Warning – Genesis 14

Poor Lot. He chooses what looks like the best land, with strong nations to protect him, and what happens? Four kings go to war again five other kings, including Sodom, and the four kings prevail, taking all the possessions of Sodom, including Lot and his family. 

I wonder if this was the first time Lot regretted his decision. I wonder what his thoughts were as he was being led away in chains, not sure where his wife or children were? Not sure of his fate?

But Abram “to the rescue” when he was told him of the defeat. He pulled together his little forces and friends, 318 trained men, against 4 kings! But he chased them and retrieved all the stolen property, including Lot and his family.

Can’t you just picture the scene? All the confusion Lot heard and witnessed as his capturers fled. Then he sees a familiar face! The reunion and finding his wife and daughters. A triumphant march towards home, next to his uncle, telling others, “This is my Uncle!” The king of Salem greeting them, blessing Abram and praising him. Then on to Sodom and a very different response, when the King of Sodom greets them with a demand for his people and possessions.  You would have thought this would have given Lot a pause about his choices.

But it apparently did not. Lot went back to Sodom, to the King of Sodom, to everything he knew there. I don’t know if he was stubborn, stubborn like me when I don’t want to admit things aren’t going as well as I would like them to. I don’t know if he was already intrigued with the relationships and lifestyle he had there. All I know is that he went to Sodom, even after this warning.

What more would it take?

Worship – Genesis 13

So after his failure in Egypt, God still provided for him, and… 
He returned to the place where he had pitched his tent 
at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai.
This was the place where he had first built the altar,
and there Abram worshiped the Lord.

I really appreciate that Abram went back to where he had known God, where God has spoken to him, where he had worshipped him. Unlike Adam who hid after his sin, when Abram was confronted, he moved towards God. That’s a great lesson to me – that no matter how humbled I am, how ashamed I may feel, I can approach God by going back to him and recapture relationship.

But there were still problems. Abram, now reconnected with God in worship, realized continuing with Lot was problematic. While he was the elder with all the power, he humbled himself and gave Lot first choice of the land. Lot looked over the land and took what he thought was best for himself.

But God’s ways are not our ways, and Lot overlooked the power of sin which would someday undo his family and fortune. 

Abram was the peacemaker in this situation, giving of himself and his desires for the free choice of another. Right or wrong, he let Lot make his own decision.

Abram’s reward was God reaffirming his covenant with him, giving him and generations to come the land: Get up and walk throughout the land, for I will give it to you.”

And, Abram’s response once again, was to worship God: “So Abram moved his tents and went to live by the oaks of Mamre in Hebron, and he built an altar to the Lord there.” (remember this location…it will comeback again!)

When we make bad decisions, its a reason to worship. And when we make good decisions, that’s a reason to worship. 

There is always a reason to worship. 

Separation of the Nations – Genesis 11

It’s interesting that in chapter 10, in describing the descendants of Noah and their nations, it also mentions several times, “These are the sons of _____, according to their families, according to their languages, by their lands, according to their nations.”

And yet, in the sequence of the story, we have not gotten to the creation of languages or nations! So, Genesis 11 is almost like a, “let me catch you up on how that happened while we were growing families…”

Thus, the story of the tower of Babel.

I’m not going to tell it again, except to think about the power of language, of communication, of understanding people. When man had a common language, he felt he powerful enough to reach to the heavens. It seemed like the only person he strove against was God, wanting to be a God. 

With Babel, there entered a world of confusion. Can you imagine being “on the job” and all of a sudden, the man you handed the brick to doesn’t know where you wanted it placed? And when he asks you about it, you can’t understand him? I don’t know, maybe he gets mad and throws the brick at you?

All we know is that this caused the separation of nations. Evidently, people from one family could still understand each other. And in their confusion, probably got closer to each other because no one else could understand them. And, instead of staying in one place and trying to figure it out, they moved farer from others, forming their own culture.

The issue is that there is still sin, very active in the world. It would be one thing to be your own nation, people group, but when one nation or people group starts to think they are better than another, that spirit of competition that can turn so easily into sin.

Misunderstandings turn into who is right and who is wrong, which turn into who is better or more powerful. Now, we enter into an atmosphere for war, cultures dominating others for their own gain.

It’s still true today. Individuals want to feel good about themselves, so they overpower others. Nations and leaders don’t want to be “less than,” so they assert themselves to be bigger and better. Cultures and languages hinder communication, until we sit in the mess of our own sin.

Maybe this is why God allowed Babel and the creation of nations – so that we could see the devastation that comes out of our choices, our selfish choices, our ambition, to lord over others. It makes me wish for the redemption that will come with Christ, when we will be one nation again, when every tear will be wiped dry.

No more misunderstandings…

New and Old – Genesis 9

For in the image of God He made man.
As for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”

Noah was spared, but God determined that things would be different. Mankind would be the same, and he reminds us that we are created in the image of God, and our purpose would be the same, to be fruitful and multiply.

This is the sign of the covenant
which I have established between Me
and all flesh that is on the earth.”

The creation of the rainbow was the sign of the first covenant between God and mankind. He would never destroy the earth through flood again. Can you imagine their wonder as they saw the first rainbow – it’s brilliant color floating above the earth, so real but so imagined? Roger and I still pull off the road when we see a beautiful rainbow, amazed at this floating, ethereal creation.

But then, by the end of the chapter, we’re back to the old: sin. It doesn’t seem like much, giggling about someone’s nakedness, especially after the sin of the culture that drowned a generation before. But that’s how sin starts, a giggle here and a selfishness there. It was enough to get God’s immediate attention. Noah knew his children needed to be reprimanded and took the lead of a father in disciplining his children. 

Noah knew how devasting sin could be, and how he never wanted anyone to go through judgement again.

Nor should we.

So Noah Went Out – Genesis 8

So Noah went out, and his sons
and his wife and his sons’ wives with him.
Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird,
everything that moves on the earth,
went out by their families from the ark.

Staying with our visualization of Noah going into the ark and waters rising, let’s think for a minute about how it would feel being in the ark, if after more than a month of rain, it suddenly stopped (or slowly tapered off). The silence would be almost deafening, except for the lowing of the cattle and an occasional roar from a lion. What would happen next?

I don’t know about you, but when I’m floating, I don’t know how deep the water is under me. It was probably a blessing for them to not know how deep the waters were.  They continued to float, day after day, until they heard that creaking sound again, as the ark groaned as it rested on land. 

My guess is that they opened the window as soon as they could, at least I would have! What they saw was tops of mountains. This would probably be their first realization of how high the waters had actually gotten. I’m sure they searched the ridge for landmarks on the mountains, to let them know where they were.

We’re not told that God told Noah to send out the raven or dove. Noah must have had the sense to know what to do to see what the conditions were around him. Patient with the process, he continued to send out birds, until God told him that he had brought him to safety.

And then, Noah worshipped God, and I’m sure that was quite the worship service! God had brought him through the worst disaster the world has ever known. It was by God’s grace Noah and his family were spared.

It’s by God’s grace, we are spared.

Floating – Genesis 7

The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth,
and the ark floated on the surface of the water.

We don’t know a lot that goes around this story and about this time in history. We don’t know if there was ever a boat before now or if Noah had any experience with oceans or seas. Building this huge structure in the middle of land must have seemed peculiar to those around him, and yet Noah himself must have been peculiar as someone who was separate, not participating in the sin around him.

And then there was the parade of animals walking up and getting into the boat. I wondered what those who saw it thought…was the Noah the “animal whisperer.”

We have no record that Noah shared his conversations with God or called those around him to repentance. I think God’s decision was already made. I think those who were sinning had made their decisions.

And then the rains came.

And the ark “floated.” I try to visualize those moments inside the ark, the door closed, the sound of rain. The ark creaks as the water rises, maybe swaying a little side to side as water gathers on one side and then goes to the other. I picture Noah and his family, waiting, listening, hoping…a little fearful and a little amazed.

And then the feeling of floating…no longer connected to the earth, rising above all that they knew, what had always been a firm foundation to them. There was no anchor, holding them steady. If there were winds, there may have been a sense of movement, going with the current, and yet no ability to see.

Floating on God’s grace.

I can’t help but relate it to my life, the times when I’ve lost the security of what I have known, when all I could do was trust Jesus. I knew I had been obedient, had made preparations in my heart and life for what was coming. And yet in those moments of letting go and letting God take over, I heard my own creaks and moans as I left the realities of the world for the realities of his grace. I was lifted up and all I could do was rest, floating, abandoned to his will. 

It hasn’t happened often in my life, but it is so like Noah’s experience. We do need to prepare ourselves spiritually for what is to come, as much as God reveals it to us. But there is a point in which we rest in him and the hope of his salvation.

One Man’s Choice – Genesis 6

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Again, don’t you wish you could see this all as a movie, experiencing what the relationship was like between Noah and God? There must have been a very strong contrast between Noah and the world he lived in. How did he navigate it?

We do know that God felt Noah could be his confidant, his partner in finding a solution against the sin of man. God shared with Noah his emotions and the details of the destruction. He also shared with him a plan of salvation. 

God always has a plan of salvation. Even though there have been consequences for choices, there has always been a plan for salvation. Adam and Eve, although expelled from the garden, were provided for. Cain, with blood on his hands, was allowed to live. Enoch was snatched into heaven. God is just, and he only gives consequences in line with choices. He is also merciful and has a plan of salvation.

Noah had made good choices, before the moment of crisis came. Daily he had refused to walk and talk with those who were moving away from God. And thus he found favor with God.

No only did God want to save Noah, but he wanted to save those Noah was in relationship with. Our relationship with God does affect those around us. And, God knows it’s not good to leave us alone, without “helpers.”

Noah continued to make good choices, building a boat with no water around. His faith was based not on what he could see for himself, but what he could see through eyes of faith and relationship with God. He might not have understood it all, but it didn’t make a difference. His God was telling him to do something…and “he did ALL that God commanded him. “

Noah chose to follow God.

From Bad to Worse – Genesis 6

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,
and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth,
and it grieved him to his heart.

Even though there were glimmers of light in the lineage of mankind, chapter 6 certainly lets us know the direction mankind was headed. It’s as if they could not put any controls on the choices they made. Instead, they built lies upon lies until they no longer knew the truth.

Years ago, I did a study on the emotions of God. I needed to answer for myself if God was just a “force” for good (like in Star Wars) or did he exist as a person, a personality, that was like mankind (or us like him) with emotions.

This chapter nearly broke my heart, as I am sure the condition of mankind was breaking God’s heart: his precious creation who he had created in his own likeness and given dominion over everything else he so lovingly created became so wicked in their choices that they no longer ever thought about having a relationship with him. It hurt so bad that he regretted he created man, and it grieved him to his heart. 

My heart breaks in compassion for God. I know how it hurts when one of my children rebels against me, but none of them have come to this hateful, wicked position. Everything mankind does is outside the will of God, the relationship he desired to have with them. Each generation had an opportunity to draw closer, but instead they challenged their identity with him.

Sometimes I look at the world today and wonder how much more sin God can allow without regretting blessings he has given? 

People worshipping the idols of money, power, even violence with no thought of their fellow human beings, much less a God who created them. People challenging how God created them, male or female, and asking others to join them, as if as a pure mob we could out-vote God Creator. People who think that if we say something often enough, it becomes truth.

Remember, “In the beginning, God…”

No matter what comes after, it does not negate the truth. God was before the beginning, and will be after the end. Whatever choices we make will never change it.

But we have to choose a relationship with him.

Victory over Death – Genesis 5

This is the book of the generations of Adam.
When God created man,
he made him in the likeness of God.
Male and female he created them,
and he blessed them
and named them Man when they were created.

It’s almost as if God wants to remind us again that before separating choices were made, God really had provided the best. He created mankind in his likeness, with the ability to have relationship with God. He created them male and female, with the ability to relate to and complete each other. And he even blessed them and named then himself. They had all they needed.

And Adam and Eve did what God called them to do, to multiply and have dominion over the earth. 

This chapter details the lineage from Adam through Seth. Remember that Abel is dead, and because of his choices, Cain is separated from his family and included in a different linage. This lineage seems cut and dry until you come to Enoch.

Of Encoh it is written, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” 

Everyone else died. Everyone except Enoch, who made the choice to “walk with God.”

Don’t you wish you could have seen their relationship, heard their conversations, seen Enoch turn away from bad choices?

And this is the first time we get a glimpse that “walking with God” means victory over death!

The curse for sin on mankind is death. But God, in his grace, is larger than his curse. He sees into the soul of a man. And God has power over death.

Does it remind you of Jesus? Resurrection from the dead. Could this be the first hint of the redemption to come?

But as we head into Chapter 6, we see a very contrasting story… 

What Separation Looks Like – Genesis 4

We catch the beginning of what broken relationship with God looks like at the end of Genesis 3, especially as we visualize Adam and Eve outside of the garden, angels protecting them from entering. And even though we see God lovingly provide them clothing by the blood of skins, we have a sense that nothing will be the same again. 

Chapter 4 reminds us that the sin was not just the sin of one person or one generation, but now would be a characteristic of all mankind.

We’re told the story of Cain and Abel, reinforcing the ramifications of our choices. We don’t know if Abel knew how to chose rightly with his sacrifice, but we do know that Cain knew his choice did not please God, and he chose to rebel not against God himself, but at someone who had a relationship with God.

Just like his father, Cain had a relationship with God where they talked. God even communicated concern for him and his emotions. God even warned him against making a choice to sin and encouraged him to “rule over” his feelings, just as God warns us today through our conscious.

But Cain did not listen and gave into the sin, just like his father. 

And just like his father, he didn’t repent but made God look for him, look for a relationship with him.  Just like his father, he shirked his responsibility for the sin, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I can’t imagine God’s restraint at that moment! Of course he was his brother’s keeper — we were created to be “helpers” of each other, completing each other, working together with God in relationship!

God’s response to Cain shifts from “Where are you?” to “What have you done?” And Cain knew what he had done. 

Separation has new meaning. Sin has new consequences.

Not only would mankind have weeds and pain, but there is a special curse from the ground for Cain. The fields would fail him. He would be a fugitive and wanderer, without a home, without relationships.

For the first time, we hear repentance. “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” What Cain could not bear was the thought that, “from your face I shall be hidden.” What brought repentance was the fear that he would no longer have relationship with God.

What did God do? He put a mark on Cain so that no person would harm him. 

But also says that “Cain went away from the presence of the Lord.” I wonder if this was continued independence on his part or if God mandated it. But we do know that there was another degree of separation between man and God as a result of Cain’s choices. 

Again, I can’t help but wonder what the world would have been like if Cain had acted differently. When God warned him about the “sin crouching,” what if he had turned to God and said, “Oh no! Help me in my anger and unbelief!” What if he didn’t make the choice to kill Abel? What if he had run to God even after killing Abel, confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness? What if he had made different choices?

What if we make different choices? How does that change our life? How does it effect the lives of others, as well as our relationship to God?