The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: Genesis (page 1 of 2)

Welfare for the World

P.AllanWe humans have needed welfare since the start.

Reaction to Paradise. God created a paradise for our first parents, tacked a “Do Not Touch” sign on one tree, and they surrendered to the Satan-serpent, ate forbidden fruit, and got tossed from Eden.  Adam and Eve gave birth to two sons; one murdered the other.  Humans multiplied; so did their evil. The LORD regretted creating them, destroyed them all (except righteous Noah and his family) with a ferocious flood.  But flood waters didn’t wash away sin-nature.  As humans multiplied again, so did moral corruption.  This time evil united to build a tower for its own fame; the LORD shattered and scattered them throughout the earth.

“Welfare” according to Webster is  “the condition of health, prosperity and happiness.”  Humans, intent on welfare their way, provoked God’s wrath repeatedly.  We’ve needed welfare from the start.

A Stunning Promise.  What came next was startling.  Centuries passed.  People groups spread.  Then the LORD spoke this stunning promise to a man named Abram:  “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).  Blessed? 

“Blessed” means  “to be granted happiness, health or prosperity” (The World English Dictionary).  “Welfare” and “blessed” then are virtual synonyms.  When the LORD promised “blessing” to all the families of the earth” he was promising welfare for the world– just what the world desperately needed.

A little about Abram.  2000 B.C.  Abram’s father, Terah, a descendent of Shem, one of Noah’s sons (Genesis 11:10-26), was an idol-worshiper (Joshua 24:2).   Terah’s family lived in the city of Ur, a cultural center on the northwest corner of the Persian Gulf (today’s Iraq).

For reasons not explained, God appeared to one of Terah’s sons–Abram–with this message:  “Go out from your land and from you kindred and go into the land that I will show you” (Acts 7:2,3).  Consequently, “Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran  (Abram’s brother who had died). . . and Sarai his daughter-in-law . . . and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran (a caravan-route city about 600 miles to the northwest) they settled there . . . and Terah died” (Genesis 11:31,32).  

Some time later the LORD again spoke to Abram:  ” Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Without details,  the Scripture then says, “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him . . . And Abram took Sarai his wife . . . and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan” (Genesis 12:4,5).  How could Abram move again only on the basis of what he heard?  Faith.   “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance” (Hebrews 11:8).  We’re told that so we might be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit [God’s] promises” (Hebrews 6:12).  We’re told that so we might walk by faith, not by sight.  We’re told that so we might trust the promises of God whom we can’t see and don’t hear.   Seems risky.  Almost foolish.  Philip Yancey says, “Faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

The Most Head-Scratching Wonder.  But the most head-scratching wonder of this narrative isn’t Abram’s faith.  The most head-scratching wonder of this narrative is God’s mercy.   Since he created Eden paradise for Adam and Eve, God had been disbelieved, disobeyed, discarded and dismissed by humans.  For the sake of his own name and the preservation of his creation, God had to expel, drown and scatter evil mankind.  Civilization may have culturally progressed, but humans morally regressed.  Yet the Lord made Abram this stunningly merciful promise:   ” . . . in you all the families of the earth will be given happiness, health and prosperity.”

Welfare for the world.  A glimpse of God’s heart.  He’s not out to hurt or destroy.  Not bent on causing pain and suffering, despite the troubles we all endure.  He’s not indifferent to disasters.   He wants people from among all peoples on earth to be happy, healthy and prosperous.  He’s not a harsh judge (though our sin before his holiness requires judgment).  He’s not a senile white-haired grandfather (though often he works in ways that seem senseless).  “The LORD [is] the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).  Here two thousand years before the offspring of Abraham (Jesus, the Christ) came to fulfill this wonderful promise (Galatians 3:16), we catch a glimpse of God’s merciful welfare for the world.

These days statistics show Americans increasingly depend on welfare from Washington. Do we realize that the ultimate welfare on which we all must depend is from the compassionate, gracious, slow-to-anger, abounding-in-love, faithful God who offers welfare to the world through the offspring of Abraham?  And this welfare comes, not by signing up, but by bowing down in faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bang (BIG)!

Where did the universe come from?  Why does it exist?

Don’t yawn!  The questions carry much greater significance than dorm students debating philosophy.

The Troublesome Consequences of “No Beginning.”  If science can prove the universe had no beginning, we should burn our Bibles and close down our church buildingsWe who trust our lives to Jesus Christ
” . . . are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).  Why?  Because the Gospel of God starts with this declaration:  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  If science can disprove that one statement, everything that follows all the way to Revelation 22:21 is a myth.  There is no God, no sin, no Savior, no heaven, no new creation.  Life is nothing more than a series of random events from birth to death.  The only meaning it holds is the meaning we give it.  The only hope we have lies in our own heads.

Old Greek philosophers to today’s atheists–including many “scientists”– have rejected the idea that the universe had a beginning.    Carl Sagan–astronomer, astrophysicist, and author who died in 1996–pop- ularized that rejection with this pronouncement:  “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.”  No beginning.  No God.  No Gospel.

A Startling Discovery.  Then in 1929 Edwin Hubble (the telescope guy) discovered that  light from distant galaxies appears redder than it should.  His conclusion:  the redder light shows the universe is expanding.  William Lane Craig, analytical philosopher and Christian theologian, illustrates.  “[I]magine  a balloon with buttons glued on it.  As you blow up the balloon, the buttons get farther and farther apart, even though they are stuck in place.  These buttons are just like the galaxies in space.  As space itself expands, all the galaxies in the universe grow farther and farther apart” (Who Made God?, edited by Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler).

What’s the point?  If we’re going to fly to another galaxy we better go now while it’s closer?  No.  The point is  the farther back in time, the denser the universe until we reach a point of infinite density from which the universe began to expand.  This initial event is what scientists call the “Big Bang.”  Philosopher Quentin Smith says:  “[The Big Bang] belongs analytically to the concept of the cosmological singularity that is not the effect of prior physical events” (Who Made God?).  In other words (for us commoners who got lost in “cosmological singularity”), the Big Bang event could not have been caused naturally and physically.  Therefore, the universe had a beginning and seems to have been created from nothing !

A Reluctantly-Convinced Scientific Community.  Naturally, this idea disturbed some people.  In fact,
“The history of twentieth century cosmology has been the history of the repeated falsification of . . . nonstandard theories (of the universe) and the corroboration of the Big Bang theory” (Naturalism:  A Critical Appraisal, edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland).

This led J. M Wersinger, associate professor in physics and NASA Grant Fellow at Auburn University, to write“At first the scientific community was very reluctant to accept the idea of a birth of the universe.  Not only did the Big Bang model seem to give in to the Judeo-Christian idea of a beginning of the world, but it also seemed to call for an act of supernatural creation . . . It took time, observational evidence, and careful verification of predictions made by the Big Bang model to convince the scientific community to accept the idea of a cosmic genesis . . . the Big Bang is a very successful model that imposed itself on a reluctant scientific community” (“Genesis:  The Origin of the Universe,” National Forum, 1996).

Science has not disproved Genesis 1:1.  Quite the contrary:  the scientific community has (reluctantly) accepted the idea of a “cosmic genesis” that apparently surrenders to the idea of the universe’s beginning and supernatural creation.  Opponents remain.  But the scientific fact stands strong against naturalistic (atheistic) ideology.

The Bigness of the “Bang”.  Can a society that submits to “the final word” of science believe Genesis 1:1?  There’s no legitimate reason not to, since a reluctant scientific community has signed on to “the Big Bang”.  Faith in God’s Word isn’t limited to scientific nincompoops! Good science bears witness to the holy Scriptures.

But our reaction should be more than intellectual; it should be doxological.  That is, it should be glorious words of worship like those the apostle John heard the twenty-four elders sing before God’s throne . . .

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

When we put science’s Big Bang together with God’s Genesis 1:1 the outcome should be Big Worship!

 

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Selfie-Tower

P.Allan  In 1974 the Glass Tower in San Francisco was the world’s tallest building–183 stories,
1,800 feet, a neck-stretching, mouth-dropping testimony to human power and pride.  Alas, it was only a movie–“The Towering Inferno.”  And as the title implies, this tower to man’s glory didn’t end well.

Neither did the one in Genesis 11.

One Language.  The flood subsided.  Noah, his wife, three sons and their wives were back on dry ground.   For a century they  multiplied (Genesis 10:1-32).  And, since they all traced family trees back to Father and Mother Noah, ” . . . the whole earth had one language and the same words” (Genesis 11:1).

One Place.  And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar (today’s Iraq) and settled there” (Genesis 11:2).  Three times the LORD had commanded Noah and his offspring, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 8:17; 9:1,7).   Settling was disobedience.

A City and a Tower.  They made bricks and mortar (Genesis 11:3) and said, Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).  Human progress–migrants settle down to build a city with a skyscraper!  Archaeologists say this  tower may have been the original ziggurat–a false-god tower.  200 square foot base.  Sloping walls and stairway rising 150 feet.  A small room for the people’s god on top.

The flood had washed away most humans, but it hadn’t changed human nature” . . .   the intention of man’s heart [was still] evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21 and 6:5).  Centuries later the apostle Paul diagnosed the human condition this way:

” . . . although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images . . . ” (Romans 1:21,22a).  This is just what the Shinar Plain people did.

In the movie, “The Towering Inferno”, San Francisco’s elite are invited to a gala grand opening on the Glass Tower’s top floor complete with dinner, dancing, orchestra, and self-congratulations all around.  The city has made a name for itself.  Nobody knows that faulty wiring will turn the tower into an inferno.

The Building Inspector. “And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower . . . [and said], ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do.  And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’  So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city” (Genesis 11:5-7).

World peace has been the dream since the beginning.  Here it seems possible.  One people with one language in one place committed to one purpose.  Yet, because the people have evil hearts, the world they build will be a world united for evil.  Think Hitler.  See piles of shoes once worn by now-gassed Jews and grotesque mass graves piled high with corpses.

The Building Inspector “comes down.”  Not to send another killer flood.  Not to turn their project into the original Towering Inferno. (This is funny.  Sure, the situation is serious for the future of humanity and the glory of God’s name.  But this is funny.)  He confuses their language!  One guy’s talking to another and suddenly he’s speaking a language neither he nor his friend know.  All over Shinar Plain it happens.  Construction grinds to a halt–workers can’t communicate.  The tower never reaches the clouds.  The god can’t move in.  The city is abandoned, half-built.

The DispersionSo the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth.  And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:8,9).  Genesis is the book of origins.  Here is the origin of humans united against the LORD and the origin of humanity’s humiliating defeat by the LORD.

The Mercy of Disunity.  Disunity among nations–despite all the blood shed–is God’s sovereign mercy.  If world leaders could create a plan for peace, it would fail.  Why? Because God will not allow evil-hearted humans to unite:  our union would be a union of evil. 

The Hope of Unity. Our only hope for real peace lies with the woman’s offspring who the LORD said would bruise the Satan-serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15).  The One the prophet Isaiah called “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).  The One the prophet Jeremiah said would put God’s laws on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).  The One the apostle Paul wrote died on the cross to create one new humanity and so make peace (Ephesians 2:15,16).

The world is building selfie-towers.  They won’t stand.  But:  “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

 

 

 

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Flood Sign!

P.AllanMonday morning August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit southeast Louisiana.  1,833 people died.  New Orleans bore the brunt of the storm.  80% of the city flooded as the levee system catastrophically failed.   For weeks we saw devastating TV images of lingering flood waters.  A storm like that today would likely bring climate-change prophets out of the woodwork warning Katrina’s flood was a sign of worse weather disasters to come.

The Flood That Was a Sign.  Wherever you stand on that issue, there once was a flood that signified a worse disaster to come.  ” . . . the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11).  God said, ” . . . I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven” (Genesis 6:17).  So it was.  ” . . . all the fountains of the great deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens were opened.  And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights” (Genesis 7:11,12). 

Critics claim it never happened.  Skeptics doubt it could.  Our distorted view of God is the culprit.  Who thinks of God as a righteous judge who pours out his wrath on sin anymore?  He’s our heavenly helper.  Our divine butler beyond the blue horizon awaiting our call.  But that’s not the God of the Bible, not the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.  That God sent a flood so that “Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died” Genesis 7:22).  That flood was a sign of greater cataclysm to come . .

The Sign That Was a Flood.  Many centuries later the apostle Paul told persecuted churches in that “the Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:7,8). 

Later the apostle Peter wrote about those who scoff at such fanaticism:  ” . . . scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.  They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?”  For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation'” (2 Peter 3:3,4a).  

Why do they mock?  Their sinful desires cause them to deliberately overlook the sign that was a flood.  For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed perished.  But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly  . . . the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:4b-7,10).  The sign that the day of the Lord will come and the present heavens and earth will be burned up in judgment is Noah’s flood.

The Way to Follow the Flood-Sign.  “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!  But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (1 Peter 3:11-13).

“Lives of holiness and godliness” are birthed and sustained and completed by faith in the great mercy of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So believers in Christ should be encouraged by the flood-sign and live in obedience to Jesus.  Unbelievers in Christ should be warned by the flood-sign to pray for God’s mercy through Christ.

The Fishy-Ness of the Flood-Sign.  The problem is that it all sounds preposterous.  An ancient flood God sent to kill every living thing (except righteous Noah and his family and the animals on the ark)!  Jesus who lived here 2000 years ago coming again to judge unbelievers and burn up the earth and bring a new righteous creation into being!  That ancient flood being a sign of the future fire!  For believer and unbeliever it’s almost beyond belief.

So was Katrina’s flood in New Orleans just days before it hit.

 

 

 

 

 

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Band-Aids on Bad Hearts

One minute he was enjoying morning coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts.  The next he was slumped over the counter.  “Call 911!”  Medics arrived.  “Give me that box!” one shouted.  He opened it and slapped four Band-Aids on the unconscious man’s chest.

Some conditions call for more  than Band-Aids.

When he finished his creation-work, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).  Six or seven generations passed.  Then this:  “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11).  Such was the downward slide of humanity into violent depravity.

How bad was it?  So bad the Lord grievously decided to wipe it out.  Like a house so termite-infested it has to be leveled.  Or a field so chemically-polluted it has to be plowed under.  Wickedness so great, the purposes of man’s heart so evil, only a worse-than-tsunami-like flood could wash away the corruption.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,
and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart.
So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land . . . ”
(Genesis 6:5-7a)

Was it really that bad?  Cain went on from murder to actually build a city (Genesis 4:17).  One of his great-grandsons became a livestock tycoon.  Another a talented musician.  A third a creative metal-worker (Genesis 4:20-22).  In business and the arts society was progressing.  Let these entrepreneurs teach others!  Business will boom!  The arts will flourish!  Violence will fade!  Education!  Opportunity!  That’s what they need.  In God’s eyes that would be slapping Band Aids on a heart attack victim.

Build an ark, righteous Noah!  “For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground” (Genesis 7:4).

So it was.  “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth and the windows of heaven were opened.  And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights . . . [The Lord] blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground
. . . Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark (Genesis 7:11,12,23).

Much later, because even hearts saved from the flood were corrupted (Genesis 8:21), the New Testament, too, issues judgment-warnings . . .

  • But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed (Romans 2:5).
  • . . . if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving a knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries (Hebrews 10:26).
  • . . . the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and the destruction of the ungodly (2 Peter 3:7).

The Middle East is a killing ground.  School and mall shootings still show up on the news.  Terrorism constantly threatens.  The flood washed Noah’s corrupt generation away, but didn’t cure his or his descendants’ bad hearts.  Jesus said,  ” . . .out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19).   Bad hearts.  Might the Lord see us as he did Noah’s generation–“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the
thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5)?  Are we destined to be burned with fire as they were wiped out with a flood?

In the dark days from Adam to Noah hope shined in words easily overlooked:  “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth” (Genesis 4:25).  Look at Luke 3:38.  There’s “Seth, the son of Adam” in the genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23).  Seth’s birth announcement in Genesis looks forward to the birth of Jesus.  And Jesus cleanses from sin and saves from God’s wrath those who trust in him. s

God shows his love for us in what while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood,
much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God
.
(Romans 5:8,9)

  And Jesus does one more thing . . .

“And I will give you new heart, and a new spirit I will put with you . . .
And . . . cause you to walk in my statutes ”
(Ezekiel 36:26,27).

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God,
the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 6:22,23).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come
.”
(2 Corinthians 5:17)

 Jesus doesn’t slap Band-Aids on our bad heart.  He gives us a new one. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

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Grim Spread of Sin (and Glimpses of Mercy)

The father waited until his 14-year-old daughter closed the door and took her shoes and backpack off.  Then he slit her throat.  Forty minutes later when his 12-year-old son came home, he repeated his gruesome deed.  That morning, after his children had left for school, the father had stabbed his wife 59 times.  She lay not far from the children in the entry way of their Detroit townhouse (from “USA Today”). The story shocks only for a moment.  Killing is too common.

How did we get here?  By the grim spread of sin.  That answer’s not politically correct.  “Sin” implies a sovereign God who requires obedience and to whom we’re accountable.  We prefer the Moralistic Therapeutic Deist God (Christian Smith’s term in Soul-Searching–The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers).  That God is always there to help us, but never legislates laws we break at our own peril.  However, the God of the Bible isn’t the God of America’s teenagers, nor the God of most American adults either.

Where did this all start?  In Eden paradise Adam and Eve listened to the Satan-serpent and disobeyed the one law the Creator laid down:  “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden” (Genesis 3:3).  But they did.  The result?  The Creator decreed curses on the Satan-serpent, on the woman and on the man (Genesis 3:14-19).  Then “the Lord God sent [the man] out from the garden of Eden” (Genesis 3:23).  That’s where we live–outside Eden.  And outside Eden, sin spreads.

What happened outside Eden?  MurderEve gave birth to two sons–Cain and Abel.  Eventually each brought an offering to the Lord.  “And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard, so Cain was very angry . . . And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:4b,8).  Adam and Eve’s sin had spread to their sons.

Several generations later, a descendant of Cain–Lamech–said to his wives:  “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:  I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.  If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:23,24).  For wounding him, Lamech killed a young man.  He bragged he was a more infamous killer than Cain.  Now here we are, centuries later, the voice of the blood of countless victims crying to God from the ground (Genesis 4:10).  Outside Eden, sin still spreads.

Our only hope for peace lies with the Creator against whom we’ve all sinned.  In our walk through Genesis we’ve reached a dark valley.  Humans are killing each other.  And every act of violence–whatever its form– is sin against the Creator.  His judgment must fall, but even here we catch glimpses of mercy.

Mercy-Glimpse.  “The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel'” (Genesis 3:15).  One day, in a brutal battle, the son of the woman would crush the head of the Satan-serpent.

Mercy-Glimpse.  When the Lord didn’t accept Cain’s offering, Cain was very angry.  “The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry . . . ?  If you do well, you will be accepted.  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it'” (Genesis 4:6,7).  The Creator gave Cain a second chance and warned him of the weightiness of his choice.

Mercy-Glimpse.  Cain chose wrongly.  The Lord condemned Cain to the life of a fugitive (Genesis 4:12).  “Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear . . . I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me’ ” (Genesis 4:13,14b).  The Lord responded, “‘Not so!  If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’  And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him” (Genesis 4:15).  Cain would have to bear punishment for his sin, but mixed with mercy.

Mercy-Invitation.  Many centuries later, sin has grimly spread.  Violence is so common the most monstrous only momentarily shocks us.  No longer do we even think of it as sin against our Creator.   Still his mercy invites . . .

“Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents from punishing” (Joel 2:13).

 And for all who humbly turn back to him and throw themselves on his mercy, Frederick W. Faber wrote:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice
Which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

 

 

 

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What Went Wrong?

Something has gone wrong.  Terribly.  All God created he called good (Genesis 1:4,10,12,18,21,25) and very good (Genesis 1:31).  He put the man he made, and soon the woman he made, in a garden in Eden (Genesis 2:8)–so lush that  even today “Eden” produces mental pictures of paradise.

But except for a week at a Caribbean resort, life’s no longer a paradise.  Eden’s been lost.  What went wrong?  Genesis 3 tells the story.  You probably know it.  But will you open your Bible and read it?  . . .

If you did you read a story about a talking serpent who shrewdly seduced the woman into distrusting and disobeying God.  The Lord had earlier given the man the fruit of every tree, but put one off limits under penalty of death (Genesis 2:17).  The serpent denied that to the woman.  “You won’t die.  In fact, when you eat it, you’ll be like God.  And God knows it (Genesis 3:4,5).  Standing in paradise, gazing at the tree, the woman thought how good the fruit would taste, how beautiful it looked and how wise she would become.  She ate.  She gave some to her husband standing with her.  He ate.

It was like drinking a magic potion–but the effect was unexpected.  Suddenly they were ashamed and afraid of the Lord.  When he showed up and  gave them chance to confess, they brazenly blamed each other.  Adam:  “The woman you gave me gave me the fruit.”  Eve:  “The serpent tricked me” (Genesis 3:12,13).  Nobody left in line for the serpent to blame.  Don’t feel sorry for him, though–the serpent was Satan (Revelation 12:9). God judged them all guilty and sentenced them all (Genesis 3:14-19).

That’s what went wrong.  ” . . . sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).  We’ve all repeated the story.

Would-be intellectuals mock this fable-like narrative.  But their answer to “what went wrong?” is a non-answer:  Suffering is part of life.  The fittest survive only for a time.  Then we die and disappear.  No God.  No sin.  No hope.  Deists, who believe God did create the world, claim he left us to fend for ourselves.  Think we’ll cure cancer?  Stop wars?  Find an organic drug in Asia to beat mortality?  No much hope there either.  Can anything fix things?  How about better education or more technology or effective, efficient  government?  Yeah, right!

How different the Genesis worldview from ours!  What went wrong is sin against the Creator.  Therefore, our only hope for a fix comes from our Creator.  In his curse on the serpent (Satan), he gave it to us, mysterious though it sounds.  “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).  At some untold future time beyond the beginning, “the woman” would give birth to a son who would “bruise” the head of the serpent (Satan).  Then the Lord  kicked the man and woman out of Eden.

That’s where we live–outside paradise, cut off from our Creator by our Creator.  Our only hope rests on his mysterious promise.  Good news!  The day of hope has dawned!  ” . . . when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman . . . to redeem [us] . . . so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4).  The woman’s offspring has come–and is coming again.  He’s the One through whom the Creator will fix everything.  He’s the One who can set us free and reconcile us to the God who banished us.

Jesus is the way back to paradise.

 

 

 

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Adam — Really?

 

Recently I wrote about God’s creation work recorded in Genesis 1 and 2.  I referred to Adam as a man.   I acknowledged that the creation account sounds like a children’s story, but I spoke of it as history and spoke of Adam as a real historical person.

Not everyone agrees.

For example, in 2011 Denis O. Lamoureux of St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta in Canada wrote, ” . . . Adam’s existence is based ultimately on ancient science . . . [and his creation] made perfect sense from an ancient phenomenoloigcal perspective.”  He went on to explain that “the Holy Spirit [descended] to the level of the ancient Hebrews . . . ”  That is, he accomodated himself (incorrect) to ancient science. In his book Evolution Creation:  A Christian Approach to Evolution, Lamoureux asserts, “Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.”  According to Lamoureux, God created life, but Genesis 1 does not reveal how God actually did it.  (“Anti-real-Adams” like Lamoureux apparently see no parallel between Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb with a word and God calling creation into existence with a word!)

Does it matter?  While the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 reads like a fairy tale, nothing about the account purports to be anything but reality.  Furthermore, if Adam never really existed, what else about the creation account isn’t real?  Eve?  Animals?  Stars?  For that matter, what else about the Bible’s truth-claims isn’t real?  Sin?  Salvation?  Heaven?  A lot seems to be riding on the reality of Adam!

Paul apparently believed Adam was a real person.  Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned– for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given . . . Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses . . . (Romans 5:12-14).  Paul goes on to contrast the trespass of Adam with the free gift of Christ (Romans 5:15-23).  1 Corinthi- ans 15:22 is a summary:  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 

Lamoureux agrees!  “Paul was a first-century A.D. Jew and like every Jewish person around him he accepted the historicity of Adam.”  (see the following link for his complete article —http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/p_adam_1.pdf)  He seems to claim that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write what was not true, because Paul incorrectly accepted the historicity of Adam!  In other words, the truth of inspired Scripture was dependent on popular science!

Here’s the broader problem.  If Adam was not a real person (as Paul believed he was in Romans 5), was Christ about whom he wrote in the same breath?  And what about the gospel of Christ?  Is that true?  Illogically (in my mind), yes says Lamoureux, because the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-9) is the gospel of Christ, not of Adam!  But on what basis?  If Adam is presented in Scripture as a real person (but he really was not) and the gospel of Christ ‘s saving work is presented as a real saving work, on what basis can we dismiss the former but believe the latter?

I am not arguing that the Genesis account is “scientific”.  In fact, I’m suggesting it isn’t “scientific” at all.  But not  scientifict does not mean anti-scientific.  I am simply suggesting that the creation account is written like a children’s story that allows the imagination to soar.  (And soar it must, because what God did in creation truly reaches beyond our comprehension, even if we are learned scientists!)

So:  Adam–really?  Yes–really!  And therefore, we can joyfully bank on Paul’s “therefore” . . .

Therefore, as one trespass (Adam’s) led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness (Christ’s) leads to justification and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience (Adam’s) the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience (Christ’s) the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:16-19).

Really.

 

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Spitting Image

Back to the Indiana Jones-like cryptic cavern.  Remember?  Dust hanging heavy in the air?  Ancient document pages like dried leaves to the touch?  The story of the beginning of everythingOf the whole account, our eyes are riveted on these words . . .

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26,27).

. . . the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature . . . the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man . . . (Genesis 2:21,22).

God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.  What do those words mean about us?

That God created us to have a relationship with him.  “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (1:26).  Who is God talking to?  Himself.  As Scripture progressively reveals God, we will discover the absolutely-unique God who is three Persons in One–God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Already in 1:1,2 we’ve seen “God” and “the Spirit of God.” God has a relationship with the three Persons of himself! (I know–incomprehensible!  But if he’s God, he’s more incomprehensible than we can comprehend!)  Furthermore, God personally  created us.  Sun, sea, land, trees he spoke into existence.  Man he formed from the ground and breathed into him life (2:21).  All that implies (as succeeding Scripture shows) God created us to have a relationship with himself.    What else does “image” mean?

That God created us to rule the earth under him.  “And let them have dominion over . . . all the earth (1:26b).  God is Sovereign Ruler over all his creation.  He sends sun and rain, causes storms and calm.  He rules it as the caring Creator, delighting in it for himself and giving it to us for our joy and needs.  So he created us to rule his creation (under his rule) as caretakers, delighting in it and wisely using it to provide for our needs.  (Here, by the way, lies the true mission of “science”–to rule the earth by exploring and discovering what God has given us.)    Finally, what else does “image” mean?

That God created us to represent him.  And God blessed them.  And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth  . . . ” (1:28a).  The first man and woman weren’t merely to populate the earth.  They were to give birth to other image-bearers of God like themselves.  The whole creation was to be filled with God-like humans whose very beings would point to the glory of the Creator.  The heavens declare the glory of God , and the sky above proclaims his handiwork (Psalm 19:1).  But humans (male and female) uniquely  “image” God.

If you’ve read this far, you may be thinking what we talked about before:  this doesn’t sound 21st century scientific; it reads like a children’s story.  But let me ask you.  Would you prefer your origin be an invisible-to-the-eye cell that bubbled out of some  slime bog and over billions of years evolved into a human?  Do you want to identify the person you see in the mirror by a string of DNA molecules and chemicals reacting to each other like pin balls?  Or would you rather find your beginning with a personal God who formed you out of earth’s dust and breathed the breath of life into you and made you in his image?

Of course, we don’t get to choose our origin; God already has.  Thank God!  Honor him as God!  And rejoice in the inherent worth and dignity and sanctity and purpose that is yours as “the spitting image” of your great Creator!

 

 

 

 

 

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God Said . . . and It Was . . . and It Was Good

 

Opening the first chapter of Genesis . . . has the feel of an Indiana Jones movie.  You step from the familiar 21st century world into a cryptic underground cavern.  Dust hangs heavy in the air.  Pages of an ancient document feel like dried leaves to your touch.  Here lies the record of the beginning of everything.

The language isn’t 21st century scientific.  (How could it be if it was written in the second millennium B.C.?)  It reads rather like a children’s story–simple statements that allow the imagination to soar.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:1,2). 

God the Master Potter.  Before him a massive lump of clay, formless and empty.  But hidden beneath deep waters, held in place by the presence of the Potter.  And all is dark.  Had there been human eyes to see, they could not have, because there was no light.  But there was movement.  The Spirit of the Master Potter–like fingers ready to form what his mind envisioned–hovered.  Instead of probing and pushing, however, he spoke . . .

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good.  And God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.  And there was evening and there was morning, the first day (Genesis 1:3-5).

Into existence, out of the darkness, he spoke light.  He was satisfied with what he saw.  Light not driving away all darkness, but separating itself from darkness.  Day and Night.  Day One in the beginning.

The ancient document repeats the pattern.  God spoke.  And into existence came an expanse he called.  Heaven.  Day Two.  God spoke.  And waters under the heavens gathered themselves into massive pools around which dry land appeared.  Good, God saw,  The third Day (Genesis 1:6-13).  God spoke.  And it was as God said:  a great light to rule the day, a lesser light to rule the night–and stars.  God saw it was good.  It was the fourth day (Genesis 1:14-19).  God spoke.  Swimming creatures swarmed Earth’s waters.  Birds soared across Earth’s heavens.  Good.  Multiply!  It was the fifth Day (Genesis 1:20-23).  God spoke.  Living creatures came forth, creeping and walking and bounding across the ground.  It was good.  

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26,27).

God spoke.  Let us make man!  In our image!  Multiply!  Fill the earth!  Subdue it!  Rule over it!  Feed yourselves on every plant and fruit I have given you!  And so it was.  And God looked over all he had made and look!–it was very good.  The sixth day (Genesis 1:28-31).

Is this ancient document for real?  Do these dry, yellowed pages that pre-date science tell the truth of the beginning?  If natural science snickers at such a story because it can’t prove it in its labs, must we reject it as religious myth?  But there’s so much science can’t explain, isn’t there.  Wide-mouth wonder when an eight year old sees the ocean the first time.  Young love that captivates each by the other.  Elder love that keeps two wrinkled hands clasped through decades of joy and sorrow.  Laughter.  Tears.  Loneliness.  Best friends.  Intuitively we know these are more than chemical processes.  Just as we know the creation cries out, “There is a Creator!”‘  Whose very words bring into being what hadn’t been.  Whose creation is delightful to him and an Eden for us.  Who formed us in his likeness that we might–under him–rule over what he has made.

And that we might sing with the psalmist . . .

May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works . . . May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord (Psalm 104:31,34).

You see, this simple ancient story about this complex creation isn’t about the mechanics of creating.  It all points to the Creator.

It’s about him and his delight in what he has made.  And it’s about us and our delight in what he has made that moves us to delight in him who made it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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