Viewing the World through God's Word

Month: June 2014

Supreme Court Decides on Hobby Lobby

 O PreacherNo one comments better than Dr. Albert Mohler on the Supreme Court’s decision on a critical religious liberty case.  Let’s thankfully enjoy the win of the battle, but realize the war for religious freedom in America continues.  Thank you, Dr. Mohler, for your insightful thoughts!

* * *

Today’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case represents a huge win for religious liberty in America, and the 5-4 decision will now stand as a landmark case that will reshape the religious liberty debate for generations to come. At the same time, the deeply divided court also revealed in startling clarity its own internal debates over religious liberty — and that division of understanding at the nation’s highest court is very disturbing indeed.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito declared that the Obama Administration had profoundly failed to meet the demands of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA] and, more importantly, the demands of the U. S. Constitution. By mandating that corporations provide all forms of contraception or birth control for all female employees at no cost, the government had burdened the consciences of the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby, Mardel, and Conestoga Wood, the three corporations involved in the decision.

The Court restricted its decision to “closely held” private corporations. Hobby Lobby and Mardel are owned and operated by the family of David Green, who with his wife Barbara, began the company in their own home. Though much smaller than Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood is also a privately held corporation. The Green family is a bulwark of evangelical Christian conviction and generosity. The company pays its employees about twice the minimum wage, closes on Sundays, and references the Christian gospel in advertising. All along the way, the Green family makes clear that they are driven by Christian convictions in their corporate policies.

Similarly, Conestoga Wood Specialties operates on the same convictions. The Pennsylvania company is known for its quality wood products. It was founded by a deeply committed Mennonite couple, Norman and Elizabeth Hahn, who continue to operate the business with their three sons.

Both companies sued the Obama Administration over the contraception mandate authorized under the Affordable Care Act — a mandate that required them to provide and pay for birth control coverage that would have included four specific forms of birth control that may cause early abortions. Neither company sought a complete escape from the contraception mandate.

As the majority opinion in the case made clear today, one of the largest questions hanging over the decision is this: Why is the Obama Administration so deliberate in attempting to violate the religious convictions of Americans on the contraception and birth control issue?

Today’s decision is yet another repudiation of the heavy-handed and blatantly unconstitutional overreach of President Barack Obama and his administration. The President could have covered contraception and birth control under any number of other means which would not have specifically targeted religious liberty. Instead, the Obama Administration appeared to take the route most likely to trample upon religious liberty and offend Christian conscience. Today’s decision is another rebuke of the President and his approach, coming just days after a set of cases in which his arguments were repudiated by the same court in 9-0 decisions.

Furthermore, the President faces the looming threat of even greater rebukes to come. His administration continues to violate the convictions of Christian non-profit organizations and ministries on the same grounds. He faces lawsuits coming from a massive collection of religious non-profit ministries, ranging from evangelical colleges and universities to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic charity. Today’s decision makes the victory of those groups very likely.

The majority opinion handed down today makes several important points worthy of close attention.

First, the Court’s decision affirms the central importance of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 [RFRA]. Interestingly, that Act was made necessary by the Court’s own 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith, in which the majority opinion had been written by Justice Antonin Scalia, who joined with Justice Alito in the majority for Hobby Lobby. Responding to that decision, Congress passed RFRA, demanding that any law or policy of the federal government that would violate a citizen’s religious convictions must pass two key tests: It must meet a compelling state interest, and it must do so by “the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling state interest.” As Justice Alito stated, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood did not protest against the compelling state interest of the contraception coverage — only against the four specific birth control products that were mandated. Justice Alito and the majority rightly concluded that the Obama Administration had utterly failed the second test. There were any number of alternatives the administration could have taken that would have accomplished its goals without burdening conscience.

What makes this especially important is the fact that RFRA passed in Congress without a single dissenting vote in the House of Representatives and by a 97 vote majority in the Senate. RFRA had massive support within Congress and public opinion at large. And yet, just 21 years later, it seems that many Americans would gladly violate the religious liberties of some in order to advance liberal social policies for others. Today’s decision underlines the importance of RFRA, but it also demonstrates the massive task of defending religious liberty that lies ahead.

Second, Justice Alito reminded all Americans that the designation of any corporation, whether commercial or non-commercial, is vital to individual liberty. Many Americans seem deeply confused about this, but as Justice Alito reminds us all: “A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends. An established body of law specifies the rights and obligations of people (including shareholders, officers, and employees) who are associated with a corporation in one way or another. When rights, whether constitutional or statutory, are extended to corporations, the purpose is to protect the rights of these people.”

So American corporate law protects the rights and liberties of the people associated with Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood — but also for the corporations known as Planned Parenthood and Greenpeace. The Court rules today that there is no basic distinction between closely held for-profit and non-profit corporations in this regard. As Justice Alito observed, the dissenting justices did not even really make any clear argument in defense of such a distinction. The Hobby Lobby decision applies only to closely held private corporations, not to publicly traded companies. The Green and Hahn families, the Court ruled, did not surrender their religious liberties by establishing a for-profit corporation. The same is true for your local kosher deli. This is an important win for the religious liberties of all citizens.

Third, the lead dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reveals a massive ideological divide on the Court that mirrors the divide within the nation at large. Her dissent leads with concerns about the need for contraception and birth control for women and proceeds to dismiss the Christian convictions of the Green and Hahn families as “too attenuated to rank as substantial.” She ignored the fact that the Obama Administration’s policy required the families to facilitate what they believed to be morally wrong, when the government could have accomplished the same result without this requirement.

In one of the most important passages in Justice Alito’s majority opinion, he sets the issue very well:

The Hahns and Greens believe that providing the coverage demanded by the HHS regulations is connected to the destruction of an embryo in a way that is sufficient to make it immoral for them to provide the coverage. This belief implicates a difficult and important question of religion and moral philosophy, namely, the circumstances under which it is wrong for a person to perform an act that is innocent in itself but has the effect of enabling or facilitating the commission of an immoral act by another. Arrogating the authority to provide a binding national answer to this religious and philosophical question, HHS and the principle dissent in effect tell the plaintiffs that their beliefs are flawed.”

That is a stunning rebuke and a much-needed clarification. Justice Alito defended religious liberty and revealed the deep divide on the Court and in the nation — a divide in which some Americans are willing to trample religious liberty under the boot of sexual liberty, and to dismiss all arguments to the contrary as “too attenuated to rank as substantial.”

Some Supreme Court decisions are considered landmarks, even as they are handed down. Today’s Hobby Lobby decision ranks among those. Just consider the fact that had the Court ruled otherwise, religious liberty in America would have taken a very direct hit from which it may well have never recovered. The public debate revealed all over again the fact that we are in a great and enduring battle for religious liberty, for the sanctity of human life, and for an entire range of concerns that are central to biblical conviction. Today’s decision does not settle those issues, but it does represent a much-needed defense of our nation’s cherished “first freedom.”

For that, at the very least, we must be thankful.



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).




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.






Know Isaac Watts?

Product DetailsIn an inspiring book, The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts, Douglas Bond introduces Watts to us.  The  book is part of the Long Line of Godly Men Profile series edited by Steve Lawson.  Hardcover is available from Amazon for under $14, the Kindle version for less than $8.  I mention that because I recommend the book to you, especially if you’re interested in how God used ordinary people in the past to influence his people for good even to the present.

Why We Should Know Watts. Bond explains:  “By his extraordinary literary skill, he made hymn-singing a devotional force in the Protestant church.  Captured by a towering vision of God, this gifted composer revitalized congregational singing by restating rich theology in lyrics that matched the music weightiness of the biblical message . . . this pastor-hymnologist influenced the course of congregational worship that has lasted until this day.”  Of course, “this day” worship music is more influenced by popular Christian artists than pastor-hymnologists whose souls are filled with the weightiness of the biblical message.

The Man.  Watts was born in a troubled England 340 years ago and died 266 years ago.  Bond tells the story of his life, sprinkling his hymns throughout, so we don’t feel as if we’re reading an encyclopedia but a narrative of an ordinary man God used extraordinarily.  We learn about Watts’ life and legacy, his role as an educator, lyric poet, hymn writer, poet theologian, children’s poet, psalm interpreter.  We read about his sermon hymns and his impact on our time.  But the strength of the book is the hymns themselves.

A Few Favorites Among His Hymns.  Whenever I came to one of Watts’ hymns, I found myself pausing to read it aloud, slowly and thoughtfully, and being moved to praise the God he was praising.  Read these hymns that way and see if your soul beats with the glory of our God and Savior . . .

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the cross of Christ my God

All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See from his head, his hands, his feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were a present far too small
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?
Alas! and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity!  Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in
When Christ the mighty Maker died
For man the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While his dear cross appears
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness
And melt mine eyes in tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe
Here, Lord, I give myself away
‘Tis all that I can do.

How Sweet and Awful Is the Place
How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores!

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast
Each of us cry with thankful tongues
“Lord, why was I a guest?”

“Why was I made to hear Thy voice
And enter while there’s room?
When thousands make a wretched choice
And rather starve than come?”

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in
Else we had still refused to taste
And perished in our sin.

When I Can Read My Title Clear
When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies
I’ll bid farewell to every fear
And wipe my weeping eyes.

Should earth against my soul engage
And fiery darts be hurled
Then I can smile at Satan’s rage
And face a frowning world.

Let care like a wild deluge come
And storms of sorrow fall
May I but safely reach my home
My God, my heaven, my all.

Watts, Bond writes, “was unapologetically a biblical and theological poet who has given to all Christians a rich legacy of sung worship, full of imagination, skill, deep theological perception, vivid sensory insight, cheerfulness in the midst of suffering and disadvantages, and a contagious sense of wonder at the majesty of God.”

Why not get to know him better through this book?  If you do, I’m sure you’ll get to know his God better through his hymns!




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. 









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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