Tag Archives: Noah

Genesis 12: God’s Plan to Flood the Earth with His Blessing

Genesis 12:1-3

1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

There’s a great irony as we move into Genesis 12:  the very thing the Tower builders sought for themselves apart from God (“a name” for themselves-11:4), the Lord promises to Abram:  “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (12:2).  Indeed, the Lord’s promise far exceeds the builders’ ambition.  He will make Abram’s the greatest of all names on the earth because it will be the name through which all the families of the earth will be blessed!

Something much greater than God’s covenant with Noah is here.  The Lord announces something far greater than the global stability & preservation guaranteed by His covenant with Noah. Rather than protecting the world from another flood of judgment, through Abraham & his seed, the Lord announces His intention to flood the world once again, not in judgment but with blessing!

The Lord’s covenant with Noah is a Self-imposed gracious restraint upon His prerogatives as the Righteous Judge of the world.  This promised stability preserves conditions so that the Triumphant Seed of Genesis 3:15 can emerge, but does not change those conditions, and leaves open questions concerning how God will advance His purposes.

In the Lord’s covenant with Abraham, the invasion of God’s redemptive grace into the world begins in earnest, with 12:3’s explicit promise that He intends to do far more than preserve the status quo, but to affirmatively bless all the families of the earth, a purpose which harkens back to the Lord’s design in 1:26—28!   If the Lord had destroyed all the earth and all men (including Noah & his family), then His original design would have been abandoned.  Instead, He demonstrates His supremacy by overcoming, triumphing over sin & all its consequences.

God’s purpose has not changed!  Just as in Genesis 1:26–28, He still intends to bless the entire earth.  As in Genesis 3:15, He will raise a seed of the woman, who we now know will be a son of Abraham, to bring His blessing to the 4 corners of the globe!  The relationship between God and all the families of the earth will now depend on Abraham & his seed mediating the blessings of the covenant to all.  Likewise, the relationship between the families of the earth and the Lord will depend upon their relationship to Abraham & his Seed (12:3).

I’m grateful for the following insight from Bruce Waltke in his wonderful commentary on Genesis:

“The expansion of the promise of 12:1—3 from individual to national to universal salvation is the essential movement of Scripture.  The Bible is a missionary guide:  concerned with bringing salvation to all the families of the earth.  Abraham as a blessing bearer of salvation is an anticipation of the blessing-bearing Christ.  When Christ ascends into heaven, He extends His pierced hands, hands that blessed infants and gave sight to the blind, to bless His church (Luke 24:50—53).”  Waltke 209

SDG

 

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Genesis 10-11: The True Direction of the Universe

I want to take Genesis 10 & 11 together this morning.

Genesis 10 is the “book” describing Noah’s descendants: the lines of his 3 sons, Japheth, Ham, and Shem.  Japheth’s line receives the least attention (10:2-5), Ham’s the most space (10:6-20), and Shem’s the prominence of place as the chapter’s climax and bridge to the line of Abram (10:21-31).

Ham’s line is the line under the Lord’s curse (9:24-27), and Moses is careful to explain that Ham’s line ultimately produces 3 of Israel’s historical antagonists:  Egypt (10:6), Canaan (10:6), and the Philistines (10:14).  This kind of historical detail would have helped the Exodus generation (the original audience for the book of Genesis) better understand the deeper roots of the conflicts in which they found themselves engaged, assuring them of their relevance to God’s larger purposes in history.

Genesis 11 is the (in)famous chapter describing the Tower of Babel.  You could say that, while Genesis 10 describes the formation of the nations after the Flood, Genesis 11 describes their malfunction.  Nothing has been learned from the Flood.  Men aren’t getting smarter, and they certainly (as Chapter 11 records) aren’t improving morally or spiritually.  The ambition driving the construction of the Tower is man-centered, not God-centered.  Its starting point is the assumption that man is the master of his own future, and can build that future from the ground up–even that man is capable of reaching heaven through his efforts:  “They they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.'” (11:4).

This “mission statement” is a tragically ironic echo of God’s original mission statement for His image-bearers in Genesis 1:26-28.  There, man was blessed with the design to fill the entire earth, bearing God’s image, extending His name and His glory to the farthest reaches of His creation.  Here, on this side of the Fall and Flood, man’s ambition is the polar opposite:  man’s mission has become the exaltation of man.  His purpose is to make a name for himself, rather than to serve the Lord.  Man’s vision of his future has been reduced to the construction of an elaborate mirror within which he’ll be able to admire himself, instead of a window through which he’ll be able to see the greatness of God more clearly.

I would love to be able to dismiss the folly of this anti-God ambition in Genesis 11 and regard myself at a commendably pious remove from it, but the fact is that Genesis 11 is a mirror that shows me things about my own heart that I’d rather not see.  I am constantly forgetting that, unlike every other religion, Christianity is about glory coming down, as a gift, to people and a world that hasn’t and can’t ever earn it.  Not as a reward, but to rescue us.  The direction of Babel is wrong:  it’s bottom up.  The direction of the Gospel is Top-down.

Every other religion, every philosophy, every approach to life (besides the Gospel) shows us a “ladder” at the heart of reality and then proposes to give us climbing lessons of one sort or another.  Not Christianity.  Christianity does show us there’s a “ladder” connecting heaven (God’s dwelling) and earth (man’s dwelling), but it’s a ladder only God could make (contra: the Babelian Builders), bridging an infinite distance only God Himself could cross—a ladder that only God Himself could climb.  If we’re to know God and be reconciled to Him, it is He who must move toward us, He who must come to us:  this is the true direction of the universe.  Theologians have a name for this “direction,” this true grain of the universe:  grace.

Genesis 11 has taught me once again this morning to rejoice that the Good News of the Gospel is that “the Word became flesh,” (John 1:14), and not the other way around.

SDG

p.s.  For those who make it this far (!), here’s a quote from Herman Bavinck (my favorite theologian), on the Bible’s vision of the universe’s true direction.  It’s a bit long, but well worth the effort.  Enjoy!

“…[C]ovenant is the essence of true religion.  Why should this be?  First of all, because God is the Creator, man a creature; and with that statement an infinite distance between the two is a given.  No fellowship, no religion between the two seems possible; there is only difference, distance, endless distinctness.  If God remains elevated above humanity in His sovereign exaltedness and majesty, then no religion is possible, at least no religion in the sense of fellowship.  Then the relation between the two is exhaustively described in the terms ‘master’ and ‘servant.’  Then the image of the potter and the clay is still much too weak to describe that relation because clay has existence—and hence rights—independently of, and over against, the potter, but human beings have nothing and are nothing apart from God.  Accordingly, if there is truly to be religion, if there is to be fellowship between God and man, if the relation between the two is to be also (but not exclusively) that of a master to his servant, of a potter to clay, as well as that of a king to his people, of a father to his son, of a mother to her child, of an eagle to her young, of a hen to her chicks, and so forth; that is, if not just one relation but all relations and all sorts of relations of dependence, submission, obedience, friendship, love, and so forth among humans find their model and achieve their fulfillment in religion, then religion must be the character of a covenant.  For then God has to come down from His lofty position, condescend to His creatures, impart, reveal, and give Himself away to human beings; then He who inhabits eternity and dwells in a high and holy place must also dwell with those who are of a humble spirit (Isaiah 57:15).  But this set of conditions is nothing other than the description of a covenant.  If religion is called a covenant, it is thereby described as the true and genuine religion.  This is what no religion has ever understood; all peoples either pantheistically pull God down into what is creaturely, or deistically elevate Him endlessly above it.  In neither case does one arrive at true fellowship, at covenant, at genuine religionBut Scripture insists on both:  God is infinitely great and condescendingly good; He is Sovereign but also Father; He is Creator but also Prototype.  In a word, He is the God of the covenant.”  (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:569—570).

 


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Genesis 7 & the Tale of Two Floods

This morning, I read Genesis 7 and the account of the Flood, probably the most romanticized story in all of Scripture (cf. your typical Sunday school/VBS portrayal of Noah and his ark).  This is tragic on so many levels.  It distorts our vision of God.  It confuses our understanding of ourselves.  And most tragically of all, it blinds us to the Cross of Christ.

Genesis 7 and Jesus’ Cross are connected:  they’re both Flood stories.  Which Flood looks bigger to you?

They both reveal the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, and how the Lord Himself acts in response to this collision.  Both accounts depict God’s holy wrath poured out against the sin of man, but their relationship is not one of identity but of shadow to substance, pattern to fulfillment.  The focus of today’s post will be on themes of the gravity of sin and God’s judgment against it in the Noah account.  Tomorrow’s post will reflect on the theme of God’s grace in this same account.

Noah:  Above the Flood of God’s Wrath  The story of the Lord’s dealings with Noah confronts my heart with this question:  do I take sin—its damage, its pollution, its evil, its unreformability—as seriously as God does?  In all honesty, I have to admit that I do not look at it or the world upon which it has brought such ruination with the eyes of God.  My lightheartedness about sin—in my own heart or its scarring of Creation—is utterly out of alignment with God’s assessment of it.  As I study the Lord’s dealings with Noah, I learn that I cannot trust my own reactions and assessments of sin’s gravity.  If I think that the Flood is God’s overreaction to sin, that reveals my own “underreaction” to its reality and destructiveness.  I must yield to His assessment, His evaluation, of it.

Jesus:  Under the Flood of God’s Wrath.  This leads me to ask of my own heart whether I am not equally prone to underestimate and “underreact” to what occurred at the Cross of our Lord Jesus.  This is ironic:  just as I look at the Flood and am overwhelmed by the massive scale of the Lord’s response to sin, do I also look upon the Cross of His Son and under-appreciate, am I under-awed by, the scandal of the devastation wrought there upon Him in my place?  Sadly, I have to answer, Yes.  I come from a long line of under-reactors to the reality of the Gospel.

For there, at Calvary, a much greater Flood was unleashed.  The Cross was the inverse of the Flood.  In the Flood, the judgment of God against sin falls upon the many, while the righteous remnant of one (Noah–Genesis 7:1) is spared.  By contrast, at the Cross, the full weight of God’s wrath fell upon the Righteous Remnant of One in order that sinful men, women, and children all across the world and history might be spared.  Just as happens when I consider the Flood, so I see far less and react with far less emotion than I should when I consider the Cross of God’s Son and what God unleashed and accomplished there.

The Flood cuts against the grain of my ‘logic.’  The scale of the Cross’ scandal is also counter-intuitive to my logic:  how can the death of One Man be so valuable that He would be able to accomplish what the Flood—global aquatic devastation—could not:  atonement?  How can the life of a single man be so perfectly satisfying to the Lord that He becomes the source of eternal salvation to all who will trust Him?

Just like the Flood, my first reaction to the Cross proves that I do not take sin as seriously as God does—that the Incarnation and suffering of His Son would be necessary is the staggering and most accurate index of its true character.

May God correct our vision!  May He grant to each of us that we would see as He sees!  That we would stand before the Cross with our hands over our mouths in silent wonder at both the magnitude of sin’s pollution and hatefulness in the sight of God and the magnitude of Christ’s righteousness which answers, in His life and death, for all who will entrust themselves to Him.

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Genesis 4-6: Poison & Hope in the Line

There’s an ironic juxtaposition of two themes binding these 3 chapters together:  the simultaneous presence of poison and hope in the line of descendants from Adam & Eve after the events of Genesis 3.

Genesis 4.

1.     Hope in the Line.  Genesis 4 opens with the announcement of Eve’s first pregnancy and the birth of the first child of the earth:  Cain, the first “seed” of the woman (cf. 3:15).  Interestingly, verse 1 incorporates a direct quote from Eve to help us understand her perspective on Cain’s birth:  “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.”

This is interesting to me, especially when I consider the proximity of Cain’s birth to the Lord’s promise in 3:15.  Think about what Eve knows at this point in the narrative.  She has heard the Lord’s promise of a conquering seed in 3:15, who will be “her offspring.”  Now, in 4:1, she is pregnant with her first offspring.  After this promise and after her daily-increasing awareness of the consequences of sin after her expulsion from the Garden, wouldn’t her most logical deduction, her most natural hope, be that this first seed that opens her womb would prove to be the promised conquering seed?  I think this hope–that her firstborn, Cain, will fulfill the Lord’s promise of a Deliverer–is precisely what she expresses in 4:1.  Tragically, events soon demonstrate otherwise.

2.     Poison in the Line.  Eve’s understandable hopes notwithstanding, Cain’s story is not the story of the Redeemer’s appearance, but of the need for that Redeemer.  Cain’s premeditated murder of his brother, Abel, demonstrates that the consequences of Adam’s sin are more complex and more serious than we might have thought at first:  the 1st seed reveals that there is a dark and indelible poison in the line.  The tension in the story is now drawn very starkly:  how it will be that a seed of the woman could ever be our Deliverer, if her very first seed was so wicked?  God will have to act to enter and disrupt the “natural” development of the woman’s line.

Genesis 5

1.     Poison in the Line.  Genesis 5, “the book of the generations of Adam” (5:1), is one body-blow after another.  The text gives us accounts of 9 of Adam’s descendants, and 8 of these accounts end with the same refrain:  “and he died.”  The only exception is Enoch (5:21-24), whom the Lord “took” (5:24) because he “walked with God” (5:22).  But, apart from Enoch, the rule is unmistakably death.  The poison in the line is not only unmistakable, but unstoppable:  sin’s onslaught continues to spread unchecked across generations and millennia.  But, as the end of the chapter shows us, sin isn’t the only storyline.

2.     Hope in the Line.  Verse 28 describes Noah’s birth.  Just like Eve’s comment at Cain’s birth in 4:1, Noah’s birth is reported through the use of a direct quote from his father, Lamech:  “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands” (5:29).  Lamech is looking to his son, Noah (whose name means “rest”), to undo the curses of the Fall (“our work and…the painful toil of our hands”–cf. 3:17-19); he is hoping, in other words, that Noah will prove to be the promised seed of Genesis 3:15, the Redeemer who will at last provide the promised and longed for rest.  Which brings us to Chapter 6….

Genesis 6

1.     Poison in the Line.  Chapter 6 chronicles the poison’s reach both extensively and intensively.  Extensively:  “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (6:11-12).  Intensively:  “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5).  (Note that this is God’s evaluation of man, not man’s evaluation of man, what He thinks of our sin, not what we think of our sin).  In a tragically ironic reversal of the Lord’s design for His image bearers in 1:28, the sin in the Garden has metastasized:  it has been bitterly fruitful and multiplied to fill, subdue, and rule man’s life on the earth.  This is no ordinary poison.  And thus, the Lord’s announcement of the Flood to Noah.

2.      Hope.  In the midst of Chapter 6’s darkness, Noah’s faithfulness stands out as a ray of hope, a remnant the Lord resolves to preserve through the coming Flood, in many ways like a new Adam.  Yet, as coming events will demonstrate, Noah, while he represents the promise of hope in the Line, is not himself the fulfillment of that promise from 3:15.  As we will see, he points, not toward himself, but forward away from himself and toward the promised Rest-Giver, Jesus Christ:  “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

May each of us come to Him and find in Him the promised Rest today.  SDG.

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