New Beginnings (Gen. 6-9)

There is so much going on in the Great Flood in Genesis 6-9.  Most of us grew up hearing it told as a story. Many of us preachers have focused on themes, such as, Noah building the ark according to exact measurements and how we are to follow God down to the inch. Not that our Creator doesn’t demand obedience, but the writer is straining to show us something more.  This account is supposed to take our minds back to creation (Gen. 1), but in reverse.

  • Out of the chaotic watery depths the Creator brought forth dry land (1:9-10) and separated the waters of the heavens and the earth (1:6-8). The Flood unleashed the waters of the deep and the floodgates of the sky (7:11-12) in order to bring the earth back to its watery chaotic state (7:17-20).
  • The good earth God created, with its vegetation, plants, fruit trees and animals (1:11-12, 21-25) was destroyed as the chaotic waters rose (7:21-24).

Why the reverse?  It goes back to the Garden of Eden and humans eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil (3:6). They became like God, knowing good and evil (3:22) and were cast out. By Genesis 6, humans stopped trusting in God completely, with the exception of one. They no longer trusted the Creator for good and chose what was evil all the time (6:5).  God was grieved in His heart (6:6).

Stop for a moment and ponder this thought. So many want to make the Flood about a God who destroys. God grieves over human sin. The Creator doesn’t delight in judgment of His good creation and good earth. This will not relieve God’s sorrow.

We are first introduced to Noah in Genesis 5:29. He is given a Hebrew name that sounds like the phrase “bring us relief.”  He is the one who will bring comfort, not only to humankind, but also God. Through Noah the seed of Eve will continue that will ultimately crush the head of the snake (3:15) and redeem humankind.

Genesis 6:8, Noah, however, found favor in the sight of the LORD.

The author uses a play on words. Noah (וח) is a reversal of the Hebrew word for favor (חו). He was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries and walked with God (6:9).  We are meant to focus on Noah, one who would be saved, rather than those who will be lost. Repeated words are used to draw our attention – he did everything that God had commanded him (6:22; 7:5, 9, 16). Noah trusted God and obeyed.

When the Flood recedes, we discover a new creation. We are taken back again to Genesis 1.

  • Genesis 8:17, “Bring out all the living creatures that are with you – birds, livestock, those that crawl on the ground – and they will spread over the earth and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”  (compare to Genesis 1:20-25)
  • Genesis 9:1, God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”  (compare to Genesis 1:28a)
  • Genesis 9:2-3, “The fear and terror of you will be in every living creature on the earth, every bird of the sky, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are placed under your authority.” (compare to Genesis 1:28b)
  • Genesis 9:6, Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood will be shed by man, for God made man in His image. (compare to Genesis 1:26)

Unfortunately, we find out human beings are still fallen. We are led back to Genesis 3.

  • God planted (ויטע) a garden (2:8) in creation and here Noah is planting (ויטע) an orchard (9:20) in this new creation.
  • Adam and Eve ate of forbidden fruit, became naked (עירס) and ashamed (3:6-7), so Noah used the fruit of the orchard to become drunk, become naked (עןרה) and ashamed (9:21).
  • Shem and Japheth covered their fathers nakedness with a cloak (9:23) and God made coats of skin to covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve (3:21).

Even after a complete reset, human beings are still not satisfied with the good gifts of the Creator. But we do find hope. God made a covenant with Noah to never destroy the earth by a flood.  As a sign a rainbow was placed in the clouds (9:12-17). (There are many similarities of this covenant and God calling Abraham Gen. 12:1-7).  God’s covenant represented a new act of God.  Noah shows us, even a man who found favor in the sight of God, will eventually fall short of God’s glory. We cannot do it of our own. Humans need a new heart – one that will follow God. Years after Noah, we find this prophecy:

Ezekiel 36:26-28, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances. Then you will live in the land that I gave your fathers; you will be My people, and I will be your God.”

On that day, the Spirit of God will come to reside within those who turn to God. Like the covenant God made with Noah, so God made a new covenant to bless all the nations of the earth (Jer. 31:31-34). A Messiah would rise up from among Israel and establish this new covenant with His own blood (Lk. 22:20). The Spirit would come (Acts 2) to give us a new heart. Paul uses language from the Flood narrative to describe this transformation:

II Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

We still anticipate the new heavens and the new earth, as its final installment and return to Garden (Gen. 21-22). But we, like Noah, are saved through the symbol of water (I Pet. 3:20-21) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Until then, we are to walk with God as new creations of a coming world.

*All Scripture quotations come from The Holman Christian Bible.

*Resources for this blog: John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative.

Walking With God (Gen. 5:21-24)

As you have gone through the first 11 chapters of Genesis, you probably noticed some genealogies.  Some of you may have been tempted to skip over them or do a quick drive by.  Even in our culture, where and 23andMe has become the craze, we still hate seeing those list of names in our Bibles. It feels like a waste of time. And no, not all names have great significance, but there are treasures to discover. Let me show you.

When you read the genealogy in Genesis 5:3-32 you easily assume you are reading the same arrangement as in 11:10-29.  But, there is one slight difference.  Genesis 5 ends each listing, of almost every descendant this way, then he died. The writer does not do this in Genesis 11. This is a clue that something is going on.  The answer is found in the description of Enoch.

Genesis 5:21-24, Enoch was 65 years old when he fathered Methuselah. And after the birth of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and fathered other sons and daughters. So Enoch’s life lasted 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was not there because God took him.

Ahhh, the author made sure to tells us everyone else in the list died in order to draw attention to none other than. . .you guesses it. . .Enoch. This is a big deal! Just two chapters before, we learned the fate of humanity – to return to the dust of the ground (3:19). Death was one of the horrible results of the curse. But Enoch didn’t die, he was taken by God. We are meant to think back to the Garden of Eden and the time before the Fall. Adam and Eve had access to the Tree of Life (2:8-9).  Enoch found a way back to the Tree (metaphorically speaking). The text says Enoch walked with God and then repeats it a second time for emphasis. This is the way to the Tree of Life.

But what does it mean to “walk with God”? The author does not give details here, but we are given more information as Genesis continues. You should have read that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries: Noah walked with God (6:9). God doesn’t take him, like Enoch, but God does save him from the judgement and death of the wicked in the Great Flood. So again we ask the question, what does it mean to “walk with God”? Was it because he was a righteous man and blameless?

In Genesis 17 we learn about the amazing covenant God made with Abraham. It begins with this instruction:

Genesis 17:1, “I am the God Almighty [El-Shaddai]. Live in My presence and be blameless.

Other translations say “walk before Me” (KJV, ESV, NIV, NASB). To “walk before” means to live your life in the presence/face/in front of another.  This was not about keeping a list of laws, like a checklist. Enoch, Noah and Abraham lived long before the Law of Moses. No doubt, they listened and carefully followed the instructions of God, but even more so, they lived by faith and trust in God. While we don’t know much about the life of Enoch, we are given more information about Noah and Abraham. One thing is for certain, they were not perfect. Right after the flood Noah plants a vineyard, gets drunk and is found naked in his tent (9:20-21). Abraham plotted deception and put his wife in jeopardy (20:1-18). They were not perfect men, but they walked with God. They never stopped.

We should aspire to be added to the names of Enoch, Noah and Abraham, as those who walked with their Creator. Right after the Apostle John introduces God as light, he says:

I John 1:6-7, If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Light is a common metaphor in the Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish literature for God’s perfection. God’s light shines out for the righteous. It is what defines our relationship with others and Jesus Christ.

I John 2:6, The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.

We keep God’s Word, not for legalistic purposes, but because we love and trust Him. We believe everything Jesus did and said was for our good. From the first pages of our Bible, we discover a God who wants to bless us. As believers in Christ, we walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), opposed to the desires of the flesh. The Spirit guides our lives (Gal. 5:18), which takes the kind of faith and trust we see in the lives of Noah and Abraham.

Walking with God allows us to return to the Garden. It is a promise of deliverance and blessings. Why would we choose to walk in darkness? It is a path the leads away from the presence of the loving Creator.  It ends in a Great Flood, metaphorically speaking, of judgment. Death is a horrible thought. Enoch showed us that it does not have to be our destiny. One day God will take us. Yes, we are all destined to die, but Enoch is a picture of something beautiful. In Christ, death is no longer victorious because Jesus removed its sting.

God is Good… (Gen. 1-3)

We sometimes have someone say, “God is good”, with the response of the congregation, “all the time.”  The writer of Genesis begins with this statement of faith and carries it through the Pentateuch.  It is an important theme throughout Scripture.

Genesis 1.2-4, when the earth was an empty void, with darkness over the face of the deep, and God’s breath weeping over the face of the water. God said, ‘Light!’ and light came into being. God saw that the light was good… (emphasis mine)

This would be the first of seven good references in the first chapter of the Bible.  The biblical writers used repetition for a purpose – to call attention to what is happening in the text.  Most are aware of the repeated use of this word in the narrative.

There is also another word that is repeated – saw.  As the above passage, God saw that the light was good.  These two words – good and saw – are at the center of what we are to know about the Creator God.  In fact, the first name God is given in Scripture is El Roi, the “God who sees” (16:13).  Why are you telling me this?  Good, as used in Hebrew Scriptures, is a reference to what is “beneficial for humankind.”  (Sailhamer)  God creates a world for us to live – land that is filled with an array of trees, plants, vegetation and animal life.  A cosmos that provides light and warmth to the good land.  The earth had been an empty void (1:1) before it was created into a blessing for mankind.

Genesis 1-3 show us, it is the Creator who knows what is good for us and goes all out to give us what is good.  This is why chapter 3 is so tragic.  Leading up to the Fall, we learn of two special trees in the Garden – the tree of life and the tree of good and evil.  They were not to eat of this second tree.  To do so would come out of their desire to know good and evil for themselves, rather than trusting their Creator.  The writer makes sure we understand what is happening.

Genesis 3.6, Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took from of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened… (emphasis mine)

A parallel is given between God seeing the good of creation (1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31) and Eve seeing the good tree. What is the author trying to show us? There is a difference in what God sees and what we see.  Our seeing is limited.  The snake put it in Eve’s mind that her Creator was keeping the knowledge of good from her and Adam (3:5). By eating the fruit she wants to take on the role of God to determine what is good and evil, no longer trusting the One who created her and provided all good things in creation. They believed, if they ate of this tree, they would enjoy the good on their own. However, when they ate of it, it was not good.  They feel shame and try to cover up (3.7).  They hide from the Creator who gave them all good things (3.9).  Among the punishments handed out to Adam and Eve, the worst was the last – exile from Eden.

Genesis 3:22-24, Then the LORD God said, “Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life. (emphasis mine)

They got what they wanted… sort of… to be like God. Which is interesting since we know they were already like God being created in Our image (1:26). They are now like God, knowing good and evil, but forfeited their right to be with God in the Garden. The greatest blessing of all is being in the presence of God. It will not be until the building of the Tabernacle until we find any semblance of Divine presence among God people.  Return or a restoration of Eden becomes a major theme throughout the rest of Scripture, including the last two chapters of Revelation.

Sin happens when we want to determine what is good rather than trust our Maker. How often do we see God’s instructions as a means of taking away good in our life?

Genesis 1-3 was intended show us this was never the case. Adam and Eve had everything they could ever want or need.  It was when they wanted to be like God and determine what was good for them that things turned bad. All sin rises out of a lack of trust in God. Adam and Eve are the first of many who demonstrate what happens when we want to be gods. The language in the Garden can be found throughout the Hebrew narratives, but more importantly look for it in your own life. We do not merely follow God because we are afraid of judgement, but for the fact, only the Creator truly knows what is good for us.  “God is good…all the time.”

And here is what is even more amazing: from the Fall to the present, the Creator continues to try and give us what is good. You find it in Noah, Abraham and the seed (Messiah) that would come. Trust God. The theme of faith is one of the most important subjects in all of Scripture. Trust God to provide good, because when we try to determine good for ourselves eventually sin, shame, and distance from the Creator tags along.

*All Bible references come from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

*Many of the thoughts of this blog came from the research of John H. Sailhamer in his book The Pentateuch as Narrative. An excellent reference for study.

The Journey Begins…

fat-loss-onion-layers1I once heard the Bible described like an onion with multiple layers waiting to be unraveled.  God’s Word is the most amazing book ever written.  Not only is it given by the Creator of the world to creation, but it is a literary masterpiece.  The more I learn the more I am amazed by its depths.  It was not intended to be merely skimmed along the surface, but to dive into a world filled with color and delight.  The purpose of this blog is simply to peel back some of the many layers we find within.

As a congregation, we are a couple of days away from beginning a plan to read through the Bible this year.  This blog is meant to assist you along the way.  You will find posts about the sections we are reading.  These are not intended to be long thoughts, but emphasis of the writers along the way.  Things that make us stop and be in awe of the Almighty God.  We might even add some charts and pictures.  I’m not exactly sure how it will go, but the purpose is set – peel back the layers of Scripture.

So we begin with the Pentateuch, which is a fancy word for “five-part book.”  It is made up of the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  They were intended to be read as one book.  Most agree it was written by Moses, which means it was written during the time of the Exodus and leading up to the conquest of the Promised Land.  It was important they learned about Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.  They needed to hear to stories of creation, the Fall, the Flood, deliverance, etc.  They will discover the covenant made with Abraham (Gen. 12), to make a great nation from his descendants.  Not only will they be blessed, but they will pave the way for the nations of the earth to be blessed through a special offspring – “seed.”  Moses is writing to a people who had failed.  They are breaking God’s laws faster than they can be chiseled into stone.  They needed to know more about what happened to them as a people.  They needed to get a greater grasp of the One they now call Yahweh.  They were a special people.  They needed to know about the covenant promises made to them.  They needed to understand how God wanted to love and bless them more than they could imagine.  This book was written to a people who spent 430 in Egypt, and most of that time as slaves.  They needed this… we need this.  All of these stories have significance.  This was much more than a history book.  Through narratives and poetry, the author emphasises links to a deeper understanding.

So, as you open up the first page of Scripture, imagine yourself along the borders of the land God promised His people centuries ago.  Preparations are being made.  Many discussions have taken place.  Anticipation has set in about this powerful God who will lead the way.  There are many gods and idols in the land you are about to enter.  Why is my God special?  Who is He really?  Why has He taken interests in me and my people?  Why should I trust this God?  Now begin reading…