Born To Loose (John 1:19-28)

@PreachersNSneakers

… Is an Instagram account that posts
screenshots of megachurch pastors next to price tags and the street value of shoes they are wearing in the pulpit.

Besides $1000 classic Jordans and $3200 Air Yeezy 2 Pure Platinums, the account started revealing other expensive items:

A $2000 Louis Vuitton laptop case.
A $2500 Ricci crocodile belt.
A $2000 Gucci backpack.

Reactions to the site are predictably polarized:

One person commented, “Everyone spends money in ways others think are an absurd waste. Just because nobody is scrutinizing your finances doesn’t mean you wouldn’t or don’t fall into similar indulgences. So lighten up.”

Another person wrote, “Pass the collection plate; daddy needs a new pair of shoes.”

(I’m fortunate that no one has the account @PreachersNCoffee)

If John the Baptist had an Instagram account, it would have been called @PreachersNSandals.

He says, “It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose” (v27).

I’ll organize my comments around two questions suggested by the text: #1 Are You A Voicer?, and #2 Are You A Looser?

#1 – Are You A Voicer? (v19-23)

I don’t watch The Voice, but I understand that the judges don’t see the contestants, not at first. They hear the voice then make their decision.

John the Baptist will reduce himself to nothing more than a “voice crying in the wilderness” (v23). He wanted to be heard and not seen.

Joh 1:19  Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

The apostle John, the author of this Gospel, will mention “Jews” some seventy times. Most often, he uses it to identify those in authority.

The priests and Levites knew who John was.

It’s not going too far to suggest John had been watched and scrutinized all his life.

There are 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the ministry of John the Baptist. Scholars refer to it as the Intertestamental Period. Those of us in the pews call it the “400 Silent Years” because it was a span where no new prophets were raised, and God revealed nothing new to His people.

As far as we know, nothing of supernatural significance occurred in the Temple. The priests came, performed their duties, finished their rotation, and went home.

One day in the first century, a priest named Zacharias was performing a once-in-a-lifetime service when he entered alone into the holiest part of the Temple to offer incense for the nation.

The angel Gabriel appeared to him to announce the miraculous birth of a son to Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth. They were to name him John.

He would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb and have an Elijah-like ministry getting the Jews ready for the Messiah.

When Zacharias emerged, he was “mute and not able to speak… because [he] did not believe [Gabriel’s] words” (Luke 1:20). It was big news.

His tongue was loosed nine months later at the naming of his son.

The Jews could not have forgotten; if anything, as John grew, so did their anticipation.

At the heart of the Old Testament is the expectation that God would send a unique king, associated with King David’s dynasty, to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth and rule it from Jerusalem.

The nation of Israel was expecting one or more important Old Testament heroes to arrive. The Temple delegation wanted to know if John thought himself to be one of them.

Joh 1:20  He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

“Christ” is not Jesus’ last name. The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains, “In Hebrew, “Messiah” means the anointed One, which in Greek is translated as “Christ.” The idea of “the anointed One” comes from the Old Testament practice of anointing priests and kings with oil.”

Hopes were high among first-century Jews for the arrival of the Messiah. A source I found explained there were three beliefs on how Israel was going to get freed from Roman occupation:

Take aggressive action against Rome, e.g., the Zealots.
Use methods of passive resistance.
The coming of Messiah.

Those with Messianic hope believed that God or His representative would intervene in history on behalf of His people. One researcher writes, “This view is represented in Qumran in the Psalms of Solomon 17. Psalms of Solomon 17 looks forward to a Davidic Messiah who will march on Jerusalem, banish the Gentiles from the city, reassemble the tribes of Israel and establish the ideal kingdom.”

Joh 1:21  And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not…”

The delegation knew their Bible. In the last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi predicted that the prophet, Elijah, would return before Messiah’s coming:

Mal 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

If John was not the Messiah, maybe he was Elijah. John denied being Elijah.

Joh 1:21  “… Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

Moses said in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren…” Later in John 6:14, we read that, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

A Prophet like Moses would be a mere man, not the Son of God. He would be a deliverer from their Roman captivity but not from sin and death.

Let’s briefly reconsider John and Elijah. Jesus said of John, “This is he of whom it is written: ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’ And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:10 &14).

Further in Matthew, Jesus said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist” (17:11-13).

Jesus told his disciples that Elijah is coming, a future occurrence, and that Elijah had already come – a past occurrence.

John the Baptist would have fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy had Israel responded to his message.

Two important things are at work in the Elijah prophecy: Man’s free will and God’s providence.

All the parties involved had genuine free-will:

John the Baptist had free will to obey God or not. Compare, for example, Samson, who mostly disobeyed God.
Israel’s leaders were given a choice to receive or reject Jesus. The Lord lamented for them that He would have gathered and protected them, but they willfully refused.

If things had gone differently, God would have provided for it. We can only speculate how it would have all shaken out, but it would have. Jesus would have been crucified, and the prophecies of the Last Days thus far recorded in the Bible would have been fulfilled to the letter.

John told them he was not Elijah because he wasn’t Elijah. Not Elijah in the flesh; only in the same spirit.

Joh 1:22  Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”

There was no one else on the list of possible deliverers. Yet God was obviously blessing John’s ministry.

Joh 1:23  He said: “I am ‘THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS: MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

One commentator writes,

The imagery was that before a king would visit a town, a messenger would go before him to announce his coming. The townspeople would hurry out to clear away the obstacles and fill in the washed out parts of the road to smooth the way for the king’s coming. The messenger didn’t call attention to himself, but to the coming king.

John’s Elijah-like ministry was unique. We’re not expected to wear camel hair or eat locusts or be under lifelong Nazarite restrictions.

There are, nevertheless, encouraging parallels between John and ourselves:

John had a miraculous birth. Those of us in Christ have had a miraculous second birth. Unless you are born-again, you are not a child of God.
John was filled with God the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. A Christian has God the Holy Spirit indwelling them from the time they are born-again forward.
John conducted his ministry in the wilderness. The world we are in can most definitely be described as a dangerous spiritual wilderness. Jesus has left us in it to make a difference.
John’s message and our message are essentially the same. Men are sinners, and Jesus is their Savior. Repent and be saved.

We are many ‘voicers’ crying out with compassion that Jesus came and is coming.

#2 – Are You A Looser? (v29-34)

There are no surviving artifacts or descriptions of Jewish shoes from the period of the early Bible.

We do know that Jews were taught the craft of sandal making while slaves in Egypt.

The Biblical sandal was either leather or wooden footboards held to the foot with leather thongs.

Sandals were prominent in the Exodus:

On the night of the first Passover, we read, “This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD” (Exodus 12:11).

Twice in the Book of Deuteronomy, the Lord reminded His people that in forty years wandering, their sandals did not wear out (8:4 & 29:5).

The Jews developed extra-biblical sandal regulations. The right sandal always went on first, followed by the left. The left sandal was to be tied first, and the whole process reversed when taking the shoes off.

John the Baptist used sandals to illustrate the fixed mindset of a servant.

Joh 1:24  Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees.

We know the Pharisees as the conservative sect among the Jews. They emphasized the keeping of outward rules, rites, and rituals to achieve inward righteousness.

A person can, in their strength and by their effort, reform, and that’s great. Only God can transform a person from within.

Reformation does nothing to change the heart. Transformation changes the heart, thereby affecting everything we do.

Joh 1:25  And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

The Jews practiced baptism, but not the way John was doing it. The Jews had (and still do have) a practice called mikveh. A mikveh is a ritual bath that purifies the person entering it. A person will immerse him or herself in a mikveh upon conversion to Judaism, after any time of impurity, and before religious holidays.

John was doing the baptizing, and he was doing it on Jewish people, even calling on the Jewish religious leaders to repent and be baptized.

John told the delegation he was not one the Big Three they were expecting. His denials confused them.

Joh 1:26  John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know.

They’re called teaser trailers. They are short video clips that let you know about an upcoming movie. They drop before the more lengthy trailers.

John gave the delegation a teaser. When he said, “I baptize with water,” it indicated Someone else was coming who would baptize in a medium other than water. Further, John told them this Someone was already in their midst. He would not reveal Jesus as the One nor explain His baptism until the next day.

Joh 1:27  It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

In verse fifteen, John had said, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” This declaration must have been a recurring teaching in John’s ministry. Every week I say, “Ready or not, Jesus is coming.” Maybe John opened his baptisms with verse twenty-seven.

John, you remember, was Jesus’ cousin. He was born before Jesus. Jews would naturally think John superior to Jesus based on birth order.

Listening more intently, John’s claim is a declaration that his human cousin, Jesus, was “before” him in the sense He pre-existed. The opening verses support this, having revealed Jesus as the Word Who was with God, and Who was God.

“Whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” Sandaled feet in the first century got nasty dirty. It was a show of practical hospitality to remove a person’s sandals and wash their feet.

Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus will take advantage of foot washing as a teachable moment.

On the night before His crucifixion, no one volunteered to wash feet at the meal He was sharing with His disciples. It was especially bad because they ate the meal semi-reclining on low pillows. Someone’s filthy, stinking, feet were in your vicinity.

Jesus “rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (13:4-5).

Making application, Jesus said,

Joh 13:14  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
Joh 13:15  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

Congregations practice foot washing. We don’t see it as an ordinance to be practiced so much as an illustration.

The disciples ought to have fought over who would have the privilege of washing feet – especially the Lord’s feet. After three-plus years with Jesus, they still had no idea what it meant to serve.

Do you know what they also did not have? They did not have the gift of God the Holy Spirit poured out upon them. That wouldn’t happen until after the crucifixion. When His disciples seem flummoxed, we need to put it in perspective.

We, on the other hand, cannot claim ignorance. We have God the Holy Spirit to illuminate what we can do to serve Jesus, His followers, and the unsaved.

John the Baptist thought himself unworthy to remove the Lord’s sandals to wash His feet. Too bad he didn’t live long enough to hear of Jesus’ washing His disciple’s feet. I would have liked to have been there when John was trying to process that.

No matter how long you’ve been saved, Jesus should constantly amaze you. Everything about Him was unexpected. There is a holy foolishness to the plan of God becoming flesh. What other king condescends so much?

Joh 1:28  These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Your Bible may have Bethany instead of Bethabara. Same place, two names. It’s a historical, geographic detail that reminds us these events are true, and happened just as written.

It also lets us know the authorities had to come to John, instead of him being summoned by them. His authority was greater than theirs.

So is ours as ambassadors for the Lord.

We are not worthy to “loose” a sandal strap, but the Lord nevertheless uses us as loosers.

Believers pick up defilement from the world and could use a thorough washing by the Word of God shared with them.
If you are not a believer, you stand before God dressed in filthy rags. Jesus has taken upon Himself the sin of the world. If you will believe Him, He will take away your filthy garments and exchange them for His white robe of righteousness.

Prophecy Update #677 – The FBAI

Billy Graham said, “What a moment to take the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other and watch and watch the unfolding of the great drama of the ages. This is an exciting and thrilling time to be alive. I would not want to live in any other period.”

We reserve a few minutes to discuss current trends that you’d expect from reading Bible prophecy.

We are futurists. We interpret all unfulfilled prophetic passages as future events in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

Biometrics, Artificial Intelligence, cashless commerce, the manipulation of human DNA, global government, the exponential growth of human knowledge, one-world religion, and the rebirth of national Israel are End Times developments the Bible predicts.

All of these are increasingly trending in the news.

The rapid progress in Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a disturbing trend. AI is the ability of machines to mimic the human mind. The ultimate goal of AI is to create an object that can think like a human.

One article I read was titled, Facebook building AI that sees, hears, and ‘understands’ everything we do.

Excerpts:

Facebook wants to build an artificial intelligence that learns to understand the world like humans – by watching our every move.

The tech giant has announced plans to teach AI to ‘understand and interact with the world like we do’ in first person. It hopes to do this by using video and audio from augmented reality (AR) glasses like its new high-tech Ray-Bans.

“AI typically learns from photos and videos captured in third-person, but next-generation AI will need to learn from videos that show the world from the center of action,” the company said.

It went on: “AI that understands the world from this point of view could unlock a new era of immersive experiences.”

Facebook explained it this way: “Ego4D by Facebook AI aims to solve research challenges around egocentric perception: the ability for AI to understand and interact with the world like we do, from a first-person perspective.”

How is this a prophetic trend? Accompanying the dreaded Mark of the Beast in the future Great Tribulation will be what the Bible calls, “the image of the Beast.” A character called the False Prophet tells “those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

The “image” is made by “those who dwell on the earth.” AI is “made,” so to speak, by interacting with humans. The greater the data base, the more advanced the AI.

AI is a strong candidate for what inhabits this “image.” It is what we expect from reading the Bible and taking its unfulfilled prophetic passages literally.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen at any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will occur before the Great Tribulation.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

70 Kids And Counting (Genesis 10:1-32)

The Porteau-Boileve family can trace their lineage back to the 1,600s. In 2012, 4,514 Porteau-Boileves got together and set the Guinness World Record for largest family reunion.

Tonight we’ll read about the growing families of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. God asked them to fill the earth and spread out over it. We’ll see that they did that very thing. They didn’t come together in a reunion, they scattered far and wide. This text is referred to as the “Table of Nations,” and it’s a remarkable document. Scholars point out that this record of descendants, clans, and nations, is historically unparalleled. One non-Christian scholar writes:

“The Table of Nations is…unprecedented in the ancient Near East…sketch[ing] a panorama of all known human cultures – from Greece and Crete in the west through Asia Minor and Iran and down through Mesopotamia and the Arabian peninsula to northwestern Africa. This chapter has been a happy hunting ground for scholars armed with the tools of archaeology.”

But this is more than a list. Woven through these names is a story about God accomplishing His plan in the midst of generations and migrations. There are so many ways He could do what He wants to do, but time and again He demonstrates that His choice is to use persons like you and me to make good on His plans and promises.

Genesis 10:1 – These are the family records of Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. They also had sons after the flood.

In these genealogies, we will see 70 names listed. 14 from Japheth, 30 from Ham, and 26 from Shem. These don’t include every child that was born to each person – no daughters are listed, for example. More likely what is given here is a list of the “principle nations” during the time of Moses. The Bible Knowledge Commentary describes this table as an explanation of political, geographical, and ethnic affiliations. This is significant when we remember that God’s plan for salvation was predicated upon calling out a specific people from the nations of the world, from their culture, from their religions, from their norms, and doing a new thing with them. It will happen through the line of Shem, from which we get the term semitic people. But first we start with Shem’s brother Japheth.

Genesis 10:2-5 – 2 Japheth’s sons: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 3 Gomer’s sons: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. 4 And Javan’s sons: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. 5 From these descendants, the peoples of the coasts and islands spread out into their lands according to their clans in their nations, each with its own language.

Genesis wraps up Japheth’s portion quickly because his line has the least to do with the main characters we’re getting to: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and his 12 sons. 76% of this book focuses on that family, and the Japhethites simply won’t figure into the story very much.

Generally speaking, these sons of Japheth became the Indo-European people. They were the forerunners of the Greeks, Persians, Russians, and others around the Black Sea, also the Romans and perhaps Spaniards.

A few names may have jumped out at you from the list: Magog is one of them. Magog and his brothers Meshech and Tubal, feature prominently in the end times prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and 39. Not those guys specifically, but their descendants, along with Gomer and some of Ham’s line (Cush and Put) will come down from the uttermost parts of the north to destroy God’s people, Israel, and they will be miraculously destroyed so that many nations will know the Lord.

You 23andMe fans might also have recognized the name Ashkenaz in verse 3. Maybe you’ve heard the term “Ashkenazi Jew.” How does that work if the descendants of Ashkenaz are Gentiles? There’s some dispute, but current consensus is that the sons of Ashkenaz ended up in the Rhineland region of France and Germany. In the Middle Ages, some Jews moved to that area where the descendants of Ashkenaz had settled. This is where Yiddish originated and was used until the 20th century. In this region, the Jewish people developed not only their own language, but their own customs and interpretations of Judaism. By the 11th century, it’s believed that only 3% of the global Jewish population belonged to these “Ashkenazi” Jews. In fact, DNA research has found that all Ashkenazi Jews alive today can trace their genetic heritage back to a group of just 330 people who lived about 700 years ago. Naturally, given their location in Europe, the Ashkenazi population was decimated by the Holocaust. But, today, about 80% of the global Jewish population are Ashkenazi – more than 10,000,000.

Genesis 10:6-7 – 6 Ham’s sons: Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. 7 Cush’s sons: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. And Raamah’s sons: Sheba and Dedan.

If you’re familiar with the Old Testament, more of these names stand out to you. The Old Testament centers around a certain family – the family of Israel – and these folks were their neighbors. And, by neighbors, I mean “archenemies.” Mizraim is an old term for Egypt. Canaan we recognize. From the line of Ham come nations who settled in southern Arabia and Africa, but more importantly: Egyptians, Babylonians, Philistines, Assyrians, and all the Canaanites. These are the rivals, the adversaries, the antagonists, and seducers who drew Israel away from the Lord.

They are exemplified by their first emperor, who we meet in verse 8.

Genesis 10:8-12 – 8 Cush fathered Nimrod, who began to be powerful in the land. 9 He was a powerful hunter in the sight of the Lord. That is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a powerful hunter in the sight of the Lord.” 10 His kingdom started with Babylon, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar., 11 From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, 12 and Resen, between Nineveh and the great city Calah.

He wasn’t just a great elk hunter. The name ‘Nimrod’ means, “We will rebel!” From birth, it seems, he was seen as the man who would deliver the sons of Ham from God’s rule over their lives. From the beginning, the kingdom of Babylon built itself in opposition to God and His Word. That aim continues through the time of the Bible and into the last days. Nimrod founded this wicked city and then went on to found other wicked cities, like Nineveh.

When it says that he was a powerful hunter, commentators point out that the term used there is sometimes used for hunting men. He can form for us a prototype of the man we know as the Antichrist. A ruler with great might who establishes a kingdom in rebellious opposition to God and who destroys many lives. Bruce Waltke points out that Nimrod was a hunter, not a shepherd as God’s Deliverer would be. You see, when we don’t go God’s way, when we go man’s way (which is Satan’s way), it is the opposite of what is good and leads to life. We can see it in human endeavors, in human relationships, in human expressions. It may have the appearance of greatness from man’s perspective, but God’s perspective is the important one. What does Nineveh, Babylon, the human heart look like in His sight?

Now, some of you may have heard something else about Nimrod. His name comes up at Christmas time. Perhaps you’ve heard something like this:

Nimrod was another name for the first king of Babylon called Sargon I. He married a woman named Semiramis. Now Nimrod was cut down in the prime of life and then the pagan myth said he became a god. Semiramis then had a virgin birth and named her son Tammuz, who was god reborn. Tammuz was born on December 25th. And the religious tradition developed that Babylonians would put a yule log in the fire on December 24th, the next day it would have turned into an evergreen tree and then to celebrate Tammuz and Nimrod, you would put gifts beneath the tree for him.

Oh, and by the way, Semiramis is the same as Ishtar and everything you celebrate at Easter is pagan, too because the modern church has been “submerged under pagan superstition.”

Maybe you’ve heard that. I’ve heard that preached from really solid pastors. We’ve had people who used to come to the church move away and then get drawn into this and tried to ‘save us’ from celebrating Christmas and Easter with things like Christmas trees and Easter eggs.

Here’s the problem: It’s not true! These ideas come from a book called The Two Babylons written in 1853 by a guy named Alexander Hislop who believed that all this paganism had infiltrated the church. It’s been proven that his book is full of assumptions, misunderstandings, and outright fictions. This has been demonstrated by Christian author Ralph Woodrow who many years ago agreed so heartily with The Two Babylons that he wrote an updated book based on that work. But then Ralph started taking a second look at Hislop’s work. And he discovered that The Two Babylons wasn’t historical at all. For example: We have no idea if Nimrod was Sargon I. There’s no consensus or proof of that. Even if he was, Sargon and Semiramis weren’t married. They lived 1,000 years apart! In ancient myths and writings, Semiramis is never linked with Ishtar. All of it is fabricated.

After examining Alexander Hislop’s work, one source concluded: “It is not historical, it is not Biblical, it is not accurate and it is not correct.”

Does that mean that there’s no instance of a practice (like putting an evergreen tree in your house) having some sort of pagan connection? No. So, should we avoid those things? This is an area of Christian liberty.

Colossians 2:16 – 16 Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day.

Romans 14:5-6 – 5 One person judges one day to be more important than another day. Someone else judges every day to be the same. Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind.

As Christians, we take the cross, a symbol of Roman brutality, and take it for ourselves to symbolize the greatest act of love and mercy ever known. We give gifts because God gave us the greatest gift, His own Son. We gift gifts like the Magi did to celebrate the birth of the King. Now, if the Holy Spirit directs you to avoid some of these things, then obey. But don’t get drawn off into this strange, unbiblical perspective. To help you out a little more, in that same book, Hislop says that Semiramis also invented soprano singing and that round communion wafers are pagan.

Back to Genesis!

Genesis 10:13-20 – 13 Mizraim, fathered the people of Lud, Anam, Lehab, Naphtuh, 14 Pathrus, Casluh (the Philistines came from them), and Caphtor. 15 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, 16 as well as the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 17 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 18 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the Canaanite clans scattered. 19 The Canaanite border went from Sidon going toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and going toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim as far as Lasha. 20 These are Ham’s sons by their clans, according to their languages, in their lands and their nations.

These verses “pace off” the borders of the Promised Land, which would later have significance to the children of Israel who were sent to receive this land and drive out the Canaanites.

We’ve seen multiple times in this chapter a reference to “languages.” But, didn’t everyone speak the same language? They did until chapter 11. And after the events of Genesis 11, the people of the world spread out in the ways we’re reading about here in chapter 10.

Genesis 10:21-25 – 21 And Shem, Japheth’s older brother, also had sons. Shem was the father of all the sons of Eber. 22 Shem’s sons were Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. 23 Aram’s sons: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. 24 Arpachshad fathered Shelah, and Shelah fathered Eber. 25 Eber had two sons. One was named Peleg, for during his days the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan.

Some Bible versions translate Shem as the middle brother, some place his as the elder. It’s a linguistic thing. Take your pick. The 5 names we really care about in Shem’s line are: Shem, Arapachshad, Shelah, Eber (from whom we get the word Hebrew) and Peleg. This is the line from which comes Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, and, ultimately, Christ Jesus our Lord.

We’re told that in the days of Peleg the earth was divided. It makes most sense to interpret this as the division and scattering of people at the Tower of Babel in chapter 11. It’s also possible that this is referring to something else, like a devastating earthquake, which might have led to the breaking up of the continents. Or, some suggest it was referring to some large Mesopotamian canal project. Or it could be referring to political division. The context seems to favor the division of people by language, since that’s been referenced multiple times in these verses.

Genesis 10:26-31 – And Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All these were Joktan’s sons. 30 Their settlements extended from Mesha to Sephar, the eastern hill country. 31 These are Shem’s sons by their clans, according to their languages, in their lands and their nations.

You might have heard that the Jobab listed here might have been Job from the Bible. The reason is because, in the Septuagint there is an extra verse at the end of Job saying that his name was Jobab. The problem is, even if that verse is accurate, the two Jobabs have different fathers. But you might come across that if you listen to Bible studies on this passage.

Genesis 10:32 – 32 These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their family records, in their nations. The nations on earth spread out from these after the flood.

What we’re seeing here is just five generations from Noah but lots of activity in a relatively short time. We see scattering and empires built and nations formed. The seeds of unrest, opposition, and confusion had been planted and would yield millennia of war and struggle. Yet, all the while, God accomplishes His work through lives. That’s an interesting thought for us as we move through a book like Genesis. While man builds empires, God builds people. He does His work through your life, not through towers or cities. Through the regular course of life, as His people walk with Him and have families, listen to His leading, obey His word, He’s able to do what is impossible for man.

This passage can encourage us that, even if it seems like the world is closing in, God is still able to do all that He has promised. And even if your family goes off into some strange direction, you can continue to go God’s way and do what’s right. You can keep following Him. And even if you make a mistake, which we all will, like Noah or Abraham or any of the other heroes of the faith, we can get back up and back in step with our loving Lord.

At a macro level, most of us are probably Japhethites, by and large. Praise God that we Gentiles have been grafted in to God’s special people. He has always allowed that, by the way. Canaanites like Rahab and Ruth were always ready to be welcomed by God. As a Japhethite nation, one concern we should have is our relationship to that special group of Shem’s descendants: the nation of Israel. The book of Joel says that God will hold nations accountable for how they treat Israel. And so we should entreat our leaders to honor and support that special nation.

Finally, this text reminds us that, despite our cultural differences, we are all brothers and sisters. There is only one race: The human race. Yes, there is difference in language and historical ethnicity, but those things should not divide us. Especially in the Church we are reminded that there is no longer Jew or Greek, barbarian or Scythian. We are all one in Jesus Christ.

In 2015, a fellow by the name of A.J. Jacobs put on the Global Family Reunion in hopes of breaking the Guinness Word Record set by the Porteau-Boileves. The idea was that, since the entire human race is one big family, anyone could show up. The event attracted a lot of attention. Celebrities and statesmen got involved, along with companies like 23andMe and the Federation of Genealogical Societies. They didn’t end up getting enough people and I’m not sure Guinness would’ve recognized their theory anyway. But you and I are part of a continuing, global family, not just of humans (made in the image of God), but part of the family of God – sons and daughters brought into His household to be loved and used for His glory and scattered out to invite others to join in till one day we’re all reunited with our Maker forever in that city whose Builder and Maker is God.

(Footnotes & references are available at calvaryhanford.com/atruebeginning)

The First Time Ever We Saw Your Face (John 1:14-18)

Undercover Boss disguises company executives as new entry-level employees to experience what life is like among the rank-and-file.

My favorite Undercover Boss isn’t an episode from the show.

There are two Saturday Night Live parodies in which Adam Driver reprises his role as Ky Lo Ren, grandson of Darth Vader. He disguises himself as “Matt” on a Starkiller Base, and the next time as “Randy,” an intern on a Star Destroyer.

It doesn’t go well for his subordinates.

God came to live among us: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Things did go well for those He dwelt among:

Mankind was dead in their sins. Jesus is Life.

Mankind was lost in the dark. Jesus is Light.

“Because of all that the Son is, we have been given one blessing after another” (v16).

I’ll organize my comments around two points derived from the text: #1 In Jesus You Behold The Glory Of God, #2 In Jesus You’re Bestowed The Grace Of God.

#1 – In Jesus You Behold The Glory Of God (v14)

You gotta love the anti-drug public service campaigns aimed at kids. In one of them, a guy takes an egg out of the carton and says, “This is your brain.” He points to a hot cast iron skillet on the stovetop and says, “This is drugs.” He cracks the egg, and it begins to sizzle. He lifts the skillet off the burner and says, “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”

The opening eighteen verses of the Gospel of John make me want to say, “This is my brain on Doctrine.” It’s sizzling with profound teaching about God.

John wasted no time introducing the Doctrine of the Trinity. He told us in the opening verses that a Person called “the Word” was with God at Creation and was God the Creator. It is a mind-boggling revelation that God is One and more than One.

My mind is still reeling when John states that the Word Who was with God and was God became flesh to dwell among humans.

Discussing Jesus being fully God and fully human might be trickier than examining the Trinity. If I misspeak and say something confusing, you can default to the following:

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was the eternal God who became a human being. God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, came to earth and took human nature upon Himself. He did not possess human nature until His virgin birth in the little town of Bethlehem. From then forward, Jesus of Nazareth was fully God and fully human. Jesus is the “God-man.”

He was not half-God and half-human. These two natures in God the Son, residing in one body, cannot be divided. He did not do some things as God and other things as a human. Everything He did was as the God-man.

John announced the Word becoming human in one of the most sublime verses in the Bible.

Joh 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

God in human flesh overwhelms theologian Wayne Grudem. He writes:

It is the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible – far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than Creation. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join Himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.

If you are an avid reader, you appreciate a well-crafted sentence. There are times reading J.R.R. Tolkien that I pause and reread a sentence many times.

It takes nothing away from the rest of the inspired Bible to be enamored by John 1:14.

“And the Word became flesh.” The Word who was with God and who was God took upon Himself humanity.

Jesus in human “flesh” differs from Undercover Boss in that it was not temporary, nor was it a disguise.

Jesus never stopped being God. He will never cease to be human. He is forever both God and man in one person. “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; hail the Incarnate Deity.”

Jesus came to show us the Father.

“Became” means He added humanity to His deity. We should note that the virgin birth – another sizzling doctrine – means Jesus possesses a perfect human nature. He was without imputed or inherited sin. Jesus is the only Person Who qualifies to save us.

“Dwelt” is another carefully chosen word in this masterful sentence. It is the word you would use to say that you pitched a tent or built a Tabernacle. It connects Jesus’ coming in the flesh to the Old Testament tent the Jews pitched, the Tabernacle.

Since Jesus ‘tabernacled’ with us, there is no need for a Tabernacle or a Temple in the current dispensation. Don’t be drawn to celebrating or practicing Jewish rituals that are fulfilled in Jesus.

“We beheld His glory.” I have always found “glory” a difficult concept to nail down. I came across this useful description: “God’s glory is the sum of all His attributes and perfection. It is sometimes displayed as a bright or overpowering light.”

✎︎ John “beheld [Jesus’] glory” on the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus “was transfigured… His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:1-2).

✎︎ John “beheld” Jesus’ innumerable signs and wonders, all of which brought “glory” to God.

✎︎ John was at the crucifixion. In John 13:31, Jesus says of the Cross, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”

“The glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” “Begotten” throws people.
Upon first reading, it sounds like the Father created Jesus. That cannot be true because the Word was with God and was God.

I’ve lately been quoting from the International Standard Version. Here is John 1:14 in the ISV: “The Word became flesh and lived among us. We gazed on His glory, the kind of glory that belongs to the Father’s unique Son, who is full of grace and truth.

“Unique” is the better translation of the word “begotten.” The writer to the Hebrew Christians uses the same word to describe the relationship between Abraham and his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac (11:17). He calls Isaac his “only begotten son.” Abraham had another son, Ishmael, who was born first. Isaac was the unique son who would inherit God’s promises.

“Who is full of grace and truth.” In John 20:31, John says, “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” “All,” “every man,” “whoever,” can believe.
Sadly, not everyone will believe. The words “grace” and “truth” describe the experience of both:

Those who believe, receiving Jesus, experience “grace.” They are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, and they are enabled to walk in grace.

Those who will not believe, rejecting Jesus, experience a hard “truth.” Jesus puts it this way in John 3:18, “He who believes in [Me] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

It is Truth or Consequences if you are a nonbeliever.

John beheld Jesus’ “glory.” We behold His glory.

In Second Corinthians 3:18 we are told, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “This glory is the experience of salvation available in the New Covenant and mediated by the Holy Spirit who leads Christians from justification through sanctification to glorification.” As we draw nearer ton Jesus, His glory is revealed in and through us.

#2 – In Jesus You’re Bestowed The Grace Of God (v15-18)

The Metrons were a powerful, peace-loving race. They intervened as Captain Kirk pursued the Gorn to retaliate for their attack on a Star Fleet outpost. The Metrons stopped both ships and announced that they would pit the respective captains against each other in a fight to the death. They would destroy the ship and crew of the losing captain, and the other ship would be spared.

Pursued by the stronger but much slower reptilian Gorn, Kirk eventually realizes he has all the resources he needs to be victorious in combat.

We have the all-we-need resource of grace.

Joh 1:15  John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”

Jews would have considered John the Baptist superior to Jesus because he was his elder by six months. John dispels that when he says, “He who comes after me is preferred before me.”

Then he is quoted, “for He was before me.” Born after John, the only way Jesus could be “before” John was to have existed before his birth. “He was before me” is John the Baptist’s way of recognizing Jesus’ pre-existence.

Joh 1:16  And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

Translations of “grace for grace” include the following:

“Grace on grace.”
“One blessing after another.”
“One gracious gift after another from His abundance.”
“Gift after gift after gift.”
“Grace over-against grace.”

Scholars can’t seem to get a handle on it.

First, this isn’t saving grace. It is grace in abundance after salvation. It is “gift after gift,” “one blessing after another.”

Second, this grace abundantly available comes from the “fullness” of Jesus. J.C. Ryle writes, “All we who believe in Jesus have received an abundant supply of all that our souls need out of the full store that resides in Him for His people. It is from Christ and Christ alone, that all our spiritual wants have been supplied.”

Have you been stocking up on toilet paper? Quote: “Product shortages are going to be as bad as when the COVID19 pandemic started, as reported on Fox Business. They made this prediction after Costco warned its customers it was having trouble fulfilling toilet paper orders in the week of September 20, 2021. The shortages won’t stop at toilet paper.”

Jesus is always fully stocked in supernatural resources for you, and a primary resource is grace.

One of our Lord’s unclaimed promises is that during the Church Age we will suffer tribulation. If you were to ask Clubber Lang his prediction for the Church Age, he’d say what he said in Rocky 3. “Pain.”

To quote Pastor Chuck Smith, “Grace changes everything.”

The apostle of grace, Paul, explains how grace changes everything in our sufferings.

2Co 12:7  … a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me…
2Co 12:8  Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
2Co 12:9  And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2Co 12:10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Grace is needed to meet infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distresses.

In spiritual alchemy, grace takes weaknesses and perfects them to be strengths.

Grace is not the healing you ask for. It isn’t the way out of your trouble. It isn’t the removal of your trial. It is the resource that allows you to boast about God and take pleasure in those things.

Most likely your house is equipped with the kind of water heater that keeps pre-heated water in its tank. There are tankless water heaters that promise “instant, unlimited hot water.” You turn the handle and, Bam – hot water.

Is grace a resource we must store up in our tank? Or is it instantly available to us?

We tend to live as though it needs to be stored up.
We never seem to have enough of it to cope.
We act like there is a grace shortage.
We talk about renewing the fire as if we need to reheat our tepid tank.

The grace we are talking about comes from the “fullness” of Jesus. The Bible describes a believer by saying you are “in Jesus.”

Since you are “in Jesus,” grace is instantly delivered to you in an inexhaustible supply. After all, it is grace, a gift, that cannot be earned or deserved.

When Paul had his thorn in the flesh, Jesus told him that grace was instantly, abundantly available to him.
Paul stopped beseeching God and started boasting to people about Him.

Beseeching is fine. Let’s do more boasting.

Joh 1:17  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Mentioning Moses and the Law seems odd, but that’s because we are not Jews. John had introduced the thought that Jesus fulfilled the symbolism of the Tabernacle. What about the Law itself? Was that still in effect?

Listen to this quote:

By Moses was given the law: the moral law, full of high and holy demands, and of stern threatenings against disobedience; and the ceremonial law, full of burdensome sacrifices, ordinances, and ceremonies, which never healed the worshipper’s conscience, and at best were only shadows of good things to come.

By Jesus, on the other hand, came grace and truth: grace by the full manifestation of God’s plan of salvation, and the offer of complete pardon to every soul that believes on Jesus; and truth, by the unveiled exhibition of Jesus Himself, as the true sacrifice, the true Priest, and the true atonement for sin.

You almost don’t notice that John uses the name Jesus for the first time. He called Jesus “the Word” for the last time in verse fourteen.

Joh 1:18  No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

The saints we think “saw” God did not see Him in His full glory.

Moses “saw” God, but in Exodus 33:19-23, we read, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”

Others, like Moses’ disciple Joshua, saw Jesus in a pre-incarnation appearance. Albert Barnes writes, “This passage is not meant to deny that men had witnessed manifestations of God; but it is meant that no one has seen the essence of God, or has fully known God.”

How can we know God and fellowship with Him if He is unapproachable? “The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”

The Contemporary English Version (CEV) reads, “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like.”

Every believer is “uniquely called and placed in our own sphere of influence” (Robert Ferguson).

You are the Lord’s undercover operative. Not to disguise your Christianity, but to expose it.

✎︎ Let others behold God’s glory by being led by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

✎︎ Let others marvel at the grace bestowed upon you, first in saving you, then in its abundance in you life.

Prophecy Update #676 – Our House Is A Very False House

Billy Graham said, “What a moment to take the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other and watch and watch the unfolding of the great drama of the ages. This is an exciting and thrilling time to be alive. I would not want to live in any other period.”

We reserve a few minutes to discuss current trends that you’d expect from reading Bible prophecy.

We are futurists. We interpret all unfulfilled prophetic passages as future events in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

Biometrics, Artificial Intelligence, cashless commerce, the manipulation of human DNA, global government, the exponential growth of human knowledge, one-world religion, and the rebirth of national Israel are End Times developments the Bible predicts.

All of these are increasingly trending in the news.

We read about a Last Days global religious movement in the seventeenth chapter of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is referred to as “Babylon” because it is the final form of the religious rebellion at the Tower of Babel.

We therefore expect movement towards a global religion, or at least an “ecumenical” movement, meaning all-inclusive, all-embracing, and universal.

An impressive ecumenical complex is under construction.

The Times of Israel posted a story titled, United Arab Emirates reveals progress on interfaith complex to house synagogue, mosque, church.

Excerpts:

Construction on the Abrahamic Family House, a complex in Abu Dhabi slated to house a synagogue, a mosque and a church, is 20% complete, officials revealed on Tuesday, June 15, 2021.
The government also announced that the synagogue at the site will be named the “Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue” after the 12th century philosopher and rabbinical scholar Maimonides. The mosque will be named “Imam Al-Tayeb Mosque,” and the church “St. Francis Church.”

“The Abrahamic Family House epitomizes interfaith harmonious coexistence and preserves the unique character of each religion,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism-Abu Dhabi and a member of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity.

“The naming of the three houses of worship recognizes the work of His Eminence Grand Imam Al Tayeb, His Holiness Pope Francis, and Moses Ben Maimon, and harnesses their teachings to forge a message of goodwill for future generations around the world,” Mubarak said.

Visitors to each house of worship will have the opportunity to observe religious services, listen to holy scripture, and experience sacred rituals while a fourth, unaffiliated space will serve as a center for all people of goodwill to come together as one.

The Abrahamic Family House is slated to be completed in 2022.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/uae-reveals-progress-on-interfaith-complex-to-house-synagogue-mosque-church/

We don’t know how, or even if, the Abrahamic House has anything directly to do with the one-world religion. We are pointing out that the Bible long ago predicted ecumenism in the Last Days, and this structure is therefore what you’d expect.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen at any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will occur before the Great Tribulation.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

It Was The Worst Of Vines (Genesis 9:18-29)

Whether it’s the tabloids or TMZ, the human heart loves to see the scandals of prominent people. What a sad commentary on our culture it is to be able to open a newspaper and see sections on Politics, Business, Sports, Gossip. We want to see people at their worst.

In our text tonight we’ll see Noah at his worst. But first, let’s remember who he was: A blameless man, a preacher of righteousness, a faithful follower of God Almighty. But, none of those descriptors mean that he was sinless. Tonight we read the report of a terrible incident in his life. Why does God record and broadcast this for us? Is this some sort of cosmic gossip? “Did you hear what NOAH did the other day?!?” Of course not. This text serves multiple purposes. First, it is a pit stop in God’s unfolding work of redemption. After Adam and Eve sinned, God came to them and said, “I have a plan to make right what you have ruined.” Genesis records for us the opening moves of the plan, to carve out and preserve a particular lineage from which the Messiah would ultimately come. He would come through a particular group of people and this is their story.

In addition, we know that the things written in the Old Testament are preserved for our instruction and encouragement – that we would be built up in our ability to follow God and endure with hope, and that we can learn to be careful, lest we ourselves fall into sin. This story is strange and sordid and scandalous and sad. But it’s also profitable for us and prophetic.

When we left off, God brought Noah and his sons out of the ark, blessed them, and established new directives for them as they went out to fill the world. Between verses 17 and 18, at least a couple of decades have passed. Noah’s settled into a new career and has grown grandchildren.

Genesis 9:18 – 18 Noah’s sons who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan.

There is going to be a conspicuous focus on Canaan in these verses, even though he doesn’t actually appear in the story. It leads to a lot of head scratching from commentators. In fact, this whole passage has elicited a whole lot of conjecture, speculation, and misapplications. And there will be some questions we have that we simply don’t have a clear answer for.

But remember the first audience: The Children of Israel – a group who would be commanded by God to destroy completely whole nations of Canaanites. God’s judgment on them was not unwarranted. He had an overwhelming case against them. And, as agents of judgment, the Children of Israel would not only be eye-witness to their evil, God would reveal to them the history of their immoral atrocities. God did not flip a coin and choose the Canaanites for destruction.

Genesis 9:19 – These three were Noah’s sons, and from them the whole earth was populated.

Back in 2009, the Washington Post reported this in their Science News section:

“All of Earth’s people, according to a new analysis…fall into just three genetic groups.”

The Bible is not designed to be a science textbook, but that doesn’t mean our faith is unscientific. We don’t need to fear research or the academic study of our world, our history, and our biology. These things verify what God has already told us in His word.

Genesis 9:20-21 – 20 Noah, as a man of the soil, began by planting a vineyard. 21 He drank some of the wine, became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent.

John Gill points out that Noah became a “man of the soil.” He did not set himself up as “lord of the earth.” Very interesting. If anyone had the right to claim leadership or establish authority, it was Noah, the deliverer. The ark builder. The one who speaks with God. And yet, that’s not what he did. He grabbed a hoe and a shovel and went to work cultivating a little plot of ground.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. In our social media obsessed culture, humility is a worthless virtue. But, in God’s economy, it is a necessity. It is a fundamental requirement to faithfully live out the Christian life. Be a humble person.

Something went very wrong with Noah’s farming. We see him developing this vineyard and then, when the time came, producing a vintage and getting what we can only describe as hammered drunk one day in his tent and stripping off all his clothes. This is weird. It’s shameful.

A number of commentators try to excuse Noah and suggest that he had no idea wine could ferment and make a person drunk. Even if we try to give Noah the benefit of the doubt, this is a stretch. He wasn’t a stupid man. He had lived hundreds of years, watching a wicked world in all their excess, in all their sinfulness, in all their depraved immorality, and he had preached to them about righteousness and judgment and how to honor God.

Drunkenness is always disapproved of in the Bible. You are commanded to not be drunk. Not on wine, not on whiskey, not on pills, not on anything. Rather, you and I are supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit – making Him the refreshment we drink in to warm our hearts and bring us joy.

There’s a devotional warning here: You and I are capable of shocking levels of sin. Remember who Noah was. Remember how he is described. Remember his incredible devotion to God. If he is able to fall into sin, so are you and I. And so, here at the start, this passage urges us to not let our spiritual guard down, but to continue in uprightness. Keep yourself upright in your walk.

Commenting on Noah’s sin, John Bunyan wrote [Paraphrased due to use of Olde English]:

“Though the days of affliction, of temptation and distress, are harsh…yet they are not half so dangerous as are the days of peace and liberty.
Noah…it was better with you when you were [an ark builder]. Yea, it was better with you, when a world of ungodly men set themselves against you! Yea, when every day your life was in danger to be destroyed by the giants, against whom you were a preacher [for] a hundred years! For then you walked with God; Then you were better than all the world; but now you are in the relapse!”

Genesis 9:22 – 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside.

Was Ham a believer? I find it impossible to say he wasn’t. After all, God had just judged the whole world because of their unbelief. Would it be just for Him to allow one heathen to skate through the flood? When the chapter opened, Ham was blessed along with Noah and his brothers. And yet, we see here an appalling sin. Ham, at very least, was ogling his father, mocking him, and spreading the word of his humiliation. There’s enjoyment both in the looking and the telling to Shem and Japheth. But was it more than that?

Now, this is going to get a little uncomfortable, but we’re already in the midst of an embarrassing scandal and I think it’s worth dealing with something that you will come across if you read commentaries on this passage. Based off of the teaching of some third century Jewish rabbis, a tradition grew that Ham maybe sodomized Noah or castrated him. Some accept the sexual assault idea because, in the Law of Moses, we read the phrase “uncover their nakedness” and it can be a euphemism for such an act. There are some problems, though. One is that this idea originates from the Babylonian Talmud, not the Bible. Second, scholars debate over whether the language justifies an interpretation of sexual assault. Also, we’re not told that Ham uncovered Noah’s nakedness (which in other parts of the Old Testament is a euphemism for sexual activity), Noah uncovered his own nakedness.

Is it possible that Ham raped or castrated Noah? Sadly, yes. But, let’s take this on face value. At least some scholars feel that there was perversion in the way he was looking at his father. He didn’t just accidentally walk in and walk out. Then he’s delighting in telling his two brothers. This is another sober warning to us of what even a redeemed heart is capable of when we don’t walk in the Spirit. Let’s see the response.

Genesis 9:23 – 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a cloak and placed it over both their shoulders, and walking backward, they covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father naked.

They were intent on not seeing their father naked. Nudity is so common place in our world, so emphasized, that we feel the need to inflate Ham’s sin. “It must’ve been more than just seeing his old man naked and laughing about it.” But look at how seriously Shem and Japheth took this task.

In the ancient world, being exposed this way was a big, big deal. Herodotus, the Greek historian from the 400’s BC, wrote about how the king of Lydia compelled one of his bodyguards to look on the nakedness of the queen and, as a result, one of them had to be put to death.

Shem and Japheth not only show great respect, but great compassion. Their father has made a fool of himself. And yet, they figure out a way to cover him up. I’m guessing the effort would’ve been funny if the situation weren’t so tragic. They demonstrate for us one of the functions of Godly love. Of course, God was the first to show this kind of love. What did He do when Adam and Eve were found naked and ashamed? He clothed them, personally and carefully. In Ezekiel 16, God is pouring out His heart to wayward Israel and He describes the kind of love He has:

Ezekiel 16:8 – 8 “ ‘Then I passed by you and saw you, and you were indeed at the age for love. So I spread the edge of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I pledged myself to you, entered into a covenant with you—this is the declaration of the Lord God—and you became mine.

God’s love has been poured into our hearts and now we get to be like Him, allowing that love to cover a multitude of sins. That doesn’t mean we participate in coverups or ignore sin. It means we lovingly work to restore repentant believers back into the family of faith. We live in a time when some mistakes get you cancelled no matter how long ago they happened. In the church:

Galatians 6:1-2 – if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit,, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted. 2 Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Noah teaches us the importance of continuing in uprightness. Shem and Japheth teach us to cover over sin with love. There’s still one more thought for us was we see what came next.

Genesis 9:24-25 – 24 When Noah awoke from his drinking and learned what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said: Canaan is cursed. He will be the lowest of slaves to his brothers.

Why wasn’t Ham the target of Noah’s cursing? We have to endure some fog and vagaries in this story. I will say, thus far in Genesis, we can notice that, at the time, sins were not immediately judged. There was no Theocratic government like Israel would have under the Law. Adam and Eve sin and there were sudden relational and physical consequences, but God did not mete out what was due them right then and there. The same is true of Cain. And Lamech. And the wicked generations leading to the flood. And the same is usually true of your sin and mine in our time.

There would be a painful rift in this family from here on out. That was a consequence of Noah’s sin and Ham’s sin. But then, God uses Noah to proclaim a prophecy concerning the descendants of one of Ham’s sons, the nations we know as the Canaanites. We see a Spiritual principle proved through Ham and his descendants: You reap what you sow. Ham brought shame to his father because of his lascivious disrespect, leading to judgment. The Canaanites would do the same.

The prophecy continues:

Genesis 9:26-27 – 26 He also said: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; Let Canaan be Shem’s slave. 27 Let God extend Japheth; let Japheth dwell in the tents of Shem; let Canaan be Shem’s slave.

From Shem came the Semitic people, specifically the Jews. The prophecy of enslavement was fulfilled in the time of the conquest under Joshua and the kings of Israel.

Historically, there have been some who call themselves ‘Christian’ who attempted to use this prophecy to justify the enslavement of the African people. This is a loathsome and satanic distortion of what the Bible says. It is a rejection of truth and the teachings of Scripture. There is no defense for the historic, worldwide phenomenon of human slavery.

What might we pull from these verses for ourselves? Well, this passage not only points us toward the conquest of the Promised Land, in a greater sense it continues the melody of salvation. That one day, despite all the sin and all our mistakes, and all our division, anyone would be able to come into the tent and find shelter there. Once God completed the plan, sent His Son to live, die, and rise again, human beings would be able to be united together, no matter their background or ethnicity, no matter their economic status, no matter what mistakes they had made, and be brought together in Christ, the Son of Shem. We’re to live as brothers and sisters, not enslaving one another, but choosing to serve one another out of love and affection and family loyalty.

Genesis 9:28-29 – 28 Now Noah lived 350 years after the flood. 29 So Noah’s life lasted 950 years; then he died.

Here’s an interesting thought: Depending on how you do the math, Noah may have lived to see Abraham turn 58 years old. There’s a debate, some scholars count differently and say he died 2 years prior. We can’t be sure. It does seem like Shem outlived Abraham or very nearly did.

So Noah’s part in the plan of God comes to a close. It’s a rough landing. But I’m so glad that this remarkable man isn’t defined by his mistake. When you think of Noah, do you think first of this shortcoming or do you think of the amazing work God did through his life?

The same is true for you. You do not have to be defined by your mistakes. If you’re a Christian, you are defined by God’s loving work in and through your life. And even though we’re all knuckleheads who stumble, God is still excited to use us when we’re willing to obey Him and turn from our sin.

As we close, I’d invite us to take the warnings of this passage seriously. The things that were so scandalous about this story are commonplace in our society. Gossip. Drunkenness. Lewd activity. Sexual deviance. Nakedness on display. Family division. Are any of those things unheard of in our world today? They are pillars of our culture and entertainment. They’re normal and prevalent. But look at the what terrible work they do.

These dangers lurk at our door. We are just as capable of sin as these heroes of the faith were and so we must decide to go God’s way. We want to be people who continue in uprightness, because we’re commanded to live that way. We’re to “practice righteousness.” And when someone in your sphere of influence falls into sin, be the one who helps to cover over sin with love. Finally, let’s take joy in the fact that we get to come together in this wonderful tent of faith. Jesus, by His grace and power, has made us a family. Let’s protect and cherish that spiritual unity and invite others to join in.

Heeeear Johnny! (John 1:6-13)

We use the word ‘effect’ to describe unusual phenomena. My two favorites are the Butterfly Effect and the Mandela Effect.

✎︎ The Butterfly Effect proposes that small changes lead to cosmic consequences. Ray Bradbury illustrates it in his short story, A Sound of Thunder.

A company offers hunters the chance to travel back in time to shoot extinct species such as T-Rex. One of the hunters strays off the path and unknowingly steps on a butterfly, killing it. After returning to the future, small then catastrophic changes are attributed to the butterfly’s death.

✎︎ The Mandela Effect describes instances of shared false memory. The name comes from people being certain they remember Nelson Mandela dying while in prison in the 1980s. Mandela died free on December 5, 2013.

The most famous Mandela Effect is the dialog between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. “Luke, I am your father” is an iconic phrase many remember, but it is not what Vader said. He said, “No, I am your father.”

Our verses in the Gospel of John could be called The Jesus Effect.

The apostle John claims Jesus “was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world… that all through Him might believe” (v9&7).

John uses the word “believe” at least sixty times in his Gospel. “Believing” is going to be front and center in many of our studies.

I’ll organize my comments around two points derived from the text: #1 Every Person You Share Jesus With Can Believe God, and #2 Every Person You Share Jesus With Can Be Born Of God.

#1 – Every Person You Share Jesus With Can Believe God (v6-11)

His disciples once asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” Theologians throughout the centuries have asked and sought to answer that question.

A surprisingly large number of Christians answer the question the way this Reformed writer does: “The saving intent of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross is limited to the elect, those for whom Jesus died.”

They reason that Jesus did not die for everyone. He died only for the elect who before Creation were predestined to believe. People who were not elect in eternity past cannot be saved. They are instead predestined for damnation.

An important Reformed document states, “The express testimony of sacred Scripture that not all, but some only, are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decree.”

We teach that “God so loved” everyone in “the” entire “world” of mankind “that He gave His only begotten Son,” Jesus, “that whoever” who has ever lived who “believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

This discussion has gone on for centuries. There won’t be a resolution of it in this life. It is acceptable to hold either view; it really is.

I propose something simple: Since both views rest upon biblical scholarship, and a Christian can hold either, you are compelled to choose the one that offers salvation to whoever will believe.

I want to look upon everyone and know they are a person Jesus Christ died for, not a “maybe” who cannot be saved because God predestined them to suffer conscious, eternal punishment in Hell.

Let me put it in question form: Why would you choose to believe God limits His offer of salvation if you don’t have to? You don’t have to, so don’t.

One more thing. The folks in the limited atonement, unconditional election, double-predestination, field of T.U.L.I.P’s are adamant that their view is the only one that has biblical scholarship. More than once I’ve been told that if a person sincerely studied the Bible, they would conclude Jesus died only for the predestined elect. Don’t fall for that argument. Scores of scholars, resources, and church history offer biblical proof of the “whosoever will” heart of God.

Joh 1:6  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

John the Baptist. John the Baptizer. John the Immerser. John the Forerunner. John has been known by these names.

The apostle John never uses any descriptor in discussing him. He introduces him as “a man sent from God.”

Have you ever introduced someone? You probably had a cheat sheet listing the person’s many awards and accomplishments, as well as personal details.

The introduction of John featured none of those.

No statistics on how many he baptized.
No mention of the number of followers.
No references to his program of wilderness discipleship.
He wasn’t promoting the locust and honey diet.
There was no line of camel’s hair clothing.

He was merely a “man sent from God.” We know some of his preparation before being sent from God:

John had a miraculous conception, announced by an angel. His parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were childless and far too old to have a child.
John was filled with God the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb.

He was a Nazarite from birth. He abstained from all products that come from grapes; he never cut his hair; and he was careful not to come in contact with a dead body to avoid defilement.

Jesus called John a prophet and said, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).

Every Christian is the product of a miraculous second birth and filled with God the Holy Spirit.

You and I are “sent from God.” We are to go into all the world with the Gospel message. To quote the Blues Brothers, “We are on a mission for God.”

If you don’t already, begin to see yourself as sent from God to your family and friends, at your workplace – anywhere you are.

Joh 1:7  This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.
Joh 1:8  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
Joh 1:9  That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

We could add ‘John the Witness’ to his titles. He spoke of Jesus, not of himself. We might want to check our testimony to be sure we are not bringing any attention to ourselves.

Use only as much of your life BC (Before Christ) necessary to point to Jesus.

The apostle John told us in the first five verses that “in the beginning,” a Person called “the Word” was with God and was God. In verse fourteen, he will inform us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Only one Person can be introduced as “God in human flesh appearing,” the Lord Jesus Christ.

The entire world of men lies in spiritual darkness. Not just around us but within us. We have a heart of darkness, born as we are with a sin nature.

Satan’s emissaries are called “the rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12).

Mankind is described as having “minds the god of this age has blinded…” (Second Corinthians 4:4).

“Light,” “Light,” “Light,” “Light,” “Light” – five times in these three verses.

Two more times in verses one through five. Jesus shone as “Light” in the darkness of fallen, sin-darkened Creation.

Jesus “gives light to every man coming into the world… that all through Him might believe.” The International Standard Version is better: Jesus “was the true light that enlightens every person by His coming into the world… so that all might believe because of Him.”

It saddens me that so many commentators read these words and immediately begin parsing them to exclude those they deem the non-elect.

The grace of God necessary to believe has been called “prevenient grace.” It comes before, enabling a person to recognize sin, repent of sin, and believe Jesus for the forgiveness of sin. God, in His grace and by the Holy Spirit, frees your will so that you might believe.

One of our favorite verses is First Timothy 4:10, “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.”

“Every man,” “all,” “whoever,” can believe

Joh 1:10  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

Commentator John Gill has an interesting, and I think correct, take on verse ten. He lived in the 1700s, so his English is a little hard for us. He writes,

The phrase “He was in the world” is to be understood, not of Jesus’ Incarnation; for the word “was” denotes past existence, from before the Creation of the world; and the world is the world in general, as opposed to Judea, and the people of the Jews in the next verse. The Incarnation of the Word is spoken of in verse fourteen as a new and distinct thing from this. [He was] in the world, when [it was] first made, and [has been] since, by His essence, by which He fills the whole world; and by His power, upholding and preserving it; and by His providence, ordering and managing all the affairs of it, and influencing and governing all things in it. He was in it as the light and life of it, giving natural life and light to creatures in it, and filling it, and them, with various blessings of goodness. He was frequently visible in the world, in an human form, before His Incarnation, as in Eden’s garden to our first parents, to Abraham, Jacob, Joshua, and others.

I like what John Gill says because it includes Jesus’ activity from Creation to His first coming. The Lord watched over us for millennia, providing for us, protecting us, loving us. From the Garden until now, His plan of salvation has been kept on track and on time by His providence.

“The world did not know Him.” The apostle Paul expands on this in the first chapter of the Book of Romans. He says that mankind “did not think it worthwhile to keep knowing God fully… For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him. Instead, their thoughts turned to worthless things, and their senseless hearts were darkened” (v18&21 ISV).

The clause “although they knew God” refers to a knowledge of God such as Adam and Eve had both before and after the Fall. How long this knowledge of God continued before it was perverted is not stated, but people knew God.

Years after the Garden, we see Him talking with Cain about murdering Abel.
As John Gill noted, He appears to believers with some frequency in the Old Testament as a Christophany – as the Angel of the Lord.

Jesus did not abandon Creation. Mankind abandoned their Creator. In our natural birth, we prefer darkness to His light.

Joh 1:11  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

The first “His own” is probably a general reference to Jesus coming to Earth, to “His own” Creation.
The second “His own” definitely refers to the nation of Israel. God created a new nation from Abraham through whom Jesus would be born.

God became man and came to His own Creation and His own created nation:

Gentiles eliminated God and worship “images that looked like mortal human beings, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles” (Romans 1:23).
Israel rejected Jesus. Isaiah long before had prophesied of Jewish national unbelief, saying, “Who has believed our message?” (53:1).

You can believe. Your family members can believe. Your children can believe. Your friends can believe. Your employer and your employees can believe. Our government leaders can believe.

Not everyone will believe and be saved. It isn’t because they can’t believe, but because they won’t believe.

#2 – Every Person You Share Jesus With Can Be Born Of God (v12-13)

Alan Jackson’s biggest hit was Chattahoochee.

I’m thinking of another song of his that wasn’t a hit and doesn’t appear on lists of fan favorites. It’s titled, We’re All God’s Children.

Here comes a Baptist, here comes a Jew
There goes a Mormon and a Muslim too
I see a Buddhist and a Hindu
I see a Catholic and I see you
We’re all God’s children
Why can’t we be one big happy family?

“Dear Alan,
We are NOT all God’s children.”

Joh 1:12  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.
Joh 1:13  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

The fact that those who believe “become children of God” means that all people are not God’s children by natural birth. You become God’s child in a second, spiritual birth.

The RMS Titanic had twenty lifeboats that, in total, could accommodate 1,178 people the night it sank. There were 2,208 souls on board. They did not have “as many” lifeboats as they needed.

“As many as received” Jesus means there are enough “eternal-life” boats to receive whoever believes.

John equates “receive” with “believe.” You “receive” Jesus by “believ[ing] in His Name.” When you “believe” Him, you “receive” Him.

Neither believing nor receiving is a work you perform. Salvation is God’s gift to be believed and received by faith.

You “believe in His name.” One commentator said,

His Name refers to all that Jesus is in His person as the eternal Word made flesh. It refers to all that He did by dying on the Cross as the substitute for your sins. Believing in His name means that you stop relying on your own merits and works as the way to approach God and instead you rely totally on what Jesus did for you on the Cross. It means that when you stand before God, your only hope for Heaven is not your good works, but rather that Jesus died for your sins and you are trusting in Him alone.

Jews in the first century thought themselves the “right” children of God on account of “blood,” “the will of the flesh,” and “the will of man.”

“Blood” refers to ancestry. Jews thought they were God’s children by merely being Abrahams descendants

“The will of the flesh” is self-righteousness in keeping rules and rituals to deserve salvation.

“The will of man” refers to the desire of someone else for you to be saved. Roman Catholics, for example, believe that all who die “imperfectly purified” go to Purgatory. They pray and offer Mass for souls in Purgatory. There ain’t no Purgatory.

The birth of a child of God is not a natural birth; it is a supernatural work of God. A person responds in faith to Jesus, and they are born-again.

Being born-again is called regeneration. I prefer the less technical but still accurate term, rebirth. The rebirth is a spiritual, holy, and heavenly birth that results in our being made alive spiritually.

I’ll let you in on another doctrinal controversy. The same folks we discussed earlier who limit the atonement to the predestined elect have an unexpected position on rebirth. They say that “rebirth precedes faith.” In their world, you are born-again, and afterward you are given faith to believe.

If anyone knows about believing, it’s John who uses the word so much. Remember what John said about why he wrote?

“But #1 these are written that you may #2 believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may #3 have life in His name” (20:31).

Notice the order:

You read or hear the “written” word.
You “believe.”
You “have life,” i.e., you are born-again.

We will talk a lot more about rebirth when Jesus visits Nicodemus at night.

Jesus says of us, “but he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than [John]” (Matthew 11:11).

Do you feel “greater” than John? One sense in which we are greater is that we are collectively called the bride of Jesus. John considered himself a friend of the Bridegroom. Bride beats friend.

Let’s build on that analogy. I’m betting that when you were engaged to your fiancé, you were joyous and wanted to let everyone know. You could hardly wait to introduce them.

We are the bride of Jesus. Currently, we are engaged. Jesus is our fiancé.

Be joyous and introduce Him to others.

Prophecy Update #675 – Robo-666

Karl Barth said, “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”

We reserve a few minutes to discuss current trends that you’d expect from reading Bible prophecy.

We are futurists. We interpret all unfulfilled prophetic passages as future events in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

Biometrics, Artificial Intelligence, cashless commerce, the manipulation of human DNA, global government, the exponential growth of human knowledge, and the rebirth of national Israel are End Times developments the Bible predicts.

All of these are increasingly trending in the news.

There is an intriguing passage in the Revelation about an image, the person we call the false prophet, and the Beast – another name of the antichrist.

An image of the Beast is going to come to “life.”

Rev 13:14 And [the false prophet] deceives those who dwell on the earth – by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. Rev 13:15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

It sounds a lot like what we would call Artificial Intelligence; AI for short.

I discovered a company called PromoBot that manufactures pretty advanced AI robots. Their model Robo-C is a customizable humanoid robot companion for home or office.

Robo-C can have the appearance of any person that ever existed, regardless of their nationality, age, or gender. Mechanical muscles allow the robot to move its eyes, eyebrows, lips, and other face parts to mimic more than 600 human facial expressions. Robot owners can easily add new expressions, create customized movements, emotions, and applications. The robot communicates using artificial intelligence and can independently move while avoiding obstacles.

Suggested applications include Building Manager, Tour Guide, Medical Assistant, Administrative Assistant, and Visitor Assistant.

The Dubai Police Department employs Robo-C. It began working at their central headquarters. Its duties include advising citizens, answering questions, accepting applications from visitors, and monitoring the security of the entrance to the headquarters. According to the developers, Officer Robo-C is the only service robot in the world that speaks Arabic.

Robo-C became the first-ever childcare robot in Eastern Europe.
A Civil Servant Robo-C helped 45,000 people over a two-year period in Perm, Russia.

As far as I researched it, we could be the first church to employ one as a Greeter.

Some of the smartest people are warning that AI is dangerous, even apocalyptic. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes the Age of Ultron.

We read the Bible, and it predicts an almost unbelievable life-like image. It will be a Beast Assistant, enforcing digital dictatorship.

We read the news and see that we are heading in that direction.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen at any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will happen before the Great Tribulation.

Jesus will return in the clouds.
He will raise the dead in Christ.
He will transform the bodies of living believers into glorified, resurrection bodies.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

Rainbow: Cursed Blood (Genesis 9:1-17)

The closing scenes of disaster movies like Wall•E or 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow, are often brimming with optimism. Things have gone very badly, but as the runtime draws to an end, triumphant music begins to play beneath the visuals as the survivors emerge into the dawn of a new day. These lucky few have not only made it through the catastrophe, they’ve finally learned from all their mistakes. Though there will be a lot of work to do, the outlook is all positive.

After more than a year aboard, it was time for the survivors to leave their floating home. Coming off the ark they must have wondered what sort of world awaited them. What comes next? Were they going to be placed into a new Garden, like their ancestors Adam and Eve had been? What role would sin play in this new world? After all, hadn’t God washed all the wickedness away and weren’t Noah and his family called righteous by God? Noah had approached God as a sinner, bringing a blood sacrifice in his thanksgiving offering in the last passage, but only God knew what the new arrangement would be and He had indicated that He was going to make some changes.

In our text, God explains that, despite the cleansing effect of the flood, sin would continue to spread through the earth. Terrible violence would return and we humans would have the responsibility – among other things – of keeping that violence in check. And so, in Genesis 9, the foundations of government are established. At the same time, a world of opportunity is presented to the Faithful 8. Best of all, God reveals an unlimited and ongoing covenant of His powerful grace.

Genesis 9:1 – God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.

It would have been enough to survive the flood, but God goes further. He blesses Noah’s family. The Christian life it not just about last-minute survival – meaning it’s not just about escaping hell and getting into heaven. That is, of course, the most eternally significant, but walking with God is a blessed life. We see it in Genesis. We see it in the Law, in Psalms, in Proverbs, in the Beatitudes, in the Epistles, in the Revelation. God’s power and purposes and prescriptions are for every aspect of your life so that you might be full of His blessing (which isn’t the same thing as material abundance that is so often pursued in this world). Jesus explained what blessing means in His Sermon on the Mount. It means that we will receive the Kingdom and inherit the earth. We’ll receive comfort and we’ll see God. We’ll be filled and shown mercy. Compile the references in Scripture about the blessed believer and you find that God wants these blessings to permeate your heart, your relationships, your family, your endeavors, all that you do. Even when life is hard, resources are few, bodies are sick, or enemies surround, God’s blessing is available to those who follow Him.

The Lord repeats the directives He gave to Adam and Eve: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. For these 4 couples, this was an awesome responsibility – a lot was riding on their shoulders. But, as usual, God’s commands reveal things about Himself. First: that He would be involved in continually protecting and sustaining humanity. Second: that He loves for His people to be fruitful and leave a Godly mark on the earth. That’s still His desire, by the way, that you be fruitful and fill the earth with spiritual children by being a part of this huge disciple project in the Church age.

Though the directive was very similar to what Adam and Eve had received, this time around there were a few caveats.

Genesis 9:2 – 2 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.

Some commentators believe that, before the flood, humans had a much more direct ability to rule the animals. But now God is signaling that things have changed. Because of sin, this new world was going to be one that was full of fear, contention, conflict, and death. Animals would now fear men. Scientists point out that even apex predators, with all their immense strength and ferocity, fear man. And verse 3 gives one reason why:

Genesis 9:3 – 3 Every creature that lives and moves will be food for you; as I gave the green plants, I have given you everything.

For over 1,000 years, men had been vegetarians. Or, at least the Godly people had been. Now, there was nothing off the table and, in fact, meat would be a necessary part of the food pyramid.

Now, remember: The original audience of Genesis was the Children of Israel. Moses would give this book along with the rest of the Law, which would demand quite a few dietary restrictions. One might thing, “Wait a minute! If Noah could eat any animal, why can’t I?”

God dealt with people in different ways at different times. We call these periods “dispensations.” This is why you are not only allowed to eat shellfish today, but you also don’t have to bring a lamb to church for ritual sacrifice.

There’s a personal application here as well: Sometimes God may ask us to submit to certain restrictions for a period of time. Maybe it has to do with your personal liberties as a Christian. Maybe it has to do with dreams you have about what you want to happen in your life. Other times, God does not impose those restrictions. For example: In Matthew 10 Jesus sent out His disciples to preach with no traveling bag, no money in their pockets, without even a second shirt. But, in Matthew 28, Jesus sends them out again with no such restrictions. It is our duty as children of God and servants in His household to seek His will for us today. Tomorrow, things may be different, but what is the Master’s directive today?

Genesis 9:4 – 4 However, you must not eat meat with its lifeblood in it.

Blood in meat is a significant Biblical issue. It appears here and under the Law, in the time of the kings, and then again in the book of Acts. A careful reader of Scripture will have to, at some point, ask whether it’s ok for us to eat a piece of meat cooked rare!

First, that red liquid coming out of your steak isn’t blood, it’s myoglobin. The animal has already been drained. What about that perfect slice of sushi? I was surprised to learn that raw fish has long been considered kosher by the Rabbis of Israel as long as the fish itself was on the approved list.

More importantly, the New Testament clearly explains that nothing that goes into your mouth can defile you. Jesus said so. Paul reiterated that nothing is unclean to eat in and of itself.

But let’s look at this another way. Given the strong prohibitions on the eating of blood throughout the Old Testament, imagine how startling and controversial it would have been to hear Jesus say: “The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.” Why this image?

You and I are called into a living communion with God our Creator, not some ritualistic arrangement, drained of all the life. No, we are to consume ourselves with the Person of Jesus Christ, making His life our life. His mind our mind. His heart our heart. With His blood washing over all of us, head to toe, bearing away our sin and then going on, day by day, feeding on Him for life.

Genesis 9:5-6 – 5 And I will require a penalty for your lifeblood; I will require it from any animal and from any human; if someone murders a fellow human, I will require that person’s life. 6 Whoever sheds human blood, by humans his blood will be shed, for God made humans in his image.

God keeps track of every single human life. In fact, the Bible tells us that God keeps track of every living thing, even the life and death of the sparrows. But, to Him, human life is so important that it must be preserved, protected, and paid back life-for-life in the case of murder.

Capital punishment is a sensitive and controversial issue. Most Americans now oppose the death penalty. Among Christians there seems to be a growing hostility toward it. In December of 2020, Relevant Magazine published an article titled, “All Christians Should Oppose The Death Penalty.”

The application of the death penalty is a complicated issue worthy of discussion. But at the level of principle, capital punishment is God-given and God-sanctioned. We see it here, we see it under the Law, and we even see Paul the apostle supporting it, not only in Romans 13 but also when it came to his own criminal case!

God hates murder and He’s very serious about it. He doesn’t condone vigilantism and it’s not that He never allows mercy for murderers (He did in many cases), but, on the principle level, at the societal level, He requires that we value human life so much that if a person purposefully takes a life, everything stops. Their life must be taken as the required payment. It doesn’t matter who the killer is – whether they’re rich or poor, powerful or unimportant, stranger or brother. All were to be held to this standard because every singly human life is of infinite value to God.

The same is not true for animals. God said to Noah, “You’re gonna start killing animals and eating them.” No death penalty for a bbq. Sadly, in today’s world, we’ve cheapened human life so much that our culture argues over whether animals and humans are of equal worth. Back in 2016, a little toddler fell into an exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. Harambe, a silverback gorilla, picked the boy up and started dragging him around. As the situation escalated, zoo officials made the decision to shoot Harambe and the child was saved. Then came the outcry. Petitions were started to have the child’s parents charged. A Facebook page called Justice For Harambe quickly gathered 150,000 members. One of them wrote: “Shooting an endangered animal is worse than murder.”

Biblically speaking, human life is unlike any other life on the planet. It is so valuable that God Himself left heaven, put on flesh, and died for us so that we would have the chance to be saved. And when a society wantonly allows guilty, unrepentant killers to live, it is a wicked rebellion against God and an abhorrent insult to His justice. God is keeping track and requires payment.

Now, having heard God say these things, I suppose Noah might have said, “But, Lord, we’re not going to kill anyone!” Maybe not, but God was explaining that humans are natural born killers. Therefore, we need some level of government to keep our violent hatred in check.

Genesis 9:7 – 7 But you, be fruitful and multiply; spread out over the earth and multiply on it.”

The context is that the world would soon be full of death, bloodshed, murder, savagery. But God’s people did not need to cower or hide away or be frightened of what lay ahead. They were set apart by God to live a life full of His grace and power and blessing.

Sometimes people ask whether Christians should bring children into such a terrible world. The world has always been terrible. God keeps us here – for now – to be salt and light. Christian author and musician Andrew Peterson has a great book title: Adorning The Dark. We’re the light of this dark world. We’re the ones with real life. We’re the ones with real hope. Does God want you, specifically, to have kids? That’s between you and Him. Does God want His people generally to continue to be fruitful and raise families? And make this world salty? Absolutely!

Genesis 9:8-10 – 8 Then God said to Noah and his sons with him, 9 “Understand that I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you—birds, livestock, and all wildlife of the earth that are with you—all the animals of the earth that came out of the ark.

Where I read “understand” in verse 9, your version may have “Behold.” God wants to be known and He was His Word to be understood. He’s going to use the word ‘covenant’ 7 times in these 10 verses. He calls it “My covenant.” It was His idea. It wasn’t developed as a response to some complaint from mankind. It was born out of His grace and compassion and love for us. Apparently right now the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees is preparing to go on strike and shut down Hollywood productions because of long hours and low pay. They’re hoping to force the powers that be at companies like Disney and Netflix and Amazon to comply with their wishes. There will have to be talks and negotiations and compromises leading to a new contract. That’s not what God’s covenants are like. It’s His idea. What was the covenant?

Genesis 9:11 – 11 I establish my covenant with you that never again will every creature be wiped out by floodwaters; there will never again be a flood to destroy the earth.”

God looked through history and said, “Things are going to get really bad. Even though sin will spread and violence will saturate the earth, even the Nephilim will return. Even still I will not again destroy the world with a flood.” This is, by the way, another nail in the coffin of the theory that the flood was local rather than global. If the flood was local, God is a liar. There have been many deadly floods throughout history. In 2004, The Boxing Day tsunami killed over 200,000 people across thousands of miles and a dozen countries in just a few hours. The flood was global.

Genesis 9:12-17 – 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all future generations: 13 I have placed my bow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I form clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all the living creatures: water will never again become a flood to destroy every creature. 16 The bow will be in the clouds, and I will look at it and remember the permanent covenant between God and all the living creatures on earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and every creature on earth.”

The symbol of the rainbow has, of course, been hijacked in our culture. But, what an incredible, tender thing God did in giving us this sign of His promise. Think of it: any in raincloud on any day in any place any person can look up and see a visual representation of God’s mercy. A proof that He exists and that He is full of grace. That mercy is available to anyone who will drop to their knees and ask Him for it. God wants so badly for this message to get out that He hard-coded it into creation. You can go into your front yard tomorrow, turn on your hose and make your own rainbow at will. God has filled the earth with the proclamation of His mercy. And here He reminds us that He is not only a promise maker, He is a promise keeper. That’s the important thing. And He has the power to keep His promises.

Notice, too, where He says: “Whenever I form clouds over the earth.” Do we realize just how involved God is in our lives? A sparrow doesn’t fall to earth without His consent. He forms clouds in the Hanford sky. He measures the shores and gives boundaries to the oceans. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. He numbers your hairs. He has written your days in His book. He bottles your tears. He whispers to your heart, “Follow Me. Receive My mercy. Discover new life in Christ so that you can be full of fruit and so you can thrive in this world.” He values you so much! Your life is precious beyond compare to Him.

This God wants to walk with you through life. He’s invited you to follow Him. He wants you to know His word and know His heart and He wants to bless you with every spiritual blessing, lavished on those who put their hope in Him, sent into the world to be salt and light until we’re brought to our forever home in Heaven.

God’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Jesus (John 1:1-5)

“Call me Ishmael”

You at once recognize the first sentence of Moby Dick. How about these famous literary first sentences:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” (A Tale of Two Cities).
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Pride & Prejudice).

I submit to you that the most significant opening words ever written in the history of mankind are “In the beginning, God…”

You instantly recognize the opening words of the Book of Genesis. It should therefore come as a shock that the apostle John opened his Gospel using these sacred words.

Shockingly, John added to the words. He said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

He explains that God was not alone when the world was created. Someone else was there with God, a Person called “the Word.”
He claims this Person is equal with God.
John will go on to explain in verse fourteen that this Person Who was with God and is equal to God came from Heaven to Earth as a man. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

If the first line is a hook, John has us hook, line, and sinker.

I’ll organize my comments around two points derived from the text: #1 The Word Gives You Life, and #2 The Word Gives You Light.

#1 – The Word Gives You Life (v1-4)

Ninety-three percent of what John records does not occur in any of the other gospels.

Ten chapters are devoted to describing one week of Jesus’ ministry.
One-third of the verses in the book cover a single twenty-four-hour period in the life of Jesus.

D.A. Carson writes, “[Unique to the Gospel of John is] all of the material in chapters two, three, and four, including His miraculous transformation of water into wine, His dialogue with Nicodemus, and His ministry in Samaria. Further, the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus’ frequent visits to Jerusalem, and His extended dialogues or discourses in the Temple and in various synagogues, not to mention much of His private instruction to His disciples, are all exclusive to the Fourth Gospel.”

John informs us why the Holy Spirit inspired him to put quill to parchment. It is “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31).

Do you have “life in His Name?”

“Yes,” you say? The Gospel of John will give you a greater appreciation for eternal life, both now and forever.

“No,” you say? The inspired account of Jesus will draw you to Him so that you may believe and be saved.

Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

If I said, “The force be with you,” odds are you’d know I was referring to the well-known metaphysical power certain individuals channel in the Star Wars universe.

“Word” was a well-known religious concept to both Gentiles and Jews. Learned men used it to try to describe creative spiritual power.

Gentiles referred to “the Word” as the impersonal power that created and controlled the universe.
Jews thought of “the Word” as the creative power of YHWH. Psalm 33:9, for example, says that at the Creation, “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.”

John explains that the Word is not a power of God but another Person Who is God.

We hold to the Doctrine of the Trinity. We are Trinitarians. One definition of our Trinitarian beliefs goes like this:

The Bible teaches that there is one eternal God who is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He is the only God that exists. However, within the nature of this one God are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three Persons are co-equal and co-eternal. They are also distinguishable or distinct from one another. These three distinct Persons are the one God. Everything that is true about God is true about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

All attempts to explain the Trinity with some analogy miserably fail.

Apologist Don Stewart writes, “It is best to admit that the Trinity has no analogy with which we can compare it.”

The Bible beyond doubt teaches that God is Triune. It is, however, a lot to wrap our finite minds around. There may, therefore, be times when you hear me misspeak about the Trinity or seem to struggle to be sure I don’t misspeak. No worries. I assure you that we are orthodox.

The fact that God, Who is One, is more than One is discoverable in the word Moses chose for God.

The word for God in the first verse of the Bible is Elohim. Scholars agree that Elohim is a plural term being used to describe an individual. God is One but more than One.

Here are two more quick things for your consideration:

In verse two of Genesis chapter one, we see the Spirit, another Person Who is God.

In Genesis 2:26, God refers to Himself plurally, saying out loud, “Let us make man in our image.”

The first verses of the Bible might not be enough to establish the Trinity fully. They are sufficient to suggest there was more than one Person at Creation. John will identify that Second Person.

The choice of the word “was” communicates that the Word pre-existed. Since He “was” already there “in the beginning,” then He was there before Creation. He was not created but is eternal.

“With” is another loaded word. Leon Morris said, “We should understand from the preposition [“with”] the two ideas of accompaniment and relationship.
Not only did the Word exist “in the beginning,” but He existed in the closest possible connection with the Father.” The Word was equal “with” YHWH.

“And the Word was God.”

Another quote I jotted down: “John is not merely saying that there is something divine about the Word. He is affirming that He is God, and doing so emphatically.”

The Jews thought the Word was a power that YHWH possessed. It was not a person to them, let alone a person who was God.

BTW: The Jehovah’s Witnesses that knock on your door have their version of the Bible. In it, the opening line of the Gospel of John reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God.” Not God, a god who God created. You don’t need to know Greek grammar or see existing manuscripts to know and show this is false. The Word cannot be both created and Creator.

Why call this Second Person “the Word?” In just a few verses, we will read, “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like” (1:18 CEV).

Words reveal unseen thoughts. The Word reveals the unseen God.

Joh 1:2  He was in the beginning with God.

The Word “was” there eternally, “with God,” and He created the world as an equal.

It is difficult for non-Jews to comprehend the explosive nature of John’s declarations.

Jews consider this polytheism – the worship of many gods.

Jews daily repeat the Shema, which was their essential confession of faith. We find it in the fifth book of the Bible:

Deu 6:4  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
Deu 6:5  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Deu 6:6  “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
Deu 6:7  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Deu 6:8  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
Deu 6:9  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

“The LORD our God, the LORD” is a translation of Jehovah Elohim Jehovah. The Scripture used to argue against plurality uses the plural, Elohim.

Joh 1:3  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Only God can create from nothing. The Word is not the force, not the power, YHWH possessed to create. The Word is Himself the Creator with YHWH.

John was not adding anything to the Genesis account. It had always indicated more than one Person.

The learned Jews missed something that was right there in the verse. Let’s talk about that for a moment. We all need to acknowledge we can miss things in the Bible even when they are clearly stated. I’ll give you an example using spiritual gifts.

We’ve shown Pentecostals in the Bible where the apostle Paul clearly states, “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries” (First Corinthians 14:2). They go right on interpreting their utterances as messages from God to men.
Cessationists are on the other end of the spiritual gifts spectrum. They deny certain charismatic gifts can exist today; they say they have ceased. Quoting Paul again, “I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification” (First Corinthians 14:5).

Just because we keep hearing something, it doesn’t make it true. We must always let the text speak in its context.

Back to our text…

Joh 1:4  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

In the Word “was life” means He gave life to Creation, especially to Adam and Eve, breathing into Adam and then creating Eve from Adam’s side.

The light God gave our original parents might have caused them to be radiant.

God is light, and we’re told He dwells in unapproachable light (First Timothy 6:16).

The psalms mention that God covers Himself in light (104:2). Psalms 50:2 says, “From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.”

Someone who has God’s “life” has His “light.” We know that we will be raised from the dead or raptured in a glorious body in the future. If it is anything like Jesus’ resurrection body, we will shine.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus shined in His glory.

Recall also that whenever Moses met with God, he would return glowing.

A Messianic resource said, “There are traditions from both Jewish and Christian sources that teach that before the fall, the skin of Adam and Eve was luminous. In other words, they were “covered” by divine light and would ‘glow’ so to speak.”

Another commentator wrote,

I believe, before the fall of man, that Adam and Eve also glowed with the glory of God through their mortal flesh, just like Moses. When they sinned, the glory was removed and, “they knew they were naked.” They could obviously see they were physically naked before; nothing changed there. There is the possibility that God’s glory was removed and they shone no more. They could see they were naked, i.e., without the glory of God encompassing them.

The “Us” of “Let Us make man in our image did “good.” It didn’t last. Satan, the sin-sick-sin-serpent, tempted our parents. Their sin affected all life and light, plunging them and Creation into spiritual death and darkness.

Not to worry. Here light comes to save the day!

#2 – The Word Gives You Light (v5)

I almost experienced utter darkness. It was right up in our Sequoia National Forrest at Boyden Cavern.

The guide takes you in and, at one point, extinguishes his light, leaving you momentarily in a palpable darkness. It’s a highlight of the tour.

Unless, of course, you’re on the tour with the family who thinks it’s OK for their kid to be wearing light-up sneakers and keep slamming his feet down.

Joh 1:5  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

It must have been terrifying for Adam and Eve to lose the light of God and instantly be plunged into spiritual darkness. It was enough to make them hide from their gracious God.

How are we to understand darkness? Genesis can help us get a handle on it. The very next account in Genesis after the Fall is the murder of Abel by his brother, Cain.

Not too many generations later, fallen angels married and mated with human women. It produced a race of giants called Nephilim. The corruption of human DNA became so widespread that God destroyed everyone on Earth with the global flood.

Except for eight souls – Noah and his family. Noah was “perfect in his generations” (6:9). The words might be referring to his unaffected DNA. Noah, through his children, would pass on perfect DNA to restore humankind.

Not long after the flood came the Tower of Babel. Mankind started building a ziggurat (tower) from which to worship the stars and planets.

These episodes are the result of the fall in the Garden of Eden. They are indicative of spiritual darkness. Mankind has a heart of darkness, and we see the horror that ensues.

If I said, “The world is a dark place,” you’d know what I mean and probably agree with me. (Unless you are Drax; then you’d argue that there are lights on everywhere).

Light defeats darkness.

Of course, the ratio of light to darkness matters.

If I light a stick match in Boyden Cavern, the light will prevail only in a limited area. A flashlight beam will show me more.

There was a guy in San Bernardino who bought the surplus military spotlights to rent out for events. Those things could blind you. Get something like that into the Cavern and light would chase out the dark.

It would require a pretty awesome light to overcome the darkness in every corner of Creation. Good thing the Word is light of immeasurable magnitude.

Satan is called “the ruler of this world” (Second Corinthians 4:4). Satanic forces are called “the rulers of the darkness of this age” (Ephesians 6:12).

The Word came into the world He created to “shine in the darkness.” In verses seven, eight, and nine, John will tell us that the Word “was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.”

When it says “the darkness did not comprehend it,” the International Standard Version (ISV) says, “the darkness has never put it out.” The Message version (MSG) says, “it couldn’t put it out.”

We just finished thirty-four studies in The Revelation. We saw the light prevail over darkness. So much so that in eternity there is no physical or spiritual darkness. Only day, never night; never wrong, only right.

I might change my mind. Earlier I said that the opening words of Genesis were the most significant opening words ever written in the history of mankind. John 1:1 is right up there.

We are calling this series, “He loved me; He loves me lots.”

The Word, Jesus, is God Who loved you before Creation.

The Word, Jesus, is God in human flesh Who came to make you His new creature before He restores Creation.

You and I “are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (Second Corinthians 3:3).

What are the opening words of your letter to the world thus far?

Maybe it’s time for editing, or a rewrite.