Abraham:  Called to Warfare

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Every Believer is Called to be a Warrior

For those of you who are joining us for the first time, we are currently engaged in a study of the Bible, being presented here in the form of a two-act play which we’ve entitled, God’s One Big Story.  In Act 1, Scene 1, we covered Genesis 1-11—the Overture to our story—and now, in Act 1, Scene 2, we are studying the lives of the Four Patriarchs found in Genesis 12-50.  They are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, the four men most responsible for the birth and development of Israel—the nation who would one day become the Wife of Jehovah, and the one through whom Jesus Christ would later come into the world.

We are referring to the stories of these important men as Biopics, short for Biographical Pictures, and in our studies of them, we are looking specifically for the…

  • Life Lessons they have to teach us;
  • Contributions they have to make to God’s One Big Story of Redemption; and,
  • Revelations they provide of God and His Purposes.

During our last visit together, in Episode #1 of Biopic #1, we learned that Abraham—or, Abram, as he was named at birth—was…

Called by God to Wander;
Called by God to Worship; and,
Called by God to Witness.

Following him through his first faltering steps of faith, we watched as he navigated his way through a series of Divine Revelations and Testings—after which, when we left him, he had arrived in a very good place.  He had returned from a disastrous trip into Egypt (a picture or type of the world) where, in a backslidden condition, he had managed to compromise…

  • His relationship with God;
  • His relationship with his wife; and,
  • His witness to the world.

However, once Abram was back in the Land of Promise…

  • He restored his relationship with God through a renewal of Worship;
  • His restored his Witness following his Separation from Lot; and,
  • He was given a renewed and expanded Revelation of God’s will for his life.

Afterwards, Abram relocated his headquarters from Bethel (the House of God) to Hebron (the Place of Fellowship)—which is where we will find him today when Episode #2 of his story begins.  As we wait expectantly for it to get underway, we suddenly hear our Narrator, somewhere off-stage, giving us an update on the events that have taken place in Abram’s world since we saw him last…

Episode #2 of Biopic #1
(Genesis 14)
Cast:     Narrator     Abram     Melchizedek     King of Sodom    

Our Narrator begins…

And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar).  All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).  Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim, and the Horites in their mountain of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is by the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Hazezon Tamar.

Five Kings versus Four

As our Narrator continues with his report, we can also hear the distinctive sounds of a battle taking place in the background, as…

…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 joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.  Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

At this, the curtain rises and we see Abram, minding his own business and enjoying his peaceful life in the Place of Fellowship with God in Hebron—when suddenly, his life is turned upside down by this series of events which, on the surface, seem to be totally unrelated to him.  This upheaval begins when…

…one who had escaped [from the war] came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram.

Now when Abram heard that he [Lot] was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.

Although Abram was greatly outnumbered…

He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus…

…which was over 150 miles to the north of Hebron.  Following his victory…

…he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.

And, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him.

However, there someone far more important who went out to meet Abram first…

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.  And he blessed [Abram] and said…

Blessed be Abram of God Most High, ​​Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, ​​Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.​

In response to this blessing, Abram…

…gave him a tithe of all. 

After his encounter with Melchizedek, the king of Sodom approached Abram with the following offer

Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.

In other words, just return the people and you can keep all the loot—to which, Abram responded without hesitation…

I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’— except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

With this response, this brief and somewhat puzzling Episode comes to an abrupt ending.  That doesn’t mean that we are finished with it, though, for there is still much for us to discuss, once we don our Critic’s Caps again and begin our Review of the events which have transpired here.

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The Critics Hat

Time to Put on the Cap Once More

Episode #2–Review

To aid us in this Review, let’s first take a look at the most important points of this story…

I.  The War of the Kings—since this is the first mention of a battle, king, or war in the Bible, it must be significant.

The Coalitions
Why were Kings from so far east interested in the area around Sodom and Gomorrah?

Although this was not the first war in human history, since it is the first one recorded in the Bible, it becomes a template for all the others that would follow.  As in most of those cases, the motivating forces here can be attributed to Egos and Economics—that is, to a Lust for Power motivated by Pride, and to a Lust for Wealth motivated by Greed.  The Apostle James, many centuries later, described these powerful forces in the following way….

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.  (James 4:1-3)

So, what was it that Sodom and the surrounding cities had that provoked such lusts in the Kings of the East?  It was their…

  • Position—they were located in close proximity to the major trade routes connecting the East with Egypt, the Bread Basket of the World at the time;
  • Natural Resources—the valley in which they were located was full of asphalt pits, a material highly prized because of its uses in building and road construction, the waterproofing of boats, and even as medicine; and,
  • Wealth—these cities, because of their location and natural resources, had become extremely wealthy—wealth which made possible their lavish and decadent lifestyles.

The Kings of the East and the Coveted Trade Routes

The Conflict
Why did the Canaanite Kings rebel? What made them think they could win? What might God’s motive been in allowing this to happen?

After being bled dry by the Eastern Kings for twelve years, the cities in the Valley of Siddim had had enough.  Having lost the lifestyle to which they had hoped to remain accustomed and tired of being fleeced by foreigners, they—no doubt also motivated by Egos and Economics—must have thought the battle to reclaim that their wealth and lifestyle would be well worth the effort.

As for God’s part in all of this, while it is not spelled out for us here, considering what happens to Lot and Sodom and her sister cities later on, their defeat and looting could very well have been God’s wake-up call to them—giving them the opportunity  to repent and get right with Him, in order to stave off the judgment that was soon to come.

The Conquest–-
What spiritual picture does this paint for us?

Throughout Scripture, we find instance after instance in which God raises up someone to fight for right even in the face of overwhelming opposition.  Think of the victories of Gideon and his three hundred men against the Midianite army, David and his five smooth stones against Goliath, and Jonathan and his armor-bearer against the Philistines—who, at the time, rightly declared…

For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few (1 Samuel 14:6).

The spiritual principle for us, then, is that when we are called to warfare—as we surely will be—the battle belongs to the Lord; for, we have His assurances that…

A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you (Proverbs 21:31); and,

The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD. (Proverbs 21:31).

II.  The Rescue of Lot

–Where was Lot living at the time?

Because he was taken prisoner along with everyone else in Sodom, it seems that he was no longer living on the outskirts, but had become a permanent resident in the city.

–What does this tell us about Lot?

It seems to say that either Lot did not share the same faith in God as his uncle Abram; or, if he did, that he had been lured away from that faith by the worldly attractions of Sodom.

–Do you think Lot merited Abram’s intervention? Why or why not?

On the surface, Lot doesn’t appear to have been worthy of Abram’s rescue but, because Abram had “adopted” Lot following the death of his father, he had a moral obligation to go after him and rescue him.  No doubt, he also felt a spiritual obligation to do so, in the hopes of giving his nephew a chance to repent before he lost everything he held dear—that being, his family.

Peter later gives us this insight into Lot’s spiritual condition at the time, when he says, if God…

…delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority (2 Peter 2:7-10).

–Can you think of a parable that might apply in this situation?

The one that comes to my mind is the Parable of the Lost Sheep, found in Luke 15:4-7…

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

Abraham’s Worshipful Encounter with Melchizedek

III.  Abram’s Encounter with Melchizedek

–Who was Melchizedek?

In this episode, we are told that he was the King of Salem (the city that would later be called Jerusalem), and the Priest of God Most High.  The name used for God here is El Elyon, a name which…

…emphasizes God’s strength, sovereignty, and supremacy.  In Genesis 14:20, Melchizedek said to Abram, ‘blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ He understood that the Lord is extremely exalted. Let us say as the Psalmist did—’I cry out to the Most High Elohim, To El who is perfecting all matters for me’ (Psalm 57:2).[1]

–Where did he come from?

Unlike everyone else of significance in the Book of Genesis, no genealogical information for Melchizedek is provided—no record of his birth, his death, or his parentage.

–Where else is he mentioned in Scripture?

In addition to this passage in Genesis 14, where Melchizedek serves in the dual roles of King of Peace and Priest of the Most High God—the one who sets a table of communion before AbramKing David references him in Psalm 110 when he prophesies of the coming Messianic King who will one day come through his line.  This King will be held in higher honor than Melchizedek, because He will sit at the right hand of God and rule over the nations.  He, too, will serve as Priest of the Most High God, something which is elaborated upon at length in Hebrews 7.  There, the writer elevates Melchizedek to the status of a pre-incarnate figure of Christ; who, without father or mother, is eternal and who, unlike those in the Levitical Priesthood, will continue as a Priest forever.

–How do you think a King of Righteous could have come to rule over the ungodly people of [Jeru] Salem?

When we consider that the Canaanites were notorious idol worshipers, it seems highly unlikely that a Righteous King would be ruling over one of their cities.  However, Seth, the righteous son of Noah, was still alive at this time, leading some to think that he could have been Melchizedek (Melchizedek being a title rather than a first name).  However, in addition to Arphaxad, the ancestor of Abram, Seth had four other sons through whom his Faith in God could have been passed on.  So, it is entirely possible that Melchizedek might have been one of them.

–Why are the bread and wine, the tithes, and the blessing an important part of this Story?

As elements of the Covenant, the Bread and Wine represent the Communion that Abram shared with God as part of that Covenant.  In the giving of his Tithes, Abram was recognizing and honoring Melchizedek as God’s Chosen Mediator of that Covenant; and, in his blessing of Abram, Melchizedek was reaffirming God’s Covenantal Promises to Abram.

IV.  Abram’s Encounter with the King of Sodom

–What was the King’s offer?

According to the rules of warfare at the time, the spoils of war belonged to the winner of the conflict which, in this case, would have been Abram, and would have included the people as well as the material objects.  It seems, then, that the King of Sodom was trying to cut a deal with Abram where the spoils were concerned.

–What did it represent to Abram?

Abram had been made extremely wealthy through a compromise of his faith and integrity when he went down to Egypt—a compromise which put him on the “outs” with God, and wealth with brought strife and division into his home.  So, for Abram, this represented another Test—one designed to reveal whether or not he had learned anything from those earlier mistakes.

–What, if anything, do you think is significant about Abram’s response?

For one thing, in using the same name for God that Melchizedek had used—that is, the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth—Abram revealed that the decision to reject the offer of the King of Sodom was made as a result of his worshipful encounter with the King of Salem.  Then, in his speedy response to the offer, he was demonstrating that he had learned that his relationship with God, and his reputation and witness were more important to him than anything the world had to offer.

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In Summary


–What, if any, Life Lessons can we take away from Abram’s experience in Genesis 14?

As we are going about our lives of wandering, worshiping, and witnessing, there will be times when we, like Abram, will be called to do warfare at a moment’s notice.  But, unlike the fleshly battle that he was called to, the warfare that we will be engaged is one that is spiritual in nature.  Like it or not, there will be times when we will be called to do battle on behalf of those who seem to be totally undeserving of our intervention, and those who may not even appreciate our efforts to rescue them.

And, for every victory we experience, we can be sure that the Enemy will be there trying to steal it away through some sort of compromise on our parts.  But, like Abram, we need to settle the issue beforehand of what is most important to us—our walk with God and our testimony before others, or the temporal gratification of material rewards or recognition.

–What Contributions does this Chapter Make to God’s Big Story?

In Melchizedek, Abram was given a preview of the coming Messiah—his very own descendant who even now, is serving as our Great High Priest in heaven, and the One who will one day reign forever as the King of Peace and Righteousness in the New Jerusalem.

–How is God Revealed in this Chapter?

In His relationship with Abram, God reveals Himself as Jehovah-Nissi—the Lord is My Banner—the God who goes before us into battle and secures the victory for us through His own power.  And, in His relationship with Lot, He reveals Himself as the Guardian and Deliverer of His People—even in the midst of His judgment upon the wicked.

So far in this study, we have seen how God has been revealing Himself through His Promises to Abram, and then Testing him to reveal his Faith in and Stewardship of those Promises.  In the next chapter—Genesis 15—we will begin to discover the Purpose behind all of this Preparation.

 

Be sure to check it out!

 

[1] From the website, https://discoveringthejewishjesus.com/el-elyon/.

Map courtesy of Bible History Online.
Some pictures courtesy of Free Bible Images.

Abraham: Called to Wander, Worship, and Witness

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Abraham: A Man of Faith and a Friend of God

Welcome back to Act 1, Scene 2 of God’s One Big Story.  Although it has been a while since we last met, when we did, we were introduced to Abraham, the first of the four Hebrew Patriarchs who are showcased in Genesis 12-50.  Since these men were the ones most responsible for the birth and development of the Nation of Israel—and, since Israel will be making her first appearance on our stage in the next scene—this one will be given over to an examination of the Biographical Pictures—or, Biopics—of these important men.

As for Abraham/Abram,[1] here is what we have learned so far about the Man who would eventually become known as the Father of Israel, the nation that would one day become the Wife of Jehovah…

  • He was a descendant of Shem through his son, Arphaxad;
  • He appeared on the human stage sometime between 2100-2200 BC;[2]
  • He came from a family of idol worshipers;
  • He was born as Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, left Ur with his family to travel to Canaan but was waylaid for a period of time in Haran, an important trade city about 600 miles northeast of Ur (an area part of southern Turkey today); and,
  • He was married to Sarai, who was childless.

With this brief but valuable background information now in hand, we are ready to launch out on our journey with Abram, just as he is preparing to embark upon his journey of faith with God.  In our travels with him, we will be privileged to share in his Spiritual Transformation, witnessing his growth from Paganism to Faith—from his first faltering steps of obedience to his complete surrender to the will and purposes of God.  This transformation will certainly not be an overnight occurrence but will take a lifetime to accomplish; and, as we shall soon see, it will be achieved through the on-going process of Revelation and Testing, in which…

  • Abram will first have an Encounter with God, when God will reveal more of His plans and purposes for Abram; after which,
  • Abram will undergo A Period of testing (usually an extended one), designed to reveal how faithful a steward he has been with the revelations received so far.

Since this process is in no way unique to Abram, but is the same one God uses in the training of all of His Children, it will serve us well to pay careful attention to Abram’s experiences; for, through them, we will be discovering some valuable Life Lessons, as well as some important insights into the Nature and Purposes of God.

Abram’s Journey from Ur to the Land of Promise

Episode #1 of Biopic #1—Showtime!
(Genesis 12:1-13:18)
Cast:
     Narrator     God     Abram     Lot     Sarai     Pharaoh

Now that Episode #1 of Biopic #1 is ready to begin, let’s get settled in our seats, for the lights in the theatre are dimming and the curtain is slowing starting to rise.  As they do, we can hear the resonant voice of our Off-Stage Narrator, informing us that at some time in the past, God had met with Abram and instructed him to…

Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.  I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

With the Stage now fully lit before us, we can see a large company of people on the outskirts of Haran, packing up and preparing to leave that bustling caravan city.  And, we hear our Narrator again, as he begins detailing the action taking place on the Stage before us…

It’s Off to Canaan–after too long in Haran!

So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.

Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh.  And the Canaanites were then in the land.

After what must have seemed like an interminable five hundred-plus mile journey, Abram and his company finally arrive in Shechem; and, in spite of the fact that the land is currently occupied by the Canaanites, once he is there, the Lord appears to Abram and makes him this surprising promise…

To your descendants I will give this land.

We watch as Abram responds to this amazing promise by building an altar and worshiping the Lord on the very spot where He has just appeared to him.   But, Abram doesn’t linger in this place for long because, as our Narrator quickly informs us…

…he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.  So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.

Now, It’s Off to Egypt!

All is not well for very long, however, for our Narrator soon adds…

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land.  And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that…

…we find Abram, motivated by fear rather than by faith, acting very deceptively when he says to his wife, Sarai…

Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance.  Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.  Please say you are my sister,[3] that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.

Here, our Narrator interjects…

So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful.  The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house.  He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels.

However, God was not at all pleased with this, so…

…the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.

When Pharaoh discovers the source of the plague, he calls Abram and demands an explanation for his deception…

What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?  Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way.

And, It’s Out You Go!

At this, our Narrator resumes his commentary

So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had…

Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South.  Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.  And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the LORD.

Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents.  Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.  And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.

Next, we hear Abram—the epitome of grace and generosity—tell Lot

Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren.  Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.

To which, our Narrator adds…

And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar.  Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other.  Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.  But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.

With Lot’s separation from Abram, we hear the LORD addressing Abram once more, telling him to…

Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.  And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.  Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.

At this, our Narrator closes out this episode with these fitting remarks…

Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the LORD.

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Episode #1—Review

The Critics Hat

It’s Been Way Too Long!

With this first Episode of Biopic #1 now behind us, it’s time for us to pull out and put on our trusty, albeit somewhat rusty, Critic’s Caps, and begin our Review of this segment of Abraham’s Story.  Given that it’s been so long since we last did a review of this sort, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of what we will be looking for.

From the beginning of this Study Tour, it has been our practice to examine each Bible Story on the following three levels…

  • First, we approach it from an Earthly Level, analyzing the everyday events taking place on the Earthly Stage before us, looking specifically for any Life Lessons that we can take away from it;
  • Once we understand the practical significance of these events, we then move on to a Heavenly Level examination, where we seek to identify the contributions they have to make to the One Big Story taking place simultaneously on the Heavenly Stage above us; and,
  • Finally, we re-examine these events on an Eternal Level, looking for any Revelations of God that they may provide.

The Earthly Level Review

Revelation #1…

For reasons known only to Himself, God chose Abram and initiated a relationship with him while he was still a sinner, living in a family of idol worshipers, and living in a culture completely given over to idolatry.  Then, in order to get Abram to the place where He wanted him to be, both physically and spiritually, God met with him three times during this one episode—each time revealing a more expansive view of His Will and Purpose for Abram’s life;

During their first meeting, God gave Abram a very specific set of Instructions and an incredible set of Promises—these being…

God’s Initial Instructions and Promises to Abram

While it may not be readily apparent, these Instructions  are actually God’s Short-Term Goals for Abram, and were meant to move him from where he was to the place where God would begin fulfilling His Promises—or, His Long-Term Goals for Abram.

For these Long-Term Goals to be realized in his life, though, Abram would have to learn…

  • To live a life of Separation—from the evil influences that he had known in his homeland, influences which would hinder him from living a holy life;
  • To Wander, walking by Faith and becoming totally dependent upon God (because it was going to take a lot of faith on his part to meet the challenges that would be waiting for him in the future);
  • To Worship, something we have no record of him doing while he was in his homeland;
  • To become a Witness of God’s Grace and Mercy to the people already living in the land.

…in Progress

Test #1—When called to a Life of Separation, Wandering, Faith, Worship, and Witness, what was Abram’s Response?

While he succeeded in separating himself from his country and his extended family, he failed to leave his immediate family behind—a decision which not only delayed his arrival in the land, the beginning of his worship and witness, as well as the Fulfillment of God’s Promises to him, but which revealed how immature his faith was at this point in his journey.

Revelation #2…

In spite of this failure, however, once Abram arrived in the Land of Promise, he was blessed by another visit from God.  As brief as it was, this encounter served as a confirmation that he had indeed arrived in the place of God’s choosing—and, it was also an opportunity for God to add to His earlier Revelation to Abram.

In this newer Revelation, in spite of the fact that the Canaanites were already occupying the Land, God promised to give it to Abram’s descendants.  This surely must have come as a shock to Abram because, at this point in his life—at seventy-five years of age—he didn’t have even one son to carry his name forward into the future—or the hope of ever having one!  Since it was going to take a lot of faith for Abram to believe this promise, and since his faith was still so immature, a lot more testing was going to be required.

…In Progress

Test #2—What was Abram’s Response when promised Descendants to possess the Land?

His immediate response was to build an Altar and Worship God, first at Shechem and then at Bethel.  Later, however, when faced with a Famine in the Land, and seeming to forget all of God’s Promises, Abram abandoned the Land and his new Walk of Faith, and headed for Egypt—a picture of the World—in an attempt to deal with this situation on his own.

However, this proved to be a costly decision, because it…

  • Caused him to break fellowship with God and to stop worshiping;
  • Caused him to jeopardize not only his relationship with Sarai, his wife, but more importantly, her life;
  • Destroyed any witness he may have had to Pharaoh and the Egyptians;
  • Brought him so much wealth that it later created strife and division within his household.

So, after being unceremoniously booted out of Egypt, Abram chose to do the best thing possible, and that was to go back to Bethel and start over again.  When he did, his fellowship with God was restored and he became a worshiper once again.

Revelation #3…

Even though Abram’s relationship with God was restored at Bethel, his problems didn’t automatically disappear.  In fact, they only increased.  Because both he and Lot had become very rich in Egypt—not just in gold and silver but in livestock, too—when they returned to the Land and it couldn’t support their greatly increased flocks and herds, conflict arose and the two men found it necessary to separate.  (This would have been unnecessary had Abram let Lot remain in Mesopotamia, as God had originally instructed him to do.)

While Lot’s choice to relocate to the suburbs of Sodom would later prove to be a disastrous one for both him and his family, the decision to separate turned out to be a blessing for Abram, as it resulted in a third visitation from God.  In this latest encounter, God expanded on His earlier Revelations even more; this time marking out the boundaries of the Land He was giving to Abram, to as far as his eye could see in all directions—and by increasing his descendants to more than could ever be numbered.

…In Progress

Test #3—What was Abram’s response to this latest Revelation?

He packed up and left Bethel, the place of repentance and restoration, and moved on to Hebron, the place of Fellowship with God.

Life Lessons from the Earthly Level Story

In this first Episode in the Abram’s Story, it should be relatively easy for us to see that our Life Lessons closely parallel the Short-Term Goals which God had established for him.   Like Abram…

  • Those of us who have come to Faith in God, have done so because of God’s gracious intervention in our lives, and not because of any merit of their own;
  • We, too, have been called to a life of Wandering, Worshiping, and Witnessing;
  • We have also been called to Walk by Faith, not by sight, learning to depend upon God and His provision for us;
  • In our walks with God, we are going to be Tested so that the faithfulness of our Stewardship of God’s Revelations can be revealed;
  • Disobedience on our parts will not only delay the work that God wants to do in and through us, but also the fulfillment of His Long-Term Goals for us;
  • God will not give us any New Instructions until we have obeyed the last things He told us to do; and,
  • Even though God watches over us during our periods of disobedience, He will not negate the poor choices (and their consequences) that we may have made (and incurred) during that time.

Heavenly Level Review

In the reviews of the Bible Stories we’ve studied so far, we have learned that in addition to their valuable Life Lessons, the people and events in each one were also intended to paint a Spiritual Picture for us.  This is certainly true of the Story of Abram; for, when we backup and look at God’s Big Picture of Redemption, we can see that in this Episode…

  • Abram was being prepared to step into his role as the Exalted Father of Israel, who, at the appropriate time, would enter into a Marriage Contract or Covenant in which Israel would be Promised to God.
  • Abram was being re-located to the Land where God would eventually make His home, where he would live among His People in an Earthly Tabernacle.
  • God, from this Pivotal Piece of Real Estate, would establish a Witness to the World through Israel.  As long as she remained faithful to Her Husband, He would bless her to such a degree that she would become the Light of Truth to all the Nations of the Earth; and through her, God’s Son would come into the World to provide for its Redemption.

Eternal Level Review

In the past, we have described the Bible as the Progressive Revelation of God, in spite of the fact that He rarely gives us a verbal description of Himself in Scripture.  Instead, He has chosen to reveal Himself through the things He does and the ways that He relates to people.   So, if we are going to uncover the Truths about God hidden in this Episode, then we will have to look closely at His actions and His relationships with the people involved in this portion of the Scriptures, if we are to discover that…

God Reveals Himself in Everything He Does

As you can see, there is a lot to be learned about God and about Living a Life of Faith in this one Episode of Abram’s Story.  But, there is even more to be discovered when we get into Abram’s Call to Warfare coming up next, in Episode #2 of Biopic #1.  In anticipation of that, please read through Genesis 14, asking yourself the following questions…

  • Why is this Episode important enough to be included in this Story?
  • What part does it play in the Life of Abram?
  • What Life Lessons are there to be learned from it?
  • Does Worship, Witness, Separation, or the Principle of Expanded Revelation play any part in it?

Something to Ponder…

Have You Been Able to See God Creating Faith in You through Your Trials?

 

* Some illustrations courtesy of Free Bible Images at http://www.freebibleimages.org/

[1] For clarity’s sake, we will use the name Abram until the point in the story when God changes his name to Abraham.

[2] Note on Calculations—In 1 Kings 6:1, we learn that the 4th year of Solomon’s reign—966 BC—was 480 years after the Exodus [966+480=1446], and from Exodus 12:40-41, we learn that the Israelites lived in Egypt 430 years.  So 1446+430=1876, making that the year that Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.  Since Jacob was 130 when he appeared before Pharaoh, Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born, Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born, and Abraham was 75 when he entered the Promised Land, this would mean that the total time spent in Canaan would have been 215 years [130+60+(100-75)=215]. Adding 215 years to 1876, then 75 (for Abraham’s age until then)—the year that Jacob and his family moved to Egypt—we arrive at a date of 2166 BC for Abram’s birth.

[3] In Genesis 20:12, we learn that Sarai is Abram’s half-sister—the daughter of his father Terah and another mother.

 

Stage #2–At Last!

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Now that we have arrived at Stage #2, the time has come for us to exit the Truth Train and make our way into the theatre, where Act 1, Scene 2 of God’s One Big Story will soon be getting underway.  As we leave, let’s remember to take with us the Program Guides we were given on the first leg of our journey.  These will prove to be helpful because, while we are watching the smaller stories taking place on the Earthly Stage before us, they will help us keep in mind the larger story that is taking place on the Heavenly Stage above us.

In the event that you have misplaced your guides—or, if you are new to this study tour—here are some extras that you can take with you.

Guide #1

Guide #2

As you can see from Guide #2, in Act 1, Scene 1, God was the Celestial Suitor who, in anticipation of His upcoming betrothal, created the earth as the ideal home for His future wife.  We watched in awe as He, through the 9 Vignettes in Genesis 1-11, created the world full of nations out of nothing, making ready the Earthly Stage for the imminent appearance of His Bride, Israel.

So, now that our stage has been set, where does that put us in our Story?

It is here, at Act 1, Scene 2, in Genesis 12-50, that we will be introduced to the four men most responsible for the creation and development of the nation of Israel. They will be introduced to us through the use of Four Biographical Pictures—or, what we will be calling, the Biopics of the Four Patriarchs.  They are…

Biopic #1—Abraham

The first Patriarch we will be studying is Abraham, known today as the Father of Israel.  He plays such an important role in the story of Israel that, of the fifty chapters in Genesis, fifteen are dedicated to him and his earthly pilgrimage of faith.  By comparison, only eleven chapters of this first book of the Bible were used to cover all the major events of the world from its creation to the dispersion of the people into nations following God’s judgment at the Tower of Babel.

As for when his part in our story takes place, if we calculate the years given in the genealogy of Shem in Genesis 11, when he makes his entrance upon our stage, approximately 1946 years have passed since the Creation, 288 years since the Flood, and—if the division into nations took place during Peleg’s lifetime—anywhere from 27 to 266 years since the episode at the Tower of Babel. As a result of that incident, and God’s confusion of the one universal language there, people have dispersed into different nations, taking with them the false religious beliefs they had adopted at Babel. 

Concerning Shem’s descendants, according to the Jewish historian, Josephus, his five sons settled in the areas making up much of today’s Middle East.  There…

  • Elam became the father of the Elamites, the ancestors of the Persians (Iran).
  • Ashur became the father of the Assyrians (northern Iraq).
  • Arphaxad became the father of the Arphaxadites, later called the Chaldeans (southern Iraq).
  • Aram became the father of the Aramites, or Syrians, as they were known by the Greeks.
  • Laud became the father the Laudites, later called the Lydians (Turkey).[1]

Given that Abram was a direct descendant of Arphaxad, it should come as no surprise to learn that at some point in his life, he and his family had resided in Ur, a prominent city in the land of the Chaldeans, and a land wholly given over to the worship of idols.  In fact, we are told later in Joshua 24:2 that even Abram’s family had, in the past, been numbered among them…

Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River [Euphrates] in old times; and they served other gods (Joshua 24:2). 

Although you may not remember it, we actually met Abram/Abraham back in Genesis 11:27-36, at the end of Scene #1—where we learned that…

Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot.  And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 

Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah.  But Sarai was barren; she had no child. 

And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.  So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.

From this brief introduction, we are told several important things about Abram/Abraham…

  • At this stage in his life, he was still being called by his given name, Abram, a name meaning exalted father–and, a meaning made all the more ironic by the fact that at this point, and for many years to come, he and his wife were childless;
  • He and his family had left their hometown of Ur for reasons which, for now, still remain a mystery to us; and,
  • When he left Ur, Abram’s original destination was Canaan but, also for reasons unknown, his journey there had been put on hold and they were currently living in the city of Haran.

Before delving any deeper into the life of Abraham, though, let’s first take a few moments to discuss why theses things are so important to our Story…

  • As we learned back in More Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion, being a descendant of Shem meant that Abraham was among those who had been charged with the Stewardship of God’s Revelation to the world; plus, being a descendant of Arphaxad placed him in the generational line leading directly to the Redeemer who had been promised back in the Garden of Eden.
  • As for the exact date of Abraham’s appearance on the earthly stage, we are not sure.  A number of different dates from 1800-2200 BC have been suggested, however, if we do some calculations using other scripture references, we will arrive at a date of 2166 BC.[2]  This was a pivotal time, not only in human history but also in God’s Story of Redemption because…
    • By and large, the other nations of the world were now in place and the peoples were worshiping a host of false gods, rather than the one True God;
    • While the other nations had been formed naturally through their common languages and shared cultures, Israel would soon be created supernaturally in response to the Word and Promise of God, as the nation through whom God’s Son would one day be born into the world, for the purpose of reconciling that world to God;
    • With human government(s) then in place (and because of its corruption at the Tower of Babel), this not only marked the beginning of the nation of Israel but also the beginning of a whole new dispensational period in God’s Redemptive Story—the Dispensation of Promise.  As this chart illustrates, dispensations are merely the periods of administration or stewardship of God’s revelation to Man, taking him from the period of innocence of the Garden to the kingdom rule of Christ in the Millennium.
  • The fact that Abram/Abraham came from a family of idol worshipers is a reminder to us that, in spite of his spiritual heritage and the part he was about to play in God’s Redemptive Plan, he was himself a sinner—and a member of a family of sinners who were comfortable living in a sin-saturated culture.  As such, he had done nothing special to merit God’s favor but, like everyone else who has or who ever will become a member of God’s Family, he was merely the beneficiary of God’s Grace.
  • Being born in Ur of the Chaldees meant that Abraham…
    • …had been accustomed to living in a prosperous industrial, commercial, and agricultural center with a population of about 360,000 people; a great city-state enclosed by a wall 2 1/2 miles around and 77 feet thick, and one dedicated to the worship of the Moon God.
    • …was most likely a member of an upper class family living in a spacious home in town and, because the sons of the upper class were the only ones allowed to go to school, he was sure to be an educated and literate person.  Since the government didn’t allow most people to just up and leave Ur, for Abram and Terah to have been able to do so, they most likely would have been free merchants or high officials.
  • Because Abraham and his family stopped for an indefinite period of time at Haran, and Haran means Caravan City, it is likely that they were involved in and prospering from the lucrative caravan trade linking Mesopotamia and the Far East with Egypt.  We know that such a trade existed because the ancient Egyptian texts speak of such caravans at this time numbering 500, 600, and even 1000 donkeys.
  • At this point in our Story, the reason why Abraham would choose to leave all of this prosperity behind and go to Canaan is still a mystery to us.  Unlike Ur or Haran, Canaan was pretty much a rural backwater with no major cities or city-states, and no governmental bureaucracy to offer him any economic opportunities or protection.  Patriarchal Rule was the law of the land and central to every aspect of life there; with the head of each clan having absolute power—even the power of life and death—over every member of his clan.
  • Probably the most important fact we have been given so far is the one concerning the barrenness of Sarai.  This is important to our Story for several reasons…
    • It was an embarrassment to Abraham and made a mockery of his name(s);
    • It was a reproach to Sarai–because God’s original blessing was that of having children, this would have seemed to indicate that she, for some reason, had lost favor with God;
    • It meant that Abram/Abraham would not enjoy the natural immortality (immortality which came from having one’s name carried into the future through succeeding generations) or care in his old age that a son would have provided; and, most importantly,
    • It meant that God’s promise of a coming Redeemer would not be realized through him.

Now that we have a better understanding of the dynamics operating withing the life and times of Abraham, it is time for us to get on with the Story of the Man himself—and, to do that, we need to return to where his story started in Genesis 11: 27-32.  Before the curtain rises on that scene, though, let’s pause briefly to mull over all of the information we have just been given.


[1] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews: Book 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1960), 42.

[2] In 1 Kings 6:1, we learn that the 4th year of Solomon’s reign—966 BC—was 480 years after the Exodus [966+480=1446], and from Exodus 12:40-41, we learn that the Israelites lived in Egypt 430 years.  So 1446+430=1876, making that the year that Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.  Since Jacob was 130 when he appeared before Pharaoh, Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born, Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born, and Abraham was 75 when he entered the Promised Land, this would mean that the total time spent in Canaan would have been 215 years [130+60+(100-75)=215]. Adding 215 years to 1876, then 75 (for Abraham’s age until then)—the year that Jacob and his family moved to Egypt—we arrive at a date of 2166 BC for Abram’s birth.

Back on Track–The Journey Resumes

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It’s Time to Get Back to the Land of Revelation Knowledge!

All Aboard and welcome back, fellow travelers!  I am happy to say that, after a rather lengthy but edifying visit to the Workout Room, the time has come for us to once again head out on the Truth Train and resume our Bible Study tour through the Land of Revelation Knowledge.  For those who are joining us for the first time, this tour is unique in that it presents the One Big Story of the Bible as a Play; one consisting of two Acts with six Scenes each and one long Intermission between the acts.   These scenes and the intermission, as well as an epilogue at the end of the play, are being acted out for us on fourteen different Stages, positioned along the route we are taking through this vast and incredible land.  When we broke for our detour to the Workout Room, we had just left Stage #1 where Act 1, Scene 1 had completed its run, and we were on our way to Stage #2 where Act 1, Scene 2 had been scheduled to get underway.

Now that we are back on track and heading in that direction once more, considering how long it has been since we left the first Stage, I think it would be wise if we used this travel time to Review  briefly what took place in Scene 1, and to Preview what will soon be taking place in Scene 2.  For those who may feel the need of a more thorough review, one can be obtained by visiting the His Truth, My Voice Theatre page, where all of the material we’ve covered so far has been arranged chronologically for easy viewing.

Reviewing Where We Have Been

In Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story, we were introduced to the Sovereign God of the Universe, whom we discovered is not only the Main Character of the Story but also its Author.  From the opening verses of the Script(ures), we learned that this God is…

  • A Trinity of Three Unique Persons united in One Divine Purpose;
  • Pre-existent and Eternal; and,
  • All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and Present Everywhere at All Times.

As for the Story itself, we learned that it is a Love Story, borne out of God’s Heart and His passionate desire to have a Family of His own to love.  It was for this reason that He created the world and the people living in it—people who, as they multiplied, would eventually become the nations from which one, Israel, would graciously be chosen to become God’s Wife.  When Act 1 opened, however, no such nations existed; therefore, to prepare for Israel’s eventual entrance onto the earthly stage of the Story,  all the action taking place in the opening scene was for the purpose of bringing them into being.

The way in which this was accomplished was revealed to us through the use of nine dramatic Vignettes, or mini-scenes, covering the major events in Genesis 1-11–these being…

The Creation of the World;
The Creation of Man and Woman;
Their Sin and Fall from Grace;
The Consequences of their Sin…

…Personally,
…In Their Family,
…In Society at Large;

The Judgment on their Sin through the Flood;
The New World after the Flood; and,
Mankind’s On-going Rebellion and its Judgment. 

Over the course of these Vignettes, we learned how God used elements from the real-life experiences of people living on the Earthly Stage at the time to tell the Bigger Story of Love and Redemption that was taking place on the Heavenly Stage.  In fact, by the end of Vignette #9, we were able to see how the mini-scenes of Genesis 1-11, when viewed together, formed a Panoramic Prophetic Picture of all human history—creating, in effect, a Spiritual Overture of the themes and motifs which would be reappearing throughout the rest of the Story.

For example, in this Overture, we saw how

  • In the story of Creation—in going from darkness to light, chaos to order, and from death to life in response to the Word of God and the “hovering” work of the Spirit—we were provided with a picture of the recurring spiritual theme of Re-creation or Rebirth.
  • The story of the First Adam and his wife, Eve, gave us the prophetic picture of the Second Adam, Jesus, and His Bride, the Church—who, like Eve, was fashioned from a “rib” (the disciples) taken from the Second Adam as He slept in death.
  • The story of the Two Trees in the Garden was an illustration of the only two “salvation” alternatives available to mankind—the counterfeit system of works or the genuine system of salvation through faith in Christ.
  • In the story of Cain and Abel—in which God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering by faith and His rejection of Cain’s self-righteous offering provoked Cain to envy, anger, and the murder of his brother–we were given a spiritual illustration of the wicked’s on-going rebellion against and persecution of the righteous.  We were also shown a picture of Cain as a type of Israel—the brother who, after his slaying of the righteous Son, was marked for protection before he began his wanderings in the wilderness of the world.
  • In the long “Reign of Death” taking place between the stories of Cain and the Flood, we were shown how sin affected all men, leading to their deaths, and the futility of life lived apart from God.
  • In the translation of Enoch just before the judgment of the flood, we were given a prophetic picture of the Rapture that will take place prior to the Great Tribulation, when those who are “walking with God” will be translated to heaven without dying.
  • The lawlessness and demonic activity preceding the Flood gave us a preview of the conditions that will exist before the Tribulation, as self-absorbed humanity abandons faith in God, violence increases, and doors are opened to ever-increasing levels of satanic activity.
  • And the Flood, in which the wrath of God was poured out from heaven against the unrighteousness of men while a small righteous remnant in the Ark was being spared, provided us with a picture of the end-times Tribulation, when the wrath of God will once again be poured out from heaven against the unrighteousness of men, while a righteous remnant is being preserved on the earth.
  • In the story of Noah after the Flood, when those in the Ark came out to a new earth and entered into a new covenant with God, we were shown a “type” of the “new world” that will exist when Christ sets up His Millennial Kingdom following the Tribulation–where the righteous remnant will live on a cleansed earth, under a new covenant with God, for a thousand years.
  • The rebellion at Babel gave us a prophetic picture of Satan’s final act of rebellion—when, at the end of the Millennium, he will be released from his thousand year imprisonment to lead one final revolt against the righteous rule of the Lord.
  • And, in the Judgment of the Nations at the Tower of Babel, the final Judgment of the Nations is in view, when the Lord gathers the nations together—separating the “sheep” nations from the “goat” nations— and judges them according to the way they have treated His “brethren.”

In Genesis 1-11, We Start with Nothing and End Up with a World Full of Nations

Now, having refreshed our memories as to what we have seen, and with Stage #2 fast approaching, let’s prepare ourselves for what we can expect to see when the curtain goes up on Act 1, Scene 2 of God’s One Big Story.

Previewing Where We Are Going

Whereas in Scene 1, we were introduced to God as “The Celestial Suitor”—who, in anticipation of obtaining a Bride, created and prepared the world to be her future home—in Scene 2, we are going to be introduced to the Patriarchs—or, the line of godly ancestors through whom “Israel: the Beloved of God,” will come into being.  Much like Scene 1, where the story was told through the use of 9 Vignettes, in Scene 2, the story will unfold by means of 4 Bio-Pics, or four biographical pictures of these ancestors of Israel, found in chapters 12-50 of the book of Genesis.  They are…

Abraham—the Exalted Father who becomes the Father of a Multitude;
Isaac—the Long-Awaited Son of Promise who displaces the Son born in Bondage;
Jacob—the Scheming Shepherd who becomes a Prince with God; and,
Joseph—the Betrayed Brother who not only becomes His Brothers’ Savior but the Savior of the World, as well.

Before we can move forward with the story, though, there is still the all-important matter of Formatting that we need to take into consideration.  Hopefully, those of you who have been with us from the beginning of this tour will remember that during our visit to the Welcome Center of the Word, we viewed the video, The Bible: The Story Behind the Story.  In that video, we learned that the Story of the Bible has been formatted according to the Ancient Jewish Wedding Tradition—a tradition completely foreign to our present day concepts of marriage.  Because of this–and, in order for us to truly appreciate the Love Story that the Bible has to tell–we must first come to an understanding of the Wedding Tradition upon which that story is based.

The Format of the Story

Because Family was at the center of Jewish life and culture, the choice of a marriage partner was a very serious business.  This selection was not to be determined by some fly-by-night or emotional impulse of the moment; it was achieved through an involved Marriage Process, consisting of three distinct phases…

The Arrangement or Negotiation Phase;
The Betrothal Phase; and,
The Marriage and Consummation Phase.
 

  1. The Arrangement or Negotiation Phase

The Ketubah–the Marriage Contract

In Jewish culture, when it was time for a young man to marry, typically his father would choose a bride for him and then send an agent or representative to the bride’s family to negotiate an arrangement for a marriage.  The bride, of course, had to give her consent and if she did, a mohar or Bride Price was established and a Ketubah or written document was drawn up in which the bride price, the promises of the bridegroom, and the rights of the bride were clearly stated.  This document would have to be executed and signed prior to the wedding ceremony.

Gifts were then given to the bride and a cup called the Cup of the Covenant was shared between the bride and groom—the rite of erusin or betrothal being completed when the groom gave something of value to the bride and she accepted it.  This completed rite was known in Hebrew as kiddushin or sanctification, and the covenant between the bride and the groom would be sealed with the drinking of the wine.  Once agreed to, this covenant was a legally binding contract which could only be dissolved by divorce.

The Cup of the Covenant

Afterward, the bridegroom would go back to his father’s house, where he would begin preparing a home for his new bride.  Before leaving, though, he would reassure her of his eventual return with this promise:  “I go to prepare a place you; if I go, I will return again unto you.”  After his departure, the bride would undergo a mikvah—or water immersion—a ritual of cleansing marking a separation from her former way of life to a new life with her spouse.

  1. The Betrothal Phase

This marked the beginning of the Betrothal Period, which usually lasted a year.  During this time, the bride was consecrated and set apart, busily preparing her wedding garments for the big day; while the bridegroom was away making, ready their new home.  The bride had to be ready at all times because she had no idea when her groom would return for her.  Even the groom didn’t know when that would be because he first had to get permission from his father—who had to be completely satisfied that his son’s house was in order.

  1. The Marriage and Consummation Phase 

Once he received his father’s permission, the bridegroom would return—usually in the middle of the night—with a shout, “Behold the bridegroom comes,” and with the blowing of the shofar or ram’s horn.  He would then abduct his bride from her father’s home and carry her away in a sacred procession to the chupah or wedding canopy where the marriage would take place.  There, they would be treated as royalty, with the bridegroom in the role of a newly-crowned king, and the bride as his queen.

Under the Chupah

Following the wedding ceremony, the bridegroom and bride would go into the wedding chamber where the marriage was to be consummated.  The friend of the bridegroom would take up his position outside the door where he, and all of the assembled guests, would eagerly await word that the consummation had taken place.  Upon receiving the signal from the bridegroom, the friend of the bridegroom would announce it to the guests, and great rejoicing would break out.  The couple would remain in the wedding chamber for a total of seven days and when they came out, they—along with all the guests invited by the father of the bride, would enjoy a great Marriage Supper.[1]

Although this wedding tradition bears little relevance to our lives today, because it was such an integral part of everyday life when the Bible was written, we must take time to familiarize ourselves with each of this tradition’s three parts if we are ever going to understand the Story it has to tell.  For, not only do these phases provide the framework for all of God’s Great Love Story, they also serve as the basis for the Plot, and propel the Action of the Story forward in both the Old and the New Testaments.

As we shall see in the upcoming scene, in the Old Testament—which is all about God’s love relationship with Israel…

  • The Negotiation Phase is what takes place in Genesis 15, when God—as the Bridegroom Himself–enters into a covenant with Abraham, and negotiates a marriage contact in which the future nation of Israel will one day become His Bride;
  • The Betrothal Phase will follow on the heels of this negotiation and will cover the period of time from Genesis 15 to Exodus 19. At that time Moses, acting as God’s representative, will abduct Israel in the middle of the night from the “house of Pharaoh,” and lead her in a sacred procession to the Marriage Chupah at Mount Sinai;
  • Then, in Exodus 20, the Marriage Phase will begin, as Israel vows to forsake all other gods, agrees to the terms of God’s covenant, and becomes the Wife of Jehovah. 

With this as the backdrop to our Story—and with the train now coming to a halt at our next destination—the time has come for us to leave the train and make our way into the theatre, where Scene 2, “Israel, the Beloved of God” will soon get underway.

 

 

In place of our usual music selection, here is the video referred to earlier, “The Story Behind the Story”…

 

 

[1] Information on the Jewish Wedding Tradition gathered from Edward Chumney’s book, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah (Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: Destiny Image Publishers, 1994), 125-135.

The Biblical Overture

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The End of Act 1, Scene1
I know it may be hard to believe but, now that our critique of Vignette #9 has been completed, Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story has finally come to an end.  Of course, this means that it’s now time for us to climb back on board the Truth Train, leave the first of the fourteen stages in our production, and move on to Stage #2.

We have spent a considerable amount of time at Stage #1, and that’s because the part of the Bible being presented here, covering the first eleven chapters in Genesis, is one of the most important parts of the entire Bible Story.  Some of the reasons for this are…

  • It introduces us to the sovereign God of the Universe;
  • It explains how He brought the Earth and Mankind into being, and how it and we got into the mess that we’re in;
  • It presents, either in literal or figurative form, a number of the Main Characters of the Story; and,
  • It serves as the Overture for the rest of the Story, set to begin at Stage #2, where Act 1, Scene 2 will soon be getting underway.

Conductor calling1

All Aboard!

That being said, let’s all return to our seats on the Train and get comfy; for, as we journey from Stage #1 to Stage #2, we will again be Making the Most of Our Travel Time by reviewing the first three of these reasons, which will lead us into a preview of the Overture that follows.

  1. The Introduction of God

Back in …Where It Is Showtime for God’s One Big Story!, we found that our introduction to God began in Genesis 1:1, the very first verse of the Bible…

…In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… 

…and, from this very brief but powerful verse, we learned some key pieces of information about the Being who is both the Author and the Main Character of the Book…

  • From Elohim, the name used for Him here, we learned that God is a Trinity of Three Unique Persons who are united in One Divine Purpose;
  • From His appearance in our Story before the existence of anyone or anything else, we learned that God is Pre-existent and Eternal—that He was Before all Things, Over all Things, and the Originator of all Things; and,
  • From the things that He does, we learned that God is All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and Present Everywhere at All Times. 

Then, during the rest of this chapter, we learned that…

  • God created everything from nothing;
  • He executes His will through His spoken Word;
  • He evaluates or makes judgments about everything He makes;
  • He orders, organizes, and controls everything—even the darkness and chaos; and,
  • He has the power and will to bless the things that He makes.
  1. The Creation of Earth and Man 

As for God’s Creation of the Earth, we learned that this was accomplished in a very orderly and systematic way over the course of six days; with Him, during the first three days, calling into being the Kingdoms of Light and Darkness, Sky and the Sea, and the Land; and, during the last three days, making and creating the Rulers over those Kingdoms in the forms of the Sun, Moon, Stars, Fish, Fowl, and Animals.  In Between the Vignettes, we learned that this massive undertaking—done with such precision and attention to detail—was for the sole purpose of providing Man, The Capstone of God’s Creation, with an ideal place to live.

In Another Learning Interlude, we learned that once He had their earthly home ready, God set about the task of Creating the Man and Woman who would be living there; fashioning them into male and female beings so much like Himself that they could readily be adopted as His children.  However, when we got to the Fundamentals of the Fall, we discovered that just looking like God was not going to be enough to guarantee their adoption into His Family.  Before that could take place, the Man and Woman would have to be Holy, like God—something that would be proven if only they could maintain their innocence in the face of testing.  Unfortunately for them, for the earth, and for us—they failed, with disastrous results.

God's Orderly Creation

God’s Orderly Creation

 

3. The Characters Presented 

Up to this point in our Story, our Cast of Characters has consisted of…

God, the Father;
God, the Word who, according to John 1:1 and 1:14, is the Son, Jesus Christ;
God, the Holy Spirit; and,
Man and Woman. 

But, with the testing of Adam and Eve, another very shadowy Character made his way onto our Stage.  Initially appearing in the guise of the serpent who tempted the first Man and Woman into sinning, he was none other than Satan—aka Lucifer, the Devil, and the dragon mentioned in Revelation 20:2.

Although he has remained largely invisible, Satan’s activity in and influence upon our Story has been evident throughout it.  For, as we learned in…

The Fruit of the Fall,
Sowing, Reaping, and the Nature of the Trees,
Fruit Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree, and
Closing the Case on Cain and Abel…

…he was no doubt instrumental in inciting Cain to murder his righteous brother, Abel, and in Cain’s refusal to repent.

As a result, Patterns of Generational Sin and Patterns of Conflict Between the Righteous and the Wicked, which would go on to wreak havoc in all future generations, became established—something which was made evident to us in…

Our Lineup to the Flood,
Searching for Truth in the First Book of Begats,
But Noah…
Obedience Doesn’t Come Cheap, and
The Washing of the World…

…where life on the earth had become so corrupt that God decided it must be destroyed with a universal Flood.  And, later in…

A New World, An Old Nature, 
Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion, and
More Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion…

 …we witnessed Satan’s reappearance on our Stage, initially in the person of Nimrod—the first incarnation of the Antichrist in our Story—and then, as the power behind the creation of Mystery Babylon—the spiritual Harlot of false religion who would eventually lure the nations of the world away from the worship of the one true God, and into the worship of the Devil.

     4.  The Overture of the Story

Before our production of God’s One Big Story began, we learned from All the World’s a Stage—and Life Its Cosmic Drama that the device used in its presentation was going to be the same type of “story-within-a story” device so often used in the works of William Shakespeare.  For our purposes, this meant that the stories of real people recorded in the Bible were going to be used by God to tell more than one story—that is, in addition to the Earthly Level Story being recounted, elements from each individual story were going to be used to help tell the Prophetic Story taking place on a Heavenly Level.  In Act 1, Scene 1, this meant that every event from the Creation of the World to the Rebellion at Babel, and the subsequent division of the people into Nations, would have its spiritual level parallel; a parallel forming a theme or motif that would reappear later in the Story.

This concept will become easier for us to grasp if we think of the first eleven chapters of Genesis as the Overture to the entire Bible.  In much the same way that an overture introduces to the audience the musical themes which will be running throughout an opera or play, Genesis 1-11 introduces us to the spiritual themes which will be played out in the rest of the Bible Story.

For example…

  • The story of Creation becomes a picture to us of the spiritual process of Re-creation or Rebirth, where we go from darkness to light, chaos to order, and from death to life in response to the Word of God and the “hovering” work of the Spirit.
  • The story of the First Adam and his wife, Eve, becomes a spiritual picture of the Second Adam, Jesus, and His Bride, the Church—who, like Eve, was fashioned from a “rib” (the disciples) taken from the Second Adam as He slept in death.
  • The story of the Two Trees in the Garden serves as a picture of the two “salvation” alternatives available to mankind—either the counterfeit system of works or the genuine system of salvation through faith in Christ.
  • In the story of Cain and Abel–where God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering by faith and His rejection of Cain’s self-righteous offering provoke Cain to envy, anger, and the murder of his brother–we are provided with a spiritual illustration of the wicked’s rebellion against and persecution of the righteous; as well as, a picture of Cain as a type of Israel—the brother who, after his slaying of the righteous Son, is marked for protection as he begins his wanderings in the wilderness of the world.
  • In the long “Reign of Death” taking place between the stories of Cain and the Flood, we are shown how living life in the power of the flesh has affected all men, and ultimately led to their Deaths.
  • In the translation of Enoch before the judgment of the flood, we are given a picture of the Rapture which will take place prior to the Great Tribulation, when those who are “walking with God” will be translated to heaven without dying.
  • In the lawlessness and demonic activity preceding the Flood, we are given a picture of the conditions existing before the Tribulation, as self-absorbed humanity abandons faith in God, violence increases, and doors are opened to ever-increasing satanic activity.
  • In the story of the Flood, where the wrath of God is being poured out from heaven against the unrighteousness of men, and a small righteous remnant in the Ark are being spared, we have a picture of the Tribulation, when the wrath of God will be poured out from heaven against the unrighteousness of men, while a righteous remnant is preserved.
  • In the story of Noah after the Flood, when those in the Ark come out to a new earth and enter into a new covenant with God, we are given a picture of the “new world” which will exist when Christ sets up His Millennial Kingdom following the Tribulation–where the righteous remnant will live on a cleansed earth, under a new covenant with God, for a thousand years.
  • In the rebellion at Babel, we are given a prophetic picture of Satan’s final act of rebellion—when, at the end of the Millennium, he is released from his thousand year imprisonment to test those who are born on the earth during that time.
  • And, in the Judgment of the Nations at the Tower of Babel, we are given a picture of the final Judgment of the Nations—when the Lord gathers the nations and judges them according to the way they have treated His “brethren;” separating the “sheep” nations from the “goat” nations, and giving each one its due reward.

In the event that this concept still proves to be a little difficult to understand, perhaps this graphic will help show how the events in Scene #1 prefigure some of the most important future episodes in the Story…

The Biblical Overture
Now that we have an idea of the real meaning and significance of the opening scene of our Story, we can move forward to Stage #2, better prepared to appreciate  what Act 1, Scene 2 is all about.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Whenever I think of an “overture,”  the Bugs Bunny Theme always comes to mind–so I just had to include it at this point in our Story.  I hope you enjoy this brief bit of levity…

 

Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion

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Now that all nine Vignettes, or mini-stories, in Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story have been presented, you might be thinking that the time has come for us to leave Stage #1 and press on to Stage #2, where the second scene in our production is waiting to get underway.  However, before we can move on from here, there is still the matter of our critical analysis of Vignette #9, which has yet to be completed.  Given that this particular Vignette was packed with a lot more action than most of the previous ones, there will be a considerable amount of material for us to discuss; so let’s not waste any time changing into our Critic’s Hat and getting this challenging critique underway. The episodes from this Vignette that we will be focusing on are…

Noah’s Drunkenness;
His Blessing and Cursing;
The New Characters Introduced into the Story; and,
The Rebellion Taking Place at Babel.


Noah’s Drunkenness 

I don’t know about you but if I had been unfamiliar with this particular episode in Noah’s life, I would have been surprised by behavior so seemingly out of character for such a perennially pious hero as he.  After all, up until this point in our story, Noah has lived for well over six hundred years without a blemish on his scriptural record.  He has maintained his integrity while living in a thoroughly corrupt society, even in the face of ridicule, persecution, and personal loss; and, he has remained obedient to God before, during, and for some time after the Deluge which had completely destroyed the world he had known before.  So, what could possibly have driven him to drink at this point in his life; and, why is this lapse in his behavior significant enough to be recorded for us here?

Some have speculated that due to the vastly different environmental or atmospheric conditions existing before the Flood, grape fermentation would not have been possible; implying that, without any previous experience with the process, Noah would have been ignorant of the intoxicating properties of the wine that it produced.  But this may not have been the case at all; for, even if winemaking had been a possibility before the flood, as a man on a mission for God, Noah may have been so focused on the completion of his task that drinking wouldn’t even have been a consideration.  At this stage in his life, however—as a man without the sense of purpose he once had and with so much time on his hands—he may have resorted to drinking in order to fill this newly created void in his life.

Of course, there could have been a number of other reasons to account for his lapse at this juncture.  Since no mention has been made of Mrs. Noah since her departure from the Ark, it is altogether possible that she has already passed away; a circumstance which would certainly have left Noah feeling sad and alone, and in a state of grief over her death.  Or, it could have been that he was just feeling old, tired, and discouraged, or maybe even a bit disappointed in the way some of his children or grandchildren were turning out.  Since no one really knows for sure and since the scriptural record neither condemns nor tries to justify Noah’s behavior—it must have been recorded for some other reason.

Perhaps, it was included as a warning to us that even the righteous “Noahs” in this world are still sinners and capable of falling victim to temptation at any time; or, maybe it was merely to serve as the catalyst for, or as an explanation of, the curious events which were to follow.  I say “curious” because, just as we could not have predicted that Noah would end up in a drunken stupor, there was no way that we could have imagined that the godly man who had gone to such great lengths to secure the deliverance and safety of his family during and after the Flood would so soon afterward be cursing one line of the descendants within that family.  So, let’s dig a little deeper to see if we can get a better idea of what this blessing and cursing was really all about.

Noah’s Blessing and Cursing 

According to Dictionary.com, to bless means to consecrate or sanctify by a religious rite; to make or pronounce holy; or, to request the bestowal of divine favor on something or someonewhile to curse is to express a wish that misfortune, evil, doom, etc., befall a particular person or group.  And, in our travels through the Word thus far, we have witnessed several occasions when God carried out these very actions in regard to His creation.  For…

Noah's curse

Noah damning Ham, 19th-century painting by Ivan Stepanovitch Ksenofontov

  • In Genesis 1:22 and 1:28, He blessed both the living creatures and the man and woman with fruitfulness;
  • In Genesis 2:3, He blessed and consecrated the seventh day and set it apart as holy;
  • In Genesis 3:14, He cursed the serpent because of his involvement in the fall of man;
  • In Genesis 3:17, He cursed the ground because Adam listened to the voice of his wife and ate from the forbidden tree, instead of obeying God;
  • In Genesis 4:11-12, following Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, God cursed Cain’s ability to derive a living from the land; and,
  • In Genesis 9:1, after their departure from the Ark, God blessed Noah and his sons with the same blessing of fruitfulness that He had bestowed upon Adam and Eve.

In other words, in each of these circumstances, God decreed—or, issued “…a formal and authoritative order, especially one having the force of law”[1]—either a benediction or bestowal of good things, or a malediction of evil in response to someone’s offense or sin.  When we come to the pronouncements of Noah, though, we find that his blessing and cursing, unlike those righteous decrees of a holy God, take on the form of prophetic utterances—that is, they become the divinely inspired foretelling or predictions of things that are to come.  We find these prophecies or predictions in Genesis 9:24-27, where we read…

When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son [Ham] had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan [the youngest son of Ham]; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.’  He also said, ‘Blessed be the LORD,the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.’

As an aside here, when we compare the circumstances surrounding Noah’s “Fall” with those of Adam and Eve’s “Fall”, we find the following interesting parallels…

Adam versus Noah
I tend to think that when Noah awoke and learned what had happened earlier, he was not at all surprised to find out who had done what.  Having lived with his sons through thick and thin for over a hundred years, he surely had to have developed a keen insight into the nature of their individual personalities.  In fact, it was his discernment of these natures which lead him to “curse” and “bless” them in the way that he did.  And, while it might seem to us that he was making a mountain out of a molehill, if we are going to understand the significance of his blessing and cursing to our story, we will need to make an effort to view this situation from his perspective.   Probably the best way to do that is by answering the following questions:

  1. What did Ham do that was so bad that it provoked a curse from his father?

While it may not seem like a very big deal to us, especially in our nudity-saturated and authority-rejecting society, Ham’s reaction to his father’s embarrassing display would have been a major faux-pas during his time.  That’s because, instead of showing respect for his father by compassionately and discreetly covering his nakedness—as his brothers later did—he apparently reveled in the fact that this man of God had “finally” fallen.

This reaction is very telling; for although Ham had been “saved” from the Flood, just like the others in his family, his response to his father’s drunkenness exposed a decidedly carnal nature in him—one in which…

  • He showed no respect for his father as the spiritual head and high priest of his family, and as the one who was chiefly responsible for his own salvation;
  • He extended no grace to his father, but seemed to take delight in his failure; and,
  • He demeaned and ridiculed his father to his brothers, and possibly to other members of the family or camp.

In short, he failed to respond to the situation in a way that honored both his father and God—which was, in the way that Shem and Japheth did.

2.  Why was Canaan cursed instead of Ham?

Although this question has long been a puzzling one, of the several explanations which have been put forth, the two most frequently offered appear to be these…

  • That in recognition of an already obvious proclivity to sin in his grandson, Noah’s curse was actually the prediction of (and therefore the justification for) the eventual judgment and destruction of the Canaanites at the hands of the Israelites, as ordered later by Moses in Deuteronomy 7:1-3; and,
  • Noah cursed his youngest son’s youngest son because Ham, in Genesis 9:1, had already been blessed by God.  From an incident recorded later in Numbers 22-24, we learn that when a prophet-for-hire named Balaam, was paid by the King of Moab to curse the Israelites, he was compelled by God to bless them instead.  His explanation for this bizarre behavior is found in Numbers 23:8, where he tells the King of Moab…

How can I curse whom God has not cursed?  How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?

Based upon this, then, it would seem that once anyone or anything has been blessed by God, he, she, or it cannot afterward be cursed by man.

Undoubtedly, a lesser known but much more reasonable explanation has been posited by Arthur Custance in his book, Noah’s Three Sons, where he explains that…

“It is a common social custom among many primitive people to attribute the greatness of a son to the father, who then receives the honor for having raised such a worthy child.  This is clearly reflected in Scripture where Saul seeks to honor David after the slaying of Goliath.  He asks his general whose son the lad is (1 Sam. 17:55)… Undoubtedly Saul knew David well enough, but evidently he did not know who his father was.  It was his father he was seeking to honor according to social custom…A man in blessing his own son was in fact blessing himself.  This was true when Noah blessed Shem and Japheth.  By the same token, however, if he had cursed Ham, the real offender, he would at the same time have been cursing himself.  Quite logically, he could only pass judgment upon Ham by cursing Ham’s own son, which is what he therefore did.”[2]

3.  Does this mean that when Noah was cursing Canaan, he was in reality cursing Ham, and sentencing both him and his descendants to lives lived in perpetual states of servant-hood or slavery?

While many have interpreted this passage to mean that very thing—especially those who have sought to justify their involvement in the buying, selling, or owning of slaves—it is really a far cry from the true prophetic meaning of Noah’s pronouncement.  For, in designating Ham as “… a servant of servants…to his brothers,” rather than sentencing him to the lowest form of human service, Noah was actually calling on him to carry out the highest form of service to his brothers.  That is, because Ham and his offspring’s interests were focused on the natural, more fleshly concerns in life, they were being given the task of providing for the physical or material needs of Seth, Japheth, and their descendants.  In order to understand what I mean by this, we will have to expand our view of the role that Noah’s sons were to play in the new civilization that about to be generated through them and their children.

You see, in much the same way that an individual person is made up of a body, soul, and spirit, here at the head of this new era in human history, the three sons of Noah were being singled out as the representatives of the collective body, soul, and spirit of mankind, just as it was being launched out into the world—with Ham representing the corporate body of mankind, Japheth representing its corporate soul, and Shem acting as its corporate spirit.  And, as you may recall, back in Another Learning Interlude, in our discussion of the way in which each of these three aspects of man’s nature was to function, we learned that…

  • The Spirit was the means by which God’s Spirit would communicate with man;
  • The Soul, consisting of the mind, will, and emotions, was to act as the means of communication between man’s spirit and body; and, once it made known the will of God to the body…
  • The Body was then to carry out God’s will on the earth while, at the same time, providing for the physical needs of the person.

As this graphic helps to illustrate, in his blessing of Shem, Noah was designating him and those who came from him to be the spiritual stewards of God and His revelation to the rest of mankind.  In blessing Japheth with enlargement, Noah was calling upon God to not only extend this son’s territory but, more importantly, to expand the collective mind and thinking of mankind which Japheth and his progeny were meant to represent.  And, in making Ham a servant to each of them, Noah was assigning him and his children the task of guaranteeing mankind’s physical survival, which would eventually make it possible for the revelation of God to be carried to the ends of the earth.

Noah's Sons
As you can see, at this point, we have only covered about half of the material in this Vignette, meaning that we will need to take a break and continue at a later time with our analysis.  We will, at that time, learn more of how these prophetic utterances of Noah have been fulfilled, and about the parts they have played in the on-going action of our story–so don’t take your Critic’s Hat off quite yet!  Until then, though, here is…

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Tracey Campbell, singing a song by Secret Garden, reminding us that in the middle of a difficult situation, “Sometimes a Prayer Will Do”…

 

[1] decree. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/decree.

[2] Arthur C. Custance, Noah’s Three Sons: Human History in Three Dimensions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 26.

The image of “Noah Damning Ham” courtesy of Wikimedia.com.

 

 

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.

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

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