Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 19

    Genesis 19 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. That evening the two angels arrived in Sodom, while Lot was sitting near the city gate. When Lot saw them, he got up, bowed down low,
  2. and said, "Gentlemen, I am your servant. Please come to my home. You can wash your feet, spend the night, and be on your way in the morning." They told him, "No, we'll spend the night in the city square."
  3. But Lot kept insisting, until they finally agreed and went home with him. He baked some bread, cooked a meal, and they ate.
  4. Before Lot and his guests could go to bed, every man in Sodom, young and old, came and stood outside his house
  5. and started shouting, "Where are your visitors? Send them out, so we can have sex with them!"
  6. Lot went outside and shut the door behind him.
  7. Then he said, "Friends, please don't do such a terrible thing!
  8. I have two daughters who have never been married. I'll bring them out, and you can do what you want with them. But don't harm these men. They are guests in my home."
  9. "Don't get in our way," the crowd answered. "You're an outsider. What right do you have to order us around? We'll do worse things to you than we're going to do to them." The crowd kept arguing with Lot. Finally, they rushed toward the door to break it down.
  10. But the two angels in the house reached out and pulled Lot safely inside.
  11. Then they struck everyone in the crowd blind, and none of them could even find the door.
  12. The two angels said to Lot, "The LORD has heard many terrible things about the people of Sodom, and he has sent us here to destroy the city. Take your family and leave. Take every relative you have in the city, as well as the men your daughters are going to marry."
  13. (SEE 19:12)
  14. Lot went to the men who were engaged to his daughters and said, "Hurry and get out of here! The LORD is going to destroy this city." But they thought he was joking, and they laughed at him.
  15. Early the next morning the two angels tried to make Lot hurry and leave. They said, "Take your wife and your two daughters and get out of here as fast as you can! If you don't, every one of you will be killed when the LORD destroys the city."
  16. At first, Lot just stood there. But the LORD wanted to save him. So the angels took Lot, his wife, and his two daughters by the hand and led them out of the city.
  17. When they were outside, one of the angels said, "Run for your lives! Don't even look back. And don't stop in the valley. Run to the hills, where you will be safe."
  18. Lot answered, "You have done us a great favor, sir. You have saved our lives, but please don't make us go to the hills. That's too far away. The city will be destroyed before we can get there, and we will be killed when it happens.
  19. (SEE 19:18)
  20. There's a town near here. It's only a small place, but my family and I will be safe, if you let us go there."
  21. "All right, go there," he answered. "I won't destroy that town.
  22. Hurry! Run! I can't do anything until you are safely there." The town was later called Zoar because Lot had said it was small.
  23. The sun was coming up as Lot reached the town of Zoar,
  24. and the LORD sent burning sulfur down like rain on Sodom and Gomorrah.
  25. He destroyed those cities and everyone who lived in them, as well as their land and the trees and grass that grew there.
  26. On the way, Lot's wife looked back and was turned into a block of salt.
  27. That same morning Abraham got up and went to the place where he had stood and spoken with the LORD.
  28. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and saw smoke rising from all over the land--it was like a flaming furnace.
  29. When God destroyed the cities of the valley where Lot lived, he remembered his promise to Abraham and saved Lot from the terrible destruction.
  30. Lot was afraid to stay on in Zoar. So he took his two daughters and moved to a cave in the hill country.
  31. One day his older daughter said to her sister, "Our father is old, and there are no men anywhere for us to marry.
  32. Let's get our father drunk! Then we can sleep with him and have children."
  33. That night they got their father drunk, and the older daughter got in bed with him, but he was too drunk even to know she was there.
  34. The next day the older daughter said to her sister, "I slept with my father last night. We'll get him drunk again tonight, so you can go to bed with him, and we can each have a child."
  35. That night they got their father drunk, and this time the younger sister slept with him. But once again he was too drunk even to know she was there.
  36. That's how Lot's two daughters had their children.
  37. The older daughter named her son Moab, and he is the ancestor of the Moabites.
  38. The younger daughter named her son Benammi, and he is the ancestor of the Ammonites.

    Time had come for judgment on the city of Sodom and the towns of the plain. Lest we doubt the lack of righteous people to be found there and whether God acted justly, the total depravity of the people is depicted for us in chapter 19. The two angels that accompanied the Lord in His visit to Abraham in the previous chapter now appear in Sodom with a two-fold purpose: to destroy the city and to rescue Lot and his family. Lot was sitting at the city gate in the evening when the angels entered the city. His response to them seems to indicate that he recognized them for who they were, and one wonders if his insistance on offering them hospitality was motivated by a desire to fulfill a custom or because he was trying to rescue them from the inevitable treatment he knew they would receive should they spend the night in the city square. I suspect Lot did not offer this hospitality to every stranger who entered the gates of the city needing a place to stay but that he offered it in this instance because he did know who these strangers were.

    Did Lot realize the risk he took in taking these angels into his home for the night? Verse 4 says that "the whole population, surrounded the house," calling out to Lot to send the visitors out to them "so we can have sex with them!" Morality can only properly be defined in relation to God. Without God in the equation morality is simply a matter of one person's judgment over against that of another. But in its proper perspective, morality is understood as a devaluation of all that God values. God values the people He created and the good things He gave them to enjoy. Those who reject God progressively reject God's value on human life and the good things God gave man to properly enjoy this life. We see this played out in the events Lot and his visitors encountered in this chapter. The citizens of Sodom placed no value on the lives of these visitors except for the fulfillment of their own desires. Though God gave man sex as a good thing to be enjoyed in the context of marriage and for the purpose of procreation, those who reject God also reject the value He places on sex in its proper context. Outside this context sex loses its value and becomes abusive rather than pleasurable.

    We know from other scripture that Lot was considered to be righteous. For instance, 2 Peter 2:7, "if He rescued righteous Lot . . ." But we are also left wondering why Lot would offer his two daughters to these evil men to "do whatever you want to them." (19:8) Fortunately, the angels rescued the situation by pulling Lot back into the house and blinding those outside. They then told Lot to get any family members he had out of Sodom because they were about to destroy it. It seems Lot may have been the only righteous person in the city or in his family. His two sons-in-law did not take him seriously when he tried to convince them to leave and his wife and two daughters left only reluctantly. In the end, his wife didn't escape though she got outside the city. In her desire for what she was leaving, she looked back, inspite of being told not to, and "became a pillar of salt." (19:26)

    Lot and his family were clearly influenced negatively by the Sodomite society. Those who follow God are faced with this delimma of being true to God while living as citizens of a world full of such depravity. In our devotion to God we are called to be His witnesses to those of this world who are without Him. This means we cannot separate ourselves from the world, yet we are to remain above the depravity of the world. This can only be accomplished through the power of God's Spirit in us to whom we constantly give our attention.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 18

    Genesis 18 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One hot summer afternoon Abraham was sitting by the entrance to his tent near the sacred trees of Mamre, when the LORD appeared to him.
  2. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. He quickly ran to meet them, bowed with his face to the ground,
  3. and said, "Please come to my home where I can serve you.
  4. I'll have some water brought, so you can wash your feet, then you can rest under the tree.
  5. Let me get you some food to give you strength before you leave. I would be honored to serve you." "Thank you very much," they answered. "We accept your offer."
  6. Abraham quickly went to his tent and said to Sarah, "Hurry! Get a large sack of flour and make some bread."
  7. After saying this, he rushed off to his herd of cattle and picked out one of the best calves, which his servant quickly prepared.
  8. He then served his guests some yogurt and milk together with the meat. While they were eating, he stood near them under the trees,
  9. and they asked, "Where is your wife Sarah?" "She is right there in the tent," Abraham answered.
  10. One of the guests was the LORD, and he said, "I'll come back about this time next year, and when I do, Sarah will already have a son." Sarah was behind Abraham, listening at the entrance to the tent.
  11. Abraham and Sarah were very old, and Sarah was well past the age for having children.
  12. So she laughed and said to herself, "Now that I am worn out and my husband is old, will I really know such happiness?"
  13. The LORD asked Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh? Does she doubt that she can have a child in her old age?
  14. I am the LORD! There is nothing too difficult for me. I'll come back next year at the time I promised, and Sarah will already have a son."
  15. Sarah was so frightened that she lied and said, "I didn't laugh." "Yes, you did!" he answered.
  16. When the three men got ready to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked part of the way with them.
  17. The LORD said to himself, "I should tell Abraham what I am going to do,
  18. since his family will become a great and powerful nation that will be a blessing to all other nations on earth.
  19. I have chosen him to teach his family to obey me forever and to do what is right and fair. Then I will give Abraham many descendants, just as I promised."
  20. The LORD said, "Abraham, I have heard that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are doing all kinds of evil things.
  21. Now I am going down to see for myself if those people really are that bad. If they aren't, I want to know about it."
  22. The men turned and started toward Sodom. But the LORD stayed with Abraham,
  23. who asked, "LORD, when you destroy the evil people, are you also going to destroy those who are good?
  24. Wouldn't you spare the city if there are only fifty good people in it?
  25. You surely wouldn't let them be killed when you destroy the evil ones. You are the judge of all the earth, and you do what is right."
  26. The LORD replied, "If I find fifty good people in Sodom, I will save the city to keep them from being killed."
  27. Abraham answered, "I am nothing more than the dust of the earth. Please forgive me, LORD, for daring to speak to you like this.
  28. But suppose there are only forty-five good people in Sodom. Would you still wipe out the whole city?" "If I find forty-five good people," the LORD replied, "I won't destroy the city."
  29. "Suppose there are just forty good people?" Abraham asked. "Even for them," the LORD replied, "I won't destroy the city."
  30. Abraham said, "Please don't be angry, LORD, if I ask you what you will do if there are only thirty good people in the city." "If I find thirty," the LORD replied, "I still won't destroy it."
  31. Then Abraham said, "I don't have any right to ask you, LORD, but what would you do if you find only twenty?" "Because of them, I won't destroy the city," was the LORD's answer.
  32. Finally, Abraham said, "Please don't get angry, LORD, if I speak just once more. Suppose you find only ten good people there." "For the sake of ten good people," the LORD told him, "I still won't destroy the city."
  33. After speaking with Abraham, the LORD left, and Abraham went back home.

    Soon after God made His covenant with Abraham, as described in chapter 17, He appeared to Abraham along with two angels. Abraham looked outside his tent and there they were. He hurried out to them and offered them hospitality, inviting them to sit with him and to have water to drink. Then Abraham offered to feed them, sending a servant to kill a calf and prepare it.

    This visit by the Lord is thought to be a confirmation of the covenant and promise of a child. Over the meal, the Lord reiterated that a child would be born a year from that time, "I will certainly come back to you in about a year's time, and your wife Sarah will have a son!" (18:10) Overhearing this, Sarah laughed to herself at the idea. The Lord was stating the impossible. It was natural that Sarah would laugh at this. But the Lord admonished her by saying, "Is anything impossible for the LORD?" (18:14) The fulfillment of God's covenant with Abraham to have a child, was not made possible by human means, but by means possible only through divine intervention. In this, the birth of this child was similar to the birth of Christ.

    God's announcement to Abraham of His judgment on the city of Sodom on this occasion was not likely coincidental, but what was its purpose? Jewish writers observe that these cities were given in the grant of the land to Abraham and so it was right to make known to Abraham His intentions. Other writers suggest that Abraham had become a friend of God and it was out of that relationship that God shared His intentions as He would a friend. My thoughts are that while the later is likely true, the purpose of sharing this information with Abraham was more likely akin to the first thought - Sodom was in the land grant God made to Abraham and thus entitled to know of this development. Along with this thought I wonder if the purpose of this revelation was also related to the relationship of God's grant of the land to Abraham and His judgment on the nations occupying the land. In giving this land to Abraham's descendants, it was taken from those nations living in the land because of their wickedness. The timing of this announcement concerning the judgment of Sodom with God's covenant with Abraham seems to me to have relevance to this judgment of the Canaanite people. Judgment of Sodom was a symbol of this. While the time was not yet ripe for Abraham's descendants to take possession of the land, neither was it ripe for the judgment on the nations of Canaan, but judgment on Sodom was a precursor.

    Abraham's negotiation with God concerning this judgment of Sodom reveals God's justice. He was not willing to destroy even 10 righteous people along with the wicked, but 10 were not found.

Reflections on Genesis 17

    Genesis 17 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Abram was ninety-nine years old when the LORD appeared to him again and said, "I am God All-Powerful. If you obey me and always do right,
  2. I will keep my solemn promise to you and give you more descendants than can be counted."
  3. Abram bowed with his face to the ground, and God said:
  4. I promise that you will be the father of many nations. That's why I now change your name from Abram to Abraham.
  5. (SEE 17:4)
  6. I will give you a lot of descendants, and in the future they will become great nations. Some of them will even be kings.
  7. I will always keep the promise I have made to you and your descendants, because I am your God and their God.
  8. I will give you and them the land in which you are now a foreigner. I will give the whole land of Canaan to your family forever, and I will be their God.
  9. Abraham, you and all future members of your family must promise to obey me.
  10. As the sign that you are keeping this promise, you must circumcise every man and boy in your family.
  11. (SEE 17:10)
  12. From now on, your family must circumcise every baby boy when he is eight days old. You must even circumcise any man or boy you have as a slave, both those born in your homes and those you buy from foreigners. This will be a sign that my promise to you will last forever.
  13. (SEE 17:12)
  14. Any man who isn't circumcised hasn't kept his promise to me and cannot be one of my people.
  15. Abraham, your wife's name will now be Sarah instead of Sarai.
  16. I will bless her, and you will have a son by her. She will become the mother of nations, and some of her descendants will even be kings.
  17. Abraham bowed with his face to the ground and thought, "I am almost a hundred years old. How can I become a father? And Sarah is ninety. How can she have a child?" So he started laughing.
  18. Then he asked God, "Why not let Ishmael inherit what you have promised me?"
  19. But God answered: No! You and Sarah will have a son. His name will be Isaac, and I will make an everlasting promise to him and his descendants.
  20. I have heard what you asked me to do for Ishmael, and so I will also bless him with many descendants. He will be the father of twelve princes, and I will make his family a great nation.
  21. But your son Isaac will be born about this time next year, and the promise I am making to you and your family will be for him and his descendants forever.
  22. God finished speaking to Abraham and then left.
  23. On that same day Abraham obeyed God by circumcising Ishmael. Abraham was also circumcised, and so were all other men and boys in his household, including his servants and slaves. He was ninety-nine years old at the time, and his son Ishmael was thirteen.
  24. (SEE 17:23)
  25. (SEE 17:23)
  26. (SEE 17:23)
  27. (SEE 17:23)

    Thirteen years passed between the events of chapter 16 and those of chapter 17. At the age of 86 Abram and his wife Sarai enacted their own plan to help God accomplish His promise of an offspring. Thus Ishmael was born through Sarai's handmaid, Hagar. Now at age 99 God appeared again to Abram to repeat the promise and institute His covenant.  Abram was 75 when God first made a promise concerning his offspring. Though his faith lapsed somewhat after eleven years and he tried to do it himself, Abram's faith apparently remained strong otherwise. Here, at age 99, 24 years after God first mentioned the promise, God reaffirmed the promise and included details. Now was the time for its fulfillment. A year from this time a child was to be born.

    Abram accepted this renewal of the promise without doubting. Though he laughed at the idea of having a child at age 100, it was not a laugh of scorn or doubt, but of amazement. He "fell to the ground, laughed, and thought in his heart, "Can a child be born to a hundred-year-old man? Can Sarah, a ninety-year-old woman, give birth?" (17:7) The covenant that God instituted with Abram was to be everlasting. It included the giving of the land of Canaan in which he was residing "as an eternal possession." (17:8) Plus, nations and kings of peoples were to come from the son that would be born to Abram and Sarai.

    God enacted two other parts to this covenant with Abram. The first was the changing of names. Abram and Sarai were given new names. They were now to be called Abraham - meaning Father of a multitude - and Sarah - meaning princess. This part was to serve as a reminder that they were people of the covenant. The second additional part that God enacted was that of circumcision which was to serve as an outward sign that they were participants in this covenant with God. God told Abraham, "This is My covenant, which you are to keep, between Me and you and your offspring after you: Every one of your males must be circumcised." (17:10) Without this sign, a descendant was breaking the covenant and no longer a part of it, as explained in 17:14: "If any male is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that man will be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."

    As an indication of his faith, Abraham was immediately circumcised along with "all the men of his household--both slaves born in his house and those purchased with money from a foreigner." (17:27)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 15

    Genesis 15 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Later the LORD spoke to Abram in a vision, "Abram, don't be afraid! I will protect you and reward you greatly."
  2. But Abram answered, "LORD All-Powerful, you have given me everything I could ask for, except children. And when I die, Eliezer of Damascus will get all I own.
  3. You have not given me any children, and this servant of mine will inherit everything."
  4. The LORD replied, "No, he won't! You will have a son of your own, and everything you have will be his."
  5. Then the LORD took Abram outside and said, "Look at the sky and see if you can count the stars. That's how many descendants you will have."
  6. Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD was pleased with him.
  7. The LORD said to Abram, "I brought you here from Ur in Chaldea, and I gave you this land."
  8. Abram asked, "LORD God, how can I know the land will be mine?"
  9. Then the LORD told him, "Bring me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a dove, and a young pigeon."
  10. Abram obeyed the LORD. Then he cut the animals in half and laid the two halves of each animal opposite each other on the ground. But he did not cut the doves and pigeons in half.
  11. And when birds came down to eat the animals, Abram chased them away.
  12. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and everything became dark and frightening.
  13. Then the LORD said: Abram, you will live to an old age and die in peace. But I solemnly promise that your descendants will live as foreigners in a land that doesn't belong to them. They will be forced into slavery and abused for four hundred years. But I will terribly punish the nation that enslaves them, and they will leave with many possessions.
  14. (SEE 15:13)
  15. (SEE 15:13)
  16. Four generations later, your descendants will return here and take this land, because only then will the people who live here be so sinful that they deserve to be punished.
  17. Sometime after sunset, when it was very dark, a smoking cooking pot and a flaming fire went between the two halves of each animal.
  18. At that time the LORD made an agreement with Abram and told him: I will give your descendants the land east of the Shihor River on the border of Egypt as far as the Euphrates River.
  19. They will possess the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites,
  20. the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaites,
  21. the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

    Abraham, the father of our faith, experienced in the accounts of this chapter a lapse of faith. From it, we learn that God is forgiving, but we also learn that there can be unpleasant repercussions from our lapses in faith despite God's forgiveness.

    Humanly speaking, what Sarai and Abram did in this account are understandable. Ten years after God had given His promise of many descendants from Abram and Sarai, they were still childless. Therefore, they decided to help God with His promise. We are prone to measure faith in terms of actions. That is, what we are willing to do based on our faith in God. But often the greatest demonstration of our faith is to wait upon God, trusting, despite the passage of time, that God will do what He said we would do. Besides being a greater demonstration of faith, waiting can also be more difficult than taking action. In fact, it is action we turn to, as did Sarai and Abram, when we have given up on waiting. We can no longer wait so we act. And in our acting, we take things into our own hands and out of God's hands.

    Sarai decided not only that God was not going to give her a child in fulfillment of His promise, but she concluded that God was restraining her from bearing a child. It was in this loss of faith that she enacted her own plan. Thus she suggested her husband sleep with her handmaid and have the promised descendant through her. This was a common practice of the time for the wife's handmaid to serve as a proxy for bearing children when they were childless. By turning to common practices when we take God's plans into our own hands, we more easily deceive ourselves that we are acting acceptably.

    Once Hagar, Sarai's handmaid, was pregnant human nature took over. Actually, human nature took over when Sarai decided to take the situation into her own hands and Abram agreed to the plan. Now human nature was following its natural course. Once Hagar was pregnant she thought herself better than Sarai since Sarai could not become pregnant, and Sarai retaliated by treating Hagar harshly. Because of the harsh treatment, Hagar ran away. At this point God intervened and told Hagar to return and submit once again to her mistress. God also told her she would become the matriarch of the Ishmaelites.

    It was through Hagar's obedience, not Sarai and Abram's, that God's plan got back on track. Obeying God's instructions to go back and submit and telling of her experience with God was undoubtedly a reprimand to Abram and Sarai of their mistaken actions. Although Abram and Sarai submitted themselves once again to God's plan, the damage was done. The repercussions of this lapse in faith continues to plague Abraham's descendants in Israel through the descendants of Hagar.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 15

    Genesis 15 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Later the LORD spoke to Abram in a vision, "Abram, don't be afraid! I will protect you and reward you greatly."
  2. But Abram answered, "LORD All-Powerful, you have given me everything I could ask for, except children. And when I die, Eliezer of Damascus will get all I own.
  3. You have not given me any children, and this servant of mine will inherit everything."
  4. The LORD replied, "No, he won't! You will have a son of your own, and everything you have will be his."
  5. Then the LORD took Abram outside and said, "Look at the sky and see if you can count the stars. That's how many descendants you will have."
  6. Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD was pleased with him.
  7. The LORD said to Abram, "I brought you here from Ur in Chaldea, and I gave you this land."
  8. Abram asked, "LORD God, how can I know the land will be mine?"
  9. Then the LORD told him, "Bring me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a dove, and a young pigeon."
  10. Abram obeyed the LORD. Then he cut the animals in half and laid the two halves of each animal opposite each other on the ground. But he did not cut the doves and pigeons in half.
  11. And when birds came down to eat the animals, Abram chased them away.
  12. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and everything became dark and frightening.
  13. Then the LORD said: Abram, you will live to an old age and die in peace. But I solemnly promise that your descendants will live as foreigners in a land that doesn't belong to them. They will be forced into slavery and abused for four hundred years. But I will terribly punish the nation that enslaves them, and they will leave with many possessions.
  14. (SEE 15:13)
  15. (SEE 15:13)
  16. Four generations later, your descendants will return here and take this land, because only then will the people who live here be so sinful that they deserve to be punished.
  17. Sometime after sunset, when it was very dark, a smoking cooking pot and a flaming fire went between the two halves of each animal.
  18. At that time the LORD made an agreement with Abram and told him: I will give your descendants the land east of the Shihor River on the border of Egypt as far as the Euphrates River.
  19. They will possess the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites,
  20. the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaites,
  21. the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

    As Abram continued to respond to God in faith, God gave more details of His plan for Abram and greater assurance of His care for him. With each encounter of faith God speaks to Abram as in this chapter. In the previous chapter Abram returned from military victory and worshipped the Lord by tithing from his spoils of victory. He further demonstrated his faith in the Lord by refusing the deal offered by the king of Sodom to keep his possessions that Abram had recovered. Abram would receive his wealth only through God's provision.

    Now in chapter 15 God came again to Abram to make a treaty with him as a precursor of a covenant He would later establish with Abram. In this encounter with God, God began with an assurance to Abram of His protection. "I am your shield," God said. After promising that Abram's offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, God then identified Himself as "the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess." (15:7) A further assurance that God would do what He promised.

    God's promise of numberless offspring was rather astounding considering Abram was 80 years old and childless. That being the case, Abram thought maybe his heir would be a slave born in his house rather than an actual son, but God assured him the heir would be "one who comes from your own body." (15:4) To one who is not a stranger to scripture, the incredibleness of God's promise to Abram should be no surprise. God does not normally give promises that can be fulfilled through normal human accomplishment. Their fulfillment can only be explained through God's supernatural powers. Therefore, it is no coincidence that God's promise of numberless offspring was made to a man who had no offspring and did not seem liking to ever have any.

    Verse 6 tells us that "Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness." It is important to recognize here that it is our faith, and not anything we do, that God counts toward our salvation. It is further important to note the timing of the assurance God gave Abram concerning the fulfillment of these promises. Abram asked for assurance that he could "know that I will possess" the land of Canaan. (15:8) The following verses tell of the signs God gave him. It should be noted that these signs were given, not so Abram would have faith, but to confirm the faith he already had. God does not tend to prove Himself to unbelievers but to confirm Himself to those who already believe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 14

    Genesis 14 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. About this time, King Amraphel of Babylonia, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goiim
  2. attacked King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, also known as the city of Zoar.
  3. King Chedorlaomer and his allies had ruled these last five kings for twelve years, but in the thirteenth year the kings rebelled and came together in Siddim Valley, which is now covered by the southern part of the Dead Sea.
  4. (SEE 14:3)
  5. A year later King Chedorlaomer and his allies attacked and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth-Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, and the Emites in Shaveh-Kiriathaim.
  6. They also defeated the Horites in the hill country of Edom, as far as El-Paran, near the desert.
  7. They went back to the city of Enmishpat, better known as Kadesh. Then they captured all the land that belonged to the Amalekites, and they defeated the Amorites who were living in Hazazon-Tamar.
  8. At Siddim Valley, the armies of the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela fought the armies of King Chedorlaomer of Elam, King Tidal of Goiim, King Amraphel of Babylonia, and King Arioch of Ellasar. The valley
  9. (SEE 14:8)
  10. was full of tar pits, and when the troops from Sodom and Gomorrah started running away, some of them fell into the pits. Others escaped to the hill country.
  11. Their enemies took everything of value from Sodom and Gomorrah, including their food supplies.
  12. They also captured Abram's nephew Lot, who lived in Sodom. They took him and his possessions and then left.
  13. At this time Abram the Hebrew was living near the oaks that belonged to Mamre the Amorite. Mamre and his brothers Eshcol and Aner were Abram's friends. Someone who had escaped from the battle told Abram
  14. that his nephew Lot had been taken away. Three hundred eighteen of Abram's servants were fighting men, so he took them and followed the enemy as far north as the city of Dan.
  15. That night, Abram divided up his troops, attacked from all sides, and won a great victory. But some of the enemy escaped to the town of Hobah north of Damascus,
  16. and Abram went after them. He brought back his nephew Lot, together with Lot's possessions and the women and everyone else who had been captured.
  17. Abram returned after he had defeated King Chedorlaomer and the other kings. Then the king of Sodom went to meet Abram in Shaveh Valley, which is also known as King's Valley.
  18. King Melchizedek of Salem was a priest of God Most High. He brought out some bread and wine
  19. and said to Abram: "I bless you in the name of God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
  20. All praise belongs to God Most High for helping you defeat your enemies." Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything.
  21. The king of Sodom said to Abram, "All I want are my people. You can keep everything else."
  22. Abram answered: The LORD God Most High made the heavens and the earth. And I have promised him
  23. that I won't keep anything of yours, not even a sandal strap or a piece of thread. Then you can never say that you are the one who made me rich.
  24. Let my share be the food that my men have eaten. But Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre went with me, so give them their share of what we brought back.

    Circumstances are opportunities for blessing when we go with God, or threats to our wellbeing if we reject God. Romans 8:28, an often quoted and misquoted verse of scripture gives us perspective on God's handling of circumstances:  "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose." From this verse we understand that any and all circumstances are opportunities for God to bring about good. But there is a conditional statement in the verse that is often left out when it is quoted. The condition is that we love God and therefore are intent on His purposes. If we are not following God or paying attention to His direction in our lives, it stands to reason that we cannot benefit from the good He brings from the circumstances of life. Many expect God to make things good for them but do not concern themselves with including God in their lives. Yet they become angry with God when they miss out on the good.

    Abram had aligned himself with God and thus with God's intent to bring good from all circumstances. This being the case, the account in this chapter of the warring nations and the defeat of the king of Sodom and subsequent captivity of Abram's nephew Lot was a bad circumstance providing God an opportunity to bring about good for Abram. Normal reasoning would say that Abram had no obligation to rescue his nephew who had taken advantage of his goodwill when offering first choice of the land. Abram, however, mustered the fighting men within his household and his allies, the Amorites, and gave pursuit to the four kings who took Lot captive along with all his possessions. Attacking by night, Abram sent the four kings packing and retrieved not only Lot and his possessions, but also the possessions of the four kings.

    Upon his return, Abram was met by two very different kings. One was the king of Sodom and the other the king of Salem. The king of Salem offered a blessing while the king of Sodom offered a deal. Abram received the blessing from Salem's king Melchizedek, and gave to him a tenth of the spoils he brought back from his defeat of the four kings. However, he rejected the deal offered by the the king of Sodom. The offered deal was that Abram could keep all the possessions but would give all the people to the king. But Abram did not want this wicked king to take credit for any of his wealth, so he returned to the king all possessions that had been taken from Sodom with the exception of the food eaten by his fighting men.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 13

    Genesis 13 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Abram and Sarai took everything they owned and went to the Southern Desert. Lot went with them.
  2. Abram was very rich. He owned many cattle, sheep, and goats, and had a lot of silver and gold.
  3. Abram moved from place to place in the Southern Desert. And finally, he went north and set up his tents between Bethel and Ai,
  4. where he had earlier camped and built an altar. There he worshiped the LORD.
  5. Lot, who was traveling with him, also had sheep, goats, and cattle, as well as his own family and slaves.
  6. At this time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the same area, and so there wasn't enough pastureland left for Abram and Lot with all of their animals. Besides this, the men who took care of Abram's animals and the ones who took care of Lot's animals started quarreling.
  7. (SEE 13:6)
  8. Abram said to Lot, "We are close relatives. We shouldn't argue, and our men shouldn't be fighting one another.
  9. There is plenty of land for you to choose from. Let's separate. If you go north, I'll go south, if you go south, I'll go north."
  10. This happened before the LORD had destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And when Lot looked around, he saw there was plenty of water in the Jordan Valley. All the way to Zoar the valley was as green as the garden of the LORD or the land of Egypt.
  11. So Lot chose the whole Jordan Valley for himself, and as he started toward the east, he and Abram separated.
  12. Abram stayed in the land of Canaan. But Lot settled near the cities of the valley and put up his tents not far from Sodom,
  13. where the people were evil and sinned terribly against the LORD.
  14. After Abram and Lot had gone their separate ways, the LORD said to Abram: Look around to the north, south, east, and west.
  15. I will give you and your family all the land you can see. It will be theirs forever!
  16. I will give you more descendants than there are specks of dust on the earth, and someday it will be easier to count the specks of dust than to count your descendants.
  17. Now walk back and forth across the land, because I am giving it to you.
  18. Abram took down his tents and went to live near the sacred trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar in honor of the LORD.

    No doubt God directed Abram's foray into Egypt of which we read in chapter 12. Although Abram acted on his own when he lied about his wife Sarai being his sister, thus getting expelled from Egypt, he gained considerable wealth while in Egypt. Acting as Sarai's brother, Abram received from Egypt's Pharoah "flocks and herds, male and female donkeys, male and female slaves, and camels," (12:16) as a dowry to take Sarai as his wife. So Abram returned from Egypt to the Negev a wealthy man, as did Lot his nephew.

    Arriving again in Canaan, the land of God's promise, Abram again built an altar and worshipped God. The next section of chapter 13 contrasts one whose faith is in God with one whose faith is elsewhere. Because of the wealth of both Abram and Lot with large herds requiring much food and water, the land was unable to support them. Strife broke out between the herdsmen of the two kinsmen as they fought over the meager resources of the land. Abram decided the best solution was for them to separate. It was his choice in how to separate that highlighted the contrast between the two. Abram's faith was in God to provide for him so it made no difference to him where he resided. Lot, on the other hand, did not have such a faith. When given first choice of the land, he grabbed for the logically best portion of land along the Jordan valley.

    Covetousness was forbidden by God because what we covet will ensnare us, turning us away from God and toward evil. This account of Lot's choice gives a good example of covetousness at work. The outcome of Lot's choice, as can be seen through the reading of the following chapters, was the loss of all he had rather than greater prosperity.  Abram, on the other hand, accepted a less fertile land, depending on God's provision, and was increasingly prospered by God. The last verses of this chapter tell of God's promise to Abram to give him all of the land of Canaan - him and his offspring. A land they would possess forever.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 12

    Genesis 12 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said to Abram: Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.
  2. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others.
  3. I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you. Everyone on earth will be blessed because of you.
  4. Abram was seventy-five years old when the LORD told him to leave the city of Haran. He obeyed and left with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions and slaves they had gotten while in Haran. When they came to the land of Canaan,
  5. (SEE 12:4)
  6. Abram went as far as the sacred tree of Moreh in a place called Shechem. The Canaanites were still living in the land at that time,
  7. but the LORD appeared to Abram and promised, "I will give this land to your family forever." Abram then built an altar there for the LORD.
  8. Abram traveled to the hill country east of Bethel and camped between Bethel and Ai, where he built another altar and worshiped the LORD.
  9. Later, Abram started out toward the Southern Desert.
  10. The crops failed, and there was no food anywhere in the land. So Abram and his wife Sarai went to live in Egypt for a while. But just before they got there, he said, "Sarai, you are really beautiful!
  11. (SEE 12:10)
  12. When the Egyptians see how lovely you are, they will murder me because I am your husband. But they won't kill you.
  13. Please save my life by saying that you are my sister."
  14. As soon as Abram and Sarai arrived in Egypt, the Egyptians noticed how beautiful she was.
  15. The king's officials told him about her, and she was taken to his house.
  16. The king was good to Abram because of Sarai, and Abram was given sheep, cattle, donkeys, slaves, and camels.
  17. Because of Sarai, the LORD struck the king and everyone in his palace with terrible diseases.
  18. Finally, the king sent for Abram and said to him, "What have you done to me? Why didn't you tell me Sarai was your wife?
  19. Why did you make me believe she was your sister? Now I've married her. Take her and go! She's your wife."
  20. So the king told his men to let Abram and Sarai take their possessions and leave.

    From this point forward in Genesis the history is focused on a single individual, Abraham and his descendants.  Accounts of other peoples and nations are given only as they relate to Abraham and his descendants. Chapter 12 is the account of God's call to Abram, Abram being his name prior to God's call. We should not minimize his response of faith to this call. Abram was a pagan with no knowledge of or prior experience with God. The religion of which he was a part thought in terms of territorial gods, so to leave his land was, by this thinking, to also leave the territorial god of this land. Thus, though it is not mentioned, God was telling him not only to leave his land, his relatives and his father's house, but also to leave his god.

    Abram's response of faith to God's call and the result it had in the fulfillment of God's promises has labelled him the father of our faith. It serves as a model of what God wants to do in the lives of each of us. He calls us to leave our former life and turn to a new life that He promises to give us based on our faith in Him. Our role in this new life is to be obedient to God and keep following Him in faith, and His role is to build for us this new life step by step. Each step requires another response of faith on our part and leads to the next part of this life in God. Faith is not just passive mental assent to God, but is always active in that it requires not only agreement mentally with God but also active agreement through our actions. 12:4 says that Abram "went, as the LORD had told him." His faith resulted in obedience.

    Abram struggled, as we all do, in leaving everything up to God. At the first potential threat he took things into this own hands. The ancient axiom, "God helps those who help themselves" reflects the strong tendency we all have to do what we can in all circumstances. This axiom, and the thinking behind it, while intending to contradict laziness and the wrong-minded idea of doing nothing while leaving everything up to God, is also wrong-minded. The truth we should learn about faith from Abram is not that we do nothing while God does everything. Nor is it that we must do our part while God does His part. It is that we must leave the planning up to God as we respond obediently to His instructions. Too often our version of doing our part includes also planning how we will do our part. This makes us susceptible to getting off track from God's plan.

    The potential threat Abram faced, at which point he took things into his own hands, was the need to go into Egypt because of a famine in Canaan. To this point he had waited on God and responded obediently to His direction. But on this occasion, as he and his entourage headed to Egypt, Abram thought he needed to make a plan to avert possible harm to himself because of his wife. Since his wife was attractive, he feared some Egyptian would kill him and take her for themselves. Was not God capable of handling this situation? It is particularly when we are threatened that our faith is most challenged, fearing we cannot stand idly by, but must do something.  When a threat arises we automatically move into strategy mode to plan how we will avert the problem. Waiting on God, though, is often the greatest challenge to our faith that we experience. And is also the greatest demonstration of our faith.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 11

    Genesis 11 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. At first everyone spoke the same language,
  2. but after some of them moved from the east and settled in Babylonia,
  3. they said: Let's build a city with a tower that reaches to the sky! We'll use hard bricks and tar instead of stone and mortar. We'll become famous, and we won't be scattered all over the world.
  4. (SEE 11:3)
  5. But when the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower,
  6. he said: These people are working together because they all speak the same language. This is just the beginning. Soon they will be able to do anything they want.
  7. Come on! Let's go down and confuse them by making them speak different languages--then they won't be able to understand each other.
  8. So the people had to stop building the city, because the LORD confused their language and scattered them all over the earth. That's how the city of Babel got its name.
  9. (SEE 11:8)
  10. Two years after the flood, when Shem was one hundred, he had a son named Arpachshad. He had more children and died at the age of six hundred. This is a list of his descendants:
  11. (SEE 11:10)
  12. When Arpachshad was thirty-five, he had a son named Shelah.
  13. Arpachshad had more children and died at the age of four hundred thirty-eight.
  14. When Shelah was thirty, he had a son named Eber.
  15. Shelah had more children and died at the age of four hundred thirty-three.
  16. When Eber was thirty-four, he had a son named Peleg.
  17. Eber had more children and died at the age of four hundred sixty-four.
  18. When Peleg was thirty, he had a son named Reu.
  19. Peleg had more children and died at the age of two hundred thirty-nine.
  20. When Reu was thirty-two he had a son named Serug.
  21. Reu had more children and died at the age of two hundred thirty-nine.
  22. When Serug was thirty, he had a son named Nahor.
  23. Serug had more children and died at the age of two hundred thirty.
  24. When Nahor was twenty-nine, he had a son named Terah.
  25. Nahor had more children and died at the age of one hundred forty-eight.
  26. After Terah was seventy years old, he had three sons: Abram, Nahor, and Haran, who became the father of Lot. Terah's sons were born in the city of Ur in Chaldea, and Haran died there before the death of his father. The following is the story of Terah's descendants.
  27. (SEE 11:26)
  28. (SEE 11:26)
  29. Abram married Sarai, but she was not able to have any children. And Nahor married Milcah, who was the daughter of Haran and the sister of Iscah.
  30. (SEE 11:29)
  31. Terah decided to move from Ur to the land of Canaan. He took along Abram and Sarai and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran. But when they came to the city of Haran, they decided to settle there instead.
  32. Terah lived to be two hundred five years old and died in Haran.

    Chronologically, chapter 11 precedes chapter 10. An emphases is made in chapter 10 on the various nations and languages, and chapter 11 explains how this came about. Chapter 11 also narrows the historical record from the human race to just one branch within the human race. That of the Hebrew nation, descendants of Abram. The remainder of the Old Testament is a record of this nation.

    Following the flood, God instructed Noah, as He had told Adam, to "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." (9:1) This account in chapter 11 reveals that mankind was bent on rebellion against this command. Rather than filling the earth, the people began gathering in one place and making plans to avoid being "scattered over the face of the whole earth." (11:4) Furthermore, they said, "let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let us make a name for ourselves." (11:4) This plan did not please God who "came down to look over the city and the tower that the men were building." (11:5) God then thwarted their plans by confusing their language so they could not understand one another. Thus, the people abandoned their plans and scattered "over the face of the whole earth." (11:8) The location of this attempted scheme was then called Babylon.

    It was pride that motivated this plan by the people to build a city with a tower reaching to the sky and therefore to make a name for themselves. The root of sin is pride, and the root of pride is rebellion against God. It is pride that leads man to think he knows better than God and to launch out to do his own thing. As desirable as unity might be, which was a goal of these people, it cannot take precedence over obedience to God. The outcome was that God brought on them the thing they feared - being scattered. And their downfall was what they prided themselves in.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 10

    Genesis 10 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. After the flood Shem, Ham, and Japheth had many descendants.
  2. Japheth's descendants had their own languages, tribes, and land. They were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. Gomer was the ancestor of Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. Javan was the ancestor of Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim, who settled along the coast.
  3. (SEE 10:2)
  4. (SEE 10:2)
  5. (SEE 10:2)
  6. Ham's descendants had their own languages, tribes, and land. They were Ethiopia, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. Cush was the ancestor of Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. Raamah was the ancestor of Sheba and Dedan. Cush was also the ancestor of Nimrod, a mighty warrior whose strength came from the LORD. Nimrod is the reason for the saying, "You hunt like Nimrod with the strength of the LORD!" Nimrod first ruled in Babylon, Erech, and Accad, all of which were in Babylonia. From there Nimrod went to Assyria and built the great city of Nineveh. He also built Rehoboth-Ir and Calah, as well as Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah. Egypt was the ancestor of Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim, and Caphtorim, the ancestor of the Philistines. Canaan's sons were Sidon and Heth. He was also the ancestor of the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Later the Canaanites spread from the territory of Sidon and went as far as Gaza in the direction of Gerar. They also went as far as Lasha in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim.
  7. (SEE 10:6)
  8. (SEE 10:6)
  9. (SEE 10:6)
  10. (SEE 10:6)
  11. (SEE 10:6)
  12. (SEE 10:6)
  13. (SEE 10:6)
  14. (SEE 10:6)
  15. (SEE 10:6)
  16. (SEE 10:6)
  17. (SEE 10:6)
  18. (SEE 10:6)
  19. (SEE 10:6)
  20. (SEE 10:6)
  21. Shem's descendants had their own languages, tribes, and land. He was the older brother of Japheth and the ancestor of the tribes of Eber. Shem was the ancestor of Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. Aram was the ancestor of Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arpachshad was the father of Shelah and the grandfather of Eber, whose first son was named Peleg, because it was during his time that tribes divided up the earth. Eber's second son was Joktan. Joktan was the ancestor of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. Their land reached from Mesha in the direction of Sephar, the hill country in the east.
  22. (SEE 10:21)
  23. (SEE 10:21)
  24. (SEE 10:21)
  25. (SEE 10:21)
  26. (SEE 10:21)
  27. (SEE 10:21)
  28. (SEE 10:21)
  29. (SEE 10:21)
  30. (SEE 10:21)
  31. (SEE 10:21)
  32. This completes the list of Noah's descendants. After the flood their descendants became nations and spread all over the world.

    Chapter 10 can be referred to as a table of nations with its listing of the descendants of Noah. Several of the nations that come from these descendants will appear throughout the Old Testament. The Israelites were descendants of Shem, as were the Babylonians and Assyrians who God used to discipline Israel when she turned to idolatry and wickedness. The Canaanites, whose land God gave to Israel, were descendants of Ham. Also in Ham's line of descendants were the Egyptians and Philistines who both played significantly in Israel's history.

    It is pointed out in reference to the descendants of Japheth and of Ham that "each group had its own language." How did the development of different languages occur and why? How did the first man, Adam, acquire a language? God is the answer to these questions. God communicated with Adam from the beginning leading us to believe that God made Adam with a language built into him. As for the various languages that developed among the descendants of Noah, God is the answer again as we will see in chapter 11.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 9

    Genesis 09 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. God said to Noah and his sons: I am giving you my blessing. Have a lot of children and grandchildren, so people will live everywhere on this earth.
  2. All animals, birds, reptiles, and fish will be afraid of you. I have placed them under your control,
  3. and I have given them to you for food. From now on, you may eat them, as well as the green plants that you have always eaten.
  4. But life is in the blood, and you must not eat any meat that still has blood in it.
  5. I created humans to be like me, and I will punish any animal or person that takes a human life. If an animal kills someone, that animal must die. And if a person takes the life of another, that person must be put to death.
  6. (SEE 9:5)
  7. I want you and your descendants to have many children, so people will live everywhere on earth.
  8. Again, God said to Noah and his sons:
  9. I am going to make a solemn promise to you and to everyone who will live after you.
  10. This includes the birds and the animals that came out of the boat.
  11. I promise every living creature that the earth and those living on it will never again be destroyed by a flood.
  12. The rainbow that I have put in the sky will be my sign to you and to every living creature on earth. It will remind you that I will keep this promise forever.
  13. (SEE 9:12)
  14. When I send clouds over the earth, and a rainbow appears in the sky,
  15. I will remember my promise to you and to all other living creatures. Never again will I let floodwaters destroy all life.
  16. When I see the rainbow in the sky, I will always remember the promise that I have made to every living creature.
  17. The rainbow will be the sign of that solemn promise.
  18. Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, came out of the boat. Ham later had a son named Canaan.
  19. All people on earth are descendants of Noah's three sons.
  20. Noah farmed the land and was the first to plant a vineyard.
  21. One day he got drunk and was lying naked in his tent.
  22. Ham entered the tent and saw him naked, then went back outside and told his brothers.
  23. Shem and Japheth put a robe over their shoulders and walked backwards into the tent. Without looking at their father, they placed it over his body.
  24. When Noah woke up and learned what his youngest son had done,
  25. he said, "I now put a curse on Canaan! He will be the lowest slave of his brothers.
  26. I ask the LORD my God to bless Shem and make Canaan his slave.
  27. I pray that the LORD will give Japheth more and more land and let him take over the territory of Shem. May Canaan be his slave."
  28. Noah lived three hundred fifty years after the flood
  29. and died at the age of nine hundred fifty.

    God's instructions to Noah following the flood were similar to those He gave Adam. They included the command to "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." (9:1) Also man was to have dominion over the animals, thus God placed in "every living creature on the earth" the "fear and terror" of man. Every living creature was placed under man's authority by God. God also gave all creatures to man for food along with green plants along with a prohibition, which parallel's His instructions to Noah. The prohibition in Noah's case was to avoid eating meat "with its lifeblood in it."

    God also, in these verses, established captial punishment. The reason given is that "God made man in His image," implying that murder is a crime against God as well as against the person killed. Some reason that this establishment of capital punishment presupposes the establishment also of government since to give the law merely to individuals would cause chaos. Though this is reasonable thinking and possibly the case, it is not stated in the passage.

    God then made a covenant with Noah and through him with all mankind and every living thing. He covenanted to never again wipe out all flesh with a flood. As a sign of this covenant, God placed the rainbow in the sky. It would also be a reminder, both to God and to mankind, of this covenant. When clouds form in the sky, the appearance of the rainbow dispels any fear of an all-encompassing deluge of water.

    Verses 18 and following give an account of an incident between Noah and his son Ham that is not totally clear at least to the modern mind. Noah became drunk on wine from his vineyards and uncovered himself in his tent. His son Ham inadvertently walked into the tent and glimpsed his father's nakedness. He then went back outside the tent and told his brothers who carefully covered their father without looking at his nakedness. When Noah awoke and learned what happened, he cursed Ham's son, Canaan. The curse stated that Canaan would be the slave of Shem, another of Noah's sons. This explains the later giving of the land of Canaan to the Israelites, descendants of Shem. However, it leaves us wondering why this seemingly innocent incident should have such strong repercussions, and why should one who was not even present (Canaan) be the recipient of this curse?

    In the end we have to wonder if the 'curse' was more a prohecy than a curse. When God gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites, it was because of the evil lifestyle of the Canaanites. Some suppose that Ham acted pridefully in telling his brothers of his father's nakedness as if he had triumphed over his father. As this line of reasoning follows, this prideful nature of Ham carried down through his descendants leading to a people who had turned away from God to a life of debauchery. Whatever the meaning of this incident, its has been mostly lost centuries later to a people whose customs do not have a correlation.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 8

    Genesis 08 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. God did not forget about Noah and the animals with him in the boat. So God made a wind blow, and the water started going down.
  2. God stopped up the places where the water had been gushing out from under the earth. He also closed up the sky, and the rain stopped.
  3. For one hundred fifty days the water slowly went down.
  4. Then on the seventeenth day of the seventh month of the year, the boat came to rest somewhere in the Ararat mountains.
  5. The water kept going down, and the mountain tops could be seen on the first day of the tenth month.
  6. Forty days later Noah opened a window to send out a raven, but it kept flying around until the water had dried up.
  7. (SEE 8:6)
  8. Noah wanted to find out if the water had gone down, and he sent out a dove.
  9. Deep water was still everywhere, and the dove could not find a place to land. So it flew back to the boat. Noah held out his hand and helped it back in.
  10. Seven days later Noah sent the dove out again.
  11. It returned in the evening, holding in its beak a green leaf from an olive tree. Noah knew that the water was finally going down.
  12. He waited seven more days before sending the dove out again, and this time it did not return.
  13. Noah was now six hundred one years old. And by the first day of that year, almost all the water had gone away. Noah made an opening in the roof of the boat and saw that the ground was getting dry.
  14. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the earth was completely dry.
  15. God said to Noah,
  16. "You, your wife, your sons, and your daughters-in-law may now leave the boat.
  17. Let out the birds, animals, and reptiles, so they can mate and live all over the earth."
  18. After Noah and his family had gone out of the boat,
  19. the living creatures left in groups of their own kind.
  20. Noah built an altar where he could offer sacrifices to the LORD. Then he offered on the altar one of each kind of animal and bird that could be used for a sacrifice.
  21. The smell of the burning offering pleased God, and he said: Never again will I punish the earth for the sinful things its people do. All of them have evil thoughts from the time they are young, but I will never destroy everything that breathes, as I did this time.
  22. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.

    days, just over a year, Noah and the animals were in the ark. This in itself is amazing. Only by God's intervention would this be possible. After the rains stopped falling, it took 150 days for the waters to recede enough for the ark to come to rest on mount Ararat. Another 40 days and Noah sent out the raven to check the progress of the receding waters. The raven went back and forth until it need not return again. On each return to the ark it may not have gone into the ark but perched itself on the outside. Then Noah sent out a dove which returned to the ark. Noah reached out and brought the dove inside. The two birds were in search of different things. The raven, being a carrion, was likely in search of carcasses and similar debris while the dove, which feeds off seeds was in search of greenery.

    While the raven may have found items of interest in floating debris, the dove "found no resting place for her foot" (8:9) Noah waited a week and sent out the dove again, and again the dove returned, but this time it brought back an olive leaf. A sign of life and restoration. After another week, Noah sent out the dove a third time and it did not return. It was time for all to leave the ark. But Noah did not leave the ark until God gave the instructions. God gave the instructions to enter the ark, and again to leave it. Scripture does not say it, but I have the sense that God sealed the ark for the period Noah was in it. Otherwise there may have been attempts by the perishing to enter it and for Noah and his family to allow them in. But, of course, I am just speculating.

    Noah's first activity after leaving the ark was to build an altar and make an offering to the Lord. The aroma of the offering is said to have been pleasing to the Lord and He vowed never again to "curse the ground because of man, even though man's inclination is evil from his youth. And I will never again strike down every living thing as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease."  (8:21-22)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 7

    Genesis 07 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD told Noah: Take your whole family with you into the boat, because you are the only one on this earth who pleases me.
  2. Take seven pairs of every kind of animal that can be used for sacrifice and one pair of all others.
  3. Also take seven pairs of every kind of bird with you. Do this so there will always be animals and birds on the earth.
  4. Seven days from now I will send rain that will last for forty days and nights, and I will destroy all other living creatures I have made.
  5. Noah was six hundred years old when he went into the boat to escape the flood, and he did everything the LORD had told him to do. His wife, his sons, and his daughters-in-law all went inside with him.
  6. (SEE 7:5)
  7. (SEE 7:5)
  8. He obeyed God and took a male and a female of each kind of animal and bird into the boat with him.
  9. (SEE 7:8)
  10. Seven days later a flood began to cover the earth.
  11. Noah was six hundred years old when the water under the earth started gushing out everywhere. The sky opened like windows, and rain poured down for forty days and nights. All this began on the seventeenth day of the second month of the year.
  12. (SEE 7:11)
  13. On that day Noah and his wife went into the boat with their three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives.
  14. They took along every kind of animal, tame and wild, including the birds.
  15. Noah took a male and a female of every living creature with him,
  16. just as God had told him to do. And when they were all in the boat, God closed the door.
  17. For forty days the rain poured down without stopping. And the water became deeper and deeper, until the boat started floating high above the ground.
  18. (SEE 7:17)
  19. Finally, the mighty flood was so deep that even the highest mountain peaks were almost twenty-five feet below the surface of the water.
  20. (SEE 7:19)
  21. Not a bird, animal, reptile, or human was left alive anywhere on earth.
  22. The LORD destroyed everything that breathed. Nothing was left alive except Noah and the others in the boat.
  23. (SEE 7:22)
  24. A hundred fifty days later, the water started going down.

    Seven days before the flooding of the earth was to begin God told Noah to enter the ark along with his family and the various animals. Typically when this account is portrayed, two of every kind of animal and bird go into the ark. However, that is not quite accurate. Rather, it was two of every kind of animal that was unclean. But 14 of every kind of animal that was clean. In other words, seven pairs of clean animals and one pair of unclean. The only explanation given for the extra sets of clean animals is to "keep offspring alive on the face of the whole earth." (7:3) The purpose of this is not clear, but some speculate that the extra sets served two purposes: To provide food on the ark, and to provide for the sacrifices offered to God following the flood.

    It is observed in this chapter that God had found Noah to be the only righteous person on earth at that time, and that he had done everything God commanded him, presumably in preparation for the flood. Noah was 600 years old when the flood came. After the flood such long lifespans are not seen. No doubt much changed following the flood. What a sight it must have been to see all of these animals and birds making their way to the ark, predator entering alongside prey. All directed there by God. Those who lived in the area, who had watched the building of this ark and had likely ridiculed Noah for his folly, surely must have realized something very unusual and significant was happening when they saw the animals swarm to the ark.

    Again, the traditional accounting of this event portrays only the rain that came down for 40 days and nights. But the actual account here in scripture says that, "all the sources of the watery depths burst open, the floodgates of the sky were opened." (7:11) Every possible source of water broke loose - from the sky and from underground. This was more than a gradual rising of water, but rather a rushing of water than would have brought swift destruction to mankind.

    Only Noah, his family, and the animals with them on the ark remained alive as the "waters surged on the earth 150 days." (7:24)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 6

    Genesis 06 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. More and more people were born, until finally they spread all over the earth. Some of their daughters were so beautiful that supernatural beings came down and married the ones they wanted.
  2. (SEE 6:1)
  3. Then the LORD said, "I won't let my life-giving breath remain in anyone forever. No one will live for more than one hundred twenty years."
  4. The children of the supernatural beings who had married these women became famous heroes and warriors. They were called Nephilim and lived on the earth at that time and even later.
  5. The LORD saw how bad the people on earth were and that everything they thought and planned was evil.
  6. He was very sorry that he had made them,
  7. and he said, "I'll destroy every living creature on earth! I'll wipe out people, animals, birds, and reptiles. I'm sorry I ever made them."
  8. But the LORD was pleased with Noah,
  9. and this is the story about him. Noah was the only person who lived right and obeyed God.
  10. He had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
  11. God knew that everyone was terribly cruel and violent.
  12. (SEE 6:11)
  13. So he told Noah: Cruelty and violence have spread everywhere. Now I'm going to destroy the whole earth and all its people.
  14. Get some good lumber and build a boat. Put rooms in it and cover it with tar inside and out.
  15. Make it four hundred fifty feet long, seventy-five feet wide, and forty-five feet high.
  16. Build a roof on the boat and leave a space of about eighteen inches between the roof and the sides. Make the boat three stories high and put a door on one side.
  17. I'm going to send a flood that will destroy everything that breathes! Nothing will be left alive.
  18. But I solemnly promise that you, your wife, your sons, and your daughters-in-law will be kept safe in the boat.
  19. Bring into the boat with you a male and a female of every kind of animal and bird, as well as a male and a female of every reptile. I don't want them to be destroyed.
  20. (SEE 6:19)
  21. Store up enough food both for yourself and for them.
  22. Noah did everything the LORD told him to do.

    The sin that had started with a simple act of disobedience by Adam and Eve took root and infected all of mankind. Although the descendants of Seth, given in the previous chapter, seemed to include a godly line of people, even their influence must have dissipated over time. This, at least, seems the logical conclusion given the condemnation of mankind in chapter 6: "When the LORD saw that man's wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time, the LORD regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart." (6:5-6) This blanket statement concerning all of mankind had only one exception, and that was Noah, a man who is described as walking with God. A man who was righteous and "blameless among his contemporaries." (6:9)

    God's statement, in verses 5 & 6, regretting that He had made man, was followed with a plan for destroying what He had made. He would destroy not only man, whose every scheme had become evil, but also all of the animals. A number of questions may come to mind concerning this whole scenario, but only God has the answer. The person who trusts God and accepts that He is all-knowing and all-wise and is love, needs no answer for the questions that come to mind. We trust that God will do only what is best. Those who do not trust God and want answers to their questions suppose themselves to be gods and judge of the Creator. That is not the claim they would make of themselves, but is what is suggested when one demands answers from God.

    God's remedy for the corruption of what He made was to destroy it with a flood. He would start over, but not from the beginning. He would use a seed of what He had made to 'replant' the earth. Choosing Noah and his family to be the only surviviors of the flood, God would use this righteous man to start over again with mankind. He would also save two of every living creature to begin again with the non-human forms of life. To carry out this plan, God gave Noah the designs for a boat that would house Noah and his family and all of the animals that were to survive the flood.

    Being the righteous man he was, "Noah did this. He did everything that God had commanded him." (6:22) Only a righteous man, who trusted God fully, would have been party to such a scheme. So God's desire to start over and have a people who were righteous required a righteous person to father this new beginning, and a righteous person to even agree to the plan.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 5

    Genesis 05 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. God created men and women to be like himself. He gave them his blessing and called them human beings. This is a list of the descendants of Adam, the first man:
  2. (SEE 5:1)
  3. When Adam was one hundred thirty, he had a son who was just like him, and he named him Seth. Adam had more children
  4. (SEE 5:3)
  5. and died at the age of nine hundred thirty.
  6. When Seth was one hundred five, he had a son named Enosh.
  7. Seth had more children
  8. and died at the age of nine hundred twelve.
  9. When Enosh was ninety, he had a son named Kenan.
  10. Enosh had more children
  11. and died at the age of nine hundred five.
  12. When Kenan was seventy, he had a son named Mahalalel.
  13. Kenan had more children
  14. and died at the age of nine hundred ten.
  15. When Mahalalel was sixty-five, he had a son named Jared.
  16. Mahalalel had more children
  17. and died at the age of eight hundred ninety-five.
  18. When Jared was one hundred sixty-two, he had a son named Enoch.
  19. Jared had more children
  20. and died at the age of nine hundred sixty-two.
  21. When Enoch was sixty-five, he had a son named Methuselah,
  22. and during the next three hundred years he had more children. Enoch truly loved God,
  23. and God took him away at the age of three hundred sixty-five.
  24. (SEE 5:23)
  25. When Methuselah was one hundred eighty-seven, he had a son named Lamech.
  26. Methuselah had more children
  27. and died at the age of nine hundred sixty-nine.
  28. When Lamech was one hundred eighty-two, he had a son.
  29. Lamech said, "I'll name him Noah because he will give us comfort, as we struggle hard to make a living on this land that the LORD has put under a curse."
  30. Lamech had more children
  31. and died at the age of seven hundred seventy-seven.
  32. After Noah was five hundred years old, he had three sons and named them Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

    Through chapter 5 of Genesis bloodlines are traced in two directions: one through Cain and the other through Seth, the son born to Adam following the death of Abel.  Greater detail is given Seth's bloodline in this chapter than that of Cain in the previous chapter, but the contrasts between the two can be seen. Cain's murderous nature shows itself again in Lamech, and Seth's bent toward godliness resulted in those who, like Enoch, walked with God. Verse 1 of chapter 5 repeats the account that God made man in His image when He made Adam. Then verse 3 points out that Adam "fathered a child in his likeness, according to his image." Therefore, this child, Seth, was also in the image of God.

    This listing of Seth's descendents repeatedly states concerning each person, "then he died," emphasizing the result of sin, which is death. Man may seemingly prosper and have a good life in spite sin, but regardless of one's aspirations, they die. It comes to everyone. The list of Seth's descendants had one exception which was Enoch. He is said to have "walked with God, and he was not there, because God took him." Though he did not experience death, he still did not continue in this life. The sin in the garden sealed that deal. Man does not live forever on this earth no matter how godly a person may be. But then, no matter how godly a person is, everyone sins. None of us are immune.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 4

    Genesis 04 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Adam and Eve had a son. Then Eve said, "I'll name him Cain because I got him with the help of the LORD."
  2. Later she had another son and named him Abel. Abel became a sheep farmer, but Cain farmed the land.
  3. One day, Cain gave part of his harvest to the LORD,
  4. and Abel also gave an offering to the LORD. He killed the first-born lamb from one of his sheep and gave the LORD the best parts of it. The LORD was pleased with Abel and his offering,
  5. but not with Cain and his offering. This made Cain so angry that he could not hide his feelings.
  6. The LORD said to Cain: What's wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face?
  7. If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don't let it!
  8. Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go for a walk." And when they were out in a field, Cain killed him.
  9. Afterwards the LORD asked Cain, "Where is Abel?" "How should I know?" he answered. "Am I supposed to look after my brother?"
  10. Then the LORD said: Why have you done this terrible thing? You killed your own brother, and his blood flowed onto the ground. Now his blood is calling out for me to punish you.
  11. And so, I'll put you under a curse. Because you killed Abel and made his blood run out on the ground, you will never be able to farm the land again.
  12. If you try to farm the land, it won't produce anything for you. From now on, you'll be without a home, and you'll spend the rest of your life wandering from place to place.
  13. "This punishment is too hard!" Cain said.
  14. "You're making me leave my home and live far from you. I will have to wander about without a home, and just anyone could kill me."
  15. "No!" the LORD answered. "Anyone who kills you will be punished seven times worse than I am punishing you." So the LORD put a mark on Cain to warn everyone not to kill him.
  16. But Cain had to go far from the LORD and live in the Land of Wandering, which is east of Eden.
  17. Later, Cain and his wife had a son named Enoch. At the time Cain was building a town, and so he named it Enoch after his son.
  18. Then Enoch had a son named Irad, who had a son named Mehujael, who had a son named Methushael, who had a son named Lamech.
  19. Lamech married Adah, then Zillah.
  20. Lamech and Adah had two sons, Jabal and Jubal. Their son Jabal was the first to live in tents and raise sheep and goats. Jubal was the first to play harps and flutes.
  21. (SEE 4:20)
  22. Lamech and Zillah had a son named Tubal Cain who made tools out of bronze and iron. They also had a daughter, whose name was Naamah.
  23. One day, Lamech said to his two wives, "A young man wounded me, and I killed him.
  24. Anyone who tries to get even with me will be punished ten times more than anyone who tries to get even with Cain."
  25. Adam and his wife had another son. They named him Seth, because they said, "God has given us a son to take the place of Abel, who was killed by his brother Cain."
  26. Later, Seth had a son and named him Enosh. About this time people started worshiping the LORD.

    The first sin and its curse, recorded in chapter 3, quickly followed its course. Eve gave birth to two sons. The comparison of these two sons in the first verses of this chapter could be interpreted as tracing the two choices for life that present themselves to man now that sin had come on the scene. The first son, Cain, became a cultivator of the land, while his younger brother, Abel, became a shepherd. Because of man's sin God said, "The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life." (3:17) Could it be that the narrative of chapter 4 is lining Cain up with the curse as a tiller of the soil? If so, then we might also consider that Abel is lined up with God's intent for man in having dominion over the animals.

    From a cursory reading of verses 3-5 concerning the worship practices of the two brothers we might conclude that God was being unfair regarding their sacrifices. But in reading more closely we come to understand that Cain was discharging a duty in bringing what was likely the leftovers of his harvest while Abel offered the "firstborn of his flock and their fat portions." (4:4) In other words, the first and the best. God accepted the one and not the other, not because one was from the land and the other from animals or because He didn't like Cain but He did like Abel. It was because Cain's heart was not in it and Abel's was. Abel offered true worship and Cain did not.

    A further understanding of Cain's heart can be seen in his reaction to God's rejection of his offering. If our worship is not acceptable to God should we not be trying to understand why and to correct it? Instead, Cain's reaction was to become angry and retaliate against the one whose worship God did accept. Does this make sense? It is, however, a normative response of those who get caught in the tenacles of sin and give God only a cursory nod of acknowledgement. God tried to talk Cain through his anger, asking why he was angry. Then God asked, "If you do right, won't you be accepted?" (4:7) Why become angry when a simple correction of the problem on Cain's part will remedy the problem? But Cain didn't see it this way. Again, he gave the normative response of one caught in the grip of sin. The fault was not with him, but with someone else. In this case, the blame was pointed at his brother Abel. How was taking revenge against his brother supposed to correct the problem in his relationship with God? God warned him, though, that if he didn't do right that "sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it." (4:7)

    God's comment to Cain seems to personify sin, possibly in the person of Satan. Sin is not merely passive action on the part of man. It is an aggressive attack on man by Satan. Once man opens the door to sin it will come in and take over if not stopped. But God told Cain he could stop it. He said, "you must master it." If he must, then he could. But scripture is a testimony to man's inability to master sin without God's help.
    The remainder of chapter 4 tells of Cain's choice and its consequences. He did not choose to master sin but instead gave in to it resulting in the murder of his brother Abel. Every refusal to make amends with God leads to a further widening of the gap in our relationship with Him. Such was the case with Cain. And his rejection of God led to the development of an evil race that did not acknowledge God and who came to boast of murder as with Lamech, Cain's great grandson.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 3

    Genesis 03 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The snake was sneakier than any of the other wild animals that the LORD God had made. One day it came to the woman and asked, "Did God tell you not to eat fruit from any tree in the garden?"
  2. The woman answered, "God said we could eat fruit from any tree in the garden,
  3. except the one in the middle. He told us not to eat fruit from that tree or even to touch it. If we do, we will die."
  4. "No, you won't!" the snake replied.
  5. "God understands what will happen on the day you eat fruit from that tree. You will see what you have done, and you will know the difference between right and wrong, just as God does."
  6. The woman stared at the fruit. It looked beautiful and tasty. She wanted the wisdom that it would give her, and she ate some of the fruit. Her husband was there with her, so she gave some to him, and he ate it too.
  7. Right away they saw what they had done, and they realized they were naked. Then they sewed fig leaves together to make something to cover themselves.
  8. Late in the afternoon a breeze began to blow, and the man and woman heard the LORD God walking in the garden. They were frightened and hid behind some trees.
  9. The LORD called out to the man and asked, "Where are you?"
  10. The man answered, "I was naked, and when I heard you walking through the garden, I was frightened and hid!"
  11. "How did you know you were naked?" God asked. "Did you eat any fruit from that tree in the middle of the garden?"
  12. "It was the woman you put here with me," the man said. "She gave me some of the fruit, and I ate it."
  13. The LORD God then asked the woman, "What have you done?" "The snake tricked me," she answered. "And I ate some of that fruit."
  14. So the LORD God said to the snake: "Because of what you have done, you will be the only animal to suffer this curse-- For as long as you live, you will crawl on your stomach and eat dirt.
  15. You and this woman will hate each other, your descendants and hers will always be enemies. One of hers will strike you on the head, and you will strike him on the heel."
  16. Then the LORD said to the woman, "You will suffer terribly when you give birth. But you will still desire your husband, and he will rule over you."
  17. The LORD said to the man, "You listened to your wife and ate fruit from that tree. And so, the ground will be under a curse because of what you did. As long as you live, you will have to struggle to grow enough food.
  18. Your food will be plants, but the ground will produce thorns and thistles.
  19. You will have to sweat to earn a living, you were made out of soil, and you will once again turn into soil."
  20. The man Adam named his wife Eve because she would become the mother of all who live.
  21. Then the LORD God made clothes out of animal skins for the man and his wife.
  22. The LORD said, "These people now know the difference between right and wrong, just as we do. But they must not be allowed to eat fruit from the tree that lets them live forever."
  23. So the LORD God sent them out of the Garden of Eden, where they would have to work the ground from which the man had been made.
  24. Then God put winged creatures at the entrance to the garden and a flaming, flashing sword to guard the way to the life-giving tree.

    Chapter three of Genesis has an almost perpetual supply of truths to be learned from it. The dynamics played out in this encounter with Satan determine man's plight for all-time. This first sin by mankind seems innocent enough, but has huge repercussions. One lesson we can learn from it is that sin, unlike what many think, is simply disobeying God. Many deny they are sinners because they have done nothing blatant like murder, stealing, etc. But no matter how innocent our actions may seem, our actions in fulfilling our own desire in rebellion of God's instructions is sin. And, as with Adam and Eve, it often involves something that does not have the appearance of evil.

    Temptation, as we see from this account, mingles a seed of truth with a lie.  The serpent asked the woman, "Did God really say, 'You can't eat from any tree in the garden'?" The simple answer is 'no'. This is not what God said. But the serpent used the lie to question God's character. The woman's response was not accurate either. She said, "'You must not eat it or touch it." She corrected the serpent about not eating from any tree to say that it was only the one tree from which they could not eat. But she made it a more stringent prohibition. God said nothing about not touching the tree. This is another characteristic of temptation. It exaggerates the prohibition. This is similar to the child who complains to their parent that "you never let me do anything!" Such a statement usually follows one prohibition by the parent, but the child exaggerates it to claim they are not allowed to do anything.

    An environment of distrust and grievance toward God had been established. The door was opened for the woman to take a closer look at the subject of the prohibition. The fruit to which she had previously given little attention suddenly became desireable. So it is when we question God, attempting, in the process, to make ourselves a god. This is what we do when we assume to know more than God and to question His integrity. And, it inevitably leads to the outcome that Eve and then Adam experienced. They first encountered a break in their relationship with God, and then an alteration of their lives. Life as God intends it is inevitably altered when our actions are not what He intends them to be.

    God, the creator, who has made us and all that exists, offers us an abundant life. But that life is only available or possible if we live life as He prescribes. But we invariably want to live our lives as we wish while expecting God still to give us the life abundant. This cannot be.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Reflections on Genesis 2

    Genesis 02 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. So the heavens and the earth and everything else were created.
  2. By the seventh day God had finished his work, and so he rested.
  3. God blessed the seventh day and made it special because on that day he rested from his work.
  4. That's how God created the heavens and the earth. When the LORD God made the heavens and the earth,
  5. no grass or plants were growing anywhere. God had not yet sent any rain, and there was no one to work the land.
  6. But streams came up from the ground and watered the earth.
  7. The LORD God took a handful of soil and made a man. God breathed life into the man, and the man started breathing.
  8. The LORD made a garden in a place called Eden, which was in the east, and he put the man there.
  9. The LORD God placed all kinds of beautiful trees and fruit trees in the garden. Two other trees were in the middle of the garden. One of the trees gave life--the other gave the power to know the difference between right and wrong.
  10. From Eden a river flowed out to water the garden, then it divided into four rivers.
  11. The first one is the Pishon River that flows through the land of Havilah,
  12. where pure gold, rare perfumes, and precious stones are found.
  13. The second is the Gihon River that winds through Ethiopia.
  14. The Tigris River that flows east of Assyria is the third, and the fourth is the Euphrates River.
  15. The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it.
  16. But the LORD told him, "You may eat fruit from any tree in the garden,
  17. except the one that has the power to let you know the difference between right and wrong. If you eat any fruit from that tree, you will die before the day is over!"
  18. The LORD God said, "It isn't good for the man to live alone. I need to make a suitable partner for him."
  19. So the LORD took some soil and made animals and birds. He brought them to the man to see what names he would give each of them. Then the man named the tame animals and the birds and the wild animals. That's how they got their names. None of these was the right kind of partner for the man.
  20. (SEE 2:19)
  21. So the LORD God made him fall into a deep sleep, and he took out one of the man's ribs. Then after closing the man's side,
  22. the LORD made a woman out of the rib. The LORD God brought her to the man,
  23. and the man exclaimed, "Here is someone like me! She is part of my body, my own flesh and bones. She came from me, a man. So I will name her Woman!"
  24. That's why a man will leave his own father and mother. He marries a woman, and the two of them become like one person.
  25. Although the man and his wife were both naked, they were not ashamed.

    Each reading of this passage in Genesis chapter 2 will likely garner new insights concerning creation and God's intent for His creation. From the first verses of the chapter we can see the principle of sabbath rest presented. On day seven of creation, God rested. Not because He was worn out but to enjoy and take pleasure in His creative work. He then established the seventh day as a holy day for man to observe as well. In observing this sabbath, man recognizes God, His creator, and fellowships with Him.

    When one does not recognize God as the creator neither will he recognize God's order and intent for creation. We see this order in the verses to follow. First we see man's appointment as God's steward over the vegetation. Though the earth had been seeded for vegetation in the creation process, "No shrub of the field had yet grown on the land, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted." (2:5) Why was this? Because "there was no man to work the ground." (2:5) Man was intended to be God's partner in this world He had made. Though man was not even present when God created everything, once he came on the scene he was intended to be involved in the recreative process of planting, cultivating, and reaping.

    As we read further in the chapter we come to verse 19 and the dominion God gave man over the animals. This role was first mentioned in 1:28 when God made man and told him to "Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth." We see this role in action in 2:19 when God brought each animal to man for him to name. The further removed man gets from his recognition of God as creator, the less understanding he has of the creation order, and of the role of man versus animals. This does not mean man should treat animals without respect, but neither should he elevate them to a position equal to another human.

    We then come to the account of God making woman. In this we see further confirmation that the animals do not have an equal role with man. They were not the companionship for man that he needed. Instead, he needed one who, like himself, was made in the image of God. This is not true of the animals. To give man a companion, God put him into a deep sleep and took from him a rib from which He made the woman. This new person also had God's breath of life in her as did the man. It was not another man God made to give companionship to man, but a woman with whom man shares a relationship that he has with no other person.

    Finally, we read in verses 16 & 17 of God's command to man not "to eat of the the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." (2:17) First, God placed man in the garden, sort of a utopian environment. But if man were to be God's partner in the created world and to enjoy the blessings of the garden, he must be in agreement with God's agenda. This required obedience. And God gave man a command which proved to be a test of his obedience. Here is another principle of creation and of life. All blessings come from God and require that we acknowledge His hand in what we have and live in fellowship with God if we are to continue to enjoy the blessing. We cannot be in disagreement with God, thus disobedient, and enjoy His blessings.