Brothers In Arms (Genesis 14:1-16)

In 1991, José Basulto – a CIA trained political dissident – founded Brothers To The Rescue. They sought to liberate Cubans oppressed by the tyrannical Castro regime. It its early years, Brothers To The Rescue focused on saving rafters who were trying to float to Florida – a trip that was often lethal. After US immigration policy shifted, no longer giving shelter to Cuban refugees, Brothers To The Rescue pivoted to become more confrontational against the Cuban government, dropping pro-democracy leaflets into Havana. The struggle came to a head in 1996 when a Cuban Air Force MiG shot down two Brothers To The Rescue planes, killing the 4 rescue workers aboard. José Basulto has said, “Everyone has a mission in life…we were hunting to save lives.”

In our text tonight we see brothers going into battle, not with a desire to kill, but a desire to save lives. It’s a rescue that happens because a Believer is there and is ready to be used by God. It’s a daring mission. Abraham puts his life on the line to save those who don’t deserve saving. And, through his example, we’re able to learn precious things about our own walk with the Lord.

Genesis 14:1-4 – In those days King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goiim 2 waged war against King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, and King Shemeber of Zeboiim, as well as the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All of these came as allies to the Siddim Valley (that is, the Dead Sea). 4 They were subject to Chedorlaomer for twelve years, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

This is the first recorded war in the Bible. We see an alliance of 5 kings from the land of Palestine rebel against Chedorlaomer. He ruled in what we now call Iran. He gathered up a coalition of 3 other kings from the east. We can identify Shinar as modern day Iraq.

The city-states of Palestine were under his thumb for more than a decade. Whether due to his distance (Chedorlaomer’s kingdom was hundreds of miles aways) or that they thought they were strong enough to defend themselves, they decided to rebel. At first it seemed like the plan worked. A year went by with no consequences, then another. But Chedorlaomer was simply gearing up.

Genesis 14:5-7 – 5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6 and the Horites in the mountains of Seir, as far as El-paran by the wilderness. 7 Then they came back to invade En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they defeated the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-tamar.

Chedorlaomer was not to be trifled with. This campaign became an unstoppable flood of brutality and destruction, not just in 4 or 5 cities, but throughout entire regions.

Dr. Nelson Glueck was a leading biblical archaeologist in the 20th century. His work led to the discovery of 1,500 ancient sites, including those being discussed in this passage. Here are a few of his comments about what they found:

“[These] civilization(s)…had flourished…till [they were] savagely liquidated by the kings of the east…they gutted every city and village…from southern Syria through all of Trans-Jordan and the Negev to Kadesh-Barnea in Sinai. The rebellion of the small kings…was brutally crushed. This comparatively minor insurrection was…utilized as a pretext to settle old scores and to raid and ravage with unleashed ferocity…I found that every village in their path had been plundered and left in ruins, and the countryside laid waste. For hundreds of years thereafter, the entire area was like an abandoned cemetery, hideously unkempt.”

To grasp just how powerful this fighting force was, take note of verse 5: They defeated the Rephaim. Remember those guys? They were a race of monstrous giants that we talked about back in Genesis chapter 6. They also brought down the Horites. They lived in “the inaccessible [and] virtually impregnable fortresses and rock cities” in the mountains. But all were swept away.

This should plant two ideas in our minds: First, the power of providence. Abraham was there, in the midst of this region. He had no walls or citadels. He lived in a tent, out in the open. He had no chariots, no war elephants. And yet, despite the crumbing of kingdoms, we see him safe and sound, secured by the power of God – shielded in the Lord’s providential plan.

Second, we should realize just how strong a foe Abraham would be facing. Chedorlaomer was no blustering windbag. We’re talking about giant killers who were crushing whole peoples at will.

Genesis 14:8-9 – 8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and lined up for battle in the Siddim Valley 9 against King Chedorlaomer of Elam, King Tidal of Goiim, King Amraphel of Shinar, and King Arioch of Ellasar—four kings against five.

As they saw the fight approaching, the five kings of Palestine picked a spot to stand their ground. It seems they did so for a particular reason.

Genesis 14:10 – 10 Now the Siddim Valley contained many asphalt pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, but the rest fled to the mountains.

They thought their asphalt pits would serve as protection, but they ended up being pitfalls. The words suggest that two of the kings themselves fell into a sticky grave, along with many others. That which was meant to be a defense became a snare. This happens to human beings, not just in battles like this one, but in the course of life. We’re warned by God about this very danger. Psalm 106 talks about the danger of mingling together with the nations. Not just being around unbelievers, there’s no way to avoid that, but adopting the ways of the world. It says:

Psalm 106:36 – [The people of God] served [the] idols [of the nations], which became a snare to them.

This is a spiritual principle that we should take to heart. Wealth does not make us secure. Worldly systems don’t make us secure. It is the love of God that covers us like a mother hen keeping her chicks under her wings. He is our Refuge and Strength. Sadly, Lot and his family are a historical object lesson that drives home this principle.

Genesis 14:11-12 – 11 The four kings took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food and went on. 12 They also took Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, for he was living in Sodom, and they went on.

Last time we saw Lot we were told he set up his tent “near” Sodom. Now we see he was living in the city. He had become one of them, very friendly with these desperately wicked people – and not just with them but with their way of life. And so, he was swept away. Even though it doesn’t seem like he actively joined the fight. He was at home while they were battling it out. But he had thrown in with these guys instead of staying under the providential protection of God, and the result was disaster.

After weeks of uninterrupted victory, the kings from the east took something they shouldn’t have: Lot. I was watching a Wheel Of Fortune clip the other day. The guy was on a streak. In a single turn he had racked up over $30,000 and decided to go for one more spin only to hit bankrupt and lose it all. These kings are going to experience the same thing – along with violent assault, of course.

Genesis 14:13 – 13 One of the survivors came and told Abram the Hebrew, who lived near the oaks belonging to Mamre the Amorite, the brother of Eshcol and the brother of Aner. They were bound by a treaty with Abram.

Whether sent by Lot or God’s grace, either way here’s something to consider: Abraham was the kind of man you could run to for help. He was no Ebenezer Scrooge. He would take you in.

We find him still living by this forest where he had settled down in the last chapter. And here we discover that Mamre isn’t a place, he’s a person. Abraham had made an alliance with him and his two brothers.

Now, for all that’s going on in this chapter, verse 13 by itself is packed with all kinds of things to think about. First of all it says, “the oaks belonging to Mamre.” But did they? God Himself had told Abraham more than once that all that land belonged to him. Abraham had to live as a guest in his own inheritance. He had to ask permission to live there. Again we see him being a man who did not demand his own rights as he walked with God. He trusted God and he understood that what he was really hoping for wasn’t going to be found on this side of eternity, but on the other side. Though it was all his by Divine decree, he chose to live as a pilgrim and not pout about it.

As Christians, we’ve been made many promises by God. Some of those promises deal with the here and now and many deal with the not yet. Hebrews talks about them being things we see from a distance. That better reality, the perfection of the heavenly city, is being prepared for us. Meanwhile, though we’re not there yet, we are to consider that place our true homeland. We are temporary residents on the earth, always mindful of the end of the story and where we’re headed.

Verse 13 also gives us the first use of the term “Hebrew.” For as important as this word is, there isn’t agreement on what it exactly means. There are two main theories. One is that it refers to the sons of Eber – the great-grandson of Shem. Remember: Genesis is the story of God narrowing His focus to select a particular line of people from whom would come the Messiah. Shem is the son of Noah that God chose to use for this purpose. The name ‘Hebrew’ might be highlighting that lineage.

The other theory is that the word ‘Hebrew’ is related to a verb that means “immigrant,” or, “one who crosses over.” Both ideas are telling as we study Abraham’s life. In this context, the word reminds us that Abraham was not an Amorite, or an Elamite. He’s not a Sodomite or a Gomorron. He is something different – a man called out by God, living a life in view of God and directed by God.

On top of all this, verse 13 reveals that Abraham made an alliance with these 3 Amorite brothers. In later Hebrew history, this would be a no-no. But God had not given any such prohibition from what we can tell. It gives us a sense of how Abraham conducted himself as a Believer in an unbelieving world. He did not assimilate as Lot had, but he also didn’t isolate himself. John Phillips says he was “separated, not secluded.” That’s the tension we’re supposed to live in. God doesn’t want us to go live in an isolated commune or monastery. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5 that we’re going to be associating with unbelievers, but our goal is to bring them into the family of God, not be conformed into the image of the world. We don’t need to recoil constantly, but grow in love.

So, Abraham brings in this escapee. Here’s what happens next.

Genesis 14:14 – 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken prisoner, he assembled his 318 trained men, born in his household, and they went in pursuit as far as Dan.

Why did Abraham get involved? I’m sure he had heard news of the widespread attacks. Maybe he even saw the smoke rising as he looked out from his tent. In the end we must conclude he was motivated by the Holy Spirit to get involved, but the reason given is that he “heard his relative had been taken.”

This gives us another insight into how Abraham lived in but not of the world. He wasn’t an interventionist. He didn’t go looking for ways to assert himself. He didn’t make it his business to go to war because he knew better than others. The nations of the world duking it out really had nothing to do with him. But once Lot was involved – the literal term there used is brother – then Abraham got involved. And he got involved in a big way. Moses uses vivid language for where we read assembled (or your version may say armed). Abraham emptied out his men. He unsheathed them. He held nothing back, even strapping on a sword himself. And in this we see the kind of moral courage God can fill our hearts with. For the sake of one brother (and his family), Abraham risked everything. The three Amorite brothers joined in because of their treaty with him, but it wasn’t their idea – even though the whole territory their people had suffered the same fate. They were content to let their kinsman suffer and die, as long as they were safe in the forest.

Consider for a moment what this verse reveals about the size of Abraham’s estate. He had 318 battle-ready, male servants. This is a huge household. It’s like a small city. And, not only were they willing to risk big to try to save those held captive, they also put forth a serious effort. They marched 120 miles in pursuit. That’s the distance from us to Monterey, as the crow flies. Their mission was not revenge, but rescue. At the same time, we see that Abraham recognized there would be no negotiating with Chedorlaomer. No diplomacy. Sometimes evil needs to be contended with personally and without compromise, giving no quarter.

Genesis 14:15-16 – 15 And he and his servants deployed against them by night, defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah to the north of Damascus. 16 He brought back all the goods and also his relative Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the other people.

It was God’s victory. That’s made clear in the next passage. But Abraham was the agent of rescue. This is like the work God sends us out to do – rescuing people from the kingdom of darkness and showing them the Light of the Gospel.

We see here the tender mercy of God and how it filled Abraham’s heart. Lot was getting what he deserved, right? As the great Augustus McCrae said, “You ride with an outlaw, you die with an outlaw.” Thank God for His mercy. We – all of us – are outlaws, worthy to be swept away in the wrath of God. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love for us made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace. Therefore, since we have been shown mercy, we do not give up. We live on, renouncing sin and proclaiming the truth, letting light shine in the darkness, and allowing the power of God to operate in and through our lives.

Not only do we see the mercy of God in the way Abraham saved Lot, but in how he saved all the others, too. These pagan Sodomites and Amorites. These people who were strangers to Abraham still had value to God. God loved them, even though they were lost. And though He would soon judge them for refusing to turn from their sin, we see Him here reaching out with mercy and grace and help in their time of need.

As we close and think of application from this passage, there’s a good question we can each ask ourselves: Are you ready to be unsheathed by the Master? These 318 men had a lot of different jobs in Abraham’s house. And, even though Abraham was no mercenary, he still prepped himself and these servants to be ready to do battle if need be. Each one of them knew how to handle a sword and were ready to be poured out when the moment came. They did not cower or flinch.

Of course, the weapons of our warfare are not physical, they are spiritual. Our sword is the Word of God. Do we know how to use it? Are we training ourselves to understand what God has said? And are we ready to be called upon by God to be brothers and sisters to the rescue? Pouring ourselves out that others might be saved? We can be. It’s what God wants. And we want what God wants.

Home Is Where The Lord Is (Genesis 13)

We live in an area where people love to talk about where they want to live other than here. The Central Valley seems to be one of the fountainheads of the #calexit mentality, as people see greener pastures in states to the east. I’m guessing a sizable number of people in this room have either known friends who have left or have personally contemplated moving.

Where you live matters, in a lot of different ways. And, it’s true, some places are nicer than others. Some places are more affordable than others. Some have a greater saturation of sinfulness than others. There are many factors that go through our minds when it comes to deciding this important issue. And, if you are one of the many people thinking about a longterm plan to leave California for one oasis or another, I’m not going to say that you’re not allowed to pursue that desire. I will say that God definitely has an opinion on where you live. He has countless providential intentions for your life. And He knows all of the factors of the where, when, who, and how that will shape your life. He knows what influences will enhance your life for your good and His glory and which influences will corrupt your life, your family, and your testimony.

The story of Abraham is about God drawing a family to Himself and teaching them to not only understand His ways, but to follow in those ways. This is the same life of faith we’re to live out as Christians today. Where God wants us to live is a significant part of that.

Luckily, the Bible presents us with detailed accounts of real people who were working through these very same issues and it shows us what made the difference between fatal disaster and fantastic development.

Of course, in a broader our text tonight is about more than just where you live. It gives us insight into how to answer the question of “What’s next for my life?” How should I continue, whether I’m packing up or staying put? These are important questions, so let’s take a look at God’s opinions.

Genesis 13:1 – Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev—he, his wife, and all he had, and Lot with him.

We saw Abraham’s disastrous trip down to Egypt and how, while trying to escape a famine, he got caught up in compromise. Now he’s making the very same trip but in reverse.

We get hints of some relational things going on here: First, Sarah is once again called his wife. In Egypt he had forgotten his duty as a husband and had used her as a bargaining chip. I’m sure their relationship had some sore spots, but things were back as they should be. We also see Lot listed, almost as a tag-along. “Abraham, his wife, all he had…oh and Lot, too.”

Genesis 13:2 – 2 Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold.

Jesus said it is very difficult for rich people to follow God, but it isn’t impossible. It’s easy to take on a doctrinal mentality which says that poverty is automatically piety and wealth is automatically wicked. That isn’t true. It is true that wealth is very dangerous. We’re warned again and again about how it can take hold of our hearts and our attention and how it can drive us away from God – just look at the Rich Young Ruler. But material abundance isn’t automatically an evil thing. To the contrary, material abundance can be used in wonderful ways for the Lord’s work.

Bob Edmiston is Great Britain’s first, vocally Christian billionaire. As an evangelical, he recognizes that we are called to spread the Gospel. And so, since 1998, he has donated over $150,000,000 to organizations, like Christian Vision – which he founded – which has presented the Gospel to more than 38 million people worldwide.

Now, for every Bob, there are probably many Christians who have decided to pursue wealth at the cost of their faith. They gave up serving or giving or growing in the Lord because the overtime pay was too good or some other financial reason. The heart is the issue and what that wealth does to your relationship with Jesus that matters, not whether you have it or not.

Genesis 13:3-4 – 3 He went by stages from the Negev to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had formerly been, 4 to the site where he had built the altar. And Abram called on the name of the Lord there.

Abraham goes back to the very place where he had previously been in personal communion with God. It’s a picture of repentance. Going to Egypt was wrong. Coming to this altar, he recognizes that God had not failed him, but he had left God. And he recognizes that he needs cleansing the covering by the holiness of God and he recognizes that God will receive him back, just as before.

This was quite a trip – more than 400 miles. To give you perspective, if you walked to Tijuana you’d still have 100 miles to go! But Abraham was willing to go the distance because this was where he belonged. As we read the story, we see his change of heart. In chapter 12 his focus was on grass for his flocks. Now, what is his attention on? The altar. Notice: There’s no discussion here of the famine or where his sheep are going to eat. All he cares about is getting back to Bethel. And – what a surprise – when he’s in close relationship to the Lord, the famine is no longer a factor for him.

Genesis 13:5 – 5 Now Lot, who was traveling with Abram, also had flocks, herds, and tents.

We get the sense that there is a growing independence in the mind of Lot. He’s got his own thing going. He has separated out his own stuff, his own interests. These two men are in the same place, both wealthy, but we’ll see the hearts are radically different. The mindsets are poles apart.

Genesis 13:6-7 – 6 But the land was unable to support them as long as they stayed together, for they had so many possessions that they could not stay together, 7 and there was quarreling between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. (At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the land.)

Bruce Waltke points out that in the previous chapter, Abraham had all sorts of difficulty because of the lack brought about by the famine. But here, there’s tension and difficulty because of material abundance. What that tells us is that it isn’t our circumstances that determine our spiritual health. Paul specifically taught that our spiritual wellness is independent from worldly events or our state of affairs. In abundance or in lack we are able to commune with God and grow with Him and do His will. It’s a matter of obedience and proper perspective on our part.

This quarreling also drives home an important truth: Things are not always better when you have more. Their great abundance was causing relational problems where there hadn’t been before.

We’re given that note about the Canaanites and Perizzites at the end. It’s possible that these people controlled all the good grazing spots and water in the area, leaving Abraham and Lot just scraps to work with. But it’s also possible that this family quarrel had become very public and was being watched by the unbelievers in the region. In fact, in later parts of the Bible, the word used for “quarreling” is used for legal disputes.

When Christian disagreements spill out into the public it is a very damaging thing. Because it destroys the testimony God wants to share through you. As Abraham met people, he would’ve said, “I’m new here. The One True God has called me out of all others to be the father of a new nation through whom all the world will be blessed.”

“Uh-huh. Is that your herdsman fist-fighting with your nephew’s herdsman there in the pasture?”

Testimony and disputes are still very real factors in our Christian lives. We’re going to find ourselves in them from time to time. That’s normal and – in some cases – it’s beneficial. Read what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11. But when Christians fight about material things, like we’re seeing these herdsmen doing here, it is a terrible blight on the name of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul rebukes the church there for their selfish, public quarreling. He says, “How dare you take these disputes in front of unbelievers!” The Christian life is not defined by constantly demanding our rights, but laying down ourselves for the sake of the Lord. Abraham understood the priority of peace in this situation.

Genesis 13:8 – 8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please, let’s not have quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, since we are relatives.

Family relationship was a higher priority. The testimony of God was a higher priority. As they work through this conflict, it’s important to remember that Abraham is the one in authority. He has the right to demand whatever he wanted and Lot had little recourse. But, in that position of strength and authority, we see Abraham speaking humbly and kindly to his nephew. He doesn’t vent anger, he doesn’t start pointing fingers. His goal is peace if they can get it in a Godly way.

Genesis 13:9 – 9 Isn’t the whole land before you? Separate from me: if you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right, I will go to the left.”

We see that Abraham really wants peace in the situation and we know he really loves Lot, but it’s clear that he has realized that the solution is separation. In Romans 12, Paul says, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Abraham has come to the conclusion that living together isn’t going to work anymore. Their life goals and mentalities are too far apart.

If you find yourself in a dispute with a family member, or someone in the family of faith, it may be that the best solution is that you distance yourselves. Now, Abraham doesn’t disown Lot or say, “You’re dead to me!” Or anything like that. In fact, he’s going to risk his own life for Lot in the very next chapter. But, for now, there was going to have to be some distance between them. And to bring an end to hostility, Abraham did some hard things. He sacrificed his rights and he parted ways with someone he really cared about.

Genesis 13:10 – 10 Lot looked out and saw that the entire plain of the Jordan as far as Zoar was well watered everywhere like the Lord’s garden and the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)

Lot doesn’t take a trip to the altar to seek the Lord. He takes a sight-seeing trip to scope out irrigation. Notice what clinches the choice for him: The Jordan plain was just like Egypt. Lot had become enamored of Egypt during their visit. While Abraham was concerned with how he could get back to fellowship with God, Lot is thinking, “How can I get back to the Egyptian style?”

In The Merchant Of Venice, Shakespeare made famous the line: “All that glitters is not gold.” Lot will learn the hard way. He chose where to live – he chose what’s next in life – based on the glittering promises of wealth and stability and luxury. And few stories end in as appalling and ghastly ways as Lot’s. And, remember – Lot was a believer. A ‘righteous’ man, Peter declares to our astonishment. But he assumed he knew what was best for his future and didn’t bother to consult the Lord.

Genesis 13:11 – 11 So Lot chose the entire plain of the Jordan for himself. Then Lot journeyed eastward, and they separated from each other.

The one time Abraham speaks in this passage we see him talking about “us” and “we” and “our.” And here we see Lot chose…for himself. Abraham’s mentality was, “What can I give?” Lot’s was, “What can I get?” And he moves out to the east. As we’ve seen before, in Genesis, eastward movements coincide with separation from God. Adam and Eve, Cain, the Babel builders. Lot has made a very bad decision. And it was one that undoubtedly hurt Abraham quite a bit. He loved Lot. We’ll see that proven more than once in future chapters. But, doing the right thing, going God’s way, isn’t always easy. Sometimes it costs in painful ways.

Genesis 13:12-13 – 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, but Lot lived in the cities on the plain and set up his tent near Sodom. 13 (Now the men of Sodom were evil, sinning immensely against the Lord.)

We see another comparison here. Abraham lived in Canaan, but clearly he was not mingled in with the people. Lot, on the other hand, got in the mix almost immediately. Of course, this is a representation of the command we’ve been given to be in the world but not of the world.

We’re given a second eerie foreshadowing of something that is going to go down at Sodom and Gomorrah. Most of you know the story, but, leading up to it, we should be very concerned for Lot and his family. The people he is choosing to life his life among were shockingly evil. Lot is ignoring very clear, very significant factors, because the grass is so green! One commentator points out that Lot thought he was in Paradise, but in reality he was nearly plunged into hellfire.

So where would Abraham live?

Genesis 13:14-15 – 14 After Lot had separated from him, the Lord said to Abram, “Look from the place where you are. Look north and south, east and west, 15 for I will give you and your offspring forever all the land that you see.

With Lot leaving, perhaps Abraham must’ve felt the sting of abandonment. But in that moment of isolation, the Lord comes and reveals many great things to Abraham, not least of which was what God had not left or separated from them. He was still with them, everywhere they went.

The Lord sends Abraham on a sightseeing tour. He says, “It’s all yours!” Now, we must pay attention to this promise. This was a true, literal promise forever. It was not a spiritual analogy, it was a literal guarantee. That valley to the south. That stream on your west. Those hills out front. All of it belongs to Abraham’s literal, physical descendants forever. God has not and will not go back on His word.

Genesis 13:16 – 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust of the earth, then your offspring could be counted.

The Lord promised they would soon have children of their own and that they would have a perpetual family, safe in the providence of God. And, though the world and Satan have come against God’s chosen people with all their terrible might, still God sustains the Children of Abraham.

Genesis 13:17 – 17 Get up and walk around the land, through its length and width, for I will give it to you.”

Abraham had already seen a lot of the land. After all, coming from Haran he would’ve come from the north. He traveled through the length once on his way to Egypt, a second time on his way back to Bethel. But here the Lord says, “Go take another look.”

It’s a good reminder that, in the Christian life, there is going to be a lot of re-treading over things the Lord has already shown us. From the beginning of your walk with the Lord you heard that God loves you. But God wants you to tread over that truth over and over. From the start, hopefully, you learned that salvation is by grace and that our Christianity is accomplished in grace. That is a pathway that we should walk again and again. Principles and promises concerning mercy and patience and obedience and self-control and so many others are things we should adventure through again and again as we follow after God.

It’s interesting: This would include the land Lot has chosen for himself. As Christians, we’ve been promised that we will inherit the earth. Those things which we forfeit in the here and now for the sake of our walk with the Lord are well worth it.

Genesis 13:18 – 18 So Abram moved his tent and went to live near the oaks of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the Lord.

After his trip, the Lord led Abraham to settle in Hebron, about 20 miles south of Jerusalem. He immediately built another altar. While Lot worried about waterways, Abraham was worried about the way he could commune with God and worship in His presence.

The difference in mindset couldn’t be clearer. Abraham needed to know what was next, so did Lot. One took his own counsel, the other had learned that God not only knew the better choice, but that God wanted to choose for him.

In our lives, there’s a lot to be decided. But, God knows if that oasis out on the horizon is actually just a mirage. He will not fail to lead us on and so our part is to relinquish the right to guide ourselves and instead stay in intimate communion with the Lord, and follow Him. It may be to abundance, it may be to reduction of material assets. But, we can trust Him. Home is where the Lord is. Though none go with us, still we must follow, no turning back.

Movin’ On Down (Genesis 12:10-20)

In the classic Simpsons episode You Only Move Twice, Homer gets a taste of wealth and success. He’s hired to be an executive at a power plant in a new city and, at first, everything seems to be going great. The family gets a big, new house. Homer’s salary and social status increase. But all is not well. Marge and the kids suffer in the new location and Homer’s boss turns out to be a Bond-style super villain, bent on world domination. As the episode closes, the Simpsons return back home and their lives are able to pick back up from where they left off, a little the worse for wear.

Last week we saw Abraham begin his walk of faith. He traveled through Canaan – the land God promised to Abraham’s descendants. Abraham’s story is full of moments where his faith was tested. Ours will be, too, as we walk with the Lord, not because God is cruel or insecure, but because He continually refines and toughens and trues our faith, bringing us forth as gold – pure and enduring, malleable and beautifully reflective of God’s glory.

Abraham wasn’t perfect. That’s good news because we aren’t either. As we dedicate ourselves to trust God and follow Him we’re able to learn from the examples of those who came before us and learned important lessons. One of those is set before us tonight.

Genesis 12:10 – 10 There was a famine in the land, so Abram went down to Egypt to stay there for a while because the famine in the land was severe.

Famines were a common feature of these lands. They are particularly problematic when you live in a time with no reliable food storage solutions and lots of flocks and herds that need to graze.

Abraham will make some significant mistakes in this text, but that isn’t to say this wasn’t a serious problem. It was. The sheep needed food today. The pressure was real. Given the circumstances, Abraham made the decision to leave the land of promise and, instead, go to Egypt. You see, Canaan was dependent on rainfall to feed the land while Egypt had the stability of the Nile river.

We can see Abraham trying to remain faithful yet falling victim to a huge mistake in his decision-making process. He only intended to stay in Egypt “for a while.” He knew that, in the long run he should not settle in Egypt but be in the land God had shown him.

His mistake was that he was only figuring in physical circumstances in his calculations. We don’t see him go to his altar and petition the Lord. We don’t see him travel north, through Canaan to try to find relief within the boundaries that God had given. Instead, he uses human reasoning to try to escape his problems. It is always a mistake to be driven by your earthly circumstances. God has called us into a dynamic, love-relationship with Him and He has gone on record to say that nothing can separate us from that love. Not affliction or distress or persecution or nakedness or danger or sword or famine. But to love God means to obey what He has said and to seek Him instead of using our own schemes to live our lives. He knows the way forward, we (so often) do not.

Genesis 12:11 – 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, I know what a beautiful woman you are.

Abram has got it all figured out, hasn’t he? First, “we’ll only go down ‘for a while.’” Now, before they cross the border, he pulls his wife aside and explains the rest of his plan. He starts by telling her how beautiful she is. While this is an attempt to sell her on his strategy, it wasn’t untrue. Sarah was, apparently, fantastically beautiful, even in her sixties. But beware when you’re being buttered up!

Genesis 12:12 – 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ They will kill me but let you live.

Human reasoning can be so silly. “We have to go to Egypt so we don’t die…of course when we get to Egypt I’ll probably die!” Then why go? Abraham seems to be focused most of all on his flocks. His wealth is his top priority. We’ll see him trade his marriage for the security of his possessions. He’s willing to leave the place God had led him and go to a place full of idolatry – a place he himself considers to be incredibly dangerous. “But, there will be water and water means grass and grass means the sheep will be ok.” But what about the spiritual ramifications? What about the relational impact of this decision? What about the distance it creates between him and God’s will?

We can easily bring this up to date for modern application. We live in the land of opportunity. You have lots of things you could do. But learn this lesson from the Bible: Your career, your wealth, your social status or achievement or power, those things are not worth losing your family or drifting out of the will of God. You may get an opportunity to do something that promises a big payoff, but if it means you have to sacrifice your family’s spiritual health to do it, then don’t do it.

Genesis 12:13 – 13 Please say you’re my sister so it will go well for me because of you, and my life will be spared on your account.”

He dumps all of this onto his wife. He says, “They’re going to kill me because of you so, you need to join me in this lie and it’s the only way my life can be saved.” While it was technically true that Sarai was Abram’s half-sister, his plan is clearly to deceive. If you’re married, don’t tempt your spouse. Help your spouse to not sin. Help them to walk by faith. Be partners in avoiding temptation and growing strong together.

Abraham says, “so it will go well for me.” But what about Sarah? What’s going to happen to her? Because Abraham’s focus is on earthly things – he’s forgotten his spiritual life for the moment – he’s willing to do things he knows he shouldn’t do. This is what having our minds on the things of earth will do. It leads us to compromise. As Bruce Waltke puts it, Abraham’s mentality became “Better defiled than dead.” But that’s never the right mindset for a believer.

Genesis 12:14-15 – 14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh, so the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s household.

It’s immediate disaster! Obviously this isn’t what Abraham wanted, but what did he think was going to happen? Some think that Abraham was hoping to ride out the famine and when suitors would come to court Sarah he’d be able to put them off – like Laban will later with Jacob. But people like Pharaoh don’t need to negotiate. They take what they want. Still, we can’t say that Abram should’ve been surprised by this turn of events. One source explains:

“Since Abram’s group had many people and animals, they had to be given special permission to live and trade in Egypt. Important economic and political contracts in the ancient world were sometimes finalized by the weaker party giving a woman to the leader of the stronger party.”

This is the first use of the word “praise” in the Bible. It’s the word from which we get “hallelujah.” This first usage is the Egyptians praising Sarah. The Bible reveals that human beings are made to worship. “Praise” means to exalt, to be deeply thankful for, and to find satisfaction in lauding the greatness of something or someone. You and I are made to praise but the object of our praise is up to us. When we turn our worship from God, we invariably try to find our satisfaction in things that cannot last: Things like beauty or pleasure or status or temporal achievement. Apart from God, man also tends to worship whatever belongs to someone else. That leads us to do things we ought not do. Look at Pharaoh. Did he really need one more woman in his harem? No, but when we worship things that are not God, our hearts are drained of satisfaction and thankfulness. When we worship the Lord, the opposite happens – we’re fillled.

Genesis 12:16 – 16 He treated Abram well because of her, and Abram acquired flocks and herds, male and female donkeys, male and female slaves, and camels.

On paper, Abraham’s doing great. He avoided financial disaster in Canaan, his family gets to see an exotic locale, he’s added a bunch of capital to his portfolio, his wife won a beauty contest, and he’s even on friendly terms with the king! Of course, that’s all a matter of perspective. We know what’s actually important, and so we read this and we wince and say, “No, Abraham! Don’t do this!” Why? Because we know that Abraham has made a serious mistake. God had made it clear that He wanted to be the Sovereign Provider for Abraham and his family. But Abraham must’ve feared God wouldn’t come through. So, like the Israelites in First Samuel, he decided to get himself a human king to provide for him. But, the cost was steep. He forfeited his wife. He made plenty of money, but all these gains are polluted. Warren Wiersbe points out that everything he gets from Egypt ends up causing trouble for him. He has too many possessions, which leads to strife with Lot. He picks up Hagar the slave, who will end up figuring into another sorry misadventure. And we can speculate that the largess of Egypt awakened in Lot a carnality that eventually led him to Sodom.

Our choices impact others and they impact our future, sometimes in profound and unforeseeable ways. This is why we need an eternal Navigator. We need the light of the Word to direct us.

Genesis 12:17 – 17 But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his household with severe plagues because of Abram’s wife, Sarai.

If Abraham wasn’t going to protect his wife, God most certainly would. It was through Sarah that the Deliverer would come, so God made sure she was safe. There’s a contrast between Abraham’s selfish focus on the here and now, material state and God’s great vision. God is concerned for Abraham and Sarah and their future beyond this famine and the future of their kids and the future of the nation of Israel and the future Hope for all humanity. He has quite a big picture in mind.

So, when God comes to us and gives us clear directions, they are for very good reasons. When God says, “I want you to married people to stay married and I want you to connect with a local church Body and I want you to honor authority and I want you to control your thought life,” it’s not because we have to do those things to earn salvation. That price has already been paid. God gives us commands and confines because He is able to see all of the ramifications of our choices and He says, “I want to fulfill certain good purposes in your life and this is the way it must be done.”

God is so serious about His will for His people that He will, when necessary, fight against the earthly obstacles Himself. He sent fierce plagues on Pharaoh and his house. Now, on one hand, it’s nice that the Lord picked up the slack left by Abraham. But, on the other hand, there’s a sad aspect to how this all shakes out. God’s plan was for Abraham to be a blessing to the people of the world. Here, because he’s out of the will of God, he’s become a curse to them.

When Christians stop living a Spirit-filled life, when we stop walking by faith according to the truth of God, we become a detriment to unbelievers around us. Think of the church at Corinth. Paul points out in his first letter to them that, because of their unbiblical behavior, they were full of scandal. The unbelievers around them thought they were crazy. They were seen as cheats, bringing disgrace on the name of Jesus. When Christians act in unchristian ways it drives people away from the Lord, it doesn’t entice them to believe. This is exactly what happens with Pharaoh.

Genesis 12:18-19 – 18 So Pharaoh sent for Abram and said, “What have you done to me? Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She’s my sister,’ so that I took her as my wife? Now, here is your wife. Take her and go!”

When Pharaoh learned the truth he has to send for Abraham! Meaning, Abraham wasn’t planning a jail break. He wasn’t trying to figure out how to fix his mistake. He traded one famine for another. Sure he had grass now, but he’s in a spiritual famine, a relational famine, an evangelistic famine.

Pharaoh speaks sharply to Abraham. In the text Abraham remains silent – he has no excuse or defense when Pharaoh asks ‘Why?’ When we make life decisions, we need to be able to answer why. Why are we choosing what we’re choosing? Why are we doing what we’re doing? If the answer is like Abraham’s – I’m doing this purely out of fear or for material gain – then we need to turn back to God and see what His choice for us is. Chances are, He’s already revealed it to us.

Genesis 12:20 – 20 Then Pharaoh gave his men orders about him, and they sent him away with his wife and all he had.

We’re glad they’re getting out of Egypt, but this was an embarrassing day. They’re being deported – perhaps at the edge of a spear.

So, what should Abraham have done? It’s easy to criticize the mistake, but we should consider what the correct choice would’ve been at the start of chapter 12. Because that’s where we live, right? As I said at the beginning – the famine was real. The trouble was serious. And, as Bible students we know that later on God will purposefully send His people to Egypt to escape a famine. So how can this help us learn how to navigate our own circumstances when we face tough choices?

When making decisions, particularly the big life decisions like we see in this text, we can ask ourselves two questions to help us discern the will of God: What has God said and how has God led? In Abraham’s case, God had specifically asked him to leave a certain land and go to a certain land. If you’re going to make a significant decision concerning your home life, your community, the trajectory of your career, first ask what God has said. Has He given guidelines for your situation? In many cases He has. And then ask, “How has God led.” There are a lot of things you could do, but could is not the same as should. In Genesis 12, Abraham could go to Egypt, but shouldn’t have. In Genesis 46, Jacob could go to Egypt and he should. Why? Because God told him, “Don’t be afraid to go down, because I’m going to go with you.” God was leading.

Instead of going to Egypt, what should Abraham have done? We don’t know. Maybe the Lord would have miraculously provided for him. Maybe God would’ve “opened his eyes” to see an oasis of provision, like the Lord will do for Hagar in chapter 21. Whatever the right thing to do was, it would not have led to strife with his wife, strife with his nephew, strife with his neighbors, and strife with himself. The choice to run to Egypt did all those things. The next time we see Abraham and Lot, their houses are quarreling. The next time we see Sarah, she’s angry at God and gets in a fight with her husband. It’s all thanks to this Egypt business.

God’s way is the way to provision, and to peace, and satisfaction, and to a thriving life, spiritually and relationally and evangelically. Let’s head that way, pursuing that upward call in Christ Jesus.

Father Abraham Hadn’t Any Sons (Genesis 11:27-12:9)

Do you remember the name Seabiscuit? He was the remarkable racehorse who became the top money winner of the 1930’s, upsetting champions and winning hearts. He was voted American Horse of the Year in 1938. He may be in the Racing Hall of Fame, but he didn’t have a great start. He didn’t win any of his first 17 races and only a quarter of his first 40. Early on, he was seen as lazy and lethargic, and became something of a laughing stock around the stables. But then, Seabiscuit was given a new trainer – one with unorthodox methods. Under his care, Seabiscuit won 11 out of 15 races in a single year and his fame began to spread. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. He suffered a major setback in his career when he fell and was injured in 1938. But, with faithful attention, his trainer brought him back to health and speed, and Seabiscuit famously won “The Hundred Grander” at Santa Anita in 1940, setting a track record in his final race.

Tonight we begin a study of a man whose story has some Seabiscuit-like elements. A man who became famous throughout the world. In fact, it’s not going too far to say that he is of the most famous people in all of human history. If you knew him at the beginning, you’d never have guessed that he’d make it into any hall of fame. He not only had some significant setbacks in his spiritual career, he had a pretty rough start. And yet, we’re told that this man, though he was as good as dead, became the father of the faith, the friend of God, and the human fount from which all the world is blessed. How did it happen?

Like with Seabiscuit, it happened because Someone came in from the outside. Not just a trainer, but God Himself. Abraham’s story is a demonstration of what God is able to do. It’s not a story of man’s greatness or achievement. No, Abraham shows us again and again how weak we are. Instead, his life is an example of the truth given in Philippians 1: “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” And though we too may have sputtering starts and falterings along the way, God will not give up on us. When we are faithless, He remains faithful. Let’s see the beginning of this amazing relationship as we pick up in Genesis 11, verse 27.

Genesis 11:27-28 – 27 These are the family records of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and Haran fathered Lot. 28 Haran died in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans, during his father Terah’s lifetime.

This is about 2,000 years into human history and 2,000 years before Jesus’ birth. Terah and his family live in a city called Ur – a Sumerian city in Mesopotamia.

Was Abram an idol worshiper? There’s a lot of disagreement among scholars. And, as usual, there’s a spectrum of opinion. There are those which say that Abram was most definitely a worshipper of the moon god. Then, all the way over on the other side there are those who suggest that Abraham was a staunch monotheist even before God spoke to him.

Maybe you’ve heard of the Talmud or the Mishnah. They are a collection of the oral traditions of Judaism, collected and compiled in the first couple centuries AD. The Mishnah teaches that Abram spent 39 years growing up in the homes of Noah and Shem. That he boldly contended against idolatry in his father’s own idol shop, and that he stood up against wicked king Nimrod and had a sort of battle of wits which led to Abram being thrown into a fiery furnace, but that he was miraculously preserved, coming out like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.

Of course, nothing like that is found in the word of God. We’re really not told any details about Abram’s early life or behavior at all until we find him here, a grown man, married, living with his extended family in a place called Ur – famous for moon worship. While there, Abram’s brother Haran died. And it seems that Abram will sort of adopt his nephew Lot.

Genesis 11:29 – 29 Abram and Nahor took wives: Abram’s wife was named Sarai, and Nahor’s wife was named Milcah. She was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah.

This was a tight-knit family. Abram marries his half-sister, Nahor marries his niece. Abram is keeping Lot under his umbrella. The problem is, the family was steeped in idol worship.

Genesis 11:30 – 30 Sarai was unable to conceive; she did not have a child.

We know the rest of the story, but let’s try to not fill it in quite yet. We’ll learn that Milcah gave birth to 8 sons. But, year after year, decade after decade, Sarai was unable.

Now, God had said from the beginning that His plan to restore the world would come through human offspring. And we’ll find out in a moment that He has chosen Abram and Sarai as the conduits of that plan. So, being told here that Sarai was unable to conceive is startling. It seems like game over for God’s plan. His effort has bottlenecked down from Seth through Noah, then Shem, now to this one man, Abram, and we’re at the end of the line. As Bruce Waltke points out, barrenness in this context and time meant hopelessness. It meant they had no future.

Why would God allow this unfair circumstance? Milcah gets 8 sons, Sarai gets none? If His whole plan was to give them offspring, why permit these long years of disappointment and suffering? Here are two reasons: First, God wants the world to know that it’s all Him. He is the One who accomplishes deliverance, not us. Second, there is a devotional principle: Your hope, your future is dependent on God’s grace. Luckily, God is a God of grace! But while the world was filled with people going their own way, building their cities and empires, making their own plans, living their lives according to their own design and ultimately finding only ruin, God comes along and draws out this man and wife to do something amazing and be an example to us that all of our hope is found in God alone. That He is able to do something greater with our lives than we could ever design or measure.

Genesis 11:31-32 – 31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot (Haran’s son), and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they set out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 Terah lived 205 years and died in Haran.

Why Terah decided to go, we can’t be sure. What we’re told is that, though they set out with the intention of stopping in Canaan, they stopped half-way at another city full of moon worshippers.

Genesis 12:1 – The Lord said to Abram: Go from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

If we want to have a proper understanding of Abram, it’s important that we let the Bible comment on itself. You see, in the book of Acts, Stephen explains that Abram did not receive this call from God in Haran, but back in Ur. This changes things significantly. It means that God spoke to Abram, giving him this clear command, but Abram did not obey – not really or at least not fully. He obeyed one half of one third of God’s commands. He didn’t leave his father’s house or his relatives. He did go from their land, but not to the place God was showing him, instead they stopped part way at a place that was just like Ur. We don’t know how much Abram told his family, but it seems they all had a meeting and decided to move together. But this is not what God had asked.

Let’s not miss a few important principles: First, we shouldn’t take for granted that we serve a God Who speaks. Today the idol most people worship is money. Money doesn’t love you. It doesn’t tell you what to do. It’s a silent and cruel master. But the God of the Bible is a God Who speaks. Second, He is a God of grace. If you had a subordinate who only obeyed one half of one third of what you asked him to do, how frustrated would you be? But God does not throw up His hands and give up. But third, we should consider just how detrimental our failure to obey really is, not only for us but for the world at large.

Abram spent years at Haran. Those years were years that put off God’s work of deliverance. It’s like when the children of Israel delayed entrance to the Promised Land by 40 years because of disobedience. We have this clear-speaking, gracious God coming and saying, “Ok, I’m going to send the Messiah through YOU and I’m going to do so in connection to a specific land that I want to get you into.” And Abram’s response is, “Yeah, at some point I’ll get around to that, maybe.”

Now, God’s mercy is great, and we won’t obey perfectly, but we shouldn’t settle for slow or partial obedience. The examples of Scripture, like Abram, demonstrate the far-reaching consequences of failing to obey God. It sometimes causes bigger problems then a simple delay of spiritual fruit. Sometimes disobedience leads to a consequence like Ishmael. That’s one whose deadly ramifications have been playing out for thousands of years on a global scale. This is recorded for us not to shame Abram, but to teach us how to avoid the mistakes that he made.

When God spoke to Abram, He didn’t give him a lot of information. He effectively said, “Follow Me. Come and see what I want to do in your life.” That is, of course, the call we receive at first. To follow God. Not just to believe He exists. Not just to say we’re sorry for the wrong things we’ve done. But then to actually follow after Him in faith and obedience. Now, as far as starts go, Abram’s isn’t amazing. But that’s not to say he was totally blowing it. He did believe. He did have saving faith. The New Testament explains that he really had no idea where he was going but he went anyway. His problem was that he was being selective in which parts of God’s Word he was obeying. For years he stayed with his family and under the direction of his father, Terah. But God was calling him out of that. God was saying, “You need to understand that now I’m your Father. I’m the Decider for your life. I’m the One who will provide for you and shelter you.” He says as much in verses 2 and 3.

Genesis 12:2-3 – 2 I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

God gives 5 “I will” statements here. In these promises we can get a hint as to whether the Mishnah is right about Abram. First off, why would this staunch monotheist who was willing to die not have fully obeyed when God spoke to him? But also, if the story of Nimrod and the fiery furnace were true, then Abram’s name would already be great. He’d be famous throughout the world!

We notice that in these promises God doesn’t only plan to do His own thing (bringing the Messiah), but He also intends to interact with Abram on a daily basis – giving him help and direction and protection and a future. That doesn’t mean Abram wouldn’t face struggles – people would curse him and treat him with contempt – but God assures Abram that He would be with him.

Genesis 12:4-5a – 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. 5 He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated, and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan.

After stumbling out of the gate, Abram is on his way. He’s obeying 2/3 of God’s commands now. He still has Lot with him, but it’s possible that he considered Lot to be an adopted son. It’s also possible that Lot decided to tag along without being asked. Either way we’ll see that, in the end, God wanted Abram completely out from this family. He was to be set apart from the world.

With Noah, God was going to take the world and its influence away from His people. He put them on an ark and swept the world away. But here, instead of taking the world away, He takes His people away from the influence of the world. He told Abram, “Follow Me, out from your culture, out from the influence of the unbelieving world, and we’re going to go to a new place together. It’s a place where there are a bunch of worldlings living, but you and I are going to have our own, special relationship, set apart from the rest where I explain truth and goodness to you.”

The New Testament calls us to this sort of separation, saying: Don’t be polluted by worldly idolatry, don’t love the world or the things of the world. Friendship with the world is hostility toward God because we have been called out and set apart for holiness and for specific, Godly purposes.

In verse 5 we’re told Abram took “people they had acquired.” Did Abram own slaves? He undoubtedly had servants, but here’s an interesting thought: Some scholars suggest that this is referring to a group of people that Abram had actually proselytized during his time in Haran. It’s not outside the realm of possibilities, and it drives home an important spiritual principle: Even though we all fall short of obeying God perfectly and to the utmost, the Lord is so gracious that He will still use our lives as a testimony so that others can come to know Him. Abram is such a great example of this. Though he followed God imperfectly, especially in the beginning, look at what God can do with mustard seed faith. He is a God who uses ordinary, imperfect people, living ordinary lives, to proclaim the extraordinary magnificence of the Gospel.

Genesis 12:5b-7 – When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the site of Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. (At that time the Canaanites were in the land.) 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring, I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.

Abram will build at least 4 in his walk with God. This one, being built under an oak tree, indicates he was still carrying over some of his cultural background in his relationship with God. That’s how the pagans made altars. But as he obeys, God is able to reveal more to him and gives him a greater understanding. No longer is the land promise some vague “land I will show you.” It’s ‘this’ land. More importantly, God goes on record saying that Abram will have offspring of his own. This seems impossible and, we’ll find that Abram has a hard time grasping it. Just like the disciples had a hard time understanding the Christ had to suffer, die, and rise again. That’s ok. God doesn’t demand perfect understanding. He doesn’t even demand perfect obedience – otherwise none of us could serve Him. What He wants is a living faith. He wants us to believe Him and, in doing so, allow Him to direct us and develop us. Abram shows us how quickly God can reveal Himself and move in our lives when we choose to obey His word.

Genesis 12:8 – 8 From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. He built an altar to the Lord there, and he called on the name of the Lord.

We see Abram growing and developing. He’s following after God and calls Him by name. He builds another altar. Altars in this period had a lot of significance. First, they showed that the builder needed cleansing. Abram knows he’s not on equal level with God, but that he is guilty before Him. Altars were also the place of worship – where a person could physically thank God and honor Him and give generously to Him for Who He is and what He’s done. These are all aspects of what our worship should be today. In Hebrews 13, the writer talks to us about the altar we now have, not under the Old Testament system, but in the New Covenant, established by Christ.

Hebrews 13:15 – 15 Therefore, through [Christ] let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.

Jesus became the altar and now we are able – at any time – to bring that offering of praise, full of thanksgiving and submission and recognition of all the Lord has done for us.

Genesis 12:9 – 9 Then Abram journeyed by stages to the Negev.

Why did he journey around instead of just camping at Shechem or Bethel? Well, on a practical level he had herds that needed to graze and the Lord had a lot to show him.

As we close, let’s consider a few ways to take this example and apply it to our own faith. First, it’s not always an easy thing to obey God. Abram had to separate. He also had to downgrade his living situation. He was still rich in possessions and herds, but Ur was a very advanced city. Archaeologists have discovered that maybe half the houses there had indoor toilets. The city had a library. It was a place of advanced development and culture. God asked Abram to leave it behind. And He asks us to leave things behind. It might look like Ur. It might look like fishing nets and a boat. It might look like a tax booth. Seeing Abram’s story we can be sure that whatever God asks us to leave behind is worth the cost because He has something truly irreplaceable planned for us.

A second way to apply this is to remember that, like Abram, God wants us to be blessed, to be a blessing and to do a great work in us. What sort of blessing does God want us to experience? The blessing of His presence. The blessing of Christian fellowship. The blessing of contentment and peace and satisfaction found in living a righteous life. How are we meant to bless the world around us? By being proclaimers of the Gospel, agents of grace. By being a source of hope, light, and wisdom to a world that is trapped in destructive ideologies. And what kind of “greatness” does the Lord want for us? Well, how does the Bible define greatness? Not the way the world does, that’s for sure. No, the Lord wants our greatness to be in compassion, mercy, humility, purity, meekness, worship, generosity, endurance. These are ours to enjoy and produce as we walk with God in faith, not perfectly, but progressively, following the Lord with our hearts for the rest of our lives, trusting Him, obeying Him, and building altars of praise in our hearts along the way.

The Awful Tower (Genesis 11:1-26)

In the year 2155, the Universal Translator will be invented. At least, that’s what Star Trek predicts. First used as a spying device, the ultimate goal is to bring differing peoples together in peace. In reality, we’re way ahead of schedule. Have you opened Google Translate recently? With it, you can point your phone’s camera at any text and have it immediately translate to over 100 languages. In 2015 the BBC wrote an article saying Google Translate is “bringing us closer to ‘a world where language is no longer a barrier’…It offers a glimpse of a future in which there are no linguistic misunderstandings – especially ones that change the course of history.” By the way, when that article was written, Google offered interpretation in just six languages.

Linguistic barriers can be funny or frustrating. Every now and then, they’re downright dangerous. Just ask President Jimmy Carter, who had to endure multiple serious linguistic misunderstandings during a 1977 visit to Poland. At one point, his interpreter changed “I left the United States this morning” into “I left the United States, never to return.”

It’s been estimated that there have been “something like 31,000 languages” in human history. But, for the first 2,000 years of human history, there was only one. We saw in our last study that the descendants of Noah spread out in different directions, according to their clans and languages. How did that change from one language to many happen? It happened in Babylon.

But this is more than a story about words, it’s a story about hearts – man’s heart and God’s heart. Sadly, despite God’s revelation, despite the judgment of the flood, we find our forefathers once again setting their sails away from God, rebelling against Him, refusing to acknowledge Him. And, as we’ve seen so many times already, God will respond to man’s sin decisively and mercifully.

Genesis 11:1 – The whole earth had the same language and vocabulary.

The text gives us the impression that a vast number of people are involved in what follows. The opening phrase “the whole earth” wants us to think big. In the end, the judgment of Babel impacts everyone, or very nearly everyone. Some believe that those who were righteous were not judged and so, the suggestion is that the original human language is one we might identify as Hebrew and that it was retained through the Babel incident. We’re not explicitly told. But Moses wants us to know that this was not an isolated situation involving only a few people.

Genesis 11:2 – 2 As people migrated from the east, they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.

In Genesis, movements to the east coincide with separation from God. Adam and Eve went out of the Garden to the east. Cain moved to the east after he murdered his brother. At the end of his life, Abraham will send Isaac’s half-brothers far to the east. And so we already have a clue as to the spiritual mentality of this group. On top of that, in chapter 10 we were told that this region and this city was founded and dominated by that notorious character, Nimrod.

The people settled in the valley of Shinar. This covers parts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Kuwait today.

This group decided they were not going to go and fill the earth, as God had commanded. Instead, they stop and settle, relatively close to the land of Ararat where the Ark had landed.

Genesis 11:3 – 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make oven-fired bricks.” (They used brick for stone and asphalt for mortar.)

We see here a unified, cooperative effort. They spoke to each other. They join together in the work. And we learn some things about what they were doing. First of all, they had a certain level of technological sophistication. They weren’t just making sun-dried bricks, but kiln-dried bricks. Charles Ellicott points out that, being covered and joined with this slimy bitumen tar, these buildings would be “virtually indestructible.” In that area, there were no stones suitable for building cities and temples in that region. The people demonstrate significant ingenuity and effort in this project. One commentator writes: “[These people] were content to face great and arduous difficulties.” This style of Babylonian construction has been verified by archaeology, by the way.

Think for a moment about the incredible unity of these people. They were united in heart, united in focus, united in effort. Of course, most of us know what’s coming, and it’s not a good thing. So we have an opportunity to learn something here about unity.

Derek Kidner writes: “[The tower of Babel] makes it clear that unity and peace are not ultimate goods: better division than collective apostasy.”

This is important because it always sounds good to call everyone to unity as a goal unto itself. All the people of the world. All the churches of a city. The idea is if we were simply unified all would be well. But that isn’t true. Who are we unifying with? And what are we unifying about? Sometimes unity is a terrible mistake. In 1 Samuel 8, all the elders of Israel come together to demand a king. That was a mistake that, ultimately, led to exile. In the future, all mankind is going to rally together in powerful unity one day…the Day of the Lord. When Jesus returns all the nations of the world will unite to fight against them and will be destroyed by the King of kings.

Today, when we hear calls for church unity, it can seem prickly or hard-hearted to not immediately agree and sign on. But the particulars matter. The goals matter. The members matter. If you have three churches wanting to “unify” together at some event and one church says all roads lead to heaven, another says you can only be saved if you speak in tongues and the third says you’re saved by grace through faith plus nothing, it’s a problem. How can two walk together unless they agree?

In verse 4 we see what exactly they were trying to make and why.

Genesis 11:4 – 4 And they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky. Let’s make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered throughout the earth.”

Their plan had 3 parts: First, a city. Second, a tower, which we would call a ziggurat today, which was kind of like a pyramid, but multiple levels stacked up, each being smaller than the one below it, with a pagan temple on top. Third, the city would be fortified, probably by a strong wall, to keep them safe. Safe from what? From scattering. From the very thing God had asked them to willingly do. This is open rebellion against God.

Your translation may say the tower’s top would be “in the heavens.” These builders weren’t trying to get to the moon, though undoubtedly the structure was quite high. No, they wanted to make a heavenly dwelling place for themselves. Lucifer had said, “I will ascend to the heavens, I will set up my throne above the stars of God.”

Their motivation for building this tower and city had two parts: First, they wanted to make an immortal name for themselves and, second, we see that they wanted to keep themselves secure.

In this rebellion we see the foolish naivety of the human heart and how sick it is with selfishness. First of all, they convince themselves that they will achieve some sort of immortality, making a name for themselves by piling up a bunch of mud bricks. “If we do this, our legacy will live forever!” There’s an incredible amount of pride here. They are given over to what the Bible calls selfish-ambition. A desire to put self first, to elevate self over others. Ultimately, it’s a worship of self.

The question is: Does any of this mentality live in us? Our culture is infected with the idea that fame is a virtue and that it should be the pursuit of your life. In 2017, one poll showed that 75% of children ages 6 to 17 want to be YouTubers when they grow up. Why? I don’t mean to generalize and say that every content creator is absorbed with pride. But the Bible consistently warns us that pride, selfish-ambition, is a deadly sin that separates us from God and leads to ruin.

That doesn’t mean that Christians can never build anything. Sometimes God asks His people to build great things! Think of the hospitals and universities built by Christians. Gutenberg’s printing press. The Wright Brothers were committed Christians. Think of Solomon’s temple.

The question is one of motivation. We can see the contrast clearly right here in Genesis. Narratively speaking, we’ve had two major building projects presented to us. This tower and Noah’s ark. The tower is being made in challenge to God, in an effort to bring fame to humans who want nothing to do with righteousness. The ark was something God asked His servant to do. It was a huge undertaking – Noah would be inventing a new technology, but one that would change the world.

So, the Bible does not tell you that you can not be well known or create something that has far-reaching, long-lasting impact. But what is the goal of your pursuit? Is it self? Then you are going the way of Lucifer. The other way is to be led by God – to be directed by Him into your endeavors.

Before we move on, notice this: They feel the need to build a fortified city so that they “won’t be scattered.” By who? By God? Maybe. What’s more likely is that we’re seeing their supposed unity is just a facade. They’re working together now, but they can foresee a time when they will crumble into warring factions. That’s what always happens when people live selfishly. It’s true of nations, it’s true of churches, it’s true of marriages.

So, what did they want? They wanted lasting unity and they wanted a measure of immortality. The tragic irony is this: They would’ve gotten those things if they would’ve gone God’s way. You see, they settled for a surface level unity, as long as their selfish pursuits were aligned. But, even they knew it wasn’t going to last. And they settled for a cheap substitute for real immortality. “Well, our name will live forever.” All the while, God wanted to give them true unity and true immortality based on Him. That’s still His offer to mankind today.

Genesis 11:5 – 5 Then the Lord came down to look over the city and the tower that the humans were building.

Obviously God already knew everything that was going on. But God loves to come and be among us. It’s always an interesting political gamble when our leaders come and tour a disaster area. George W. Bush was savaged for merely flying over New Orleans. Many felt he hadn’t come soon enough and he didn’t come near enough. Here we have God Almighty coming down to tour the disastrous enterprise at Babylon. Some suggest that the Lord didn’t actually come down in a Pre-Incarnate form, but that He just “looked” from heaven, but that’s not what it says. We’re given the image of Yahweh, the great Builder, the Master Craftsman, visiting the construction site. Did they know He was there? I think it’s very possible. He had face-to-face talks with Adam and Eve and Cain. He had shut Noah into the ark. He will share meals with Abraham. Imagine the Lord walking the grounds, seeing the progress of their blasphemous sedition. Looking not only at the columns and beams, but into their hearts. Here is His assessment:

Genesis 11:6 – 6 The Lord said, “If they have begun to do this as one people all having the same language, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.

From the beginning we’ve seen that human beings are a special creation. We have been equipped to accomplish what no other creature can. At the time of Genesis, top speed was maybe 30mph on a horse for a short distance. Today, humans routinely travel faster than the speed of sound. The Apollo 10 crew traveled at a speed of over 24,000mph. At Babylon, the weapons were spears and arrows. Today man can split atoms and engineer biochemical armaments which can wipe out whole populations. Consider the leaps humanity has made inventing things like the photograph, batteries that hold energy, the International Space Station. Now, mankind is working on things like time distortion and teleportation. It seems impossible, but scientists have successfully teleported photons from one point to another 869 miles away.

Of course, there are things that are impossible for mankind. The Bible says as much. But Genesis is a testament to just how unique we are in God’s creation. Sadly, our potential is not only found in technological discovery, but in our capacity to run from God. That is the context surrounding the Lord’s assessment here. And, having seen it, God reacts.

Genesis 11:7 – 7 Come, let’s go down there and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”

Why did God do this? Was it because He felt threatened in some way? Was it because He was jealous that they were building a tower for themselves instead of for Him? No. His action here is, in fact, one of mercy. In response to their unbridled rebellion He did not kill them as He did in the flood. He did not blind them, as He will at Sodom. No, instead He simply gave them a new language to speak. But He also gave them other people with whom they could communicate. He left them with other people. This was a significant judgment, but a merciful one.

Genesis 11:8 – 8 So from there the Lord scattered them throughout the earth, and they stopped building the city.

We see that God had a will (that people scatter throughout the earth), man tried to stop that will, but that God’s will was still done. They had wanted so badly to not be scattered, but God accomplished it anyway. Why? To spite the people of earth? No! God has done this for our good!

Acts 17:26-27 – 26 From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. 27 He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

God does not command us because He needs an ego boost. All His ways are good and are for our own good. When we resist, the result is ruin and waste and destruction and confusion.

Genesis 11:9 – 9 Therefore it is called Babylon,,, for there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth, and from there the Lord scattered them throughout the earth.

You may be thinking: “Wait, I thought God is not the Author of confusion…” That phrase comes from 1 Corinthians 14 where God is talking about the way Christians conduct themselves in church services. The phrase there might also be translated “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”

God does employ confusion at times in order that people might turn to Him in faith and seek His wisdom. Jesus spoke in parables in order that the clear understanding would only be discovered by those who came to Him in humility and sought His wisdom. God says that He purposely works to “confound the wise” of this world in order to reveal salvation through the cross.

There’s a sad contrast here. In Hebrew the word Babylon means “confusion.” That’s what pride led to. But in Babylonian literature, the word means, “The gate of God.” What a wide gulf there is between God’s truth and man’s opinion. Between how we see ourselves and how things really are.

We can see something else significant in this story: Is God determining every event on earth or is He only reacting to what humans do? Some theologians see God as being meticulously deterministic. That He, essentially, forces, every single thing to happen that has happened. After all, there are “no rogue molecules” in the universe (they say). Others in the camp called “open theism” suggest that though God is all-powerful, “His knowledge of, and plans for, the future conditional upon our actions.” That, “though [He is] omniscient, God does not know what we will freely do in the future.”

What do we see in this text? We see, clearly, that God responds to human behavior, changing the course of their trajectory so that they won’t end up in a particular place, but that, simultaneously, that which He has willed from the beginning is still done despite the freewill rebellion of humanity. Neither determinism nor open theism adequately listens to what the Bible actually says. The Bible distinctly demonstrates that human beings have been given a genuine free will and that God is not only all-powerful and all-knowing, but that He will have His way.

That idea is driven home to us in the next set of verses, we’ll just read them quickly, which come as a sort of post-credits scene after the drama of Babel.

Genesis 11:10-26 – 10 These are the family records of Shem. Shem lived 100 years and fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. 11 After he fathered Arpachshad, Shem lived 500 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 12 Arpachshad lived 35 years and fathered Shelah. 13 After he fathered Shelah, Arpachshad lived 403 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 14 Shelah lived 30 years and fathered Eber. 15 After he fathered Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 16 Eber lived 34 years and fathered Peleg. 17 After he fathered Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 18 Peleg lived 30 years and fathered Reu. 19 After he fathered Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 20 Reu lived 32 years and fathered Serug. 21 After he fathered Serug, Reu lived 207 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 22 Serug lived 30 years and fathered Nahor. 23 After he fathered Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 24 Nahor lived 29 years and fathered Terah. 25 After he fathered Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and fathered other sons and daughters. 26 Terah lived 70 years and fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

This is more than just names and ages. We saw Man’s Rebellion, then God’s Reaction, and here we have The Perpetuation of God’s Plan to save all those rebels. Once again, we see that He does not primarily do so through fortifications, but through families. His primary work is not in high towers, but in humble hearts. And that will be the continuing theme for the rest of the book as we look at the family of Abraham.

So, we close, having seen this scandalous rebellion and God’s necessary but merciful judgment. Summing up this example we’re reminded of our Christian calling to unity in Christ, toward His goals and that God leads us on a path of humility, not selfish-ambition. Paul lays it out in Philippians 2:

Philippians 2:2-5 – 2 make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others. 5 Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus

Footnotes & references available at

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

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.

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.

Wait Till Your Father Gets You Home (Genesis 8:1-22)

Tom Petty said, “The waiting is the hardest part.” Tom’s not alone. Since the fall of man all of creation has been groaning, waiting for deliverance. The Psalms and prophets cry out, “How long, oh Lord?” We feel the strain of waiting for ultimate deliverance and, often, for immediate deliverance from our trials and sufferings or simply delays in life.

But, life is full of waiting. And so the Lord tells us, “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart.” A great example of that is given in our text tonight. Genesis 8 is full of waiting. It shows day after day, week after week, month after month, of staying put and waiting to leave the ark. I get antsy when my Amazon package doesn’t come same-day!

As we go through these verses, try to imagine Noah going to the log book each morning and scratching down another line on the tally. There would be about 377 of them before the end. Though Noah’s family knew God would bring them out, they had no exit date. Only their Heavenly Father knew the day and the hour when they would be delivered out of the ark into their new land.

We’ll see that some of their waiting took place while they looked out on dry land. Imagine how difficult that would’ve been. But, these faithful 8 had begun this adventure in submission to God and they were going to finish it out the same way.

Genesis 8:1-3 – God remembered Noah, as well as all the wildlife and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water began to subside. 2 The sources of the watery depths and the floodgates of the sky were closed, and the rain from the sky stopped. 3 The water steadily receded from the earth, and by the end of 150 days the water had decreased significantly.

When God “remembers” in the Bible, it means He initiates a miraculous, saving act on behalf of His people. It’s not that He was so occupied with other things that they slipped His mind. One of the most astonishing revelations about God is that He, in His all-powerful omniscience, is thinking of you continually. We cannot fathom a mind that can accomplish such a feat, and yet it’s true.

Psalm 139:17-18a – 17 God, how precious your thoughts are to me; how vast their sum is! 18 If I counted them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.

God is thinking about you right now! His thoughts and actions are specially concerned with human beings. Yes, God has compassion for the animals on the ark, but it was the people thought of most.

I’m sure as the days rolled by there were times when Noah thought, “Has God forgotten us? Are we ever coming out?” But then one day something new happened: A wind started to blow.

Why didn’t God just snap His fingers and make the water disappear? It always seems like it would be more efficient for God to act more like a Genie. Yet, He used a slow process to dry out the earth.

It is a Biblical principle that waiting, in faith, produces strength in our lives. Isaiah 40 says, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” The prophet goes on to say that God “acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him.” And so, Noah waited.

Genesis 8:4 – 4 The ark came to rest in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat.

We don’t know exactly where Noah’s ark landed. Some say Turkey, some say Armenia. There have been many expeditions and supposed sightings. There’s a lot of tradition involved. I learned this week that since 1992 the Armenian Coat of Arms bears an image of the ark on top of a mountain. There is something that’s known as the “Ararat Anomaly,” which was first photographed in 1949. It appears to be something, encased in the snowcap of the mountain, that is roughly boat shaped.

It’s possible that the Ark will be discovered in the last days. But we shouldn’t count on it for a few reasons. First, the boat was made of wood. Yes, it was pitched inside and out, which would’ve helped to preserve it, but aside from the wear and tear of water, wind, and ice, Ararat is a volcano. It last erupted in 1840. Lava beats wood every time. Secondly, we’re going to see that the ark was somewhat disassembleable. Perhaps Noah took the ark apart to build a home for his family.

Don’t be so distracted by the where that you miss the when of its landing: The seventeenth day of the seventh month. The late Ray Stedman points out this remarkable fact: Under Moses, God told Israel that He was changing the calendar. The seventh month became the first month. The Passover would be held on the 14th day of that month. That was the day Christ was crucified. 3 days later He rose again. Which, on Noah’s calendar, would’ve been the 17th day of the 7th month.

For thousands of years God has been promising and proving His plan of salvation cannot fail. He’s been showing again and again that He will keep up His end – that if we take refuge in Christ, He will deliver us safely to the eternal shore. The resurrection is the mountain we can rest our lives upon.

Genesis 8:5 – 5 The water continued to recede until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were visible.

After 150 days of bobbing around, the ark was now stuck in a fixed place. They haven’t heard any messages from the Lord, so they wait two and a half months, watching peaks slowly rise into view.

Genesis 8:6 – 6 After forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made,

What might they see out this window? A lot of water and (probably) a lot of death. The floating carcasses of men and animals would be a grim proof of what sin does to a life and to our world.

Genesis 8:7-9 – 7 and he sent out a raven. It went back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent out a dove to see whether the water on the earth’s surface had gone down, 9 but the dove found no resting place for its foot. It returned to him in the ark because water covered the surface of the whole earth. He reached out and brought it into the ark to himself.

Throughout the flood narrative, the Lord makes a distinction between clean and unclean animals. Now we are witness to this interesting experiment where Noah sends out one clean bird – a dove – and one unclean bird – a raven – hoping to glean some information about the state of the world beyond what his eyes can see.

Bible teachers like Spurgeon and Stedman highlight the devotional treasures in Noah’s birdwatching. You’re a Christian, safe in Christ, knowing God will see you through. Meanwhile, you’ve got to interact with the world. The Bible explains that, as you do so, you’ve got two mutually exclusive natures: The sanctified, spiritual nature (represented by the dove) and the old, sinful nature (represented by the raven). You can put either of these natures into operation.

The raven shows us that the flesh is content to be apart from Christ. It will fly about and rest on anything it can, no matter how unstable or rotten it is. A raven will eat carrion (dead flesh), even when proper, nutritious food is available in the ark. So, too, our old, sinful nature, is content to fill itself with the death and garbage floating by.

But then we have the spiritual nature – the Spirit of life in Christ by which we have been set free. This nature is clean and righteous, represented by the dove. It goes out and interacts with the world but always returns to find sustenance and shelter in the ark, which (in this parable) represents Christ. It does not rest on any floating carcass, but keeps to its proper abode in the Lord until He finally brings it out into the New Creation.

Genesis 8:10-12 – 10 So Noah waited seven more days and sent out the dove from the ark again. 11 When the dove came to him at evening, there was a plucked olive leaf in its beak. So Noah knew that the water on the earth’s surface had gone down. 12 After he had waited another seven days, he sent out the dove, but it did not return to him again.

Notice again the waiting, week after week. It would’ve demanded immense patience and peace.

Some have scoffed at the idea of the dove finding an olive leaf after a global flood. How could a tree have survived and grown in such a way in such a short time? In actuality, Theophrastus (who is considered the father of botany) records in his Enquiry Into Plants that olive trees can leaf while submerged in water. Pliny the Elder reported the same.

The results of Noah’s experiment would’ve suggested that it’s time to leave the ark. After all, the dove was gone. The trees were above water. So, it must be time to go, right? Apparently Noah didn’t think so.

Genesis 8:13-14 – 13 In the six hundred first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the water that had covered the earth was dried up. Then Noah removed the ark’s cover and saw that the surface of the ground was drying. 14 By the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the earth was dry.

We see that Noah could, at least partially, dismantle the ark. He removes the cover. And what does he see? It’s over! The earth is dry. So, what happens? He still waits from new year till February 27th! What is he waiting for? The land is dry! If we were at the family meeting, we’d say it’s time to go.

Our earthly circumstances cannot be the compass of our life’s journey. Noah stayed put. Why? Because he loved the ark? No. Because he was afraid to go out? No. It was because he hadn’t been told to go out. It was by God’s word he had gone into the ark and he was going to stay until directed otherwise. But the bird! The leaf! The dry ground! Ok, but what does the Lord say? Of course, they would’ve wanted to leave the ark. But this is what it means to wait on the Lord.

Genesis 8:15-19 – 15 Then God spoke to Noah, 16 “Come out of the ark, you, your wife, your sons, and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out all the living creatures that are with you—birds, livestock, those that crawl on the earth—and they will spread over the earth and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah, along with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, came out. 19 All the animals, all the creatures that crawl, and all the flying creatures—everything that moves on the earth—came out of the ark by their families.

My question is: Lord, why did you drop us on a mountain? Imagine the difficulty in relocating everyone down thousands of feet of elevation. I remember years ago moving our piano out of our house which was a raised foundation, about 3 steps, and we all almost died.

The life of a servant of God can be very demanding. There can be a lot of uphill effort and downward drag. But when we serve in the power of the Spirit we discover that God’s yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Genesis 8:20 – 20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord. He took some of every kind of clean animal and every kind of clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

If you had survived the end of the world and spent more than a year on the ark, what’s the first think you would do when you got out?

Paul McCartney sang,

If I ever get out of here
Thought of giving it all away
To a registered charity
All I need is a pint a day

Ironically, Noah’s going to head that way in chapter 9. But on this day, the first thing he did was build an altar and hold a worship service.

I usually think of it as a lamb or two, but notice what it says: Some of every kind of clean animal and bird. This was a large, costly offering. Having looked out the window all those weeks, Noah would’ve reflected on the fact that his sin deserved judgment just like everyone else’s. He wasn’t sinless, just a recipient of the grace of God. As James Montgomery Boice points out, Noah still comes to God as a sinner and he renews his love and commitment to God in this act of worship.

Genesis 8:21 – 21 When the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, he said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of human beings, even though the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth onward. And I will never again strike down every living thing as I have done.

The sad reality is that the flood might have wiped the earth’s surface clean, but it didn’t change the human heart. Sin would continue to spread and bear its fruit, even in the lives of God’s people. Despite the persistence of sin, God would still be gracious. More gracious than we deserve. Here He makes a promise, not dependent on us, thankfully, but dependent on Him.

The other lovely thing about this verse is how God is pictured enjoying the aroma of the sacrifice. So often I think of God hearing us or seeing us. Those are things we can do from far away. But smelling requires nearness. God the Father, of course, is Spirit, but here He paints Himself as being close enough to breathe in the perfume of Noah’s offering. And it wasn’t the meat God loved to smell, but the hearts of His children, offering true and valuable praise to Him.

God is constantly describing Himself as near to us and drawing us ever closer. He shows Himself inhabiting our praises and living in our hearts and speaking softly to us and holding us in His hands. That should be our mindset as we worship. That we consider God’s love for us and consider what He has done to save us from the wretchedness of our sin and how great He is. If we do that, how could our worship be lifeless or mechanical? How could we be satisfied with giving Him the bare minimum? No, realizing these truths about God will invigorate our worship and offerings to the Lord to be full of sweet-smelling savor.

Genesis 8:22 – 22 As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.”

So the adventure closes with a poem promising God’s faithful perpetuation of creation. The flood was over, but now Noah would begin a new phase of waiting. He still had 300 years of life to live. He’d have to wait for trees to grow, crops to come in, herds to calve and grandchildren to be born. There would be a lot of waiting as he continued his walk with God.

The same is true for us. As we wait, we can choose to wait on the Lord and be of good courage. We can remember that, in the waiting, God is with us and wants to show us things and speak His Word to us and use us to further His plans. He wants to build us up, often through waiting and, as He does so, we can work with Him, worship Him, walk with Him until the Lord brings us out of this life and into the New Creation He’s saved us for. Those who wait for the Lord will inherit the land.

Working For The Week’s End (Genesis 7:1-24)

‘What would you do if you only had one week left to live’ has been the premise of daydreams, movies, and plenty of second-rate jokes. But here is a different question: What would you do if everyone else had only one week to live? That was the reality that Noah found himself in in Genesis 7. After perhaps 100 years of building, the time had come when God would do what he had said so many years before. The moment of destruction and deliverance was upon the world.

Genesis 7:1 – Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.

Noah was not just a religious man, he had a relationship with God. He “walked with God.” We don’t know how much direct communication he had with the Lord during this ark-building project. God had spoken, but it’s altogether possible that Noah had not heard from God for many years. Even so, Noah had acted on the Word that he had received.

When does God speak to us? Some of these Bible characters went decades between interactions with the Lord. We are not subject to that kind of drought. We have the completed, inspired, reliable Word of God available to us any time, day or night. Christians have the Holy Spirit living in our hearts. We have a spiritual family that we’re to be connected to – the local church – by whom we’re encouraged, supported and sharpened as we walk with the Lord. If we haven’t heard from the Lord in awhile, it isn’t because the supply is depleted, it is because we have not visited the storehouses of God’s provision. After all, the Bible says that He gives to all “generously and ungrudgingly.”

God said, “It’s time for your family to be delivered from the coming wrath against sin.” We’ve seen it before but it’s worth repeating: Noah wasn’t saved because he earned a place on the ark. He didn’t win a contest. No, Hebrews states emphatically that he was made righteous by God because he had faith. That’s the same work that God does in a life today when a person believes in Him.

Noah was the only righteous person in the entire world. Maybe you are the only Christian in your school or at your job or in your family. Take courage! God is still true. God is still working and He delights in using you to make an eternal difference right where you are.

Now, all this time, Noah had not been given a date for when the flood would come. It must’ve been a strange thing, knowing that the ark must be completed, but, at the same time, we know a huge project like that always has more you could do. Another coat of pitch on the hull. Another calculation for the water and grain. Noah’s efforts would have to be urgent but continual. The same is true for us. There is a judgment coming. We’ve been enlisted to be a part of the rescue work. Our efforts should be urgent and continual, all the more as we see the day approaching.

Genesis 7:2-3 – 2 You are to take with you seven pairs, a male and its female, of all the clean animals, and two of the animals that are not clean, a male and its female, 3 and seven pairs, male and female, of the birds of the sky—in order to keep offspring alive throughout the earth.

Bible scholars disagree over whether it was seven of certain animals or seven pairs. It seems that pairs is more fitting, as it says “male and female,” which would require an even number.

It’s taken for granted that Noah knew the difference between clean and unclean animals. These early believers had more information, given by God, than the text records for us.

This clean/unclean thing gives us a good reminder: God is the One Who establishes truth. He decided this list for Noah. That doesn’t mean we can’t eat pork, the New Testament deals with that. But we find ourselves in a time when everyone wants to debate every truth, every definition, every category and meaning. But absolute truth is found in the Word of God and it does not change.

Let’s take a moment to realize the awesome responsibility God was giving Noah. “Take these animals…in order to keep offspring alive throughout the earth.” If the Lord had given me that task, I might answer back with, “Sure thing…but maybe could we have like 20 pairs instead of one? I don’t like these odds! I need some wiggle room!”

This restriction reminds us that God is able to do a very lot with a very little. Whether it’s two little piglets or a widow’s two mites or mustard seed faith. But here’s the question: Do we trust the Lord when it seems like His way isn’t enough? For example: Do we trust God enough to give Him some of our finances like He asks us to or do we answer back, “Lord, I need more before I do that?” Do we trust God enough to stand against the pressure of the culture, even when everyone around us is going along? Do we trust God enough to be the Director of where we live, who we marry, how we live, and what we do? He has plans and methods and commands and they can be trusted.

Genesis 7:4 – 4 Seven days from now I will make it rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing I have made I will wipe off the face of the earth.”

Noah was, literally, in the last days of his world. It must have been a very full week. Most of you, when going on a long trip, go through a lot of details while packing and preparing. I’m sure Noah was very busy. In fact, we know he was.

Genesis 7:5 – 5 And Noah did everything that the Lord commanded him.

Noah is a walking illustration of saving faith. Saving faith is obedient.

John 14:15 – [Jesus said] 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commands.

Hebrews 5:9 – [Jesus is] …the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him

We see these polls about how many people “believe in God.” Gallup has put the number as high as 87% of Americans. But it’s obvious that 87% of Americans are not obeying God’s Word.

You’ve probably heard someone called a RINO. It stands for “Republican in name only.” It’s been an especially popular slur in the last few years, but it dates back to the 1920’s. It’s meant to describe someone who takes a label but doesn’t adhere to certain positions. We should be more worried about being disciples in name only. Do we obey? Obedience has real world consequences.

Genesis 7:6 – 6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood came and water covered the earth.

Noah was two thirds of the way through life. God uses people of all ages, in all places for His glory.

Genesis 7:7-10 – 7 So Noah, his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives entered the ark because of the floodwaters. 8 From the animals that are clean, and from the animals that are not clean, and from the birds and every creature that crawls on the ground, 9 two of each, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, just as God had commanded him. 10 Seven days later the floodwaters came on the earth.

In total, they would be on the ark for 377 days. In verse 13 it will seem like they entered the ark on the day the waters came. Why? There would be a lot of in and out that final week – loading animals, supplies, and personal effects. But also, Noah was a real person like you and me. You have unsaved family and friends, right? If you knew they were going to die next Tuesday, wouldn’t you find a moment to visit them just one more time and try to convince them that they could be saved?

Some commentators make much of the idea that the ark was proportioned like a huge coffin. I think that is taking a little too much license, but it does give us an analogy to think about. We know Noah was a preacher. I’m sure that he was preaching right up to the moment he was closed into this big wooden box. As believers, we want our lives to be preaching to the very end. I don’t only mean the end of our mortal lives. There are times when you’re going to make an exit – when you move to a different place or leave your job. Find ways to proclaim the Gospel in those last days.

A few weeks ago we hosted the retirement ceremony for a lady who comes to the church who had served for twenty years in the Navy. It was a great event. It was particularly great because this faithful sister used the chance to proclaim the Gospel to a group of people she may not see again.

This seven day countdown also proves to us God’s compassion. He gave the people of earth 120 years to repent. And now, He provides a final grace period before the end. He’ll do so again before the whole world is once more judged. Only in the future it won’t be 7 short days, it will be 7 years.

Genesis 7:11-12 – 11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the sources of the vast watery depths burst open, the floodgates of the sky were opened, 12 and the rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

There are a variety explanations for the mechanics of the flood. In the end, we can’t be sure. There’s the vapor canopy model, the hydroplate model, the catastrophic plate tectonics model. It might have been a mixture of various occurrences. The hydroplate model has compelling evidence, though it doesn’t solve every question. No theory does. I’d encourage you to visit sites like Answers In Genesis and the Institute For Creation Research and take a look at their fascinating articles.

But, if the hydroplate theory is correct, the bursting of water and pressure would’ve been the equivalent of 30 trillion hydrogen bombs exploding on the earth. This wasn’t just a bunch of rain. This was a disaster the likes of which we’ve never seen. Along with torrents of water, magma and rock would’ve been falling from the sky. Commentators point out that the proportions of the ark are nautically ideal – that because of the way it was laid out, it could be brought almost to a 90 degree angle and still not capsize. But it wasn’t just a really good design. God would’ve had to protect the ark from falling dangers, like He would later in the book of Exodus during the plague of hail which fell on the Egyptians but not in the land of Goshen. God will, once again, provide miraculous protection for His 144,000 witnesses during the Great Tribulation.

Genesis 7:13-16 – 13 On that same day Noah along with his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, entered the ark, along with Noah’s wife and his three sons’ wives. 14 They entered it with all the wildlife according to their kinds, all livestock according to their kinds, all the creatures that crawl on the earth according to their kinds, every flying creature—all the birds and every winged creature—according to their kinds. 15 Two of every creature that has the breath of life in it came to Noah and entered the ark. 16 Those that entered, male and female of every creature, entered just as God had commanded him. Then the Lord shut him in.

Why is this account so repetitive? God obviously wants us to understand this was a true and literal event. It is also the end of one era and the beginning of a new era – a new era with a whole new world, whose geology demands understanding. But, on a devotional level, this text is solemn. We should read it and realize how serious God is about sin. It’s not a joke to Him. It’s not a small thing. At the same time, He is also serious about saving. He will not fail to save. He always makes a way.

We’re told that “The Lord shut [Noah] in.” Adrian Rogers points out that God did not tell Noah to make a little peg on the side of the ark and then say, “Ok, Noah – as long as you hold onto that peg, you’ll be safe.” No, God shut them in securely. You don’t work to get your salvation and you don’t work to maintain it. God is the Author and Finisher of your faith. He holds you in His hand.

In that moment, when the Lord closed the door, I imagine Noah might’ve said, “Lord, can’t you come in here with us?” I’d rather have the Angel of the Lord in the boat with me, wouldn’t you? But it’s clear that God was with Noah. He watched Noah and looked deep into his heart. He spoke to Noah and helped him obey. God knew Noah’s family and cared for them. God is with you in every storm, in every hurt, in every struggle, in every valley. He will never leave you or forsake you.

Genesis 7:17-20 – 17 The flood continued for forty days on the earth; the water increased and lifted up the ark so that it rose above the earth. 18 The water surged and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 Then the water surged even higher on the earth, and all the high mountains under the whole sky were covered. 20 The mountains were covered as the water surged above them more than twenty feet.

Everything about earth’s geography changed after the flood. Some scientists suggest the highest mountains were five or six thousand feet. But even the volume of water shows God’s tender care for his people. The ark was 45 feet high, meaning that, as it floated, half of it would be submerged in water, which means if water wasn’t at least 20 feet or so higher than the highest peak, the ark might run aground. In wrath God remembers mercy. He is thoughtful of His people at all times.

Genesis 7:21-24 – 21 Every creature perished—those that crawl on the earth, birds, livestock, wildlife, and those that swarm on the earth, as well as all mankind. 22 Everything with the breath of the spirit of life in its nostrils—everything on dry land died. 23 He wiped out every living thing that was on the face of the earth, from mankind to livestock, to creatures that crawl, to the birds of the sky, and they were wiped off the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. 24 And the water surged on the earth 150 days.

Only those 8 believers were saved. There was no second boat. Tubal-Cain didn’t secretly sneak onto the ark like in that ridiculous Russell Crowe movie. In the coming wrath, only those who believe on Jesus Christ will be saved. There is no other way out.

The dramatic action of God in Noah’s day and in the yet future Tribulation prove that you are not an accident. You were created by God for a purpose. That purpose is to be loved by Him. To be cleansed of your sin so that you might walk with Him and be in communion with Him. The way out of death and into this incredible life has always been the same in every age: Believe God, believe His word, turn from the ruin of sin and instead embrace Him. Walk with Him now so that, one day, you will arrive at your eternal home, where righteousness dwells.

How many weeks do we have left to live before we are delivered through the storm of death onto the shores of eternity? We don’t know. But we can wait with urgency and continual faithfulness, based on God’s reliable promise, knowing He’s ready to use us, even till the last minute.