Obedience Doesn’t Come Cheap

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The curtains here at Stage #1, where God’s One Big Story is currently in production, are now opening on Vignette #6 of Act 1, Scene 1 of the Story.  As they do, they reveal a set which, in the absence of any light, appears to be completely empty.  However, when we begin hearing angry shouts, screams, and cursing, as well as the unmistakable sounds of fighting—as unseen fists are meeting with unknown faces in what surely sounds like unrestrained fury—we immediately become aware of the presence of a great many people on the stage, even though they continue to remain invisible to us.

Violence in the age of Noah

“…the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.”

Given the volume of this din, and with what we have so recently learned about the Planet, Population, and Powers at work during this period of human history, we are not at all surprised to hear our off-stage Narrator announce…

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth (Gen. 6:11-12).

What does surprise us, though, is the sudden appearance of a near-blinding shaft of light, streaming from an overhead spot and directed toward the center of the stage—the place where we now see a man standing alone in the light.  As soon as he comes into view, the commotion in the background diminishes enough for us to hear the Narrator once again, as he says…

[But] Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation.  Noah walked with God.  And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gen. 6:8-10).

As Noah continues standing alone in the light, the stage, as well as the entire theatre, suddenly begins to shake as the inimitable voice of God is heard, revealing to Noah the following startling news and very specific instructions…

Spotlight on Noah

Noah Hears From God

I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them.  Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.  Make rooms on the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.  This is how you are to make it:  the length of the ark 300 cubits [abt. 450 ft.], its breadth 50 cubits [abt. 75 ft.], and its height 30 cubits [abt. 45 ft.].  Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side.  Make it with lower, second, and third decks.

For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven.  Everything that is on the earth shall die (Gen. 6:13-17).

At this point, there is a brief pause; just long enough for us to wonder what must be going through Noah’s mind upon hearing such an ominous pronouncement.  Surely, he must be questioning what an ark is, what a flood is, and what this will mean to him and his family.  Then, as if to allay any such thoughts—or possible fears—we hear the voice of God say to Noah…

But, I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you and your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you (Gen. 6:18).

And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you.  They shall be male and female.  Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come into you to keep them alive.  Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten and store it up.  It shall serve as food for you and for them (Gen. 6:19-22).

Having finished with His instructions, God stops speaking, and Noah walks off the stage.  As he departs, the spotlight dims and we hear the voice of our Narrator close out this Vignette with…

[And] Noah did this, he did all that God commanded him (Gen.6:22).

With this, the curtains close once again, giving the crew time to reset the stage for the next Vignette—and giving us time to consider just what Noah’s obedience to God’s commands would have cost him. 

The High Price of Obedience 

Although no one knows for sure how long it took Noah to build the Ark, given its enormous size—and the fact that he didn’t have the luxury of (or the electricity for) power tools—it must have taken him many years.  Some understand God’s declaration in Genesis 6:3, “…My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years,” to mean that it would take Noah that long to complete this assignment.  Given the massiveness of the undertaking, the limited number of tools and hands available, the extended life spans of those in Noah’s generation, and the incredible long-suffering of God, this was entirely possible.

If this was so, Noah would have been about 480 years old when he was given this job; which, when considering that he lived for 950 years, would have put him at the midpoint in his life. Since Scripture doesn’t tell us anything about Noah’s occupation prior to this time, we have no way of knowing if he had any carpentry skills or construction experience which would have qualified him for this type of work.  And yet, here at midlife, he was being directed by God to leave whatever vocation he may have had before and take up a new one; one for which he may not have had any preparation, and one from which, for the next 120 years, he would derive no income.  Not only would this job not pay him anything, before it was finished, it would end up costing him a ton of money (in whatever the currency of the day happened to be) for the materials (I can’t help but wonder what Mrs. Noah had to say about this plan when she first heard of it?).

To get a small idea of what these expenses could have amounted to, let’s get out our calculators and do a little math:

  • Using 18 inches as the approximate measure for a cubit, the ark would have measured 450 feet in length, 75 feet in width, and 45 feet in height—a space containing 1,518,750 cubic feet.
  • However, not all of that space would require lumber—only the hull, roof, three floors, interior walls, and doors would have needed it. If these features accounted for roughly one-fourth or 25% of the space, then 379,687.5 cubic feet of lumber would have been needed for the wooden surfaces.
  • Since a board foot of lumber (1” thick, 12” wide, and 1’ long) equals 144 cubic inches of sawed lumber, and 1 cubic foot equals 1,728 cubic inches, then 1 cubic foot (1728 divided by 144) would yield 12 feet of sawed lumber.
  • If the Ark required 379,687.5 cubic feet of sawed lumber, this would translate into 4,556,250 board feet of lumber.
  • Although no one is quite sure what type of wood gopher wood was, it surely must have been a high quality, durable wood—no doubt, one far superior to the pine used for general construction purposes today. However, just for the sake of this discussion, if Noah had used pine for the ark, at today’s price (per Home Depot) of approximately $2.30 per foot, the bill for his wood would have come to $10,479,375—which, when spread out over 120 years, would have amounted to a yearly expenditure of $87,328.13.
  • Of course, these figures do not take into account the cost of the pitch (probably a resinous substance similar to shellac), any wages that Noah may have paid out to hired help, or the food which would be needed to sustain the people and animals on board the Ark for at least a year. They merely help us put Noah’s possible monetary investment into proper perspective.

    Noah Building the Ark

    Noah Building the Ark

As for the 120 years that he invested in this project, any one of the following reasons would have made these years some of the most physically demanding and emotionally and spiritual draining ones of Noah’s life.

  • The work of locating and cutting down the trees, converting them into usable timber, transporting them to the construction site, and incorporating them into the structure of the Ark would have required tremendous amounts of physical strength and ingenuity, not to mention tenacity.
  • With the first of the three sons who would eventually be sheltered with him in the Ark not being born until at least twenty years after he began this project—and since it would be several years after that before they would be old enough to help—apart from hiring extra help, Noah would have had to do the work by himself. Although his father and grandfather were still living throughout most of this period, I am not sure how much help they would have been able to offer him.  He certainly couldn’t have counted on any assistance from his neighbors because, as we learned in our discussion of the Planet, Population, and Powers, they would have been card-carrying members of the society who had rejected God and followed in the path of Cain—some of whom may have even been among those unseen participants in the opening melee of this Vignette.
  • Surrounded as he was by people later described by Jude as those who “…blaspheme all that they do not understand (Jude 10)…” and as “…grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires… loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage (Jude 16)…”—people who no doubt mocked him day and night for undertaking such a foolish project—Noah would not only have been an easy and a frequent target for ridicule and persecution but, because he was living in a violent and demonically-controlled society, his life and those of his family members would have constantly been in jeopardy.
  • Plus, being “…a herald of righteousness…(2 Peter 2:5)”—one preaching to people who, for 120 years, rejected and scoffed at the truth he offered, surely must have caused Noah untold frustration and discouragement; while the knowledge that all of the people he had preached to—some of whom would likely have been near relatives—were going to die alienated from God, certainly must have brought tremendous grief to his heart.
Time and Money

Obedience to God is Costly

So, to recap what we have just discussed, Noah’s obedience to God’s commands cost him…

  • A lot of time;
  • A lot of money;
  • A lot of hard work;
  • A lot of aggravation;
  • A lot of loneliness;
  • A lot of rejection;
  • A lot of humiliation; and,
  • A lot of heartache.

Given the expensive price tag that was attached to it, why did Noah choose to go the way of obedience?  What could possibly have motivated him to give his all to the completion of this work?  For that answer, we need look no farther than Hebrews 11:7a, where we learn that…

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.

And, I think if we could ask Noah if it was all worth it, he would say that it was, for…

By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11:7b)…

…and the payoff doesn’t get any better than that!

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Here is Don Moen with “Trust and Obey”–something that Noah certainly knew how to do..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Noah…

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The Line of the Righteous from Adam to the FloodIn our recent critique of Vignette #5 of Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story, we spent quite a bit of time poking around in the first genealogy of the Bible, which is found in Genesis 5.  There, we discovered some valuable information concerning the line of righteous People who lived from the time of Adam to the time of Noah; the Patterns of life that began to develop during this period; and, the Precedents that were established by these godly people as they sought to live out their lives in a world of ever-increasing wickedness.  Our analysis ended with a brief introduction to Noah, the tenth in line from Adam, and the one whom his father, Lamech, predicted would “…give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.”

Since the name Noah means “rest”, it is likely that Lamech believed this son to be the long-awaited Redeemer; the one whom God promised to Eve that He would send.  And, that the “rest” he had in mind was one in which mankind’s bondage to sin and death would be ended, and earth’s sin-caused curse would be removed.  It is doubtful that a world-wide flood, wiping our nearly all of the earth’s inhabitants, was the kind of “rest” he had envisioned when he named his son as he did.

As for our exploration into the flood and its earth-altering consequences, before we can dive headlong into those turbulent waters, there are still at least three things that we need to take into consideration—that is, if we are going to understand why a disaster of this magnitude had become necessary in the first place.  For, it was these three factors, working in tandem, which helped to make the Antediluvian civilization such a dark and dangerous one that it had to be erased off the face of the map.  They are:

  • The Planet, in its pre-flood condition;
  • The Population, and the effects of its explosion on society; and,
  • The Powers and their influence on life during this era.
Early Concept of Cosmos

The Ancient Concept of the Cosmos

The Planet

Although the Bible doesn’t give us much in the way of specifics about the physical conditions of the earth before the flood, it does give us enough clues to lead us to believe that it must have been a vastly different place than the earth that we are familiar with today.  Of course, the one we know is still the same size, same shape, and in the same position in its orbit around the sun that it has always been; but, from what we can gather from the Biblical clues, and from recent scientific findings, it is likely that both today’s climate and the earth’s topography are completely different from that of the original earth.

As for changes in its climate, these would seem to be attributable to differences in the distribution and storage of the earth’s waters.  Back in Genesis 1:1, 1:7, and 1:9, while studying the Creation Story, we learned that…

  • The earth started out as a formless mass of waters—meaning that there was water, water everywhere, but where was it to go?  Therefore…
  • God separated the waters by making an “expanse” (a firmament, or “thin stretched-out space”) and inserting it between the waters, and then calling this expanse “Heaven”—meaning that part of the waters were stored above earth, with these most likely being in the form of water vapor; and,
  • God gathered the waters under the expanse together in one place and commanded dry land to come forth out of the waters; calling the dry land “Earth” and the gathered waters “Seas”—meaning that the rest of the waters were contained either around the land or beneath it in underground “chambers” or rivers.

So, what effect might this pre-flood arrangement of waters have had on the climate?  Well, a layer of water vapor situated above the earth’s atmosphere and acting as a layer of insulation between it and the sun…

  • Would have provided the earth with nearly uniform temperatures everywhere;
  • These uniform temperatures would have limited the movement of air, thus preventing windstorms of any kind;
  • Without any air circulating, dust particles from the earth would not have been moved to the upper atmosphere, thus eliminating the condensation which would have resulted in precipitation;
  • In lieu of precipitation, the moisture on the earth would have been provided regularly, rather than intermittently, by dew or ground fog—something confirmed in Genesis 2:5-6 with these words… “…for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land…and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole surface of the ground”;
  • This regular misting of the earth, in conjunction with the uniformly warm temperatures, would have contributed to the world-wide growth of abundant and rich vegetation; and,
  • A vapor shield surrounding the earth would have led to an increase in the atmospheric pressure which, according to some modern research, could have resulted in an increase in health and longevity.[1]
pangaea (2)

The Super Continent of Pangaea

When it comes to the topographical differences in the earth, it is now believed that the land mass of the early earth was formed into one super continent called Pangaea, rather than being broken up into the seven continents that we are familiar with today.  According to the US Geological Survey, although…

The belief that continents have not always been fixed in their present positions was suspected long before the 20th century…it was not until 1912 that the idea of moving continents was seriously considered as a full-blown scientific theory — called Continental Drift — introduced in two articles published by a 32-year-old German meteorologist named Alfred Lothar Wegener.

Wegener’s theory was based in part on what appeared to him to be the remarkable fit of the South American and African continents, first noted by Abraham Ortelius three centuries earlier. Wegener was also intrigued by the occurrences of unusual geologic structures and of plant and animal fossils found on the matching coastlines of South America and Africa, which are now widely separated by the Atlantic Ocean. He reasoned that it was physically impossible for most of these organisms to have swum or have been transported across the vast oceans. To him, the presence of identical fossil species along the coastal parts of Africa and South America was the most compelling evidence that the two continents were once joined.

…But at the time Wegener introduced his theory, the scientific community firmly believed the continents and oceans to be permanent features on the Earth’s surface. Not surprisingly, his proposal was not well received, even though it seemed to agree with the scientific information available at the time. A fatal weakness in Wegener’s theory was that it could not satisfactorily answer the most fundamental question raised by his critics: What kind of forces could be strong enough to move such large masses of solid rock over such great distances?[2] 

What forces indeed!  As for a reason why God may have decided on one super continent for the early earth, just think how much easier it would have been, with all of the earth’s land surfaces joined together, for the descendants of Adam to fulfill the commission that God had given him to…

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:28).

And, as they did this, it wouldn’t have taken long for…

…the earth [to] be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).

But, as we shall see, while the people of this period succeeded in fulfilling God’s command to “multiply and fill the earth,” the vast majority of them failed miserably at doing it in a way which would bring any kind of glory to God.

The Population 

When we get to this part of the Bible—that is, to the story of Noah and the Flood—I believe there is a tendency on our parts to think that the population of the earth at the time must have been a relatively small one.  Perhaps, this is because, having only read five chapters and having only been introduced to a fairly small group of people so far, we get the impression that not a lot of time has passed and that not much has happened in the course of these five chapters.  But, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Using the figures given to us in Genesis 5, when we total up the years from the beginning of Adam’s life to the birth of Noah, we learn that 1,056 years had elapsed.  Then, by adding the 600 years that Noah lived before the flood to that number, we find that men and women had been living—and multiplying—on the earth for at least 1,656 years.  This is a lot of time for populations to expand and for cultures to shift and deteriorate.  For example, just think how much our world has changed in the past 1,056 or 1,656 years, respectively.  If we subtract the former figure from 2015, we would find ourselves in the year 959 AD, and by doing the same to the latter figure, we would be taken back to the year 359 AD—and, without a doubt, a lot of change has taken place in our world since either one of these dates, hasn’t it?

Take the population, for instance.  In the same length of time that passed between Adam and the birth of Noah, the population of our present world grew from an estimated 300 million to over 7 billion; while the population from 359 AD to today has increased from an estimated 198 million to well past the same 7 billion mark[3].  This is all the more remarkable when you consider that this increase was produced by men and women who were living greatly reduced life spans and having considerably fewer children than those who were alive during the years preceding the flood.  As for the population at the time of the flood, if I had to wager a guess as to its size, I think a very conservative estimate would put that at a minimum of 2 billion—which is to say, 2,000,000,000 people!  How did I arrive at that figure?

Well, by going back to the genealogy listed in Genesis 5, I learned that in addition to each of the sons listed there, the fathers were said to have “had other sons and daughters.”  Although no numbers were recorded for us, given that the average life span for these men was about 850 years, it stands to reason that the number of their offspring would have been considerable (for, as noted by the Jewish historian, Josephus, “The number of Adam’s children, as says the old tradition, was thirty-three sons and twenty-three daughters.”)[4]  With this in mind, it doesn’t require a huge stretch of the imagination to suppose that Adam and Eve could have had at least ten sons and ten daughters, who would have made up the first set of ten couples.  If each of these couples had at least ten sons and ten daughters, who would, in turn, have another ten sons and ten daughters, etc.—at the end of ten generations (and not allowing for any deaths), this would have produced a population of 2,000,000,000 people.  Roughly speaking, this would be about the same as today’s total population of China added to about half of the population of India—and, no matter how you look at it, that is a lot of people!

The Powers 

Now, in order to put these things into perspective, let’s try to imagine what our world would be like today if all of the people in China and half of the people in India were living together, spread out over a single land mass.  Given its temperate climate and regulated underground hydraulic system, this land would be one that was filled with lush green vegetation, and one where hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes were unknown events.   Something else that would be unknown is any kind of institutional structure, such as governments, laws, police, armies, churches, or schools, to dictate codes of conduct or to help control the actions of the people.  In fact, there would only be three forces around with the power to influence human behavior, and these would be the Power of God, the Power of the Human Conscience, and the Power of Demonic Spirits.  However, because most of these people would eventually choose to reject God and go through life on their own terms, His power is something that would no longer be available to them; and, as for their consciences, due to their continuous sinning, these would become so seared that they would be rendered useless as a means of curbing their actions.  This, then, would leave them open and vulnerable to any kind of influence or interference that the demonic spirits might throw at them which, from what we can gather from Genesis 6:1,2,4 could have included demon possession or sexual cohabitation…

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose… and…when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

So, the picture that we’re presented with here is one in which at least 2,000,000,000 people with fallen human natures—having denied God and His power, and whose consciences are so calloused that they no longer know the difference between right and wrong—are running around doing whatever they please—and, whatever the demonic forces at work in the world want them to do.  What a bleak and seemingly hopeless picture of humanity this is—and yet, this is what life would have been like in the years leading up to the Flood.  Is it any wonder that when…

…the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…

That…

…the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart?

Or, that He would say…

…‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land…for I am sorry that I have made them’?  (Gen. 5-7)

At this low point in our Story, it would seem that all is lost, and humanity is a goner—but fortunately for us, this is not the case.  For, it was into this very dark and doomed world that God shined one wonderful ray of redemptive light when He recorded…

But Noah… found favor [grace] in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8)…

…an acknowledgement which lets us know that it is now time our next Vignette–Vignette #6 to begin.

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

As Phillips Craig and Dean remind us, God’s Grace is still an amazing thing…

 

 

[1] Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record (San Diego, California:  Creation-Life Publishers, 1976) p.60.

[2] US Geological Survey, This Dynamic Earth:  Historical Perspective, http://wwwusgs.gov, (August 7, 2012).

[3] US Census Bureau, Historical Estimates of World Population, https://www.census.gov, (December 19, 2013).

[4] Josephus, The Works of Josephus, as translated by William Whiston (Lynn, Mass.:  Hendrickson Publishers, 1981) p. 27.

Searching for Truth in the First Book of Begats

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Although I now use the English Standard Version as my study Bible, when I first started out, oh so many years ago, I used the King James Version—a translation that I loved because of the more melodic and poetic language it used in its presentation of the Bible Story.  The one aspect of that translation that I did not care for, though, was its use of the word “begat” in the many genealogies recorded for us in scripture.  “Begat” always sounded so harsh and impersonal that its use made those already tedious and uninteresting passages all the more difficult to get into and to appreciate.  And yet, when I was finally able to get past the archaic wording, as well as all of the repetitious and somewhat sanitized documentation contained in the passages,  I found that there was a lot of truth waiting to be discovered there among all of those old “begats.”  And, searching for some of those truths is what we will be attempting to do next, as we pause to critique the first such list in the Bible—the one which was presented in our most recent Vignette, “The Lineup to the Flood.”The Book of Begats

This Vignette, number five of the nine which make up Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story, covers the material found in Genesis 5; a chapter which introduced us to the descendants of Adam though his son, Seth.  It should be noted here that Cain’s descendants, as the rejected line, were introduced back in Vignette #4 and, following their brief moment in the spotlight, they moved to their proper place at the rear of the stage.  Now, as for how we will conduct our search for truth in Seth’s line of begats, it will be done by analyzing the People, Patterns, and Precedents that were presented to us in the course of this Vignette.

The People…

An important thing for us to remember, when coming to this first genealogical list in the Bible, is that all of these funny sounding and sometimes hard to pronounce names belonged to real people, living in real time, and doing life in very real ways.  They were people who had to work for a living, who had to find and make homes for themselves and their families, who had to learn to relate to the other people around them—however difficult they may have been, and who had to learn to cope with the raising of children—many, many children, in fact.  Because they were all descended from Adam, this meant that they were all members of the same family—with everyone, at any given time, having to fill the roles of mother or father, brother or sister, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, or grandparent or grandchild to someone else.  What a relationship nightmare that must have been!

However, there was more to being a descendant of Adam than merely belonging to the same huge physical family; it also meant being members of the same huge spiritual family.  Since each one had come into the world bearing the image and likeness of Adam, this meant that they, like he, were all sinners in desperate need of redemption.  Even though not all of them would go on to acknowledge this need in their lives, the ten that did were lined up across our stage—with one representing each of the ten generations from Adam to Noah.  As the men who held on to their faith in God, and to the promise He had made to Eve concerning a coming Redeemer, they, as the members of the Antediluvian Spiritual Hall of Fame, were the ones who kept the promise and the lineage of that Redeemer alive all the way to and through the Flood.  Of these ten, there are four—Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah–who merit special recognition; something which we will be sure to give them when we get to the Precedents section of this critique.

The Patterns…

But for now, though, let’s take a step back and try to get a look at the big picture presented to us by the men in this genealogy.  For, in so doing, we will see some Patterns starting to develop, as a result  of the sin nature passed down by Adam, which will characterize the human experience from this point on.  They are…

  • Life becomes a tedious and monotonous cycle of birth, reproduction, and death;
  • As this cycle repeats itself and as more and more people are born into the world, the level of wickedness increases dramatically while righteousness decreases in a corresponding manner;
  • This decrease in righteousness leads to a diminishing of the hope that God’s promise of a Redeemer will ever be fulfilled which, in turn, leads to an ever increasing sense of despair among the people of God;
  • But, even in the face of this all of this wickedness and despair, God repeatedly proves His faithfulness by His on-going preservation of a remnant through whom the Redeemer will one day come.

The Precedents…

As for the precedents that were established during this pre-flood period in history, if we look at the unusual way in which this chapter opens, and at the unique characteristics of the men previously singled out for special recognition, we will find these Precedents to include…

1.  The Precedent of The Book of the Righteous… 

When Chapter 5 opens, it does so by saying, “This is the book of the generations of Adam”—a statement marking out a whole new section in the book of Genesis.  We know that it is the beginning of something new because toledoth, the Hebrew word for generations, is used eleven times in Genesis, and each of those times it is used to designate a break or a transition in the story.  But, while a break in the story is significant, it isn’t unusual enough to qualify as a precedent-setting event.  For that, we need to direct our attention to sepher, the Hebrew word for book, because its use here marks the first time that a record of human history is made, and that God begins recording a list of the righteous.

The Book of LifeThis list of names will become a special set of books, later referred to as The Book of Life, which, when human history comes to an end, will be brought out for all to see.  Its ultimate revealing will take place at something called the Great White Throne Judgment; the climactic end-time event described in Revelation 20 where, in verses 12 and 15, the Apostle John describes how these books will be used…

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Then another book was opened, which was the book of life.  And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

From this, we can conclude that the name of every human being who has ever lived will be written in one set of books, along with everything he or she has ever done.  In addition to these, there is another set of books, referred to here and in other places as “The Book of Life,” which contains the names of all of those who, through faith, have trusted in God for their salvation.  While everyone’s name will be listed in the first set of books, only the names of those who are deemed righteous according to God’s standards will appear in the second set of books—books which had their origins here in Genesis 5.

2.  The Precedent of The Practice of Prayer… 

From what we can gather about Adam’s and Eve’s, and Cain’s and Abel’s encounters with God, they appeared to have taken place on a personal and very intimate level.  However, with the appearance of Seth, and at about the time that his son, Enosh, was born, a new and different shift in the way men approached God seems to have taken place.  This change is noted for us in Genesis 4:25-26, where it says that…

…Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.”  To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.

Praying HandsAlthough this passage tells us that men, for the first time, began to call upon God in prayer, it doesn’t explain why this practice became necessary.  Was it because, as more and more people were born, worship became less of an individual practice and more of a corporate one? Or, was it because God, in response to the ever-increasing level of wickedness upon the earth, had withdrawn His presence from among the people?  Whatever the reason, here in the lifetime of righteous Seth, the practice of prayer had become a necessity and became an established precedent in the lives of godly men. 

3.  The Precedent of Preaching and Prophesying… 

Because the population and the level of wickedness began increasing at such an alarming rate, it wasn’t long before the preaching of repentance and the prophesying about a coming judgment became a necessity.  And, as we learn in Jude 14, 15, 16, 19, this was something that Enoch undertook with great zeal…

It was also about these [the wicked] that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” …These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage…It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

PreachingAlthough there may have been others who had seen the need for this type of ministry and practiced it before the time of Enoch, it was during his lifetime and as a result of his ministry that the preaching of repentance and the prophesying about judgment became, for us, a Biblically-documented Precedent. 

4.  The Precedent of The Translation or Rapture of the Saints… 

Not only was the Precedent of Preaching and Prophesying established in the life and ministry of Enoch, the Precedent of a Translation or Rapture of the Righteous was also established by him.  For in Genesis 5:24 we are told that…

…Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him…

…and in Hebrews 11:5, that…

…By faith, Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.”

Although another translation from this life to the next, without experiencing death, was realized centuries later by the prophet Elijah, the ultimate fulfillment of the precedent set by Enoch is still to take place at the end of time when, just before the onslaught of an event known as The Tribulation, a global translation or rapture of the Saints from the earth will take place.  Just as Enoch was removed from the early world prior to the Tribulation of the Flood, those who are alive and whose names are written in the Book of Life, at the end of time, will also be “taken up” because they, like Enoch, had obtained the witness that they walked with and were pleasing to God.Rapture

5.  The Precedent of God’s Long-suffering and Mercy…

In Genesis 5: 21-24, we learn that…

…When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah, Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years.  Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

And, then, in Genesis 5:27 that…

…all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.

The implication in the first passage is that before his son’s birth, Enoch had gone his own way, but that following Methuselah’s birth, he began developing a close, personal walk with God.  This, to me, begs the question of “Why the big change all of a sudden?”

Although the meaning of Methuselah’s name has not been completely settled for some, many believe that it means, “When he is gone, it will come”—with “it” referring to the judgment of the flood about which Enoch would later prophesy.  If so, it could be that Enoch had received a revelation about the coming judgment at the time of Methuselah’s birth; and, if he had, it would only be logical for him to believe that he might only have a short period of time in which to repent.  What if his son only lived a year or five years?  Not knowing how long a life his son would have would certainly have been reason enough for getting his life right with God as soon as possible—and to begin preaching to others about their need to do the same.

Could it be that Methuselah lived longer than other human because God, in His mercy, was trying to give men every opportunity to repent, like Enoch did?  It would certainly seem so, for as the second passage tells us, not only did God extend Methuselah’s life longer than any other human being’s, but that the year he died was the same year that the flood came upon the earth.

6.  The Precedent of The Preservation of a Remnant through Tribulation and Judgment…

Remnant in the ArkBy the time Methuselah’s son Lamech had a son of his own, things must have seemed pretty dismal because, when he named his name Noah, he spoke this prophecy over him, recorded for us in Genesis 5:29…

… ‘This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.’”

We shall see the fulfillment of this prophecy in our upcoming Vignette, for it will be through Noah that God will…

  • Reach out to the lost in his generation;
  • Bring the judgment of the Flood upon all of those who refuse to repent; and,
  • Faithfully protect and provide for His own, through the Precedent of the Preservation of a Remnant through Tribulation and Judgment.

As you can see, there is a lot more truth in this first book of begats than initially meets the eye; and, since “…All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…(2 Timothy 3:16),” it is still relevant and has application for our lives today.  That’s because, like those living between Adam and Noah…

  • We are all sinners whose natural end is death and eternal separation from God;
  • However, we can choose life instead of death by choosing to follow in the way of Seth instead of in the way of Cain;
  • This choice will always put us at odds with the majority who will be following Cain and the ways of the world;
  • But it will also mean that our names will be written in the Book of Life;
  • This will give us access to God through prayer;
  • It will motivate us to reach out to the lost through our testimony of the truth; and,
  • It will provide us the assurance that God will either take us out before, or preserve us through, any kind of tribulation or judgment that may come upon the wicked.

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Selah reminds us that throughout every age, God remains the “Faithful One…”

 

 

 

 

Vignette #5: Our Lineup to the Flood

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Genesis 1-4:  The Story So FarNow that we have completed our critique of the story of Cain and Abel, it is time for us to move on to the next Vignette, or mini-story, in our presentation of “God’s One Big Story.”  In order to put things into perspective, and as a benefit to those who may be new to our group, I think it is a good idea to do a brief recap of our story so far.

Here at His Truth, My Voice, we are currently undertaking a guided tour of the Bible, a tour which we have been referring to as “The Journey into the Land of Revelation Knowledge.”  We have named it this because, in going deeper into the Word of God, we will be traveling to places where the priceless revelations of who God is, who we are, and the parts we are to play in His wonderful Love Story of Redemption will be made known to us.

In order to aid us in our understanding of this Story, it is being presented to us in the form of a Play, consisting of Two Acts, each containing Six Scenes, which are separated by one long Intermission.  The Scenes and Intermission are being acted out on a series of Fourteen Stages and, at present, we are at Stage #1 where Vignette #5 of Act 1, Scene 1 is about to get underway.

In Scene 1, we have been introduced to God in His role as “The Celestial Suitor”—the Supreme Being whose ultimate goal is to have a spiritual family to love for all eternity.  Since a family is naturally made up of a Husband and a Wife who have children, in this scene (covering the first eleven chapters of Genesis), God will create the world of nations, from which He will choose one—Israel—to be His Wife.  It will be through His relationship with her that His Son will eventually be born into the world; and, it will be through His Son that God will one day obtain the family He has always desired.  Thus far, this is what God has done toward the realization of His goal:

  • In Vignette #2/ Genesis 2He created Man and Woman to bear His image on the earth, and to multiply and fill the earth with that image of His glory. He also made them overseers of His creation, and charged them not to do one thing—eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
  • In Vignette #3/ Genesis 3…He allowed a malevolent spirit named Satan, who appeared in the form of a serpent, to test the first couple’s obedience to His will. In the serpent’s temptation, Adam and Even were presented with the only two real options in life—either to do things God’s way and live, or to go their own way and die.  When Adam and Eve chose the latter, sin, disease, and death passed upon them and all of their descendants.  But, when their sin resulted in their separation from God, He graciously showed them that their relationship with Him could be restored if their sins were atoned for through the blood sacrifice of an innocent substitute.
  • In Vignette #4/ Genesis 4…When the time came for Adam and Eve’s sons to offer their own sacrifices to God, on one such occasion, Abel’s offering was accepted while Cain’s was rejected. This made Cain so angry that he murdered his brother.  Then, when he refused to acknowledge and repent of this sin, God’s judgment led him to separate himself from God, and enter into a life of wandering.  God later provided Adam and Eve with another son, Seth, to take Abel’s place; and with his arrival, we see a division of humanity into two distinct groups beginning to take place—with Cain heading up the line of the wicked, and Seth at the head of those in the righteous line.  At the end of this Vignette/Chapter, and in keeping with the scriptural practice of identifying the members of the rejected line first, we were given the genealogy of Cain—an incorrigible line that would ultimately succeed in corrupting society, and one which would eventually end in the Flood.

This brings us up to date in our Story, and to Vignette #5, which covers the material contained in Chapter 5 of Genesis.  While there are many who would consider this to be one of the most boring chapters in the Bible, I hope to show you that there are some important things to be gleaned from its rather repetitious presentation of information.

Now PlayingWith that being said, the time has come for the next installment of our Story to begin—and for the lights in the theatre to dim and the curtains to part once more.  As they do, we find ourselves looking upon a Stage that is pretty much in the same state as when Vignette #4 ended.  The major difference is that Cain and his line of descendants have moved from the front of the stage to the back, forming a line across the rear of the stage.  The spotlight, which was previously on our right, has moved to our left, and is once more focusing on Adam, as we hear our off-stage Narrator begin his recitation with…

This is the book of the generations of Adam.  When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.  Male and female he created them, and blessed them and named them Man when they were created.  When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image and named him Seth.

Biblical Characters

Seth

Biblical Character

Adam

At this, we see Seth walk across the stage and stand next to his father.  As the spotlight moves to highlight him, we hear the Narrator speak again, saying…

The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years, and he had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died. 

This scene is then repeated five more times, with only the names and years being changed, and with our Narrator continuing in his very formulaic fashion…

When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh.  Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.

Biblical Character

Kenan

Biblical Character

Enosh

When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan.  Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 days, and he died.

When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel.  Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.

Biblical Character

Mahalalel

Biblical Character

Jared

When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared.  Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.

When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch.  Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died. 

Up to this point, everything has been going along monotonously well, but it is here—at the seventh generation from Adam—that we find something unusual taking place.  Our Narrator explains this, using the most economical description possible, by saying…

Biblical Character

Enoch

Biblical Character

Methuselah

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah.  Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years.  Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. 

In other words, unlike his predecessors, Enoch did not die but was translated out of his earthly realm of existence and into the heavenly realm of existence with God!  Then, without offering us any more to go on, and just as though this revelation was of little or no consequence, our Narrator once again resumes his narration with…

When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech.  Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.

But, just as he seems to be falling back into the same droning pattern of…

When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah… 

…and the spotlight comes to rest on Lamech, we are surprised to hear a sudden outburst from him, as he makes this prophetic statement about his son…

Biblical Character

Lamech

Bible Character

Noah

…Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands…

…after which, our Narrator continues, as before, with…

Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.

After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

The Line of the Righteous from Adam to the FloodAnd, with the line of the righteous stretched out on the stage before us, Genesis 5 or Vignette #5 abruptly comes to a halt.  The curtains close and the lights in the theatre come up again–and, we are provided with yet another pause in our production for the purpose of critiquing what has just taken place in the presentation.  Although it is tempting for us to think that there is nothing worth critiquing in this very abbreviated episode, there is quite a lot that has been revealed here that will need to be discussed.  So let’s  take a moment and change once more out of our Theatre Patrons’ Hats and into our Theatre Critics’ Hats, and get ourselves ready to analyze the People, the Patterns, and the Precedents being established in this one, seemingly uneventful, passage of Scripture.

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As Steve Green reminds us, let’s pray that when our lives are recorded  in God’s lineup of the Righteous, may all who come behind us find us faithful…

 

Closing the Case on Cain and Abel

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Cain and Abel with Their OfferingsBefore we can leave the story of Cain and Abel behind, there are still a few matters that we need to attend to; for, we have yet to identify…

  • The Life Lessons to be learned from their story;
  • The Contributions their story makes to the One Big Story being played out on the Heavenly Stage above us; and,
  • Any Revelations of God that their story holds for us.

The Life Lessons here are ones involving…

1.  Choice

One of the first lessons to be learned from the story of Cain and Abel is that each person, at some point in his or her life, will have to choose whether to continue eating from and bearing the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; or, to step away from the that Tree of Death and head over to the Tree of Life.  When that time comes, it will not matter who that person’s parents are, or how godly they may be, every child born to those parents will have to decide for themselves if they will continue to pursue the Way of Works or if they will abandon that natural and fleshly way for the Way of Faith—a Faith that is founded on the Word of God and which provides the forgiveness of sins and salvation made possible only through the substitutionary and atoning work of Jesus Christ.

2.  Cost

For those choosing the Way of Faith, the story of Cain and Abel also serves as an excellent reminder that their choices will come with a price tag attached.  Just as Abel’s righteous deeds served to convict Cain of his own sins, the righteousness of those who come to salvation through faith in Christ will also offend and separate them from the wicked around them—sometimes the members of their own families—and may lead to their persecution and, at times, even to their deaths.

3.  Consolation

Although we may recoil at the idea of an innocent person being senselessly slaughtered by a guilty one, merely because the one in the wrong arrogantly refuses to admit his guilt, we can take comfort in the knowledge that no injustice will ever escape the notice or the judgment of God.  Just as in the case of Cain and Abel, where Abel’s blood cries out to God from the ground, anytime the blood of a righteous person is poured out in the defense of his faith, it calls out continuously to the God who will see to it that the life represented by that blood will eventually be vindicated.  And, from what we have learned so far about the principles of sowing and reaping, we can be certain that the seed sown by this or any act of wickedness will produce a harvest that is in keeping with the nature of the deed.  On the other hand, the seed sown by the righteous will be sure to reap according to the promise of Jesus in John 12:24-25…

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

The Contributions here are all about Patterns…

1.  Patterns of Generational Sin

In Vignette #4, the Fruit of the Fall, after God’s confrontation with Cain about the murder of his brother and Cain’s subsequent refusal to acknowledge or repent of his sin, we learned that…

…Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.  Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.  [And] When he [Cain] built a city he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. (Gen. 4:17)

To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech.  And Lamech took two wives.  The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.  Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.  His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.  Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron.  The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. (Gen. 4:18-22)

Lamech said to his wives:  Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:  I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.  If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-seven fold.  (Gen. 4:23-24)

From this account, we can see the beginnings of a Pattern for Generational Sin that will continue throughout the Story of the Bible; a pattern becoming more prevalent as more and more people choose to go the way of Cain, turning away from God and insisting on living life on their own terms.  This pattern is laid out for us in the following illustration…Pattern of Generational Sinx

 

2.  Patterns of Conflict

In addition to the Patterns of Generational Sin, here in the story of Cain and Abel, Patterns of Conflict are also beginning to take shape.  These patterns, naturally arising out of the opposing natures of these two men—natures derived from the two systems of faith which they represent—will result in the division of humanity into two groups, the Righteous and the Wicked.

Just as God, on the first day of Creation, divided light from darkness and day from night, here in the lives of earth’s first siblings, we find the same kind of division taking place; a division which will continue to exist throughout the remainder of human history, and one which will provide the conflict needed to move the action of the story forward.  We will learn more about this in our upcoming Vignettes but, for the time being, this illustration will help us understand these Patterns of Conflict and their sources a little better…Patterns of Conflict

 

Revelations of God…

As for the Revelations of God in this story, we once again find Him presented as the gracious and loving God who, “…not willing that anyone should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9),” seeks out the sinner, and confronts him with his sin for the purpose of bringing him to repentance and restoration.  However, when these gracious gestures are rejected, we see God revealed as the Judge who must see to it that the righteous demands of the law are met and that any violators of that law are punished appropriately.  Even in His judgment, though, the picture painted here of God is of One who remains merciful, even to the point of protecting the life of the unrepentant offender from revenge-seekers; and, in His raising up Seth to take the place of righteous Abel, the One who remains faithful to His promise to Eve to provide her with a son through whom the Redeemer will one day come.

With humanity now divided into the two camps of the Righteous and the Wicked, and with Cain and Seth in place as their two heads, we are ready to move forward in our Story; and, to the presentation of our next Vignette, where we will learn how the actions and interactions of these two groups will result in the Judgment of the Flood.

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If we could talk to Abel today, he would probably agree with the sentiments expressed in “All My Tears,” by Selah, with Kim Hill…

 

Fruit Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

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Now that we have learned a little something about the principles of Sowing, Reaping, and the Nature of the Two Trees that were planted in the center of the Garden of Eden, it is time for us to take a look at the part these elements played in the Cain and Abel story which was recently acted out for us in Vignette #4.  Keeping in mind the principles that we have learned since then—which were, that for any seed sown…

  • More would be reaped than was initially planted;
  • The harvest for that seed, though delayed, would always come once the fruit had fully matured; and,
  • The fruit produced as a result of it would always bear the image of the original seed…

…it should be easy for us to see how the seed sown by Adam and Eve, when they ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, reproduced itself in the lives of their children and grandchildren; bringing forth a harvest more bitter and deadly than anything they could ever have imagined.

Their Births

Although we aren’t told a lot about Cain and Abel, either in Genesis 4 or in the few related passages that speak of them, we are told enough to know that these two brothers were as different as different could be—with the first difference being seen in the way in which they came into the world.  Although they weren’t born into the same paradisaical situation that their parents had first experienced, still, the world which greeted them both must have a very beautiful one.  Cain was born into it first and, because of this, his birth elicited a far more ecstatic reaction on the part of their mother.

Adam and Eve with Sons

Adam and Eve with Sons

As you may recall, back in Genesis 3:15, when God provided animal skins as a covering for Adam and Eve’s sin, He promised that one day the “seed of the woman” would come and crush the head of the Serpent—an act of redemption and deliverance which would free Man forever from his bondage to sin and death.  We can well imagine that from Eve’s joy when a male child was born to her, and from the naming of him as Cain (meaning “gotten,” as in “I have gotten a man from the Lord”), both she and Adam looked upon this child as the “Promised One”—or, as the One who would someday deliver them from the curse brought about by their sin.

Abel’s birth, on the other hand, didn’t create quite the same stir.  There was no obvious excitement when he was born and, in giving him a name meaning “vapor, vanity, or breath,” it would seem that not too much was expected of him by his parents—that, maybe, in their eyes, he would never be able to measure up to stature of his older brother.

But, with both boys being raised in a generally pleasant environment by the same parents and, with them living in a world…

  • without any grandparents, aunts, or uncles to butt in (or to muddy up the family gene pool);
  • without any known sicknesses or diseases to afflict them;
  • without any governmental or police authorities to have to answer to;
  • without any schools, peer pressure, media or other cultural influences to lead them astray; and,
  • without any church or temple, bosses, or co-workers to be concerned about…

…it would be reasonable to expect that both of these young men would turn out to be equally fine specimens of humanity, wouldn’t it?

Their Vocations

The second noticeable difference between Cain and Abel was readily seen in their choice of vocations, with Cain, either willingly or out of necessity, choosing to become a farmer, and with Abel choosing the life of a shepherd. These were two completely different but equally demanding occupations, with the former requiring hard work to produce food from ground previously cursed by God; and, the latter demanding a twenty-four hour a day commitment to the raising of the animals which could be used for both sacrifices and clothing.  Although different, it would seem that these two livelihoods would prove to be mutually beneficial:  Cain could exchange some of his produce for the sheep he needed for sacrifice and for clothing, while Abel could use the produce he received to provide food for himself and his family.

Their Relationships

Of course, the major difference between these two brothers was in their opposing attitudes toward and relationships with God.  For, although both boys had been born into the same family, and were of the same spiritual stock—that is, in their original spiritual states, they were both products of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; Cain, at the time of our story, was still proving himself to be fruit from that Tree of rebellion, while Abel, through his actions, was demonstrating that he had found his way to the spiritual Tree of Life, and had become part of its fruit.  For evidence of this, we need to look no further than at the offerings these young men brought to God.

The Offerings

We first learn of these offerings in Genesis 4:3-4a, where we are told that…

Cain and Abel at the Altar

Cain and Abel at the Altar

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.

At first glance, nothing seems to be amiss in this situation; Cain, from all outward appearances, is bringing God some of the fruits of his labor, while Abel is doing the same.  But, then, things take a decidedly different turn as we read in verses 4b and 5 that…

…the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.

Hmmm…here we have two brothers with two offerings, both being made at the altar and both at the appointed or designated time for sacrifice—what could possibly have been wrong with this picture?  What was it that set these offerings apart, making one but not the other acceptable to God?  Was it because of the differences in the offerings themselves, or was it something that went deeper than that?

Different Offerings?

I have heard a considerable bit of discussion about this over the years, with some people advancing the theory that, because there was no specific written instruction as to what the offering should be, the one which Cain brought should have been okay; with those holding to this opinion frequently citing the provision of grain offerings in the Mosaic Law to support their position.  However, the grain offerings included in the Law were Peace and Thanksgiving offerings that were to be made once a sin or a burnt offering (offerings specifically calling for animal sacrifices) had been made and accepted by God.  While we have no indication that any type of grain offering had been sanctioned by God or instituted as part of the worship ritual in Cain and Abel’s day, we can find scriptural justification to support the belief that the animal sacrifice brought by Abel was the type that had been mandated by God.

In Leviticus 17:14, it says that “…the life of every creature is its blood:  its blood is its life;” and, in Romans 6:23 that “…the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Since, in these passages, God declared that the life of a person is in his or her blood, and that the wages of his or her sin is death, then it would follow that the person who sinned would be required to die and offer up his or her life’s blood to atone for that sin.  Although this was, and still is, the demand of God’s holy law, God has added something of a proviso to it; and that is, as an act of His grace, God stipulated that another’s life—and blood—could be substituted for that of the sinner, on condition that the life and blood of the substitute be sinless, so that it could satisfy the righteous demands of the law.  This law of substitution is what made the sacrifice of innocent animals necessary, and is why this type of offering became the precedent for all those that would be made in the future.

With this precedent having been established in the Garden, and with parents who no doubt told their sons all about it, why would Cain have dared to bring any other kind of offering to God?  Although we are not told so here, fallen human nature being what it is, there are some things that we can surmise which might help to explain his actions:

  • If Cain had grown up believing that he was the Promised Deliverer, he may have adopted the attitude that he could do no wrong, and that no matter what he did, it would be okay with God.
  • If this was the case, he would have had an ego the size of all Eden, accompanied by an attitude of superiority, which would have made going to his younger brother for anything, especially a sacrificial lamb, simply intolerable.
  • Certainly, the fact that Abel was a prophet (something not mentioned here but revealed later on by Jesus in Matthew 23:34-35 and in Luke 11:50-51) wouldn’t have helped to improve the situation in any way. If, in times past, when acting as a prophet, Abel had confronted Cain about his arrogant attitude and preached repentance to him, it surely wouldn’t have endeared him to someone with Cain’s exaggerated sense of self-importance.
  • Cain may have also been harboring resentment toward God; possibly for having kicked his parents out of Paradise for such an “insignificant” offense as eating from the forbidden Tree, and thus denying him the privilege of growing up there. He could have resented having to work so hard to get the earth, cursed as it was by God, to yield its increase—especially when a life of relative ease was waiting to be had, if only he lived in the Garden.

…Or, Different Hearts?

Whatever else may have been going on behind the scenes, one thing we can know for sure is that the real issue between these two men was neither physical nor emotional but spiritual in nature, and reflective of the two very different heart attitudes of the brothers.  For proof of this, we need only to go to  Hebrews 11:4, where we learn that the truly distinguishing feature between their two offerings was faith, for…

“By faith, Abel offered up a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.”

And why was faith the deciding factor here?  As it is explained so simply in Hebrews 11:6 and in 1 Samuel 16:7, respectively…

“…without faith it is impossible to please him [God], for however would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

“For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, the Lord looks on the heart.”

If a heart of faith was what was required to please God, then how did Abel’s offering reveal that?  Since “…faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17),” Abel must have taken to heart the Word that he had received, most likely from his parents, which said something to the effect that “…without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Heb. 9:22)”—and then acting upon that Word, he offered up to God his best lamb as the substitutionary payment for his sins.

Abel Slain by Cain

Abel Slain by Cain

Cain, on the other hand, in his rejection of the same Word, and in his willful determination to do things in his own way, foolishly attempted to come to God on his own terms, rather than approaching God in the manner which had previously been ordained.  Such arrogant actions on Cain’s part resulted in God’s rejection of his offering, which provoked Cain to anger and to the subsequent murder of his brother, which led to a further curse being placed on his farming, and which, when he refused to repent, led to Cain’s separation from the presence of God, leading ultimately to a life of fearful wandering.  As for the true nature of Cain’s heart and actions, they were best described centuries later by the Apostle John, when he warned his readers in 1 John 3:12:  ““We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

Now, as we recall what we previously learned about the nature of the two trees—which was…

  • That the Tree of the Knowledge of Good an Evil was rooted in the in the same desires that motivated Satan to rebel against God, that it produced the SAP of Selfishness and Pride, and that its Fruit was all about Me and My Glory…
  • …while the Tree of Life was rooted in the same desires to do God’s will that characterized Jesus, its SAP being Submission and Praise, while its Fruit for God and His Glory

…then it should be plain enough for us to see that Cain, in his prideful reliance upon his own works at achieving righteousness, was the first and most perfect piece of fruit to fall from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—becoming, if you will, a regular “poster child” for all those who would come after him, seeking to come to God on their own merits.  Abel, on the other hand, with the placement of his faith in the gracious provision of God—that is, in the one allowing for the substitutionary death of an innocent lamb to provide a covering for his sins—was the first and a most fitting example of the fruit to be produced by the Tree of Life.  The offerings that they brought to God, then, were merely outward demonstrations of these inner beliefs.

Of course, both of these trees will continue to bear fruit in each of the generations to come but our inspection of that fruit will have to wait until next time; the time when we will also complete our assessment of the story of Cain and Abel by looking for…

  • the Life Lessons that we can take away from their experiences;
  • the Contributions that their story makes to the One Big Story taking place on the Heavenly Stage above us; and,
  • any new Revelations about God contained within their story.

Until then, though, let’s join with Kutless and reflect on just…“What Faith Can Do.”

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Sowing, Reaping, and the Nature of the Trees

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The Initial Seed of Evil

Previously, in Vignette #3, we watched sadly and helplessly as Adam and Eve deliberately chose to disobey God by eating from the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This one errant action on their part was all that it took to introduce Evil, with its accompanying fear, shame, deceit, alienation, and death, into what was then an ideal world.  Later, in Vignette #4, we saw how, after the passage of time and with the addition of their sons, Cain and Abel, that initial seed of Evil sown by our first parents had taken root and blossomed into the kind of bitterness, resentment, misunderstanding, self-righteousness, and anger that would lead to the first murder in the world.

So, what we want to do now, as we pause once more between Vignettes to critique this most recent part of God’s One Big Story, is to learn how things could go from bad to worse in such a relatively short period of time, and the lessons that we can take away from it today.  To do this, though, we first need to spend a few minutes acquainting ourselves with a few of life’s most basic and important principles—these being, the principles of sowing and reaping, and the nature of the two trees that are at the heart of all of life.

Sowing and Reaping

Because the majority of us have not, and probably never will have, any connection to anything agrarian (other than eating the produce we pick up from the local market), it may be difficult for us to understand how important sowing and reaping is in God’s plan for our lives.  And yet, we can begin to see their significance when we stop to consider that:

  • In John 15:8, Jesus said, “In this am I [God] greatly glorified in that you bear much fruit”;
  • In the Creation Story found in Genesis 1, we are told at least ten times the all living beings were designed to reproduce “according to their own kind”;
  • God told Noah in Genesis 8:22, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease”;
  • All of Israel’s God-appointed religious feasts and festivals were connected to an event in the agricultural calendar; and,
  • All of the major events in prophetic and redemptive history are associated with some part of the sowing and reaping process; with that process being described by Jesus in the following way:

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom.  The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.  Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.  In that place will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  He who has ears, let him hear (Matt. 13:37-43).

Reaping the Harvest

Reaping the Harvest

From this, it should become apparent that life itself is just one long cycle of sowing and reaping, the purpose of which is to produce more life and/or fruit for the glory of God.  A seed is sown, it is fertilized, watered and supplied with light by the sun; it takes root and after some time, it grows to maturity and reproduces the fruit which will either nourish some other living being, or provide the seeds needed to reproduce itself once again.  In theory, it is a very simple process; however, when it comes to sowing and reaping, there are a few principles that must be taken  into consideration, if we are going to be prepared for the harvest that we will inevitably receive.

Therefore, we need to remember that..

  • Although one seed will produce just one plant, that one plant is likely to produce a lot of fruit—so we will almost always reap more than we sow;
  • The seed we sow will not spring up into a plant overnight but it will take time, sometimes a lot of time, to grow to maturity—so that while our harvest will not be immediate, it will be sure and will come at the appropriate time; and,
  • Whatever seed we sow, it will bear the image of the original—so that the fruit produced by any seed we sow will be of the same kind and nature as its “parent,” with that kind and nature being passed on to all future generations of that seed.
You Reap What You Sow

You Will Reap What You Sow

But what do these principles of sowing and reaping have to do with our Story?  Well, in short, everything—which is something that we will come to see, after we learn a little more about the two trees at the heart of the Story.

The Nature of the Two Trees

Of course, the two trees to which I am referring are the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; trees which were planted by God in the center of the Garden of Eden for a very specific purpose. As we learned in Another Learning Interlude, this Garden was the designated place of meeting and fellowship between God and Man; where, if Man was going to continue his fellowship with God, he would have to live in obedience to Him, even when tempted to do otherwise.  God’s purpose for positioning the Trees at the heart of the Garden, then, was to test Man’s heart, and to demonstrate if he would choose to obey God and be blessed, or disobey Him and reap the consequences.

As for the trees themselves, and why Adam and Eve would choose the one over the other, I don’t think their choice had anything to do with one tree being more attractive than the other for, in a description of all of the trees in the Garden, Genesis 2:9 tells us that…

And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.

So, given that all of the trees were equally attractive and good for food, what was it that made the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil so appealing; and why would the first Man and Woman choose to eat from it instead of the one from which they could freely eat?  For a better understanding of this, let’s consider what these Trees represented to Adam and Eve—and what they represent to us, as well.

The Only Two Ways Available to Men

In His provision of the two Trees, God was presenting Adam and Eve with the only two Systems of Faith that would be available to mankind, and was confronting them with the choice that both they and we have to make at some point in our lives—the choice to either put our Faith in the Works of the Flesh and try to earn our salvation on our own terms, or to to do things God’s way and put our Faith in the Sacrificial Work of the Lamb of God as the only way of securing our salvation and eternal life.

If we were to analyze these two Systems of Faith in the following way, we would discover that…

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…

…Is rooted in the same desires that motivated Satan to rebel against God—which are listed in Isaiah 14:13-14:

I will ascend into Heaven.
I will be like the Most High.
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.
I will also sit on the Mount of the Congregation.

…Produces SAP of Selfishness and Pride.

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

The Way of Works and Death

…Produces Fruit for Me and My Glory.

While…

The Tree of Life…

…Is rooted in the same desires that characterized Jesus, the promised Messiah in Psalm 40:6-10:

I delight to do Your will.
Your law is within my heart.
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth.
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation.
I have proclaimed the good news of [Your] righteousness in the great assembly.

Produces SAP of Submission and Praise.

Tree of Life

The Way of Faith and Life

Produces Fruit for God and His Glory.

From our analysis of these two systems, it should be easy for us to see that the reason the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was so attractive to Adam and Eve was because of its overpowering appeal to their flesh—that is, to their latent selfishness and pride, and to their desire for self-glorification.  Unfortunately, because of their decision to eat from this tree and to go the Way of Works, they doomed every one of their descendants (with the exception of Jesus Christ) to enter this world already committed to this same system–which, as we have learned, is nothing other than the Way to Death.  However, because of God’s gracious provision of a Sacrifice to atone for or to provide a covering for their sins, both they and all those who would after follow them would have the opportunity to opt out of this system of Death, choosing instead to go the Way of Faith—which is really the only Way to Life.

As for how sowing, reaping, and the nature of the two trees affected the children of Adam and Eve, this will be more clearly seen next time, as we take a closer look at the Story of Cain and Abel, and inspect the fruit that didn’t fall too far from the tree. 

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As we reflect on these things, let’s join Unspoken in “Call It Grace.”

 

 

 

The Fruit of the Fall

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Exiled from the Garden

When we last saw Adam and Eve—at the end of Vignette #3 of God’s One Big Story—they were being evicted from their Garden home for violating God’s one and only condition in their lease agreement, which was to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This tree was one of two special ones located in the middle of the Garden and, by partaking of its fruit, they became guilty of disobeying God, and became sinners with a firsthand knowledge of Evil.  This, of course, meant that they could no longer stay in the Garden, where they would have continued access to the other tree at the Garden’s center, the Tree of Life; for, if they had eaten of the Tree of Life then, they would have lived forever in their fallen states, and would have never known the joy of becoming a redeemed Child of God.

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Cain and Abel in Happier Days

The curtains here at Stage #1 are preparing to open again on what will be Vignette #4 of our Story and, as they do, we hear the voice of our off-stage Narrator bringing us up to date on what has happened since that sad and fateful moment when Adam and Eve were thrust out of their first home—the place where they had only known the Good that life had to offer.  He lets us know that a lot has changed, and that a considerable amount of time has gone by, when he tells us that…

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.’  And again, she bore his brother Abel.  Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.  (Gen. 4:1-2)

Cain and Abel6a

Cain and Abel at Work

It is at this point that the Stage comes fully into view and, while Adam and Eve are nowhere to be found, we see before us two young men in the foreground:  the one on our left is Cain, who is tending to his crops; and, the one on our right is Abel, who is tending to his flocks.  Behind them is a field, and beyond that, at the back of the Stage, there is the Angel with the flaming Sword who is still guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden.  Close to this entrance, there is also a pile of stones stacked neatly in the form of an altar—which, from the looks of it, has been used a number of times in the past.

As we continue looking at the Stage, our characters continue going about their work, even as the lights are dimmed and then relit six times—simulating the passage of six days and nights.  At the end of what would be the sixth day, however, their day-in, day-out routine is interrupted when Cain gathers up a portion of his crops, Abel selects what appears to be the very best—the firstborn—lamb of his flock, and they both head toward the altar at the back of the Stage—the place where they plan to meet with and to worship God, as they offer up to Him their sacrifices.

Cain and Abel9a

Cain and Abel at Worship

When they arrive there, the first thing they do is check to make sure the stones of the altar are clean and that none of them are loose; and then, after going out and gathering up sticks,  they proceed to light the fire for the altar.  Once they have it burning, Cain wastes no time in putting his offering on the altar—an offering which is very quickly consumed by the flames, and one which leaves behind no particularly fragrant odor to enjoy.  Abel’s offering, on the other hand, takes a good deal longer to prepare.  First, he inspects the lamb to make sure that it is unblemished in every way.  Next, he kills the lamb and cuts its body into pieces, draining the blood from it as he does.  Finally, he places the pieces on the altar—being sure to include the choicest pieces of fat—and then pours the blood out on the ground at the base of the altar.  He, now completely covered with the lamb’s blood, stands back, watching as the flames consume his offering, and as its sweet-smelling aroma wafts its way to heaven.

Almost immediately, the Lord lets the brothers know that the sacrifice that Abel made has been found to be acceptable, while the offering made to Him by Cain has been rejected.  When this happens, Cain becomes so obviously angry that it prompts God to question him in the following manner…

God:  Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. (Gen. 4:6-7)

Cain and Abel10a

Cain and Abel at War

Sadly, it appears that Cain has taken no heed of God’s warning for, as he and Abel are returning from the altar, he begins arguing with his brother.  Although we cannot hear what is being said, we can see that the argument is escalating very quickly—so much so that, by the time they reach the field, Cain has picked up a rock and has begun hitting Abel in the head with it.   After a couple of well-placed blows, Abel’s lifeless body collapses on the ground.   Upon seeing his brother lying there motionless, Cain, seemingly in a state of panic, rushes back to the front of the Stage.  If he had hoped that, in distancing himself from the scene of the crime, he would be able to claim his innocence, he was very quickly and sadly mistaken; for, no sooner than he had arrived, he found that God was there to meet him for the following confrontation:

God:  Where is Abel your brother?

Cain:  I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?

God:  What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.  And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength.  You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.

Cain:  My punishment is greater than I can bear.  Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from you face I shall be hidden.  I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.

God:  Not so!  If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.

At that, we see God placing a mark of some kind on Cain’s forehead—a mark designed to keep any avenger of his brother’s blood (possibly one of their other brothers) at bay.  Once that is done, we watch as Cain calls his wife, gathers up his belongings, and heads off into the distance—to a land east of Eden called Nod.  As he leaves, and as the lights dim on him and his wife, our Narrator offers us some insights into what Cain’s future holds, as he tells us that…

Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.  [And] When he [Cain] built a city he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. (Gen. 4:17)

Although we are not told so, we are left to imagine that, in his building of a city, Cain was trying to provide himself with a fortification where he would be safe from anyone seeking vengeance upon him.  We are also not told how he would be making a living, given that his former occupation was no longer a viable option for him.  But, we can wager a guess that, as a result of lives lived apart from God, the end that he and his descendants would eventually come to would not be a good one.  We are given an indication of this as several men and a few women line up on the Stage before us—and, as our Narrator announces that…

To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech.  And Lamech took two wives.  The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.  Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.  His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.  Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron.  The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

Spotlight2aAs our Narrator announces the name of each of Cain’s descendants, a spotlight shines on each one briefly, before moving on to the man in the next generation.  However, when the light shines on the last man, Lamech, we are surprised by his sudden and arrogant outburst to his wives…

Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:  I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.  If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-seven fold.  (Gen. 4:23-24)

If Vignette #4 were to end here, it would be a very sad ending indeed.  But, we are given renewed hope when our Narrator once again interjects…

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.’  To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh.  [And] At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord. (Gen. 4:25-26)

Praise God, all is not lost!

 

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Join the Gaithers in “There is Power in the Blood”…