Stowaway

A stowaway is a person who hides aboard a vehicle of some sort (boat, train, plain, etc.) in order to gain free passage. Images of immigrants hiding in ships traveling to the new world or of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn train-hopping come to mind. In most cases there is likely no ill intent predetermined, but occasionally the stowaway has nothing good planned. Welcome to Genesis 6-9.

Up to this point in Genesis, we’ve seen a number of different episodes in the story that Moses is telling for the benefit of the children of Israel coming out of Egypt. Creation. Genesis 1.26-28. Dominion. Imago dei. Work. Marriage. Fall. Judgment. Genesis 3.15. Hope. Curse. Fig leaves vs. animal skins. Cain vs. Abel. Seed of the serpent vs. seed of the woman. Sons of God and the daughters of men. [See previous posts]

And now we come to the second major judgment on mankind resulting from the disappearance of the seed of the woman (godly line of Seth, those who call on the name of the LORD) and the increased violence on the earth. Adam was told to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1). The idea was that, as God’s representative, Adam would rule over the earth on God’s behalf as a benevolent governor. But instead of the imago dei and altruistic rule increasing, violence has filled the earth and only one man has found favor with God…Noah. Because of violence and the inclination of men’s hearts only toward evil continually, God finally says, “Enough!” And He determines to destroy the earth with the flood. But similar to His initial judgment, God’s mercy shines forth in saving Noah and his family and representatives of the creatures of the earth.

Why does the earth suffer for man’s sin? Both the curse on the ground in Genesis 3 and the flood account in Genesis 6-9 make it clear that all of creation is under punishment. But why? Because man, as God’s caretaker, is given dominion over creation, and creation is therefore tied to man somehow. When man fell, creation fell. When man is finally redeemed, creation will be redeemed as well. Paul says in Romans 8, “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”

With the flood, the earth once again suffered the repercussions of man’s sin. In Genesis 7-8 we get a description of the de-creation of the earth and its re-creation after the flood. But curiously enough, although Noah will be physically delivered through the flood, spiritual deliverance is another story.  There was a stowaway on the boat with the most wicked of intentions…sin! We see it in God’s pronouncement of the covenant after Noah leaves the ark when He says once again, “The intent of the hearts of men are only evil continually.” We see it in the sacrifices that Noah offers when he set up an altar – a reminder of Genesis 3.15 and the death of the innocent for the guilty. We see it in the echoes of the garden in Noah’s vineyard.

Sin cannot be defeated by physical judgment. It needs a spiritual remedy. Noah is our first candidate for the Genesis 3.15 Deliverer, and although he starts out with great promise (Lamech’s pronouncement over him and God’s assessment of him), in the end he’s not the guy. So we are left to look for another…One who will deliver like Moses; but this One will take the flood of God’s wrath on Himself and provide for the deliverance of all those who will believe in Him. He will provide the ultimate solution, final salvation – both physical and spiritual for those who are His kingdom citizens, and He will crush the head of the serpent once and for all destroying sin, death and the enemy.

So where are you? The story of the flood reminds us that God is serious about sin. And although He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness…He is also a God who will ultimately judge. Are you a kingdom citizen?

Until next time…stay salty.

Family Feud

It’s a familiar scene. Younger brother runs in crying. “Dave hit me in the back!” And the rejoinder from Dave, “But he started it!” And back and forth it goes until finally a parent steps in and sorts out the details. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” A question that has been asked by every big brother in a variety of ways from the beginning of time…or at least from the time of the first big brother-little brother episode in the Bible. Abel’s a keeper of flocks while Cain is a tiller of the soil. Two brothers. Both bring an offering to the LORD. The older brings an offering of fruit – he’s a farmer. The younger brings an offering from the flock – he’s a shepherd. So far the story is pretty straight forward. But then the unexpected happens. Cain’s offering is rejected. And worse yet, Abel’s is accepted. And still worse yet, God says, “Hey Cain, why so glum? If you do what’s right, then you will be accepted. But beware if you don’t, sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you”, which Cain interprets as, “Why can’t you just be like your younger brother? If you were more like him, then we would all be happy.” Talk about salt in a wound. So Cain visits his brother Abel in the field and then, another shocking twist, Cain rises up and kills Abel. Cain is quickly found out when God shows up and says, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain lies and responds as if he doesn’t know, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” totally expecting a negative response. But God has different expectations and confronts him, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground…” And then God pronounces sentence; however, in a move similar to Genesis 3, God shows mercy in the midst of judgment.

On the surface it sure looks like Cain may have gotten a bad rap. How was he to know what kind of sacrifice to bring? He brought what he had. Shouldn’t that have been enough? Maybe, if the story started in Genesis 4.1. But the story begins in Genesis 1.1. And in Genesis 3.15, God revealed that the innocent Seed of the Woman would give His life crushing the head of the serpent to deliver folks from death, and that there would be constant enmity/warfare between those who follow God (seed of the woman) and those who follow the enemy (seed of the serpent). The animal skins provided by God to cover Adam and his wife after the fall illustrate the former, while the story of Cain and Abel illustrate the latter.

Now to the offerings. The two offerings reflect two different approaches to God. Cain brought fruit…his parents covered themselves with fig leaves. In both cases the respondents were coming to God on their terms. They did what was right in their own eyes. But then God corrects the parents through Genesis 3.15 and provided for their covering through an animal sacrifice. The blood of the innocent to cover the sin of the guilty. Now of course, the blood of animals cannot take away sin. But the picture of the death of the innocent was a reminder that the wages of sin is death. It was faith in God’s promise in Genesis 3.15 that took away sin and restored the relationship with God. Abel got it. He offered a blood sacrifice. He exhibited faith in God’s promise by employing the same picture that God had used to illustrate Genesis 3.15.

And going forward…you shall love your neighbor as yourself is the second highest commandment behind loving God with all that you are. So I guess we are our brother’s keeper.

Until next time…stay salty.

Paradise Lost

 

Everything was perfect. God’s assessment of all that He had made was that it was very good. The pinnacle of His creation was mankind – they would rule over the earth on His behalf. He created a garden paradise and gave the man the responsibility of cultivating and keeping it. He knew that man needed a helpmate and after creating the animals, He finally fashions a woman for the man who would correspond to him perfectly. God performs the first wedding ceremony, and everything is, well, perfect. Only one restriction. Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – violation carried the death penalty.

Not long after the perfect wedding, the perfect couple run into a problem. Walking through the garden together they had strayed a little too close to the forbidden tree. And the serpent begins a dialogue with the woman. He questions God’s goodness and His veracity, claiming that God is holding back. Eating the fruit doesn’t result in death, but in godlikeness. The woman falls for the bait, and her husband, instead of protecting her and stepping in to confront the lies of the serpent, acquiesces and takes some of the forbidden fruit from her hand and also eats. Being image-bearers wasn’t enough. They wanted to be their own gods. And death surely occurs…spiritual, emotional, relational, physical. The man and the woman lose their innocence. Naked and not ashamed becomes naked and very ashamed. They hide from God, and when they are confronted, they quickly begin a spirited round of the blame game.

The serpent, who knew that God was both good and veracious, succeeds in destroying God’s image-bearers. Then God begins to pronounce judgment. He starts with the serpent and ends with the man. All of creation will suffer God’s curse because of man’s disobedience. But don’t miss Genesis 3:15. It’s the key to all of Scripture. It’s the first gospel. It’s the promise of restoration and of a Messiah that will one day come in the Person of Jesus to set all things right. In Genesis 3:15 we see a couple of things…constant battle between those who follow God (seed of the woman) and those who follow the devil (seed of the serpent). We also see that One of these God-followers will arise to crush the devil, but will give up His life in the process. The innocent will have to die for the guilty. And then God provides a picture of this with the animal skins that cover Adam and his wife. In the midst of judgment we see mercy. And so the story begins, and so begins the hunt for the Messiah.

Genesis 3 explains the mess that we are in. When I read that God created a perfect world, that everything was good, I begin to wonder, “What happened?” That certainly is not my experience. Perfect enjoyment of work. Perfect relationship with my wife. Perfect harmony with creation. But Genesis 3 tells me that the good was made bad by my sin. I would have done just what Adam did. When I look at my heart, I’m no different. I, too, have the desire to call my own shots, to be my own god. However, Genesis 3 also tells me that I have hope that the bad will be made good again. That my sin has been covered because the Innocent One died for the guilty, so that I might be reconciled to God the Father who created me. I pray that you may know this same truth.

Until next time…stay salty.