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him.

  1. The king of Sodom was the one most benefited by Abram, so he “went out to meet him,” but someone else got to Abram first: the king of Salem…

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.

  1. Who is Melchizedek? He is a unique character in Scripture, being both king & priest – something that would normally be forbidden among the tribes of Israel. Within Israel, kings came from Judah & priests came from Levi; Melchizedek came from neither & provides a different example altogether. He was both king of Salem (peace/righteousness, i.e. Jerusalem), and the priest of God Most High (El Elyon). Although we sometimes think that Abram was the only man alive worshipping the true God, that wasn’t the case. There was even a priest of the Most High God during the days of Abram – Abram had a tremendous ally, and even an intercessor on his behalf: Melchizedek.
  2. Who does Melchizedek represent? Or perhaps, who was he really? Hebrews 7:1–3, “(1) For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, (2) to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” (3) without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”Hebrews 7:15–17, “(15) And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest (16) who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. (17) For He testifies: “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”” Some believe that Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate Jesus, though there is no way to know for certain. What is clear is that Melchizedek represents Jesus in all kinds of ways. Jesus is both King & Priest, being of a superior/older order than the priestly order of Levi. Levi (via Abraham) paid homage to Melchizedek, showing deference to the better priest. This is our Jesus! He is our great High Priest – the King of Righteousness who grants us peace – the One without beginning or end – the One who provides for us and intercedes for us. There is no better priest than Priest Jesus!
  3. As for Melchizedek, he brought out provisions for Abram, the bread and wine surely not coincidental in his priestly role. The two communed together, and worshipped together…

19 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.

  1. Just as Melchizedek was a priest of God Most High, his blessing was given because of God Most High, the “Possessor of heaven and earth.” “Possessor” might be better translated “Creator.” The Hebrew word most often translated “to buy/acquire,” but context can be “to create.” God obviously has no need to purchase the heavens and the earth, but He did make them. The point made by Melchizedek is that Abram was indeed “blessed,” by none other than the Creator God. The king/priest blessed Abram, but Abram was already in a blessed relationship with the Lord of the Universe. That’s why it didn’t matter what king or confederacy of kings Abram fought – the Creator of the world is more powerful than all of them. Again, when God is for us, who can be against us? When we are in the middle of God’s will, no scheme of man can possibly overturn it.
  2. More than the results is the relationship. More than the gifts is the Giver. Abram was “blessed…of God Most High,” because Abram knew God Most High. That relationship made all the difference! That relationship was the foundation – the cornerstone for everything else that followed.
    1. It doesn’t matter what we think we have in Jesus, if we have no relationship with Him. It doesn’t matter what experiences we believe we’ve had with the Lord God, if we don’t know Him. We need to know Him – we can know Him. We experience the same blessing Abram experienced when we know God in faith.

21 Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”

  1. Some have seen this as the king’s disdain of Abram, but the context seems to imply this was more of a bribe. Bela (the king of Sodom) no doubt wanted “the persons” returned to him – he didn’t want his subjects to become Abram’s slaves/servants, when he could keep them for himself. At the same time, Bela thought he could richly compensate Abram by “allowing” Abram to keep all of the wealth (the goods – the booty) he had recovered from Chedorlaomer. It was an extremely generous offer, though not likely made from the goodness of his heart. If Abram agreed, then Bela and Abram would be allied together. If they were allied, then Abram would be (at least somewhat) responsible for the various wickedness that took place in Sodom with Bela’s approval. They would share in wealth, and in sin.
  2. Worse yet, if Abram received this gift from the king of Sodom, then Abram would be indebted to the king of Sodom. He would “owe” Bela, basically being required to show allegiance to him. This was a bad deal, indeed!
  3. Thankfully, Abram saw right through this scheme…

22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’—24 except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”

  1. Abram was dependent upon God alone. He didn’t need a thing from Sodom, because the Creator/Possessor of heaven and earth was his provider! What could Bela of Sodom offer Abram in comparison with that? 

Genesis 15 – God’s one-sided covenant

  • God’s promise of a people (15:1-6)

1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

  1. Notice the connection in the narrative: “after these things.” God knew what Abram had done, and what Abram had refused because of his love and loyalty unto God. And God spoke up! Abram was right to refuse the reward of Bela of Sodom, because Abram already had one: God. God Himself was Abram’s “exceedingly great reward.
    1. Again, to know Christ is our blessing! Do we remember this, or are we always looking for stuff? 

2 But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”

  1. Considering Abram’s earlier worship alongside Melchizedek, is this a lapse in faith? No; it’s an honest question. Abram remembered God’s promise of Genesis 12, but he hadn’t seen how it might come true. At this point, Abram’s simply trying to figure things out, so he asks God about His word and His covenant. Skeptical cynicism is not honored by the Lord, but honest questions are. There’s nothing wrong with asking God honest questions. Job did, and although eventually Job needed an attitude adjustment, God never once declares that Job is anything other than His “servant,” who spoke what was right about God (Job 42:7-8). Questions borne out of faith are fine; doubts arising from disbelief are not. Ask your questions; God can handle them!
  2. Notice: If Abram is asking how God’s word is going to be fulfilled, then Abram already believes that God’s word will be fulfilled. He knows God can be trusted; he just wants to know what to expect in the meantime. All he had at the moment were servants: people acquired from other lands and their sons born in his house. Who would receive the covenant promises of God from Abram, already aged & well-advanced in years? To that, God had an answer…

4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

  1. God points Abram beyond the present to the future. Something was still coming, but Abram had to be willing to wait.
  2. God reminds Abram that His power and grace is abundant! God’s promise was good because God had the power to pull it off. If Abram wanted to know how many descendants would come from his own loins, all he needed to do was look up at the night sky. The Milky Way could not number those who descended from him! (We’re included in that number, as is everyone who has faith in Christ! – Gal 3:29)

6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

  1. Had Abram not previously believed the Lord? Of course he had. His faith was demonstrated in his move from Ur, and in his worship alongside Melchizedek. The point of verse 6 is not to tell us when Abram came to faith and was saved, but how Abram was saved. It wasn’t by his act of worship with Melchizedek, nor by his obedience out of Ur. It certainly wasn’t by his obedience in circumcision, as God had not yet even given that commandment, nor any other. Abram’s salvation (the righteousness seen in him by God) was given to him by God on account of his faith. Throughout all of this, Abram “believed in the LORD,” – his trust was in God alone, standing firm on the word of YHWH and none other. As a result, God credited to him (thought towards him, reckoned to him) “” On his own, Abram seemed like a pretty decent guy, trying to do the right thing. He even had some pretty amazing spiritual experiences along the way. But none of that gave Abram the righteousness he required to be in a right relationship with God. What he needed, only God could give to him – and God gave it due to faith. Abram believed, and that alone verified God’s gift of righteousness.
  2. This is a crucial concept in the New Testament regarding salvation! Romans 4:1–3, “(1) What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? (2) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.””Romans 4:20–25, “(20) He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, (21) and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. (22) And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (23) Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, (24) but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, (25) who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” How are we saved? The same way Abraham was saved: by faith! We believe the word (gospel) of God regarding Jesus Christ – we place our faith & trust solely in Him, and God credits the righteousness of Jesus to our account. 
  • God’s promise of a possession (15:7-21)

7 Then He said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”

  1. Covenant name already used, but this is the first time Scripture shows God introducing Himself by it. Why? This is the formal beginning of a covenant commitment. Something similar is seen at Mt. Sinai when God gives Moses the 10 Commandments: Exodus 20:1–2, “(1) And God spoke all these words, saying: (2) “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” It’s not that Abram nor Moses nor the children of Israel needed to be introduced to the Lord all over again; it’s that God was declaring a formalized covenant. Just like a modern contract spells out all of the details, specifying who exactly is included, so does God do with His covenant promises to Israel. Unto Abram, God identified Himself by His covenant name and His acts of deliverance and grace.
    1. How is it we know our Jesus? By His name and by His acts of deliverance and grace! We know Him by the name Jesus, because He has declared that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one goes to the Father except through Him (Jn 14:6). There is no other name given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). And we know Him by His acts of deliverance: the cross and resurrection! The resurrection is the divine declaration that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom 1:4). The resurrection is God’s assurance given to men that Jesus will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). God the Son has been declared to us, the proof being His resurrection. We must believe and respond in faith!
  2. To Abram, God declared His name and His promise. There was yet a future inheritance for Abram: “this land” upon which he stood. That brought up a great question for Abram. How could he know – what assurance would he have of the future, considering he was old enough to die of old age at any moment?

8 And he said, “Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?” 9 So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

  1. When the Bible speaks about covenants, it often uses the literal language of “cutting” a covenant. What happens in vss. 8-10 seem to reflect the basic idea behind it. God has Abram gather several kinds of sacrificial animals (most of which are reflected in the later Levitical laws, showing that Abram had the law of God written on his heart, even if it had not yet been written down on paper), and then physically divide the animals in two parts. At the time Abram did it, nothing happened, but God would soon use these parts to demonstrate His own commitment to His covenant promise.
  2. One thing did happen: “vultures came down on the carcasses.” As might be expected with animal carcasses sitting out in the open sun in the desert/wilderness, carrion birds soon arrived. Abram quickly took action and “drove them away.” From a physical, natural standpoint, this all makes perfect sense. It does from a spiritual standpoint, as well. We don’t want to read too much into this, but the picture with Abram certainly calls to mind another word picture given us by the Lord Jesus as He described seed being cast upon the ground and birds swooping in to eat it up (Mt 13:4). He later describes the seed as the word, and the birds as the wicked one who “comes and snatches away what was sown,” (Mt 13:19). When God gives the gospel, the devil is eager to snatch it away from those who might receive His gracious promises. How do we guard against it? Take heed & shoo off the vultures! Do what needs to be done to hold fast to God’s promises of grace in Jesus!
  3. Abram acted according to God’s command during the day; God gave him a vision at night…

12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

  1. That fear “fell upon” Abram isn’t too surprising. After all, the fear of the Lord is a good thing, as it’s the beginning of wisdom. But even if we don’t know all the details surrounding Abram’s terror, we know that God soon spoke to him, and reiterated His promise.
  2. There would indeed be a future nation arise from Abram. He would have many “descendants” – so many, in fact, that they would be large enough to be enslaved in a foreign land. They would remain in that land a long time (400 years), but God would not abandon them to that land. He would bring them out, and just as Abram had come out of Egypt with riches, so would his descendants “come out with great possessions.
  3. Two key thoughts: (1) This was all future, (2) God was all in control. (1) Abram was thinking in the short-term. He wanted to know what was happening in the next few days, weeks, and months. God had a plan that reached much further! God’s plan for Abram’s descendants lasted the next 400 years. In fact, God’s plan for his descendants lasted the next 4,000 years and beyond! (Though God only revealed a bit at the present time.) God’s plan for Abram and his children was greater than Abram could possibly imagine. But that leads to the second point, (2) God was totally in control of it all. Yes, God would keep His promise to grant a nation of descendants to Abram (good!). But that nation would also be enslaved (bad!). Yet God would judge the enslaving nation, and the Hebrews would come out again (good!). However it appeared from the outside, Abram needed to trust that God knew what He was doing. God had a plan for it all; Abram simply needed to maintain faith.

15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

  1. More to the present, God assured Abram that Abram wouldn’t see those future days. He would die in peace, being far older than what he was at the present. Abram would dwell in his land inheritance, though he wouldn’t possess it. True possession/ownership would have to wait until the 400 years of slavery (fourth generation) was complete, because that was when God would bring them back.
  2. Interestingly, God gives an additional reason for the wait. Among the other aspects of God’s timing, God was extending mercy to the Amorites: “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” This is important to remember when later reading of the conquest of the Promised Land by Joshua. It can seem truly harsh and cruel for God to command so much bloodshed, as entire cities of people were to be slain without mercy. But God had given them mercy. He had given them 400 years of mercy (and more, considering He was merciful to them prior to raising up Abraham). God had given them ample opportunity to repent, and they refused to do so, even with the later witnesses of the clans of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob living among them. At some point, God had to bring His judgment, and prevent future generations from being born into hell-bound depravity. That was why He used Joshua in that way. But God had been merciful the entire time…His mercies are beyond our comprehension, being new every morning!
  3. That was all of God’s proclamation, but there was still a sign to be given. 

17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.

  1. Here’s where all the split animal carcasses came into play. They were lying upon the ground, and a supernatural appearance of the presence of God “passed between” them. The “smoking oven” & “burning torch” are symbols of God’s glory. He is an all-consuming fire (Heb 12:29), and His presence often appears as either smoke/cloud (as it did on Mt. Sinai), or fire (such as the pillar of fire in the wilderness, or the burning bush of Moses). The whole idea is that God Himself passed through the slain animals.
  2. This was the cutting of the covenant. When animals were cut in two, it was as if the covenant-makers were saying, “May this happen to me, if I break my covenant vow.” We say something similar in marriage ceremonies today (which are modern covenants): “till death do we part.” IOW, may nothing except death break this vow. That was the vow God made unto Abram. He promised to keep His commitment unto death, under penalty of death.
    1. That’s what makes this so amazing! Can God die? So will God’s promise ever fail? No! God gave to Abram an unbreakable promise, and He made it completely one-sided. Not a single aspect of this vow was dependent upon Abram’s obedience; it was solely based on the word of God.
    2. Guess what our relationship with Jesus is? A one-sided covenant commitment from God, based upon the death of His Son. 

18 On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

  1. God concludes with a bit of detail about Abram’s future inheritance. God had promised him a land – now God tells him the borders. It was bigger than Abram could have possibly imagined! It would range from the border of Egyptian influence (not the Nile, but the wadi on the Sinai peninsula) all the way to the Euphrates river. Did Abram see this fulfilled? The nation of Israel got only the briefest taste of it…but they’ll experience it forever in the future. God’s promises never return void!

Conclusion:

Praise God for the faith of Abram – and praise God that we can all share in that same faith! Abram trusted the Lord God alone. He had drawn his line in the sand with sin, clearly determined to trust none other but God. He trusted God in battle – he trusted God in worship – he trusted God with his future…he trusted God with everything. What God said, Abram believed. He took it as gospel, and trusted it with his life. And God can be trusted! He fulfills His promises, basing His own existence and reputation on it.

May we trust God in that same way! May we be those who trust Jesus for our daily provisions, but more than that, we trust Jesus with our very existence. May we be those who realize that the best reward is Jesus Himself – that knowing God in real relationship through real faith is better than any material thing the world can possibly offer.

Abram: Faith & Failure

Posted: March 22, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 12-13, “Abram: Faith & Failure”

Our heroes can sometimes surprise us. We place certain people upon pedestals, and we’re shocked when they sometimes fall. Of course, apart from the Lord Jesus, no one is perfect. No one is 100% all the time. Not in sports, not in politics, not in art…not even in faith. Has there been anyone who is always faithful? Surely not. Moses misrepresented God in the wilderness – King David infamously had his adultery with Bathsheba – Peter had his denial of Jesus – and those are just a few of the examples recorded for us. Surely even people like Paul and John had their times of faithlessness and failures. For someone to be termed “faithful,” does it mean that he/she is always 100% faith-filled? For someone to have failed, does it mean that their lives are nothing but failure? Of course not. People struggle…that’s just a part of life.

It was even true for Abraham (originally known as Abram). He is often called the “Father of Faith,” (rightly so) being the one to first to be shown as truly believing upon God and having it accounted to him as righteousness – but that doesn’t mean he was perfect. Abram struggled with his own faith, both before and after his breakthrough with God. Abram had faith in God, but he didn’t always walk according to faith. At times, Abram truly failed…yet God never abandoned him. Though we fail, God is always faithful. Learning to trust in God’s faithfulness is part of what our own walk of faith is about.

Contextually, we’ve come to a turning point in the book of Genesis. We’ve been told of the beginnings of the world & of mankind. We’ve learned of sin & the fall, with the results of death continuing through the generations. We’ve seen the corruption of the earth, and God’s wrath poured out upon it, starting over with humanity from one single family: Noah & his sons. We’ve even seen the repopulation of the earth, and the repeated rebellion against God at the Tower of Babel, as God scattered mankind and languages throughout the world.

Through it all, God has preserved His promise of a future deliverer. Though sin and death ran rampant among humanity, God promised a future Man who would conquer sin and the devil. This was the Seed of the Woman, the descendant of Eve, whose lineage had gone through Seth, through Noah, through Shem, and now finally to a man named Terah. Genesis 11 ended with Terah’s own genealogy, showing him to ben inhabitant of Ur in the far recesses of what was later known as Babylonia. He was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and at some point he took his family away from Ur in order to “go to the land of Canaan,” (11:31). Along the way, they stopped at the town of Haran where Terah died, and the narrative passes to Abram (where it had been headed all along).

What happens with Abram? This is a man who would later be considered the father of the three major monotheistic religions in the world (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). This is one of the most influential men in all history. Was he perfect? No. Abram had his missteps…but he also had the promises of God. Where Abram was faithless, God was faithful…just like God always is.

Trust the promises of God! Walk in faith, and walk in the blessing given to Abram and to all the world!

Genesis 12 – The Promise

  • God’s calling to Abram (1-3)

1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

  1. Who spoke? Yahweh “the Lord.” The last use of God’s covenant name was in the account of the Tower of Babel. Is this God a jealous or vindictive God? No! This is a loving, merciful, and giving God. He gave wonderful promises to Abram, which leads to wonderful promises for the rest of the world. The covenant-keeping God known as “I AM” is to be loved, as well as reverently feared.
  2. When did He speak? That’s a subject for debate. Some claim that this had been an earlier call to Abram back when Abram was still with his father Terah – which is one reason why the NKJV emphasizes the past tense with “had” Yet the Hebrew grammar could be translated with a simple past tense: “Now the LORD said to Abram…” (per the ESV, NASB, and HCSB). That said, the New Testament does indicate that God spoke to Abram prior to his father’s death, as that was the tradition received by the Jews during the 1st century. Acts 7:2–4, “(2) And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, (3) and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ (4) Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.” This is how the 1st martyr of the church, Stephen, began his address just prior to his death-by-stoning. Where exactly Stephen originally received this information is unsaid in Scripture, though it would seem to have been the tradition passed down by the Jews. It was in Ur of the Chaldees when Abram was originally called – back when he was still a pagan idol worshipper (Josh 24:2).
    1. The point? God reached out to Abram before Abram reached out to God. God took the initiative. Whenever it was God spoke to Abram, it was God who spoke. Abram didn’t know what was going on, prior to God reaching out to him in grace. This is always the way salvation works. God always takes the initiative. He woos us, reaches out to us, causes us to see our need. Only after that, is it possible for us to respond in faith. This is why we can affirm that we are saved by grace alone.
    2. Question: Considering that Abram had a long stop in Haran between his departure from Ur & arrival in Canaan, does this mean that Abram was disobedient to God’s initial call? Did Abram sinfully delay or get lazy? Not necessarily. Remember that Terah and his entire family left Ur to travel all the way to Haran, where Terah died. It’s entirely possible that Abram told his father of the need to obey God, and his father obeyed, all to the point when he finally could no longer travel.
      1. Remember that many of the Biblical accounts are summaries; not exhaustive daily diaries. Be careful assuming motives when Scripture is silent.
    3. What did God speak? “Get out…” Get out of everything: his native country, his family ties, his comfortable way of life. Get out & go. Leave everything behind to follow God. God’s call to Abram sounds an awful lot like Jesus’ call to His disciples: Matthew 16:24–25, “(24) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (25) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Do you want to follow Jesus? Leave everything behind. Leave your life, your possessions, your priorities. Lay it all at the foot of the cross, and follow Jesus alone as Savior and Lord. Is it sacrifice? Is it worth it? Absolutely! (If you haven’t done it, do it tonight!)
    4. From that one command of God for Abram to “go,” God promised to do many more things in return. (1) God will “show” Abram a land. (2) God will “bless” Abram and make him a “” (3) God will grow Abram’s “name” and reputation. The bottom line in all this is that God will work! God does much on behalf of Abram! What Abram leaves behind is nothing compared to what God offered him in return. God will give him a homeland far bigger than a single household back in Ur. God will take an elderly childless man, and make him a tremendous nation. God will take someone from insignificance, and transform him into one of the greatest men in all history. These were (are) tremendous promises! And it’s all the work of God. Abram will do nothing to earn this for himself; it is all what God promises to do on his behalf.
      1. Our New Testament Christianity works in exactly the same way. We leave everything to follow Christ, and He is the one who blesses us in tremendous ways. He gives us a new name, a new identity, a new inheritance, and a new life. These are not things we achieve; these are things we receive by Jesus’ grace.
    5. God promises two more things in vs. 3: the first is that God will protect God will act on Abram’s behalf with those who interact with him. For those who speak well of Abram, God will speak well of them. For those who speak lightly, then God will bring His curse. Abram is a protected man who births a protected people. Those who speak against his children do so at their own peril.
      1. Of course there are ramifications for today: how we treat Abram & his descendants matters! Which children of Abram are the children of the covenant promises? Israel, and (by extension) the Church. As a people, we need to be mindful how we treat both Jews and Christians around the world.
    6. The second promise in vs. 3 regards the oldest promise God gave to mankind: a Savior. “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” There is a worldwide blessing to come from Abram, none other than the promised Seed of the Woman (Gen 3:15), the Lord Jesus Christ. This is seen in the actual wording used by God, as He states how the curse of Adam is reversed: “All the families of the earth” – the word for “earth” is different from the word used for “land” in verse 1. This reaches all the way back to Genesis 2: אֲדָמָה ~ as when God formed “Adam” from the “adamah,” “dust of the ground.” IOW, Abram’s ultimate blessing (and the true blessing he will be to all the world) is to provide the nation that will bring forth the One who restores humanity to God’s original intent: unblemished & untouched by sin and death.
      1. We are most blessed in Abraham by believing in Jesus!
  • Abram’s 1st journey through the land and worship (4-9)

4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

  1. Abram’s father may have started him on his journey, but Abram was faithful in his own right. He obeyed. He left everything behind, and did exactly as God “had spoken to him.” We can hardly imagine the difficulty! Many of us have relocated from city to city at some point in time, but at least we had an idea of where we were going. We had a plan of how we would arrive, and the means to ensure we would get there. Abram simply had a calling from God and faith. No doubt he was already wealthy by the standards of the day (having any livestock at all), but cross-country travel at that time was fraught with danger. How long would he need to travel? Would he know when he arrived? God spoke to him once; would God speak again? At this point in Abram’s life, he knew none of these things. All he knew is that he needed to go, so he went. He walked in faith, providing an example for us all.
  2. Notice when Abram took his step of faith: at 75 years of age. We’re never too old to follow the Lord! We’re never too old to be used by the Lord! (Nor too young!)

5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. 6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land.

  1. We get an idea of the size of the group travelling with Abram – he had a lot of people for whom he was responsible. Again, it took faith to set out on the journey.
  2. Abram didn’t know the destination when he began, but he eventually arrived where God led him. Settling smack-dab in the middle of Canaan. Some of the town names mentioned throughout Genesis 12 will come up again & again with the other patriarchs, up until the conquest of Joshua. These are milestone locations for the nation of Israel – places that God had promised to Abram, and places that were eventually received by his descendants.

7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

  1. If there were any doubt in Abram’s mind of whether or not he had arrived, God spoke to him (or “appeared” to him in some vision), and gave him confirmation. He reiterated his promise that God would (1) grant descendants, and (2) grant land. Not just any land; “this” The soil upon which Abram stood as a stranger would be home to his sons and grandsons for generations yet to come.
  2. This alone took faith to believe. Yet he believed it. Abram’s response was one of worship. He “built and altar to the LORD.” This was common among the patriarchs, though sinful among the later Hebrews. Why? During the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they had no tabernacle or temple – there was no designated place where they were commanded to worship the Lord. This all changed once Moses received the law from God & instructions on building the tabernacle. Thus when the Transjordan tribes of Reuben, Gad, and ½ Manasseh build an altar in Shiloh, it is perceived as apostasy and a potential act of war (Josh 22). (It’s later explained as a witness of their faith.) When the numerous altars are built during the kingdom years, they are almost always viewed as idolatrous, because they take away from the one designated way of worship given by God.
    1. What about us? We neither have the temple, nor do we build for ourselves altars – but we still worship God only in the way He has given us: through faith in the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). To worship God apart from Jesus is to worship in idolatry. He is our altar upon which we worship.

8 And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. 9 So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.

  1. Abram’s whole journey was southward. Hebrew for “south” is technically “Negev,” but this was before the region was named. Either way, Negev is in the south of Israel.
  2. What did Abram do all along the way? It seems that every place in which he stopped for a time, he made time to build an altar and worship God. Worship was a priority for Abram – just as it ought to be for us. (Do you prioritize worship?)
  3. Abram has started off well! Sadly, he stumbles along the way as verse 10 goes on to show…
  • Descent and deceit in Egypt (10-20)

10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land.

  1. Problem #1: Abram left the land that God showed him. Abram had arrived in Canaan because of the command and leading of God. Had God told him to leave? Not in any revelation that is recorded in Scripture. There was nothing wrong with Abram taking a tour of the country – this was his future inheritance, after all. But leaving the land was not something he had been told to do. Leaving the place of God’s calling was setting himself up for failure. (As it is with us!)
  2. That’s not to say that a “famine” wasn’t a legitimate issue…it was. Abram needed to eat, and needed to provide for his household (which was large). But Abram could have trusted God to lead him through it. In all of the times during which he worshipped, surely he prayed for daily bread…or did he? Scripture doesn’t say, but Abram’s actions indicate that perhaps he didn’t. He was willing to trust God for the big promises in the future, but maybe not so much for the daily provision of the present.
    1. Do we do the same? Perhaps we trust Jesus for eternal life & forgiveness of sin, but not so much for His provision and guidance on a daily basis. We’re grateful for eternal promises, but trust our own gut for our daily lives. Be careful! If God can be trusted on the eternal, surely He is more than trustworthy on the present!

11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.”

  1. Not only was the famine a challenge, but so was the beauty of his wife. Once in Egypt, Abram would be faced with the possibility of Sarai being taken from him on account of her beauty. If the Egyptians (particularly the Pharaoh) saw something they desired, they wouldn’t have any trouble killing the person who originally had it – in this case, Sarai’s husband Abram. That’s when Abram concocted this plan to be known as Sarai’s brother, rather than her husband.
    1. Consider for a moment how beautiful Sarai must have been. According to the ages of Abraham & Sarah in Genesis 17:17, doing a bit of math, it seems that Sarai was 65 years old at this point. For a 65 year old woman to be so beautiful that she was worth killing for, that’s amazing!
  2. Problem #2: Abram left his faith in God’s promises. According to vss. 1-3, Abram would need to survive in order to produce children. Yet here, Abram fears for his life…and it shows up in foolishness. Some scholars suggest that Abram’s plan was just something to buy him time. If an Egyptian needed to negotiate with Sarai’s “brother” for marriage, then that would give Abram time to get out of town. If this was the case, then Abram didn’t account for the possibility of Pharaoh himself calling for Sarai – a man who would not negotiate at all!
    1. Fear is incompatible with faith; one cancels out the other. Which will we choose?
  3. Problem #3: Not only did Abram act in fear; he acted in deceit. He left not only his calling from God, but the moral character of which was expected of him. Granted, Abram was not under the law & there is no specific version of the 9th Commandment at this time – but honesty is an understood expectation for those who follow God. God is truth, and He cannot lie (Tts 1:2). His people ought not act contrary to His basic character – with or without a specific chapter & verse in Scripture. Abram knew better, and it demonstrates one more thing from which he departed.

14 So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful. 15 The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels. 17 But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.

  1. The situation Abram feared came to pass. Sarai was taken by Pharaoh, but at first glance it would seem things worked out well for Abram. He would have already been wealthy (as indicated by the size of the group travelling with him), but Pharaoh made him even more Pharaoh was grateful for the new addition to his harem, and he blessed Abram with even more riches.
    1. Was this truly a blessing? The riches were based on a lie.
  2. Don’t miss the massive contrast: Pharaoh treated Abram well; God treated Pharaoh to plagues. Question: had Pharaoh done anything wrong? Not really – not according to the text. He simply acted according to the cultural standard of the day. (Which wasn’t necessarily a morally good thing, but it wasn’t unusual, either.) Why then, did God plague Pharaoh? God didn’t plague Pharaoh because of sin, but to protect him from sin. It was one thing to include Sarai in a harem, but it didn’t mean that Pharaoh would immediately consummate the marriage through physical intimacy. There was a window of time during which God could stop Pharaoh, and that’s what God did.
  1. There’s a bit of foreshadowing here, regarding the later plagues upon Egypt. The reasons for the plagues would be different, but the experiences were similar. God made things so bad for Pharaoh, that the Egyptian tells the Hebrew to leave.

18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way.” 20 So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had.

  1. Pharaoh was rightly offended! Abram had lied to him, even if it was a half-truth. (Gen 20:12) And because of Abram’s deceit, Pharaoh had suffered. Who wouldn’t be offended? As a result, Abram was promptly evicted. Famine or not, he was no longer welcome in Egypt.
  2. Note: what would have been a hardship to Abram (being evicted) was actually miraculous intervention from the Lord. How long would Abram have remained in Egypt, should circumstances not change? God wanted His servant back in his land, and Abram had gotten himself into a heap of trouble due to his deceit. How could Abram return to Canaan, along with his wife Sarai, and not be forced into battle with the far-stronger Egyptian king? Abram needed a miracle – he needed God to rescue him from the stupidity of his sin. And mercifully, God did exactly that.
    1. God doesn’t always rescue us from the consequences of our actions. There are times we act in our own stupidity, and we have to bear the full brunt. But other times, God intervenes – God rescues. Praise God for His mercies! He has no reason to rescue us, but He so often does. Why? That’s just who He is. God loves us!
  3. Not that everything about Abram’s eviction was good. How do you suppose this affected Abram’s witness of the Lord God? How would Abram be able to tell Pharaoh about the God who promised to bless all the earth through him, if Abram didn’t have enough faith in God to tell the truth? Abram cut out his own witness before he even had a chance to say a word.
    1. How important it is for us to live our lives above reproach! If we want to tell others about the Jesus who has saved us from our sin, we cannot afford to continue committing sin right in front of them. [Personal experience!] The gospel is too precious for us to waste our opportunities through selfishness.

Genesis 13 – The Land

  • Return from Egypt & renewal of worship (1-4)

1 Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South. 2 Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.

  1. Although Abram was evicted from Egypt, he remained wealthy. Pharaoh allowed him to keep all of the gifts that had been given to him – surely as a way of indicating that those things were now “tainted” in his sight. They had been acquired through deception. (Not all wealth is a testimony of blessing.)
  2. Although the text says Abram went “to the South,” technically he travelled north. What is meant is that Abram went to the south of the promised land. He went from Egypt (Mizraim) to the south of Israel (the Negev).

3 And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the LORD.

  1. Notice where Abram went: back to where it had all began. He returned to the roots of his faith. He travelled north, eventually arriving in Bethel, finding the altar he had constructed so long ago. There again, he worshipped.
  2. This is repentance! When we’ve sinned, what do we do? Wallow in sorrow & grief, never again to walk with Jesus? Of course not! We turn away from it, confessing it to God – we remember the promises of Jesus on our behalf, and we return to an attitude of humility and worship. We receive the cleansing of Jesus, and thank Him for it in praise. A Christian who has failed is not a Christian forever banished from the Lord; a Christian who has failed is simply a Christian in need of Christ. We too, fall upon His grace promised in the gospel, and we worship.
    1. Worship is always the proper accompaniment to repentance.
  • Abram & Lot separate (5-18)

5 Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. 6 Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.

  1. Remember that Lot had travelled with Abram ever since Lot’s father died (Haran – Gen 11:31). Lot had also become extremely wealthy, and this was starting to cause problems.
  2. This was a legitimate problem, especially with the other inhabitants of the land. Livestock would compete for grazing pastures, which led to conflict between herdsmen, which led to tension among the family. Something needed to be done, and that’s when Abram spoke up…

8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.”

  1. This is an honorable offer from Abram! He gave Lot the full choice of the land. This time, instead of acting in deceit & self-interest, Abram acted in humility.
  2. Although unmentioned, what does Abram’s humility imply? Abram could trust that whatever choice Lot made, God would have His will done in Abram’s life. God would be Abram’s provision, no matter what. Quite the change from Egypt! (So it should be with us!)

10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. 11 Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other.

  1. Lot chose what he believed was best for himself. He went west, towards the fertile plains on either side of the Jordan river. No doubt the memories of the famine were fresh in his mind, and he wanted to ensure he wouldn’t fall victim again. 
  2. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do well; the problem is how he treated his uncle who had provided for him all these years. Lot was simply selfish…not a quality character trait.

12 Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. 13 But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.

  1. Was Lot’s choice truly the best? It appeared so on the surface, but it sets the stage for something terrible on the horizon. Lot had originally moved his tents to the Jordan Valley, but apparently didn’t stay there long. He moved closer and closer to the cities, and would eventually end up in Sodom. Already, Sodom is foreshadowed as “exceedingly wicked and sinful.” What Lot thought was the best would actually to his detriment.
  2. Was Abram left with the dregs? The leftovers? This was God’s intent for him all along.

14 And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; 15 for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.

  1. Lot chose his portion in selfishness, but through it God exercised His own sovereignty. This was God’s plan for Abram. All the land was his – as far as he could see. Even though Abram would barely own a scrap of it when he died (only a cave for burial), his descendants (seed) would own it, and they would own it “”
    1. They still do! The land of Israel still belongs to Israel, and the United Nations has no right to partition it as they please. It will always belong to Israel, even into the Millennial Kingdom and beyond.

16 And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. 17 Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.”

  1. Not only a forever inheritance, but a forever progeny. Just as Abram could not see the end of when the land would no longer be his, he could not see the extent of his descendants…
  2. We are included in this number! Galatians 3:26–29, “(26) For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Think of it Christian: you are a child of Abraham! You are included in the promises of God given to him, all through faith in Christ. We too have a forever inheritance: eternal life in the presence of our Lord & Savior. We have current blessing in belonging to God. We have complete protection from the enemy, being sealed by the Holy Spirit. How wonderful it is to have Abraham as our father!
  3. So what does God now desire for Abram? To take it all in: “arise, walk in the land.” IOW – “Go check out what I am giving to you – see your inheritance with your own eyes.” Likewise for us: go, see your inheritance in Christ. Try to take in Jesus, if you can. Ephesians 3:17–19, “(17) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—(19) to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

18 Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the LORD.

  1. There was only one final thing Abram could do in response: worship! When you get a glimpse of the love of God for you, what else is possible? Worship with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength!

Conclusion:

Was Abram perfect? Not at all. Was Abram still a good example of faith? Yes, he was! He knew what it was to believe God at His word, trusting in His promises. Abram knew what it was like to worship in purity, and in repentance. Abram knew what it was to trust God’s sovereignty, looking forward to the eventual Savior and blessing to all the world. Abram believed, and walked by faith.

So should we! May we be those who trust God like Abram, knowing that no matter what stage of life we find ourselves, it is never too late to start walking with Jesus. May we trust the promises God gave to Abram about Jesus, believing upon Him as the blessing to all the world. May we never doubt His word, no matter what the subject may be. What God says, He means…and He can be trusted.

Have you failed in walking by faith? The solution is simple: repent, and return to a place of worship and trust.

Genesis 10-11, “Many People Scattered; One Person Matters”

How much do you know about your family tree? Tracing one’s own ancestry can be rather enlightening! Learning about the past can be helpful. Not only does it help you learn from the mistakes of previous generations, but it emphasizes the fact that we all came from somewhere. If you trace it far enough back, we all have common roots. (It’s not just the 7 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon; it’s the 7 degrees of separation from all of us!)

If there is one thing the Bible is known for in the book of Genesis, it’s the various genealogical listings. For some, they are obstacles to muddle through. After all, the stories of creation, the flood, and the various escapades of the patriarchs can be very interesting – some of them read more like action movies or soap operas than what we might expect from ancient “religious” literature. But the genealogies can be tough. Those are the chapters that bog down many readers, causing many to simply give up on the book altogether. Ironically, the genealogies are what tie the entire book together! The most common section divider within Genesis are the “toledoth” markers, or the sections that say “this is the genealogy of ____.” Those are the things that transition from one section to the next.

So how does one read the genealogies and not get lost? After all, they’re comprised of a bunch of names we don’t know & can barely pronounce. The key is to remember one central point: there is only one genealogy that the Bible traces all the way through…the one to Jesus. All the other genealogies exist to set the stage for the revelation of Messiah, the promised Seed of the Woman (the promise being given back in the Garden of Eden). We have to see the beginnings of other nations if we are to understand how the future Messiah is to bring all nations together in His work of redemption & victory over sin & death. It’s once we remember that, that all of the other lists of names make sense.

Contextually, this particular listing of names comes at just the right time. Because of the sinful corruption into which mankind fell (and plunged in the entire earth, ruining it), God literally poured out His judgment. He sent a global flood, which destroyed every living thing that dwelled upon the ground, both human & animal. Everyone died, with the exception of eight people: the family of Noah. Noah had found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in faithful obedience to Him. Noah built the ark according to God’s direction, boarded it at God’s command, sealed within by God’s hand, and remained there until God told him to depart. Noah had been dependent upon God every step of the way, and God declared that His covenant would rest with Noah & all those on board to never again destroy the world by water.

Noah worshipped God, but Noah wasn’t absolutely sinless. He still struggled with his own faults, and Genesis 9 closed with a brief incident in his life in which Noah became drunk, and was humiliated by one of his sons, Ham. When Noah sobered up, he prophetically pronounced a curse upon Ham (and Ham’s son, Canaan), as well as a blessing upon his other two sons who had honored him, Shem & Japheth. It was Noah’s three sons that would go on to repopulate the earth, but one of Noah’s sons would be blessed more than the others. Shem would continue with the covenant of God, the one leading all the way to the Messiah.

Genesis 10-11 show how all of this came to pass. From a decimated planet, the earth is repopulated. Given a second chance, mankind still falls into rebellious sin. Yet from one family will come the one Man who would redeem us all: the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the promised Seed of the Woman. Mankind might be always sinful, but God is always gracious!

Genesis 10 – Table of Nations / Earth’s repopulation

1 Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood.

  1. Genesis 10 is very balanced, from a literary perspective. It begins with a summary introduction, ends with a summary conclusion, and includes 70 nations along the way. Right from the beginning, we’re told its main function: to show how the world was repopulated. Genesis 9:1 made it clear that this was God’s desire for Noah’s family…it was the very reason they had been graciously preserved from judgment. For God’s promise of a future Messiah to be fulfilled, the lineage of Adam & Eve had to endure. Thus, even though all of mankind was destroyed, God allowed a remnant of eight to survive. From that remnant would eventually come the Messiah. Of course, from that remnant would come a lot more! The “more” is what is detailed through the majority of Genesis 10.
  2. One item of note: this genealogy reads differently than others in Genesis (even the one which we’ll later see in Chapter 11). As some scholars note, this is a “horizontal,” rather than a “vertical” list. Instead of listing son after son after son, Genesis 10 takes sequential clans and demonstrates how they spread out across the earth. As it does, general population patterns are shown, primarily in their relation to the future nation of Israel.
  • Sons of Japheth (2-5)

2 The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 3 The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. 4 The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. 5 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.

  1. The “sons of Japheth” are listed first, which is interesting in that the previous mentions of Noah’s sons have Shem first & Japheth last. Genesis 10:21 shows that Japheth is the elder brother of the three. Perhaps Shem has priority in the lists because he inherited the greater blessing.
  2. Although it is difficult to identify some of these nations with absolute certainty, scholars are fairly confident about the majority of them. Some of these names are mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, which assists with their classification. Generally speaking, the sons of Japheth went north and west. They migrated into Central Asia & Europe. That’s not to say that the inhabitants of Russia, Turkey, Italy, and Spain, etc., are all ethnic “Japhethites”; Genesis 10 simply states that these were the original inhabitants of these lands. Many cultural migrations took place through the centuries, and the Bible is not concerned with tracking each & every one of them.
  • Sons of Ham (6-20)

6 The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.

  1. Although we were originally told of only one son of Ham in Genesis 9 (Canaan, included with his father’s curse from Noah), Ham had at least four sons, who in turn begot many nations of their own. Interestingly, three of them are followed in Genesis 10, but one is not: Put. Why? It’s unknown. Perhaps Put’s line didn’t reproduce like the others – perhaps it got mixed in with the others – perhaps the descendants of Put had no interaction with the later Hebrew nation. It’s impossible to say. Again, if nothing else, it demonstrates the fact that the Bible does not give us an unabridged history of all the world; it provides one clear lineage & history leading to Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the promised Seed of the Woman). Everything else is background information.

7 The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabtechah; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan.

  1. Mainly areas on either side of the Red Sea around the coasts of the Arabian peninsula and northeastern Africa. “Sheba” is most recognizable from the later Queen of Sheba who was so impressed by the rumors she heard of King Solomon, that she travelled all the way to Jerusalem to see him for herself. In ancient times, that was quite a trek!

8 Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, 12 and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).

  1. The genealogy is interrupted to introduce the person of “Nimrod,” a somewhat mysterious figure that plays a prominent role with many of the eventual empires of the world that were future enemies of Israel. He was the founder of the cities of Babylon & Nineveh, though the peoples who eventually rose to power in these areas were of later origin. Yet for the original readers of Genesis (particularly during the days of Moses), knowing the start of these cities was of prime importance.
  2. Not much is said of Nimrod, other than his might & skill in hunting. Although some websites and gospel tract organizations trace Nimrod as a type of antichrist and ultimate founder of pagan holidays mirrored by the Catholic church, actual historical evidence of those claims is lacking. As Bible-believing Evangelical Christians, we have many legitimate differences with the Roman Catholic Church, but we ought to limit our arguments to what the Bible actually teaches us, being careful not to promote extra-biblical rumors and likely false information.
  3. That being said, the fact that Nimrod is associated with Babel & Nineveh (among others), the Bible does not portray Nimrod in a good light. He may have been a “mighty hunter before the LORD,” but that doesn’t mean that he worshipped the Lord. On the contrary – this account provides a strong link between Nimrod & the tower of Babel: a place of rebellion against God. Nimrod is not an example for us to follow; he’s an example of what the world values – which is something for us to beware.

13 Mizraim begot Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 14 Pathrusim, and Casluhim (from whom came the Philistines and Caphtorim).

  1. Mizraim” is actually the Hebrew word used for “Egypt,” so it’s no surprise that most scholars place Mizraim in the area of the ancient Egyptian kingdom. Most of his sons seem to have migrated around northern Africa. The primary exceptions are the descendants of the Casluhim. From northern Africa, they went north via the sea, ending up close to the Aegean region (Greece). From a Hebrew perspective (and thus, Biblical), the main contribution from this is the origin of the Philistines. The ancient Philistines were not native to the Ancient Near East (Canaan/Israel), but they rather emigrated to the area via sea travel from the Aegean. Although “Palestine” is the Roman derivative of “Philistine,” the modern “Palestinians” have zero genetic tie to the ancient Philistines. “Palestine” was simply the name given to the region as a way for the Romans to further oppress/irritate their Jewish subjects. By giving the land the name of their ancient enemy, it was their way of reminding the Jews who was in control (or so they believed).
  2. That has much modern application today regarding foreign policy. Despite their propaganda material, the Palestinians do not have an ancient claim to the land as does Israel. The modern “Palestinians” are ethnically Jordanian & genetically nomads from the Arabian peninsula. It’s no wonder they oppose archaeological digs in & around Jerusalem…any evidence as to whom the land belongs is going to rest solidly in favor of Israel!

15 Canaan begot Sidon his firstborn, and Heth; 16 the Jebusite, the Amorite, and the Girgashite;

17 the Hivite, the Arkite, and the Sinite; 18 the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite. Afterward the families of the Canaanites were dispersed. 19 And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; then as you go toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.

  1. Many of these people groups ought to sound familiar – many of them are nations that were expelled from the Promised Land during the Hebrew conquest led by Joshua. These were the original inhabitants of the land of Canaan, but due to their unrepentant sin (even after God gave them centuries in which to turn!), God judged them & destroyed them.

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

  1. Summary/concluding statement. If Japheth’s descendants went to the north & west, Ham’s went primarily to the south and west.
  • Sons of Shem (21-31)

21 And children were born also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder. 22 The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram. 23 The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. 24 Arphaxad begot Salah, and Salah begot Eber. 25 To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan.

  1. The sons of Shem have the most ultimate value in the Scripture, although little is said here apart from their names. This is the lineage that leads to the Hebrew nation, and eventually to Christ. The listing will come up again in Chapter 11.
  2. One note that does arise in Shem’s line is that of “Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided.” What is the reference? The Bible does not directly say, although it seems to foreshadow the following chapter, in which the nations and languages of the world are “divided” (separated, confused) at the Tower of Babel. Some have suggested that perhaps the physical earth itself was divided (perhaps through tectonic plate shifting), but that activity is far more plausible as one of the causes of the global flood. Additionally, it would seem that sort of event would have been recorded through all three family trees & not the lineage of Shem only. As to Peleg himself, there is a wordplay with his name. The Hebrew word for “to divide” is palag (פָּלַג). No doubt, his father Eber named him appropriately!

26 Joktan begot Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All these were the sons of Joktan. 30 And their dwelling place was from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the east. 31 These were the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations.

  1. The majority of these lands comprise the Crescent Valley (region surrounding the Tigris & Euphrates rivers), as well as much of the Arabia peninsula.
  • Summary (32)

32 These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood.

  1. Chapter 10 is bookended nicely with a summary statement, mirroring the introduction. Following the devastation of the flood, the world was repopulated. All mankind as we know it today descended from the three sons of Noah, and they spread out into all the earth.
    1. Not that these people were always good! Chapter 11 will go on to show otherwise.
  2. Practically speaking, what good is the Table of Nations for people today? Not only does it show the ultimate lineage of the Messiah, but it also shows our common lineage with one another. What place does racism have among humans, when there is ultimately only one race among humans? We have different colors of skin & different cultural backgrounds, but we have the same ultimate ancestry. We are all descended from the sons of Noah, and thus all descended from Adam. We are all made in the image of God, all having the fallen nature of Adam, and all in the same desperate need for the grace of Jesus. Racism is antithetical to the gospel, and ought to be abhorrent to every true Christian.

Genesis 11

  • Tower of Babel / Transnational rebellion (1-9)

1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.

  1. At first glance, verse 1 might seem to pose a problem. After all, Chapter 10 showed how the sons of Noah grew into many nations with their own individual languages (10:5, 10:20, 10: 31). Is this a contradiction? No – it’s a flashback. Chapter 10 was a summary of how the descendants of Noah’s sons spread throughout the world; Chapter 11 flashes back to a time before people went their separate ways. When Noah and his sons departed the ark, each of them spoke the same language – it would have taken time for different dialects to develop. Chapter 11 shows the reader how it took place.
  2. Land of Shinar” = Babylon. Keep in mind, this was before the later city was founded. Rather, it was when people first arrived in the area – most likely, being led by Nimrod. Historically speaking, this makes sense. The earliest archaeological evidence that exists of civilized cultures comes from the Crescent Valley – the general area surrounding Shinar & Babylon. What archaeologists have to dig to discover is told to us in the pages of Scripture!

3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

  1. Question: Is this good or bad? Left by itself without the surrounding context, it might appear to be a simple construction project. People want to come together to build a tower. What’s the big deal? The big deal is their motivation behind the building project: “Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad.” Notice who it’s all about: Man. Again, we need to look at the overall context. At this point in history, the earth is being repopulated after the massive global devastation of the flood. Apparently, despite the sure promise of God never to again do it, mankind doesn’t trust God & wants to fend for himself. More than that, mankind wants to glorify himself – wanting to build a tower that reaches to the highest of the heavens, promoting their own name & their own ego. Barely a few generations have passed since the day of the flood, and already mankind is abandoning God all over again.
    1. By the way, the Bible mentions someone else who wanted to ascend to the heights of heaven in order to glorify himself rather than God: Satan. Isaiah 14:12–15, “(12) How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! (13) For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; (14) I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ (15) Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.” Contextually for Isaiah, this was a prophecy mirroring the king of Babylon – his pride and fall. What the Babylonian king desired was what Satan (Lucifer) had desired. And apparently, it was also what the original inhabitants of the land that became Babylon desired! They wanted themselves above God & in place of God.
    2. We sometimes think of pride as being a “lesser” sin – something that all of us do & not being too terrible. What we forget is that it is downright Satanic. Pride is the ultimate rebellion against our Creator God because it tells God “I don’t need You; all I need is myself. All I want is myself.” It is the ultimate upheaval against the very reason we were created: to glorify God.
    3. How do we best fight pride? By fighting it to the death. We die to ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus. (Mt 16:24) We reckon ourselves dead to our sin, but alive in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11). We fight pride by killing it; it is the only way to truly follow Christ.
  2. As for the people in Shinar, what they desired was to build a “tower,” or a ziggurat. This was a tower as we think of a cellular tower or the Washington monument. This was a pyramid-like structure – something commonly found in the areas around ancient Babylon. The people had the technology for the plans, raw material for the building, and all the time they required (so they thought). They could do what they needed to do to elevate themselves up to the place of God, and put themselves out of reach of His judgment.
  3. Their plan looked to be foolproof, except for the fact they forgot one very important thing: God is not dead. 5…

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.

  1. It says something about the foolish pride of man for him to think he could build a tower that reaches the heaven, yet the Lord God has to “come down” in order to see it. Obviously, the tower wasn’t all that big! Of course, there is a bit of symbolic language here (anthropomorphism). God the Father is spirit, and at this point within the Trinity prior to the incarnation of the Son, all three members of the Trinity are spirit. God would not have to “go” anywhere to see anything. Being omnipresent, God is all places at all time. Being omniscient, God has all knowledge at all times. It’s not as if God was walking around heaven and was one day surprised to see what was happening in the plain of Shinar. This is literary language meant to paint the picture – to show how the foolish plans of men are reversed & turned upside down by God.
  2. Likewise with God’s response. At first glance, it might seem as if God is somehow threatened by the plans of men – as if He’s scared of the possibility of what might happen. This is obviously not the case. What God proclaims within Himself (within the Trinity) is not fear; it’s a simple statement of fact. Although mankind was united at that moment in history, their unity was leading them directly to sin, and ultimately to death. God knew the hearts of men, and that man’s sinful condition had not improved with time. He also knew what needed to be done in order to slow down the sinful actions of men. 

7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. 9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

  1. God had a plan, and God saw it through. If the people could no longer communicate, then they could no longer continue their rebellious construction. Was this a permanent solution? Of course not – various tribes could still communicate, and individual people groups could (and would) still rebel against God. But at least the human race would not be able to do it as one. It was from this point that they were scattered – perhaps divided, as Peleg’s name represented.
  2. Although this event might seem strange to modern ears, this was complete justice! Everything the men of Shinar/Babylon attempted to do was turned around upon them by God. “What the people considered their greatest strength—unity—He swiftly destroyed by confusing their language (v. 7; cf. v. 9). What they considered their greatest fear—scattering (v. 4)—came naturally on them (the LORD scattered them … over all the earth, v. 8; cf. v. 9). What they desired most—to make a name for themselves (v. 4)—ironically came to pass, for they became known as “Babel.” Then they stopped building the city and were scattered abroad.” (Ross, Bible Knowledge Commentary)
  3. In addition to complete justice is abundant mercy! How so? Mankind lived. Think of it: in the face of unified human rejection of God as God, the Lord God did not once more wipe out the human race through worldwide destruction. To Noah, God promised He would not do it, and God was good to His word. Instead, God brought judgment without Mankind was stopped & sin was thwarted, yet mankind was allowed to live. This is mercy!
    1. Again, every single day God gives people to live & breathe is another day in which they experience His mercy! God has the right to judge us with our very first sin, and if He did, none of us would live to adulthood. We are downright sinful people, no matter what our own sins might be – we all deserve death (on a daily basis). But God gives us mercy! Prior to coming to faith in Christ, how many days did God allow us to wake up in the morning as rebellious sinners, knowing we were unrepentant? Each and every one of those mornings was a morning of mercy. It isn’t to be wasted!
  4. Not only was there mercy in that day, there is mercy regarding the Tower of Babel in the present day. The confusion of Babel is undone in the salvation of Christ and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. This will be seen in the universal kingdom of Jesus stretching around the world into the Millennium, but what was also previewed in Jerusalem on Pentecost. The tongues heard in Acts 2 were the complete opposite of the unified language spoken in the plain of Shinar. In Shinar, men plotted against God; in Jerusalem on Pentecost, men spoke praises of (Acts 2:11) All of God’s mercies ultimately find their fulfillment in the mercy & grace we receive in Jesus!
  • Lineage to ONE nation (10-32)
  • Lineage of Shem (10-26)

10 This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood. 11 After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.

  1. At this point in Genesis, the various nations in the world have been established, so the attention returns again to the one nation that leads to the one Person of promise: the Messiah, the Seed of the Woman. He is the Son promised by the covenant of God, and that covenant has gone from Adam to Seth to Noah to Shem – and it needs to continue from that point. This is what the remainder of Chapter 11 demonstrates as it eventually transitions to the person of Abram.

12 Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Salah. 13 After he begot Salah, Arphaxad lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters. 14 Salah lived thirty years, and begot Eber. 15 After he begot Eber, Salah lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters. 16 Eber lived thirty-four years, and begot Peleg. 17 After he begot Peleg, Eber lived four hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters. 18 Peleg lived thirty years, and begot Reu. 19 After he begot Reu, Peleg lived two hundred and nine years, and begot sons and daughters. 20 Reu lived thirty-two years, and begot Serug. 21 After he begot Serug, Reu lived two hundred and seven years, and begot sons and daughters. 22 Serug lived thirty years, and begot Nahor. 23 After he begot Nahor, Serug lived two hundred years, and begot sons and daughters. 24 Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and begot Terah. 25 After he begot Terah, Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years, and begot sons and daughters. 26 Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

  1. Although there is much overlap with the listing in Genesis 10, more details & a further lineage is provided here. Of note are the ages of the men – especially when compared to the previous genealogy that included ages: Adam’s in Genesis 5. The length of life has dropped dramatically by this point. With Adam’s initial line, it was not unusual for people to live 800-900 years or more. At this point, post-flood, it ranges from 430 all the way down to 119. That’s quite the drop! It demonstrates a couple of things:
    1. It proves that God’s determination back in Genesis 6 regarding the length of years He gave to men (120 years, Gen 6:3) has nothing to do with individual lifespans. That was a determination for how many years God gave mankind to repent before He brought destruction via the flood. God gave people a window of opportunity in which to turn from sin & turn to God in faith to find His grace. (They just didn’t take it.) God gives that same opportunity to people today, simply in each morning He allows them to breath air & have a beating heart. We need to take advantage of the opportunity we have, because we have no idea how long it will last!
    2. Something on a fundamental basis changed on the earth after the flood. There must be some explanation for why people stopped living 8-9 centuries at a time, and although the Bible doesn’t document the scientific reason for a shorter lifespan, it certainly records the fact of a shorter lifespan. Things today are different than what they once were, even if we don’t know the precise reason why. (What we do know is that one day the earth will be fully restored! Things will again be different in the future – that’s part of the consummation that comes with Jesus’ return & reign.)
  2. Of course the most important point of this lineage is how it leads to Abram (and thus to the nation of Israel & thus to Christ Jesus). That’s where the next genealogy in Genesis picks up.
  • Lineage of Terah (27-32)

27 This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. 28 And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.

  1. Abram & Lot are both introduced. Each man plays a crucial role in the following chapters. Lot is shown to be Abram’s nephew, and the whole family is shown to have originally resided “in Ur of the Chaldeans.” 
  2. FYI: the Chaldeans did not exist at the time of Abram. This would have been later editorial note inserted by Moses. It simply helped identify the land to the original readers of Genesis. The basic idea is that Abram’s roots stretched back to the area beyond Babylon.

29 Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah. 30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child.

  1. The wives of Terah’s children are introduced. Nahor’s line becomes important later when Abraham seeks a bride for his son Isaac, but at this point, the fact that Abram and Sarai cannot have children is what matters. Right from the beginning, the reader is told that Sarai is barren. This sets up their need for the grace of God. Without God’s miraculous intervention, the covenant promise of the Messiah would be lost.

31 And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. 32 So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.

  1. Sometimes we get the idea that Abram left his family back in Ur to follow the leading of God. Apparently, his father Terah helped get him started. At some point, Terah left Ur to move his family to Haran – something that was extremely uncommon for the time. Yet, it helped establish a pattern for Abram. When God called Abram to move, it would be something he had already done before, to a lesser extent. God was preparing His servant for a great journey – and to bring forward an even Greater Man!

Conclusion:

Is there mercy in the genealogies of the Bible? Yes! The fact that there are any genealogies is proof of the fact that God allowed us to live. We, who deserve judgment, are given multiple opportunities to respond to the love of our Creator God for us. God allowed the world to be repopulated, all the while knowing how mankind would once again rebel…but even that was used by God to bring out the Redeemer. All the history of humanity leads to one Person, the Lord Jesus Christ – the Savior of the world, the Son of God. If we miss Him, we miss everything.

Don’t waste the mercies of God! When God gives you a new day in which to repent, take it! When God gives you a renewed opportunity to worship, use it! Use the days you’ve been given not to rebel against God, but to run to Him in Jesus.

Noah after the Flood

Posted: March 8, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 8-9, “Noah After the Flood”

Fans of radio might remember the familiar stylings of Paul Harvey. A newsman and commentator from 1952-2008, Harvey was probably best known for “The Rest of the Story.” It was always fun to listen to Harvey spin his tale, with the details becoming a bit more interesting, only to find an often humorous twist – which was the rest of the story.

Something similar might be said of Genesis 8-9. There is hardly an American alive that isn’t at least somewhat familiar with the fact that the Bible speaks of a man named Noah who built an ark, surviving a global flood. What many people might not know is: what happened after the rains stopped falling. What, for Noah, was the rest of the story? Genesis 8-9 tell us.

Remember leading up to this point was God’s mercy in the midst of His judgment. Although Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, earning for them (and for us) death, God gave mercy & grace through the promise of a future Savior. Although Cain sinned by murdering his brother Abel, God gave mercy by allowing Cain to live in exile. Although mankind sinned to such an extent that the entire planet of earth was corrupted & all life needed to be destroyed, God gave mercy by saving a remnant. God showed His grace to Noah, gave Noah and his family all they needed to survive, and even shut them into the ark, delivering them from the judgment and death all around them. Although the wrath of God was terrible, the mercy of God was abundant!

Yet God’s mercies didn’t cease the moment the rains stopped. God continued to lead Noah, guiding him & his family, and God gave Noah (and all humanity) the promise of life. God’s mercies would always continue – we just need to avail ourselves of Him.

Genesis 8

  • Noah waits upon God (8:1-19). Noah the sailor.

1 Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. …

  1. That “God remembered Noah” is not to say that God ever forgot Noah. It’s simply a Hebrew expression meaning that God turned His primary attention to Noah. It means that God knew Noah, the animals, and all of their needs. Now that the major work of judgment had been completed, the next part of His plan could continue.

… And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained. 3 And the waters receded continually from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters decreased.

  1. Although different scholars count the days in different ways, it seems that the rain stopped after 40 days, but the floodwaters as a whole remained at their peak for 150 days. All totaled, this is a little over 6 months, which vs. 4 accounts for…

4 Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month. In the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

  1. Midway through the 7th month (i.e. over 6 months / 190 days), the waters decreased enough for the ark to stop floating. The receding of water always takes time – much more so in this case, considering how much water was on the face of the earth.
  2. Where did the ark come to rest? “On the mountains of Ararat.” There is debate as to what this means. There is indeed a singular mountain known today as “Mt Ararat,” but there’s no way to know whether or not this is the same mountain. Considering the Hebrew for “mountains” is plural, it’s possible that the Bible refers to a general mountain range known at the time as “Ararat,” making the specific identification of the mountain all the more difficult today.
    1. Through the years, there have been various expeditions to potential ark-locations, with some explorers sending back various pictures of what appears to be wooden-structures. That said, there’s no way to positively identify any of these things as the ark of Noah, nor are there enough independent researchers who can corroborate the findings. Considering the age of the ark, it is fully possible that the entire structure has rotted and decomposed over time. Ancient archaeological finds are rare in the first place; ancient structures left fully exposed to winds & elements are especially hard to find. (Besides – if men did find the actual ark, there’s little doubt we would find a way to worship it in corrupt idolatry. People did that for centuries in the Middle Ages with other supposed holy artifacts. We would likely do the same with this.)
    2. Question: do we have to find archaeological evidence of the ark in order to know that the ark & flood are historically true? Absolutely not. Absence of evidence is not the same thing as contrary or conflicting evidence. Besides, there is evidence of a flood, as seen in the universality of the flood tales in every ancient culture around the world (among other pieces of evidence). The Bible has proven itself true too many times for us not to give it the benefit of the doubt.
    3. At the end of the day, we need not put our hopes of the truth of the Bible in the sensational claims of men; we can simply look to the resurrection of Jesus and know that it’s true. Our faith is in God; not the news headlines.

6 So it came to pass, at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made. 7 Then he sent out a raven, which kept going to and fro until the waters had dried up from the earth.

  1. The ark may have been on the ground, but Noah wasn’t in hurry to get off. He remained there forty more days before even checking the outside. Why? In all likelihood, he still saw lots of water everywhere. The boat may have been grounded, but it doesn’t mean that he could navigate his surroundings. Besides, God had shut him inside, no doubt God would be the One to let him know when it was time to leave.
  2. Instead of leaving, Noah simply tries to get some more information. It wasn’t as if he could turn on the news or look at his smartphone. He needed something that was able to scout out the situation and bring him some indication of what was going on. A bird would be perfect for the job; he just needed the right bird. Frustratingly, the raven was not it. The raven was more than happy to fly around, but ultimately it was useless.
    1. Interestingly, ravens were later considered in the law of Moses to be unclean. (Lev 11:15) Perhaps this was one reason why it was useless to Noah. Noah needed information about the work and leading of God; he couldn’t get it from unclean sources.

8 He also sent out from himself a dove, to see if the waters had receded from the face of the ground. 9 But the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, and she returned into the ark to him, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her, and drew her into the ark to himself.

  1. Unlike the raven, the dove was useful. Doves would later be appropriate for use in Hebrew sacrifice & worship, so perhaps there is a parallel here as well. Interestingly, when the Holy Spirit appeared at Jesus’ baptism, He took the form of a dove. Doves have been used by God in ways that ravens have not. Whether or not this is because of Noah’s experience, or if Noah’s experience verifies God’s use of doves is unknown – but there is certainly a Biblical pattern.
    1. As with the unclean raven, the success of the clean dove might emphasize the fact that when we want to do God’s work, we need to do it God’s way. We have to have God’s power through the Holy Spirit. Attempts to work for God in our flesh will always be futile; we need God’s power & word!
  2. The raven flew in circles; the dove flew reconnaissance. The 1st flight brought back nothing. There was nowhere to land, so the dove simply came home.

10 And he waited yet another seven days, and again he sent the dove out from the ark. 11 Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth. 12 So he waited yet another seven days and sent out the dove, which did not return again to him anymore.

  1. The 2nd flight brought back a leaf and a message. How would the dove know to bring back a leaf? Why wouldn’t it have dropped it along the way? On the face of it, it doesn’t make sense. How many birds have you witnessed flying around with leaves in their mouths? It’s not natural behavior. Thus, there must be a supernatural explanation: it was directed by God to act this way. The olive leaf was a divine message to Noah – it was news from God letting him know that the time was near.
  2. The 3rd flight ended without the dove’s return. Had the dove become as useless as the raven? Not at all. This too, was news – it was evidence that the dove had found a new home. It didn’t have a reason to return to the ark, because it was able to land somewhere else where there was food and provision.
  3. Just as life changed for the dove, life was about to change for Noah! The time of the flood had ended. The original author (as interpreted by Moses) sums it up in vss. 13-14…

13 And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and indeed the surface of the ground was dry. 14 And in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dried.

  1. Roughly 11 months after the deluge began, the event was over. The waters had receded, and the earth was ready for use once again.
  2. Even then, Noah waited. Notice that it was the first day of the first month that “the waters were dried up from the earth.” Finally, this could be verified by Noah via a visual inspection. Yet it wasn’t until almost the very end of the second month (the 27th day) that Noah left. Why hadn’t he? He was waiting upon the direction of the Lord. 15…

15 Then God spoke to Noah, saying, 16 “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every animal, every creeping thing, every bird, and whatever creeps on the earth, according to their families, went out of the ark.

  1. When God said “Go,” Noah went…but not a moment before. This wasn’t Noah being lazy; this was Noah being obedient. Remember that all of this was brand-new – nothing like this had ever happened before (or since). All Noah knew was that God had given him instructions to build, so he built. God gave him instructions to receive the animals, so he received. God was the One to shut him in the ark, so Noah (logically!) thought to stay there until God told him otherwise. But when God said to move, he did. Noah was fully obedient to all of God’s command.
    1. This isn’t an excuse for us to do nothing until we receive a specific “word from heaven.” We’ve already been given commands from the Lord Jesus: to make disciples of the nations, to love one another, to forgive one another, to pray continually, etc. There are days we definitely need wisdom from God as to how to proceed, but we already have His command in many areas. Like Noah, we need to be obedient!
  2. When Noah left the ark, everything left the ark. Nothing was to remain. Nor did the Lord leave the inhabitants of the ark without instruction. They were to “be fruitful and multiply.” This was the same command God had given mankind at the very dawn of creation (Gen 1:28); it is repeated here to Noah and the rest as a grand illustration of how the earth had been given a new start by the Lord.
  • Noah worships God (8:20-22). God appeased & soothed.

20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

  1. Once Noah left the ark, what was his very first act? Worship! There’s no mention of Noah building himself a house, or starting his new life & career. There is time for that later. For now, the most important thing was to worship God & thank God for His deliverance & provision.
    1. Worship was a priority for Noah; it ought to be a priority for us!
  2. Not just any Noah worshipped God according to God’s desires and word. Notice Noah “took of every clean animal and of every clean bird.” Although the specific instructions regarding burnt offerings are not given to the Hebrews until the days of Moses, at the very least, Noah understood which animals were & were not considered clean. God had instructed him on this when the animals were originally gathered for the ark (Gen 7:2-3). Noah clearly understood that it was from those animals that he needed to draw for sacrifice.
    1. Worship needs to be done according to the word!

21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.

  1. God was pleased with the offering, as He “smelled a soothing aroma.” Have you ever noticed that when you smell something really good, it sets you at ease? Like when you walk into a house smelling of freshly baked cookies – it relaxes you & makes you feel comforted. Studies have been done showing how our olfactory senses (smell) are tied with our emotions. Perhaps this is one way in which we’re made in the image of God. Repeatedly the Bible testifies how sincere obedient sacrifices rise to God as a “sweet aroma to the Lord.” There’s something about that smell that pleases God, soothing Him – something that is peaceful and quieting.
  2. Question: was God’s anger soothed with this offering? God’s righteous anger had been satisfied with His judgment in the flood. The whole reason the flood had come was because God’s justice needed to be accomplished, and the vast wages of death needed to be paid. That was done & complete, signified by the fact that floodwaters had receded. Noah’s sacrifice wasn’t done for atonement; it was done for worship. God’s pleasure here was because Noah was worshipping Him, as all mankind ought to have been doing all along.
    1. We don’t worship God to earn our salvation; that’s been accomplished by the sufficient work of Jesus. We worship God to glorify Him & bring Him pleasure.
    2. God is pleased with sincere worship!
  3. In addition to His pleasure, God also makes a promise: He would never again “destroy every living thing,” as He did in the flood. More will be said about that when God formally makes His covenant promise with Noah. At this point in the text, the idea is only introduced. The main point here is the contrast between men & God. Since Genesis 3, there was strife between God & men. Adam sinned, and God cursed the ground. Mankind continued to sin, and God destroyed all life through the flood. This cycle would not continue, as God declared the future. Mankind would always be evil, but God would always choose to be merciful. “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” – mankind is inherently & unwaveringly evil. No one does good, no not one (Rom 3:12). We are born into sin, and apart from the miraculous work of God through Jesus, we repeatedly choose to sin. That is simply who we are, and what we do. If God chose to interact with us today as He interacted with mankind during the days of Adam and Noah, He would have to repeatedly destroy the earth with every generation! Yet He doesn’t. Why? Because God chooses something different: God chooses mercy – God chooses life.
  4. How long will God make this choice? As long as it takes.

22 “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.”

  1. Although at first glance, this might appear to be an eternal promise, it’s not. Notice the qualification at the beginning: “while the earth remains.” Perhaps a more literal translation of the Hebrew might be, “Yet all the days of the earth,” implying that the number of days the earth has is limited. To adapt the normal translation, the earth will not always remain/endure. At some point, the end will come (although only God knows when that may be).
  2. Until that point, God promises His mercy & life. “While the earth remains,” the seasons will continue changing, the earth will continue turning, and the years will not be ceased. Life will go on. For one reason, and one reason alone: the mercy of God!
  3. FYI, God’s promise in Genesis 8 ought to inform us on our response to the doomsday claims of false prophecy teachers, as well as atheistic environmentalists. Should we be looking for a gigantic asteroid to destroy all life on earth? Should we fear global warming as a world-ending event? No. The earth will keep turning, and life will continue…all up until the point that God determines it will not. Life as we know it on earth will change, but it will change according to God’s timetable; not our own.

Genesis 9

  • God’s promise/covenant (9:1-17). Promise of life.

1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.

  1. God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” is repeated, with the additional explanation to “fill the earth.” It will be given one additional time more before this section is finished, which goes underscores its importance. Any command of God is important to be followed, but when God gives it three times, it is crucial! From the perspective of Noah, it makes perfect sense. After all, Noah and his sons were the sole remnant of humanity remaining upon earth. The primary reason they were saved was for the purpose of repopulation. After all, if God had desired, He could have simply reformed a new Adam from the dust of the ground. Noah and his sons were by no means required for humanity to exist. What they were required for, was for God’s promise of a future Messiah (Seed of the woman) to continue. If God had completely started over, His promise to Adam & Eve would have been null & void, and that’s impossible as God’s word is always Thus, Noah and his sons had to multiply; it was essential to the hope of our salvation.
    1. BTW – We have a similar command as that of Noah and his sons: the Great Commission. Matthew 28:19–20, “(19) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” What is this, other than the command to be fruitful & multiply? As disciples of Jesus, we are to make other disciples of Jesus. We are to multiply ourselves among every nation, filling the earth. …
  2. As for Noah and the animals, all of them were originally commanded to multiply – but that’s where many of the similarities end. Mankind’s relationship with the animals was to drastically change. 

2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

  1. Animals now had a new fear: humans. Why? Because animals now had a new predator: humans. Recall that prior to Noah, the only food God had given to mankind was plant-life. Actually, at the very beginning, plants were the only food that God gave to all living creatures, human or animal (Gen 1:29-30). Whether or not that continued with the animals past the Fall is unknown, but it was certainly that way for humans. That’s not to say humans were always obedient in this. Of the line of Cain, a descendant by the name of Jabal was the father of nomadic ranchers (Gen 4:20). Presumably, he raised livestock for some form of slaughter, most likely as food. Even so, God’s stated command to humans was for a vegetarian diet…all until this point. Now, things changed & God gave animal meat as food.
  2. What God did not give was animal blood as food. The blood of the animal represented the life of the animal, and the life (and the blood) belongs to God & God alone. 

5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man. 7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth And multiply in it.”

  1. In the sad event of Cain & Abel, the blood of Abel cried out to God from the ground (Gen 4:10). God knows when blood is shed, and He will not be blind to crimes of violence. He may have promised not to destroy the earth, but He did not promise to forsake His justice. Man was made “in the image of God,” so it’s no wonder that God takes the crime of murder seriously. An attack on man is an attack upon God’s own character & nature. It is the ultimate act of rebellion against one’s Creator.
  2. Interestingly, the prohibition against shedding blood is put side-by-side with the final repetition to be fruitful & multiply. Why? Because it frames the idea perfectly. Don’t take life; give it. We are made in the image of God, so we ought to act according to the character of God. God’s desire is not that life be lost (His will is that none should perish), but that life be received. As His special creation & His people, we are to act in the same way. Instead of stealing life from someone, we are to give it. The closest physical act that mirrors this is childbirth – thus, be fruitful & multiply.
    1. As a general principle, this doesn’t mean that married people are obligated to continually bear children until our bodies give out. It does mean we are to act according to the benefit of others, rather than their detriment. We can either be life-takers, or life-givers. Which more reflects the character of our Lord Jesus? 

8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: 9 “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth.

  1. Remember that a covenant is an agreement – like a contract, but stronger. God had promised to make His covenant with Noah, prior to the flood & all the judgment (Gen 6:18). He had guaranteed life to Noah, saying what He would do in the future when He established His covenant. Here, the covenant is actually established. God kept His word, and make His unbreakable commitment to Noah.
  2. Note that it’s more than Noah; God made His covenant with all living things. In one respect, Noah had a specific covenant that belongs to him & his family (that of the Messiah, which was the point of Gen 6:18); here the covenant dictates how God will interact with all the earth, which is why everyone & everything is included.

11 Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

  1. Never another flood! Although we have had untold number of floods throughout history in almost every continent on the planet (Antarctica excepted?), we’ve never seen a global flood like the one of Noah’s day. What happened then has never happened again. God promised it, and His promise is good.
  2. That said, God never promised no future destruction; just a future flood. Remember, the days of the earth are limited. When the end comes, because of God’s promise, it won’t be a flood; it will be fire. 2 Peter 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” To be sure, there will be much destruction that precedes this event, during the 7 years of the Great Tribulation… Yet at its ultimate conclusion, the heavens and earth will be totally remade into a new creation. It doesn’t happen via a washing of water, but of a purification by fire. Our God is a consuming fire (Hb 12:29); His own personal holiness will remake the universe into what He had intended for it all along.

12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.

  1. Covenant sign: the rainbow. This doesn’t expressly say that rainbows never existed prior to the flood; it simply affirms that the rainbow was specifically set apart by God after the flood. (Though it could have been created in this moment. The Bible simply doesn’t specify.)
  2. How long would this sign last? As long as the earth is here, so is the rainbow. As long as there are rainbows, we have continual reminders of God’s continual mercies.
    1. Modern culture desires to repurpose the rainbow. Popularly speaking, it has been adopted as a sign of the homosexual movement (rainbow flags, etc.). Never forget its original purpose! Mankind always twists what God gives for good. One day it’s the rainbow – the next day, it’s the cross as it’s used for nothing more than jewelry or a generic sign of someone’s death. Don’t let pop culture inform you as to what things mean; turn to the word of God. What God has given for good – what God has given to point us back to Himself – let us continually use these things for His given intent!

14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

  1. God sees; God remembers. When He sees the rainbow, He remembers His promise. When living things see the rainbow, we remember His promise. That’s the whole point of having a sign accompany covenants. It was to be a reminder of the promise that was made. Be it the rainbow – circumcision – the Sabbath…all of these are reminders of God’s promises to His people.
    1. There’s one more given in the New Testament: the blood of Jesus via the cup of communion. That is a visible sign of the promises we have in God!
  2. In a similar way, God sees & remembers. He sees the sign of His covenant on us, when He sees us clothed in the righteousness of Christ. He sees us included in the new covenant of forgiveness & grace when we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. He sees those signs, and He remembers.

17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

  1. Again, this is a divine covenant between God and all things, “all flesh.” And it is! Think about it: do only Christians benefit from the mercies of God as demonstrated through the rainbow? Of course not. Believers & non-believers benefit from God choosing never to destroy the earth through a global flood. Every living creature (human or animal) is included in these covenant blessings.
    1. It also means that every single person has the opportunity to know God in His mercy. They don’t have to be removed from Him. They can know Him in His grace through Jesus!

With Noah off the ark, and the whole events of the flood wrapped up, the book of Genesis gives us a bit of a postscript. Noah and his sons were to go repopulate the earth, hopefully setting an example of righteousness for future generations. Were they successful? That’s what the remainder of Chapter 9 describes…

  • Noah’s legacy (9:18-29). Farmer Noah curses his son.

18 Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.

  1. The earth was repopulated (the details of which are described in Chapter 10). At this point, we’re only told of one child of the next generation: Canaan, who bears importance because of the events of the text.
  2. Interestingly, we only read of descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth; not Noah. Technically, we’re all descended from Noah, but it seems that the only sons he personally sired were the three that boarded the ark with him. As to why he did not have more children (especially after the command of God) is unsaid. It’s not likely that Noah was purposefully disobedient, and it’s quite possible that this was God’s desire all along. We simply don’t know the reason why.

20 And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. 21 Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent.

  1. Noah’s post-flood career choice is unsurprising. Mankind had originally been commissioned as farmers (Gen 2:15), and no doubt this was Noah’s lifestyle prior to being called into shipbuilding service. He probably went back to what he had always known.
  2. What is surprising is what he did as a farmer. Planting a vineyard was normal, as was drinking the wine – but drunkenness would probably have been out of character for Noah. Remember that Noah was considered a “just man, perfect in his generations,” (Gen 6:9). That doesn’t mean he was 100% sinless; only that sin didn’t stick to him. His general lifestyle wasn’t one of sin, but of honoring & walking with God. The event described here fits more of the people who lived around Noah prior to the flood; not Noah himself.
  3. Again, Noah wasn’t absolutely perfect. He was just in much of the grace of God as any of us – and he found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Gen 6:8). Everyone has their “off” days, and this seemed to have been Noah’s. What he did wasn’t absolutely terrible, but it certainly wasn’t wise. For the most part, he kept to himself in his tent, but he set an awful example for his sons, potentially helping one of them stumble into awful sin.
    1. That’s part of the problem with so-called “victimless sins.” We think the only person we harm is ourselves, but our witness is damaged, and who can know what the ramifications of that will be?

22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

  1. Ham was the first son of Noah to discover his father in his uncovered state. That in itself wouldn’t have been a problem. If he had walked in & immediately walked out seeking help for his father, surely nothing more would have been said or written. What’s implied by the text is something far different. In some unknown way, Ham dishonored his father. Speculation abounds as to what he did, but there’s no way to know. At the very least, he tattled on his father to his two brothers. He brought enough shame to his father to spur his brothers into action. Think of it: Ham could have simply warned his brothers not to enter the tent, or even guarded the entrance to guard his father’s dignity. Instead, he spread the news – perhaps even gloating over it all. The bottom line: he dishonored his dad.
  2. The contrast was with Shem and Japheth. They honored their father by covering his “nakedness,” taking pains to do so in a way that they wouldn’t even see Noah’s situation for themselves. What they did was born out of love & respect – they did to their father what they surely would have wanted done for themselves.
    1. Love doesn’t gloat over sin; it covers it.
    2. We see this in the gospel! Jesus doesn’t expose our sin for all the world to see; He covers it with His sacrifice & His blood.

24 So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him.

  1. Apparently although Noah was drunk, he wasn’t completely passed out. Once he sobered up, he was able to remember what had happened. Again, the Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what Ham did to humiliate his father, but something Noah “knew what his younger son had done to him.
  2. That’s when Noah takes action, as the priestly head of his household. 

25 Then he said: “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.” 26 And he said: “Blessed be the LORD, The God of Shem, And may Canaan be his servant. 27 May God enlarge Japheth, And may he dwell in the tents of Shem; And may Canaan be his servant.”

  1. Just as Ham dishonored the generation before him, Noah cursed the generations after him. Ham is punished through the prophetic announcement placed on his son, Canaan. Canaan was to forever be in subjugation to the other two clans of Noah’s sons, being a “servant of servants” to them.
  2. Question: why did Noah punish Canaan, rather than Ham? God’s word later speaks of how God does not punish the son for the sins of the father (Ezek 18:20). God is just, and each person has to account for his/her own sin. Even so, sometimes sons & daughters do follow in the examples set by their fathers & mothers. God’s word is also clear that sins of the fathers often visit the third and fourth generation of their children (Exo 20:5). That would seem to be (at least part of) the case here. Ham had sinned, but the effects of Ham’s sin would endure. Ham’s actions simply revealed Ham’s character, and this was what he was passing on to his children – something that would not be without consequence.
  3. Ultimately, we need to recognize that Noah was not simply speaking as a parent, but as a prophet. What he declared here was actually the decree of God. Canaan was cursed and did serve as conquered servants to the descendants of Shem. After all, among the descendants of Shem were the Israelites (i.e. “Semitic” peoples), and when God brought them into the Promised Land, they conquered the Canaanites. What was prophesied by Noah was later fulfilled in the days of Moses & Joshua. (And it still has ramifications today!)

28 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. 29 So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.

  1. With this note, it appears that Noah was the third oldest man recorded in Scripture. Jared had lived to be 962 (Gen 5:20), and Methuselah lived to be 969 (Gen 5:27). Noah had been 500 years old by the time he bore children, and 600 years old at the time of the flood. He had lived long enough to see corruption on the earth, the cleansing brought through God’s judgment, and the continual mercies of God in the days that followed. He may not have been perfect, but he lived life to the full!

Conclusion:

The mercies of God are amazing! God took Noah through the flood – God gave him guidance via the dove – God gave him instruction & a commission to fill the earth – God was pleased with his worship – and God promised him life. Did Noah deserve any of it? Of course not – he struggled with sin just like all of us (as seen in his later life). But God still gave it. God promised His covenant of life, and He made it available to all the world.

Noah and the Flood

Posted: March 1, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 6-7, “Noah and the Flood”

When most people think of Noah’s Ark, typically what comes to mind are murals painted in nurseries or pictures in Bible storybooks about floating zoos. There’s a fun little boat, a bunch of happy animals, and (sometimes) Noah as a cheery old man with a beard. As fun as it is for kids to think about a floating petting zoo, the real history of Noah’s ark is far different. The boat itself plays a small (though important!) role – the real story is that of the wrath of God being poured out upon the earth and the destruction of all human life with the exception of one family. A far more accurate depiction of the flood is not one of a floating zoo, but one of floating bodies in the water. Untold numbers of people died in the flood…literally every human on the planet, excepting the eight members of Noah’s family. The flood is not a fun fairy tale; it is an account of the righteous wrath of God due towards sin.

That said, it is also an account of grace. All life was destroyed…all but eight. Eight people were saved, solely by the grace of God. God preserved alive a remnant of humanity in order to honor His own promise of a Savior, and the remnant He preserved was one to which He demonstrated the free gift of grace, personally saving them from the judgment to come. God acted out the very gospel that Noah was destined to preserve, and God’s goodness shone brightly on that dark day of His wrath.

Contextually, we’re still at the very beginning of the Biblical record. God had created all things in the universe, declaring them good – especially mankind, who originally enjoyed unrestrained relationship with God. The original man and woman (Adam and Eve) soon fell into sin, being tempted by Satan (the serpent), and God mercifully ejected them from the Garden of Eden before they had a chance to eat of the tree of life and remain eternally in sin, separated from God.

Things soon got worse, as sin took hold among the sons of Adam and Eve, and the elder son Cain became jealous of his younger brother Abel, murdering him. Cain was without remorse when he was confronted by God, and he received a curse that was multiplied on top of the one received by his father. Cain’s descendants fell further into sin, even as their numbers and technology increased upon the earth. By this point, the state of mankind was dark, and even among the more God-honoring descendants of Adam (through a third son, Seth), their legacy was one of death. Over and over again through Genesis 5, the account is “he died…he died…he died.”

This can only continue for so long, and God eventually did something about it in the days of Noah. He sent the flood as an instrument of His righteous judgment due to the corruption of mankind. God basically wiped the slate clean, starting over with Noah. Why Noah? Genesis 6:8, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” There is grace in the midst of God’s judgment. We see it in the Ark, and we see it in the Cross. God always gives the opportunity for grace.

Genesis 6

  • The Need for Judgment (1-12)

1 Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.

  1. Who are the “sons of God”? Subject of much debate! Some claim that this is the lineage of Seth, being the godly line (as opposed to Cain) – yet that seems to contradict with the idea that these “sons of God” were inherently sinful. In Genesis 5, the sons of Seth are by no means depicted as perfect (after all, they all died except Enoch), but it was the lineage of Cain that was highlighted as sinful; not Seth. Seth’s line was to continue until the Messiah (the Seed of the woman). 
  2. On the other hand, there is another Biblical reference to the “sons of God,” found in a near contemporary time to many of the events of Genesis: the book of Job. Job 1:6, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.” Job 2:1, “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.” Here, it’s plain that the “sons of God” refer to angelic beings – including both angels loyal to God as well as the devil and his demons. And it isn’t just the Old Testament that gives this idea. The New Testament tells us that various angels sinned at the time of Noah: 2 Peter 2:4–5, “(4) For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; (5) and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;”  Put it together, and the evidence is strong that somehow these angelic beings (demons) somehow interacted with human women, marrying them.
  3. As to the exact details, this is something which is unknown. Jesus was clear that angels do not marry nor are given in marriage (Mt 22:30). Perhaps they possessed certain humans to engage in this – or perhaps some other scenario took place. Either way, the overall idea here is that the very institution of marriage was corrupted. It is one more thing that was originally given by God as good that turned into something totally different.
  4. This is when God declared His action. 3…

3 And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

  1. The idea of “strive” is one of legal argument. Sometimes the word is translated “judge,” or “quarrel.” The Lord God had pleaded His case with mankind, but had been ignored. Although God is incredibly patient, there comes a time when even His patience runs out. Keep in mind that God has no reason to be patient with anyone at all! After all, He’s God & we’re not. We are but flesh. Who are we to argue & strive with God? That God would give us even the opportunity to say “no” to Him at all is an example of grace. He didn’t have to give us freewill – He didn’t have to give us an opportunity to rebel, but He did. God doesn’t have to give anyone a first breath, much less a second breath after we’ve sinned against Him…but He does. He is a gracious God! Every day He allows us to live is another day of grace & mercy!
  2. Even so, God’s longsuffering is limited. For the people of Genesis 6, it was limited to 120 years. Some people assume that Genesis 6:3 is a reference to God cutting down the lifespan of men from several centuries to only 120 years – but that is clearly not the case. Abraham lived 175 years (Gen 25:7). Jacob lived 147 years (Gen 47:28). Even Moses lived 120 years, several centuries after the flood (Dt 34:7). No doubt the lifespans of people decreased over time, but that seems to have been the result of many things that came with the flood; not a specific decree of God prior to the flood. The idea here seems to be that whenever God made the final decision to destroy the earth, He gave people a time of 120 years to repent. (God always gives opportunities to repent!)

4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

  1. Other Bible translations simply transliterate the Hebrew word used for giants: Nephilim. Just as with the “sons of God,” the identity of the Nephilim is highly debated. The Biblical reason for translating the word as giants comes from the LXX translation choice (γίγαντες), as well as the only other Biblical use of the word in Numbers 13:32-33, when “giants” (Nephilim) were seen in the Promised Land, and this is what caused the 12 spies of Israel to fear and not enter it. Otherwise the word is obscure and unknown, seemingly referring to “fallen ones,” which would lend more support to the idea that they are somehow angelically/demonically related. This would make the most sense of the fact that the Nephilim were the result of the sexual union between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men,” though we cannot be certain what these Nephilim actually looked like.
    1. Beyond this, we cannot be certain. Whatever view we take on the Nephilim, we need to limit it to Biblical revelation. Theories regarding aliens & various other unidentified creatures are irrelevant from a Biblical point of view.
  2. The only other description we have of these creatures is that they accomplished many mighty things. These were warriors, “men of renown.” That doesn’t mean that they were good; it just means they were skilled & strong. Evil warriors can still be mighty warriors. Evil warriors can still be famous. Hitler is infamous, renown both during his lifetime and in history classes ever since…it doesn’t make him good. We need to be careful of reading more into the Hebrew text what is there. The Nephilim were mighty men, famous in their time, but the whole context is one of a sinful and corrupted world. These were people lost in their sin, rebellious against the will of the perfect God. 5 makes it clear…

5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

  1. How sad! When the Creator God looked at the pinnacle of His creation, He saw that mankind was wholly wicked. Every intent of the heart, every act, every word – all of it was always evil, all the time. How far things had fallen in such a short amount of time! Remember this is only Chapter Six of Genesis. It didn’t take long for everything to fall to pot. Once sin gets involves, it ruins everything it touches.
  2. It’s not only sad; it’s current! This is the state of mankind today! Although there are brief shining examples of love in the world (and that, by the grace of God!), the vast majority of it is pure wickedness. A quick look at any roundup of news headlines verifies it. Between the murders that take place in our schools to the routine but far more numerous murders that take place in abortion centers, our own nation is filled with violence. If it isn’t acted out in person, then it is voiced through social media – it is portrayed through our entertainment – it is taught in our institutions. Wickedness pervades every aspect of our society, and we are ripe for the judgment of God.
  3. What’s the only thing that stops God from engaging in this judgment again? His promise! (8:21) He’s already flooded the world once, and promised never to do it again. But that’s not to say that God won’t judge the world again. He will; only He will do it in light of Jesus’ return to rule and reign upon the earth.
  4. BTW – before we point our fingers at too many other people, we need to remember that their evil is our evil. All of that is us without Jesus! Apart from His grace & His transforming power, we are all utterly evil. We can never forget who we were before we were saved & forgiven – we can never take Jesus for granted or lose sight of our dependence upon Him.

6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

  1. Those are truly amazing words. YHWH God “was sorry” regarding man. Can God be sorry? Apparently, yes. God is not sorry in the same way that we are, but He can still experience regret and grief in His spirit. When we’re sorry, we’re sorry over our sin – we regret the actions we’ve taken – we repent from evil that we’ve done & for which we’re guilty. Sometimes we’re just sorry over the consequences we’re experiencing, but it still comes down to regret over our own actions. That’s not God. God “was sorry that He had made man on the earth,” but it wasn’t because man existed; it’s that man existed in sin. When God first created humans, He declared them to be good – and looking around at the whole of His creation, He declared it to be “very good,” (Gen 1:31). That was God’s determination, and His word does not change. What did change was the actions of men & women, and now they were no longer acting like God’s original creation. Thus, when the Bible speaks of God’s sorrow here, it’s not sorrow over Himself; it’s sorrow over us. Mankind brought grief to the heart of God, and something needed to be done.
  2. What was the solution? God’s creation had become irretrievably tainted, and it needed to be wiped out. Like a painting that had an unwanted color spilled all across it, there was nothing left to do except start over. It was the only act of justice that could be done. The wages of sin is death, so death needed to come.
  3. This is exactly what all of us deserve. Why don’t we get it? Grace! The same grace received by Noah. vs. 8…

8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

  1. Grace! The Hebrew word (חֵן) can also be translated as “favor, charm,” and Genesis 6:8 is the first time it is found in the Bible. When Moses writes that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD,” he isn’t saying that Noah located grace or discovered somehow for himself. Instead, the idea is that God looked upon Noah with favor – that the grace Noah “found” was the gift that God gave.
  2. That’s always the way grace works. (If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be called “grace”!) Grace is always a gift; never earned. Thus, Noah was saved the same way any of us are saved: by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8-9). Noah looked to the Lord God in light of the revelation he had, Noah trusted in the Lord (unlike the rest of his culture around him), and God sovereignly chose to give favor/kindness/grace to Noah. Noah did nothing to earn salvation – he was still living with the same fallen nature passed down to him from Adam. The only reason Noah was saved was because of the gift of God’s grace.
  3. That’s not to say Noah didn’t live differently…he did! 9…

9 This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

  1. Noah was indeed different from the rest of the world around him. Like Enoch before him, “Noah walked with God.” Noah lived his life in righteousness, and the Bible declares him to be a “just man, perfect in his generations.” Question: if Noah was saved because God chose to give him grace, then why wasn’t Noah’s salvation earned due to him being perfect? Or (looking at it from another angle), if Noah still had the sinful nature passed to him from Adam, how can the Bible say that Noah was “perfect”? This is an instance in which a better translation choice could have been used by the editors of the KJV & NKJV (and Latin Vulgate). The Hebrew word translated “perfect” (תָּמִים) can also be translated as “whole, complete” – or as the NASB, ESV & others, “blameless.” The usual meaning for the word in the Old Testament is in reference to sacrifices that were “without blemish” – things that were well-pleasing to God. IOW, the Bible never proclaims Noah to be utterly sinless; it simply says that sin didn’t stick to him. He consistently lived his life above reproach.
    1. Such is to be the testimony of all God’s people! It is a specific character trait included in qualifications for pastoral ministry (1 Tim 3:2), but it is ultimately a mark of Christian maturity. All of us are to be “blameless” in this way – to live our lives among the rest of the world so that they do not see the sin of the world in us.
  2. Note the “genealogy of Noah” listed here. This signifies one of the several narrative breaks in the book of Genesis. Ch 5:1 gave us the genealogy of Adam; Ch 6 begins with the genealogy of Noah – the next break will come in Ch 10 with the genealogy of Noah’s sons.
  3. FYI – we tend to forget how close Noah was to Adam. When we consider how it was Noah would have known the promises of God, and learned how to trust in God by faith, it’s possibly because he had the models of his ancestors. According to the Biblical genealogies (provided no generations were skipped), it’s quite possible that Noah had met Seth before Seth died. That put Noah in contact with only one generation removed from the Garden of Eden, even though Adam died a couple of hundred years before Noah’s birth.

11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

  1. The final determination of the state of mankind is declared: God saw it as utterly “” Again, what God once saw as “good” was now ruined & spoilt. The only thing to be done was to start over.
  2. Yet here’s the challenge: How could God start over without violating His promise to Adam & Eve? Remember the first glimpse of the gospel in the Garden of Eden, spoken to the serpent in the presence of the humans: Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” The seed/offspring of Eve was to bruise the head of the serpent (crush him / destroy him). For God’s word to be true, humankind could not be destroyed to the extent of God reforming a new Adam from the dust – after all, Eve’s Seed was promised victory over the serpent. Mankind needed to be both saved and Thus, the ark. The ark allows for a righteous remnant while still providing righteous judgment. The ark allows for God’s grace to be preserved while still judging the corruption of the earth.
    1. Thus, the cross! The cross allows the fullness of God’s wrath to be poured out on sin. The cross allows every sin of every human to be totally judged in light of God’s righteousness. At the same time, it allows for men and women to be saved. The cross allows us to be sheltered from God’s wrath by living in God’s grace. We were the corrupt ones, but because of the cross of Jesus, now we have been made the righteous remnant of God.
  3. All of that is the determination & reason for judgment. How would it come? That’s what Genesis 6 goes on to describe…
  • The Preparation for Judgment (13-22)

13 And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

  1. Of course God’s plans had not been made in haste. He had known of these things from before the foundation of the world (which speaks of His mercy and grace in creating mankind in the first place!); this was simply the moment He informed Noah of what was going to happen. To say “the end of all flesh has come before Me” is to basically say that mankind had reached its limit. This was the border – the finality – the farthest God would allow things to continue as they were. God is rich in patience and longsuffering, but even He has a limit. Eventually the patience of God runs out, and His judgment swiftly comes. It was now that moment for the earth.
  2. Sadly, notice how the entire earth is caught up in the sin of mankind. The same point was made in vs. 12, and is repeated here in vs. 13. Had the animals (apart from the Satanically-possessed serpent) sinned? Bears and lions and bugs simply acted like bears and lions and bugs. Yet all the earth would pay the price of God’s wrath and judgment. Sin always brings casualties – it always affects others…always.
    1. Some people claim to engage in “victimless” sin. There is no such thing. Someone who sins in the corner of his/her bedroom still has an effect on someone else. There was another person involved in making the tool of sin (be it pornography, booze, drugs, etc.). There are the people with whom we later interact, after our minds and hearts have been affected. Sin always has a ripple effect; there’s no getting around it. (There is only stopping it & cleansing from it in Christ!)

14 Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. 15 And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.

  1. Though the earth was to be destroyed, the existence of life was to be preserved. God’s method for doing so was to have Noah build an “ark.” What’s an ark? Interestingly, this particular word is used only a handful of times in Scripture, usually in reference to Noah’s ark, or the basket that contained the baby Moses. The word used for the ark of the covenant is a totally different Hebrew word, though perhaps overlapping a bit in meaning. The best scholars can determine for this particular word is that it refers to a box or container of some sort, and considering that every time the word is used in the Old Testament it refers to water transport (the flood or the Nile river), it needs to be considered as a type of boat or water-craft. The ark of the covenant, on the other hand, is a box or money-chest, or the word could even be used to refer to a coffin. This ark was meant to preserve life; not bury it. This was God’s plan to ensure life did not completely vanish from His creation.
  2. First things first: what the heck is “gopherwood”? In all likelihood, it’s a reference to cypress or cedar (which means that the ark would have smelled pretty good for the days they were on it – perhaps even cutting down on the stench of the livestock!). “Gopher” is not a reference to the rodent; it’s a transliteration of the Hebrew: “עֲצֵי־גֹ֔פֶר” = “tree/wood of gofer.” It is possibly a reference to finished timber, rather than a specific type/species of tree. Whatever the wood was, it was covered with “pitch,” to waterproof it both from the rain and floods on the outside, as well as any liquid on the inside. The general idea is that it was safe, and seaworthy.
  3. The physical dimensions commanded by God actually affirm the seaworthiness of the vessel. Depending how one counts the cubit (18 or 20 inches), the ark was 450’x75’x45’ or 500’x83’x50’. Either way, it was huge! Not only was it the first ship in recorded history, but it remains one of the largest (if not the largest) wooden sea-vessel in history. But again, its dimensions demonstrate its seaworthiness. The ark was not unlike modern cargo ships today in appearance, thus able to withstand the waters that surrounded it.
    1. This description alone sets apart the Biblical narrative from other pagan narratives regarding their global floods. For instance, in the Babylonian story of Gilgamesh, “the ark is a perfect cube of about 197 feet; such a vessel would capsize and sink in turbulent water,” (Apologetics Study Bible).

17 And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.

  1. Notice the emphasis in vs. 17: “I Myself am bringing floodwaters…” By no means is the flood to be considered the result of natural disaster or catastrophe; this was a Divine destruction. God got personally involved in His judgment of the world. (Likewise with the cross. God was personally involved not only in the piercing of His Son, but in the person of Jesus as He received the piercing & wrath!)
  2. What would be the result? “Everything that is on the earth shall die.” With the exception of Noah, his sons, their wives, and the animals on the ark, everything would die. Again, this is no children’s story! This is global annihilation. This was a world-ending event – the kind of thing imagined in so many Hollywood movies today. The difference is that it actually happened.
  3. Even with all of the death and destruction, there was one saving grace: God made a “covenant” with Noah. As with the word for “grace,” this is also the first time the Hebrew word for “covenant” (בְּרִית) is used in the Bible. A covenant is an agreement or contract – in some cases, it is the legal basis of a relationship between a king and his people, like a pact. Here, God tells Noah that Noah will have certain legal protections and guarantees going forward. What’s the guarantee? Life – the promise of the eventual Messiah/Seed of the woman. Noah and his sons will live, and they would see that the gospel promise of God remains true.
    1. BTW – we also have a covenant with God, the new covenant of Christ, celebrated every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. (1 Cor 11:25) Likewise, God’s covenant with us also guarantees life!
  4. God goes on to describe the life that will remain…

19 And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive.

  1. Generally speaking, there were to be “two of every sort” of animal. Chapter 7 will bring clarification to that regarding clean animals, looking ahead to worship sacrifices yet to come. Otherwise, two are all that were required, as this would be enough to procreate and repopulate the kind of animal upon the earth.
  2. Note that God’s instructions are in general, broad categories, as opposed to the specific individual species of which we would think of in modern terms. Technically, the Hebrew doesn’t even say “two of every sort,” as the English “sort” is assumed by the translators. Literally, the Hebrew says “And from every living, from all flesh, two of all you shall bring into the ark.” Thus you don’t need two of every single breed of domesticated cat, or every variation of sparrow, etc. The various “kinds” of animals would themselves come to Noah, supernaturally brought to him by God in order to be preserved. From those initial kinds, the various individual breeds would come forth.
    1. Although the Bible never at all teaches the concept of macro-evolution (from a single-celled organism all the way to modern humans; from goo-to-you), it does allow for micro-evolution, or better-termed “adaptation” on a small scale. Adaptation can be (and has been) observed by naturalists and other scientists for a very long time. We can see it ourselves simply in the size of human skeletons from centuries ago in comparison with today. But adaptation is not the same thing as Darwinian macro-evolution. Adaptation is observable and fits with Biblical teaching; Darwinian evolution can only be theorized, and is opposed to the Bible.
  3. Interestingly, in the preservation of the animals, there is a parallel with the preservation of Noah. Just as Noah and his family were a remnant of humanity, God also provided a remnant of the animal kingdom.

21 And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them.”

  1. Practical! Not everything God declared was regarding judgment. Some of what God instructed Noah was valuable for simple survival. Animals weren’t the only things required on the ark – so was basic supplies like food and other provisions. Noah would have to bring everything he needed for several months. After all, there wasn’t exactly a floating Walmart for him to visit. 😊

22 Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.

  1. Noah was fully obedient – something that will be described in Chapter 7.
  2. Notice how God’s grace and man’s obedience go hand-in-hand. Noah did not work to earn his salvation, but he certainly did good works. He lived his life in righteousness, and obeyed the commands of God. These were things that flowed out from his relationship with God & the grace he had received; they were not the cause of his relationship with God.
    1. Be careful not to get those things reversed! We are saved by grace through faith, for the purpose of good works (Eph 2:8-10). Our works are the result of the grace we have received; grace can never be earned.
    2. If your relationship with God does not start from the basis of His grace, then you have no relationship with God. It starts there, or not at all!

At this point, with the reason for judgment established, and God’s plan of judgment declared, the execution of that judgment goes fairly quick.

Genesis 7 – The Execution of Judgment

  • Final commands (1-5)

1 Then the LORD said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.

  1. This is basically a repetition of what God earlier declared – a reiteration that Noah was seen as “righteous” by God. Again, had Noah been absolutely sinless his entire life? Not at all. But God gave him grace, and when God declared Noah to be righteous, so he was.
    1. We experience the same thing in our own relationship with Christ. The righteousness we have is what has been imputed to us (put upon us) by God through His sovereign declaration. What God declares to be, is. God said “Let there be light,” and there was. Likewise, when God declares your sin to be forgiven, it is – when He declares you to have been cleansed & made righteous in His sight, you are – when He determines that you have been adopted into His family & born-again as a child of God, that is exactly what has taken place. God said it, and it is so.
  2. As for Noah, he was the only one declared by God to be righteous, which is why he was the only one (he & his family) to be saved. It would be the remnant of Noah & the remnant of animals which would alone be saved. vs. 2…

2 You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; 3 also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth.

  1. Here’s the clarification on the “two animal” rule. Generally speaking, two of every kind of animal would come to Noah, but when it came to the clean animals (animals appropriate for both eating and sacrifice), there would be seven. Obviously seven is one animal more than what is required to have procreating pairs, so there is a use for these animals beyond procreation. The number of these animals were necessary in order for the various kinds to remain alive, but that seems to be (in part) due to the fact that some of these animals would very soon be killed – either for food or for sacrifice. At this point in Genesis, Noah (and all humans) were still vegetarian (if not vegan), and it is not until Chapter 9 that God gives permission for Noah and his sons to eat animals.
  2. As to how Noah would know the difference between the clean & unclean animals, this is left unsaid. As the compiler of Genesis (and thus chief editor & author), Moses would have known, but it is not until the time of Moses that a specific list of clean/unclean animals is provided. It’s possible that Noah would have had a tradition passed from Adam as to which animals were clean & which were unclean, but that knowledge wasn’t absolutely necessary. After all, the animals would be brought to Noah by God Himself. God would bring the right numbers to Noah, and Noah would know which was which simply by doing an inventory count.

4 For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.” 5 And Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him.

  1. Back in 6:7, God declared that He would “destroy” (wipe out/blot out) man; the same word and idea is used here. Rainwaters would come like they had never come before, and “all living things” not on board the ark would be killed. And once more, the Bible affirms that Noah was obedient.
  2. Can you imagine Noah’s thoughts when he heard all of this? How his mind must have reeled! How his heart must have broken. Surely he had friends who were among those who would be killed. He certainly had other family members – at the very least, it seems that Methuselah & Lamech (Gen 5:25, 28) also perished in the flood. Noah alone would be saved, even though he pled for others to repent, being a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet 2:5). Yet still, Noah was obedient. He did what needed to be done, and proclaimed what needed to be proclaimed. Knowing that all men and women were bound to perish, Noah obeyed anyway.
    1. Why is it we preach the gospel, knowing that it will often be rejected? Why is it we tell others of Jesus, knowing that most will not believe? Because God tells us too! And unlike Noah, some will believe and be saved! Noah preached, knowing that all would perish. We preach, with the hope that some will be saved. We have far more reason to be faithful to God’s call & commission…may we be just as obedient as Noah!
  • Boarding the ark (6-16)

6 Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth.

  1. Although the Scripture doesn’t tell us precisely when Noah began building the ark, the previous mention of his age was 5:32, nothing he was 500 years old. Presumably, that’s when he received his instructions from God. Thus the construction took roughly 100 years – not an unreasonable number considering it was Noah and his sons alone that did the work. It is doubtful he had much help from the people around him.

7 So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood. 8 Of clean animals, of animals that are unclean, of birds, and of everything that creeps on the earth, 9 two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God had commanded Noah.

  1. Notice “they went into the ark to Noah.” Noah didn’t have to go out & round up the livestock; God supernaturally brought them to him. God called Noah to certain work; He didn’t call Noah to do all the work. What God wanted done, God would empower to be done. (Just as He always does! He calls us to be faithful; He’s the one who supplies the power.)

10 And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth. 11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12 And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.

  1. Notice the specific dating. One week after boarding, the waters arrived, and that specific date was written down in history according to the only calendar Noah had. Year 600, on the 2nd month, on the 17th If Noah would have had access to a wristwatch, no doubt he would have noted the hour, as well!
  2. Why does this matter? Why is this included in our Bibles even if we can’t match the specific date to our modern calendars? Because it underscores the fact that this was a historic event. This was not a fairy tale – it’s not a myth designed to scare people into obedience. This is the account of the very real event of the flood. Keep in mind, flood myths do Every ancient culture around the world has its own version of the flood. The fact that they do, indicates that something happened. Atheistic historians and archaeologists might not like that fact, but something had to have happened to embed itself into the conscience of human culture. The question should not be whether or not there was a flood; rather, the question is which account of the flood is correct. The only version attached to a historical document that has been proven true time & time again is that of the Bible. The Biblical version is the version that must be given the benefit of the doubt.
  3. There’s no question that there are aspects of the flood that are supernatural, unable to be explained through any other cause apart from the miraculous. But that’s no reason for disqualification. God works. He routinely intervenes in His creation, and when He does, it is supernatural by definition. What’s so striking about the Biblical account is that beyond the supernatural events are very specific details – details that would make no sense whatsoever unless they were historical records. What the Bible has written, is true.

13 On the very same day Noah and Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark—14 they and every beast after its kind, all cattle after their kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort. 15 And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. 16 So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.

  1. Basic reiteration of all that entered the ark. These are what God commanded to be there, and these are what entered. According to the Lord’s word, so it was.
  2. In all of this description, don’t miss the final words of vs. 16: “and the LORD shut him in.” It was not Noah that raised the drawbridge or locked the door; it was YHWH God Himself. God personally sealed Noah & the others inside the ark, guaranteeing their safety and salvation.
    1. When we are saved, we also are personally sealed by God. God the Holy Spirit not only gives us our new birth (Jn 3:6), but He becomes our seal – our guarantee of salvation (Eph 1:13). There’s not an aspect about our eternal salvation that is not dependent on the personal involvement of God!
  • Extent of the flood (17-24)

17 Now the flood was on the earth forty days. The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. 20 The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered.

  1. Forty days of water upon the earth would have been utterly devastating. 11 spoke of both rain falling from the “windows of heaven,” as well as the “fountains of the great deep” opening up. Waters from both over the earth and under the earth came in torrential deluge, flooding every part of the earth in which there was life.
    1. It was only August 2017 when torrential rains fell in Houston from Hurricane Harvey, and the massive floods that resulted were just from a few days’ worth of rain. Imagine exponentially more rainfall & flooding that lasts for well over a month! This was absolutely devastating.
  2. Question: considering the Bible tells us that the “mountains were covered,” does that mean that waters prevailed over the top of Mount Everest (over 29,000 feet)? Not necessarily. (1) We don’t know everything about the Earth’s geography prior to the flood. Considering the massive tectonic shifts that would have taken place in order for the fountains of the deep to open, it’s possible that some of what we know today on the Earth is there because of the flood. (2) What the Bible records is what the original authors witnessed. Mount Olivet is only 2710 feet, and those are the sorts of mountains in the ancient near east. Technically the word for “mountain” is often translated as “high hill,” depending on the context. The point is that we don’t want to let our modern understanding cloud the original intent of what the author wrote. We don’t hold him accountable to our vocabulary; we need to understand what was in his. He wrote of a global flood, and the mountains which he witnessed were covered, and all life on earth was destroyed. That’s all the Bible says, and that’s what we need to keep in mind.
  3. Theologians might debate the extent of the water on earth, but there is zero doubt as to the extent of its destruction. vs. 21…

21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. 22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died.

  1. Everything died. This catastrophe was global, in extent. Just as God said, it was done. God had reached the end of His patience, and He poured out the fullness of His wrath. The scene would have been horrendous and devastating.
  2. Why so much death? Because there was so much sin. The wages of sin is death, and the proof to Noah was all of the corpses floating around him.

23 So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days.

  1. It rained for only 40 days; the floodwaters remained for 150 days. There was zero chance of survival other than being safely on the ark.

Conclusion:

So much death – so much destruction – all on account of sin. There comes a point where the righteous God must bring judgment upon sin, and when He does, there is no way of avoiding it. No way, save one: we must be found in His grace…we must be found in the ark of Christ! Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord, and God personally ensured Noah’s salvation. Likewise with us. God freely offers us grace and forgiveness in Christ – and if we would but believe, we would be saved. He forever seals us in His safety, and He promises us life for all eternity.

Have you found refuge in the Ark? Have you found the grace of God to protect you from judgment? Jesus took your judgment, so that you might receive His protection. Be certain you find yourself in Him!