Lessons from Genesis: Prayers of Intercession

sodom-and-gomorrah-painting
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, an 1852 oil on canvas painting done by John Martin

My study this morning included God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The wickedness of these cities had reached such a pinnacle that God’s wrath was imminent, but He used the moment as a tool to reveal His very nature to Abraham. Before destroying the two cities, God visits Abraham and reveals His plans. This visit leads to an incredible exchange between Abraham and God:

23 Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” 26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.” 27 And Abraham replied, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes.28 Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 He spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” 30 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” 32 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten” (Genesis 18:23-32). 

I must admit this passage used to confuse me. I couldn’t quite figure out why God needed Abraham to remind Him of His own just nature. Quite frankly, the thought that Abraham had to negotiate for the lives of the righteous upset me. However, my confusion was born out of misinterpretation; what’s happening in this passage isn’t a negotiation – it’s intercession.

God is just. He knew exactly what He was doing when it came to Sodom and Gomorrah; but by allowing Abraham to intercede on their behalf, he revealed His gracious nature to Abraham. Yes God demands justice for sin, but in doing so He never sacrifices His own grace. God allowed Abraham to intercede for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and by doing so, He allowed Abraham to become a channel though which God’s grace flowed.

Abraham’s intercession for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah is a reflection of Christ’s intercession for those who call Him Savior:

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time (1 Timothy 2:5-6) 

Just as Abraham interceded on behalf of the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus Christ intercedes on my behalf. With his prayers of intercession, Abraham was displaying a particular kind of Christ-likeness that I far too often fail to display. My prayers tend to be selfish, “God bless me!” – when a proper prayer of intercession should read, “God bless them!” 

My goal is pray less selfishly. I want to pray more for others. God knows exactly what He’s doing when it comes to His justice and His grace, but when I pray a prayer of intercession it shapes my heart to resemble the heart of Christ who prayed the most famous of all intercessory prayers …

“Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

[View all posts in the Lessons from Genesis Series] 

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Can Christians be Concerned About the Environment and Climate Change?

greenbible
image from worldmag.com

Christians are often characterized as being unconcerned about the environment, climate change, and global warming. To be fair, I suppose it does appear that way sometimes. However, in truth, it is okay for Christians to concern themselves with matters of the environment. We must remember, that when God placed mankind in the Garden of Eden He gave him one responsibility, to tend to the Garden:

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15, NIV).

Not only was mankind created to take care of the environment, God also gave us a certain amount of dominion over the environment:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule (have dominion) over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26, NIV).

The world and everything in it belongs to the Creator. Genesis 1 teaches us that He created it all to bless us and then gave us dominion over it. He, in effect, loaned it to us. When you loan something to someone, there is a certain expectation implied with that loan; you want them to take care of your possession – the more valuable the item, the more care you expect to be taken with it. For instance, if you loan someone your car for the weekend you are, in effect, giving them dominion over your car for a couple of days, and when you get it back you expect it to be in the same condition as when you loaned it. It’s even better if they bring it back washed and with a full tank of gas!

Christians, we are expected to take care of God’s world. His creation is precious. When our scientists tell us we are damaging it we need to listen and take steps to do better, if such steps exist. I fear that environmentalism has somehow become associated with the political left and those on the right, including the vast majority of the Church, rail against it because they think they are supposed to.

Environmentalism, however, is not a political issue, it is a Biblical one. God gave us dominion over creation and expects us to take care of His world.

There is one word of caution, however, and it is a word the secular left is sure to disagree with. Christians cannot allow the environment to become their idol. We should care for the world in obedience to and respect for the God who created it. We cannot, however, become so obsessed with the environment that we elevate it to our primary focus in life. Christians should be motivated by respect and obedience when it comes to tending the garden, not fear. Why? Because God’s Word contains an outstanding promise:

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea” (Revelation 21:1, NIV).

The Apostle John’s vision recorded in Revelation saw our earth passing away … ceasing to exist … and new heavens and a new earth taking its place. Climate change, global warming, pollution – these are all issues that (sometimes unknowingly) attest to one Biblical fact – the world is tainted by sin. When Adam sinned, sin entered the world (Romans 5:12). Now, thousands of years removed from that original sin, we live in a world tainted with environmental issues. Because of sin, tending the garden has become far more complicated, just as God told Adam it would:

“Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19, NASB). 

Because of God’s grace, we will someday receive new heavens and a new earth – a new Garden. Those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus can rest assured in that promise. But until that day, God’s directions to tend to the earth and have dominion over the environment still stand. We should care about the environment, but we can’t let the fear of this earth expiring (and someday it will) rule us. Our actions must be governed and motivated by respect and obedience to the Father and hope in His promise of a new earth.

Lessons from Genesis: Mastering the Sin in Our Lives

cain-and-abel1So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?  “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:3-7, NASB).

Both Cain and Abel made offerings to the Lord, but there was something critically different in those offerings. Of Abel, it is prominently said that his offering was “brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions” (Gen 4:4); he brought the best part of his flock as an offering to God. The same can not be said of Cain’s offering. Cain simply brought an offering with no regard or seemingly any consideration of the quality of the offering. When God rejected Cain’s half-hearted offering, Cain became angry and his countenance fell. Cain’s anger and bitterness were of his own making and God tells him so:

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen 4:6-7).

Had Cain simply done well and made an offering from the best of his crops all would have been fine. There would have been no cause for his anger and resentment. It was in that moment of Cain’s half-hearted devotion to God that sin took its advantage. According to God, when you’re not doing well sin is crouching at the door. Peter put it this way, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). When we’re neglecting our devotion to God Almighty, we are running the risk of allowing our emotions, bitterness, and circumstances to get the best of us. In Cain’s case, he allowed his sin to blossom into murder. But God tells us there is another way. We can master our sin. How? By doing the right thing to begin with.

God’s Word says if do well our countenance will be lifted up. This advice is amazing in its simplicity. If we want to guard against our sinful inclinations we should focus our lives and order our lived around the God who gave us life. This is the simple kind of advice that can apply to our spiritual walks in countless ways:

  • Is your prayer life suffering? Pray more.
  • Not spending enough time in the Word? Open your Bible more. 
  • Neglecting fellowship with other believers? Go to Church more regularly. 
  • Sin getting the best of you? Devote your life to God and live your life well according to His instructions.

It seems so simple yet we tend to disregard it. We moan and groan when our spiritual lives aren’t where we want them to be, but we don’t examine our lives to see if we are living as we should. All Cain had to do was repent and devote his life to God. He could of had a change of heart and brought an acceptable offering to God, but he chose instead to allow his anger and resentment to grow and blossom.

God’s Word tells us how a person devoted to God should live their life. If we do well, our countenance will be lifted up. We are not helpless in the face of our sin. We can live our lives proactively, according to God’s Word, and master the sins our enemy puts in our path.

We should live like Abel … not like Cain.

Read other posts in Lessons from Genesis.

Lessons from Genesis: Noah's Obedience and God's Instructions

image from wikipedia

As I was teaching from the Book of Genesis yesterday, I was struck by something that at first seemed odd to me. In Genesis chapter 6 God didn’t just tell Noah to build a boat; rather, God gave specific instructions on how the boat was to be built:

“Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and outside.  This is how you are to make it: The ark will be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. You are to make a roof, finishing the sides of the ark to within 18 inches of the roof. You are to put a door in the side of the ark. Make it with lower, middle, and upper decks.” (Genesis 6:14-16, HCSB)

It seems odd that God would give Noah such specific instructions. Would it have really made a difference if the boat had been 451 feet long or if the sides were finished to within 17 inches of the roof? Certainly, the ark had to meet a certain function; God was preparing to it to hold a specific number of animals along with Noah and his family, but surely He could have worked that miracle even if the boat’s dimensions were a little off, right? It seems those specific instructions had more to do with Noah than with the ark.

Noah is described as being righteous, blameless, and walking with God (Gen 6:9); not perfect, not sinless, but blameless. Of all the people on the earth, Noah was the one guy who took his walk with God seriously. In fact, he took his walk with God so seriously that he began building a boat decades before it started raining – that’s radical obedience! Personally, I prefer to see evidence of God working in my life before I move! I want to know I’m not making a mistake. If God wants me to build a boat I demand at least some sprinkles of rain. But not Noah … Noah just went to work.

I can’t help but imagine the impact Noah’s obedience must of had on his three sons; Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Not only did they see their father go about building a boat, but they saw him agonizing over the exact dimensions and smallest of details, “Do it over son, that board is an inch too long! It’s got to meet God’s instructions exactly!” 

I believe I’m starting to figure out why God spared Noah and his family.

God gave Noah specific instructions on how to build a boat and Noah obeyed. Noah’s obedience was a direct result from, and evidence of, his close walk with God. God has left us with specific instructions as well. His Word spells out how we should be living our life. His Word specifically tells us what a life of repentance looks like and how it should impact believers. Yet, we don’t follow Noah’s example. Instead, we justify our disobedience. When we do find someone who takes obedience seriously we write them off as a fanatic and accuse them of legalism!

Noah was a fanatic and everyone around him surely thought he was a legalist. I can hear them now, “Come on Noah, did God literally mean the boat needed to be 450 feet long?” And I can hear Noah’s response, “Yeah. He did. And I’m going to obey.”

In his obedience, Noah showed his family and the whole, defiant world that he took his relationship with God seriously. He showed them that he didn’t just believe in word, but also in deed. James told us to “prove ourselves doers of the word and not just hearers” (James 1:22). Noah was a doer … and too often today, we’re just hearers.

God has given us specific instructions in His Word. If we want to get to heaven, it must be through His Son (John 14:6). We must repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). His Word goes to great lengths to show us what a life of repentance looks like and how our lives should be shaped in response to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We all would do well to take His Word seriously. When we make changes in our lives because of the instructions we find in God’s Word we are showing the world that we truly believe in the God of the Bible. They may think we’re fanatics or legalists, but by golly they at least know we’re serious.

Noah measured his boat carefully … just as we should measure our lives by the Word of God.

Other posts in this series: Lessons from Genesis

 

 

Lessons from Genesis: What's it Mean to "Walk with God"?

from newyorker.com
The generations that followed Adam and Eve became defined by sin. In fact, sin became so pervasive that God sent judgement by way of a flood. Yet, in the midst of that judgement, Noah stood out:

“9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. 10 Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” Genesis 6:9-10. 

That phrase, “walked with God”, has been the focus of my study today. Noah stood out in a world that was defined by sin as righteous and blameless; not sinless, but blameless. I found myself asking what it was that Noah did differently to stand out. What does it mean to walk with God? I ask the question because I want to be a Noah. Whatever it means to walk with God, I want to apply it to my life. I want to walk with God!

Noah is the second person in Genesis to be characterized as walking with God. Enoch, being the first, is described as being taken by God rather than dying (Genesis 5:24). Just as Noah escaped the flood, Enoch escaped death. God preserved them. God preserved Enoch and Noah because of their walk.

When the Bible speaks of walking in this manner, it is talking about the way we live our life. In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle Paul writes that when we are dead in our sins, we are walking “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2). Like Noah and Enoch, we have a choice; we can live a life that is characterized by our walk with sin or by our walk with God.

Noah’s walk was exemplified by his obedience. When God told Noah to build the ark it wasn’t raining; yet Noah obeyed anyway. The writer of Hebrews wrote this:

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7, emphasis mine).

Noah was obedient to God’s commands even though he couldn’t see the rain. It seems that “walking with God” is directly linked to our obedience. On some level, Noah chose to walk with God by being obedient to His commands. We make that same choice today; will we walk in obedience or will we walk according to the ways of this world?

Jesus tells us to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near (Matthew 3:2, 4:17; Mark 1:15). That word “repent” sums up our choice. When we repent we change our mind. We choose to begin walking with God rather than the world and our choice inevitably impacts our actions and behaviors. When we repent our walk becomes defined by our relationship with God. It is a choice we make and will continue to make daily until Jesus calls us home. When we live in repentance we walk with God.

In His Son, God commands us to change our walk. We can continue to walk in the path that leads to destruction or we can choose to walk with God by accepting His Son as our Lord and Savior. The more I allow my life to be defined by my relationship with Christ the closer I will walk with God.

If we want to walk with God we must “2[fix] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

My prayer is that my life would be defined by my relationship with God and the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. My prayer is not that I would be perfect, but that I would be blameless and that God would be glorified by my walk; that people would see me as a sinner, saved by grace, living in relationship with God Almighty through Jesus.

Noah’s obedience was an act of faith. That faith allowed him to live in relationship with God; righteous and upright. He walked with God and his walk stands as an example for the rest of us.

Lessons from Genesis: A Talking Snake? Really?

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”2The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen 3:1-6, NASB)

This passage from Genesis records one of the most pivotal moments in the history of mankind and our relationship with God. There’s no doubt that the tempter in this passage is none other than Satan who the apostle John refers to in the New Testament as “the serpent of old” (Rev 20:2). However, as the story unfolds, the reader realizes that Satan apparently manifested himself in the guise of a snake. Not surprisingly, this causes many students of the Bible to take pause. A snake? Really? Are we expected to believe that a snake actually talked to Eve? How dense was she anyway? Let’s face it, if a snake slithers up to one of us on the street and starts talking, we’re going to know immediately that we shouldn’t trust it. Why? Because snakes don’t talk!

But let’s put ourselves in Eve’s shoes for a second … well, not her shoes for she was naked for the time being, but hang with me anyway – Eve was a relatively new creation at this point. It was Adam that God presented all the animals to so they could be named in Genesis 2:20; Eve wasn’t created until Genesis 2:22 – she had probably never seen a snake in her short life at that point. In her naivety, Eve was a perfect target for Satan’s ruse. And she fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

So are we to believe that Satan literally spoke to Eve through a snake? I believe we are. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14) and Peter adds that Satan prowls about like a lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8) so we should expect Satan to go to great lengths to fool us! But allow me to put this question into perspective just a bit. We can get so caught up in the question of rather this is a literal snake or not that we miss the principle that should be derived from the scene.

Satan, the father of lies, fooled Eve and he is still trying to fool us today. To see this in action, take a look at Acts 5:1-3:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?” 

Satan conspired with the inclination of Ananias and Sapphira’s hearts to cause them to sin. Peter immediately discerned this and asked, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” Satan baited their hook and they fell for it. And he is baiting your hook right now.

“You surely will not die!”

 Whatever sin your heart is inclined toward, Satan is trying to bait your hook with opportunity and reassure you with the lie that you won’t die. It’s all going to be okay. But Scripture reveals the truth. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and we are all called to respond to Jesus’s plea “repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17).

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Satan may not be appearing to you as a snake, but he is appearing to you in some fashion. It may be in the form of alcohol, drugs, pornography, a relationship that’s bad for you … there are countless ways he may disguise himself … but his  whispered lie remains the same, “You surely will not die.”

The challenge for all of us to hear Jesus’ voice above the whispers of Satan, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Related Posts: God Delights in Blessing Mankind, The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Lessons from Genesis: The Innate Value of Human Life and Abortion

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26).

This verse should cause the reader of Genesis to pause and reflect on the innate, God-given value of human life. Genesis records God speaking multiple things into existence. The atmosphere, the earth, oceans, land, animals, vegetation – all of springs into existence as a result of God’s Word. Yet when He creates mankind He pauses and reflects amid the Holy Trinity, “Let Us make man in Our Image.

Mankind are fashioned in God’s image. Genesis 2 details the artistry that God employed when He made us:

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being’ (Genesis 2:7).

The word formed in this verse is likened to a potter who us sculpting his are out of clay. Like an artist, God fashioned mankind from the dust with loving care. The prophet Isaiah put it this way, “But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). 

life
from wikipedia

There is innate value in human life simply because of the One who created us. The same God that created everything in existence (read John 1:1-5) paused and made human life extra special. We are distinct amongst all His creation as being made in His image. We are His image bearers. When God gave us the authority to rule over the earth (Genesis 1:28) He intended for us to be His image bearers in the world. Human life is special.

But as we all know, sin entered the world and mankind drifted out of relationship with God. In the 4th chapter of Genesis Cain murdered Abel and displayed a terrifying lack of respect for life. I would argue that all sin has at its root a disrespect for life. When you steal from someone you are disrespecting the life they have worked to build. If you are violent, angry, hateful, lustful, bitter, or unforgiving toward another human doesn’t it all simply boil down to a lack of respect for their life? Perhaps nothing in our culture displays this lack of respect for life more so than the practice of abortion on demand. Almost 60 million babies have been aborted since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973. Cain took one life and it was significant enough to be recorded in God’s Word yet we have stood by and allowed 60 million lives to be taken in the last 42 years.

It is time Christians took a stand for human life. It is time we stopped and repented for allowing the practice of abortion to continue. God paused and put special care in the creation of humans yet we abort babies without so much of an afterthought. And that’s why the hidden camera videos recording Planned Parenthood staffers are so troubling. They force us to stop and consider just how disrespectful and immoral the practice of abortion is.

Abortion on demand is morally indefensible. Christ’s followers in the United States need to rise up and vote for candidates who will defund Planned Parenthood and work to reverse Roe v. Wade. We can no longer stand by and allow the practice of abortion to continue uncontested.

I’ve heard the arguments from the left. Hidden camera footage is unfair. The tapes are edited. Planned Parenthood provides valuable heath services to women apart from abortion.

Really?

No argument the left can trumpet surpasses the value of 60 million lives that have been lost. None. If you’re worried about healthcare for women, work to find a new way to provide those services apart from condoning abortion, but don’t pretend your arguments are more valuable than saved lives.

Doing so disrespects the God who breathed into us the breath of life.

Related Posts: What really Bugs Me About the Planned Parenthood Videos

 

Lessons from Genesis: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

expulsionfromeden
image from thegospelcoalition.net

“… but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17, NASB).

The history recorded in the second chapter of Genesis tells us that God formed man out of dirt and then placed him in a garden of God’s creation (2:7-8). The garden contained trees that were good for food and pleasing to the sight; including the tree of life which was the means by which God sustained Adam and Eve. However, in the garden was another tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil of which Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat because it would lead to their death. This famous tree presented Adam and Eve with a choice; they could listen to the instructions of God or to the whispers of the serpent, “You will surely not die.”

I’ve often pondered how things would have been so much easier had God not planted that evil tree. Why was it there to begin with? Certainly its presence reveals how much God values free will and choice and, of course, we know that Adam and Eve ultimately chose to eat from the tree. We may be tempted, however, to ask what the big deal is with their choice to eat the fruit, after all, the tree was only off limits because God said it was. They ate the fruit, so what?

In my last post, I wrote about God blessing mankind through His creation. God created the universe, the sun, the earth, and all of creation because it was good for mankind … and then He prescribed the best way for us to live within that creation. In the case of Adam and Eve, the best way for them to live was to avoid the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God is free to issue such prescriptions because He is the God of creation. He and He alone is God. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit it was more than just a simple act of disobedience. They were asserting that they knew better than God Almighty Himself when it came to what was good for their lives. In his commentary on Genesis, Bruce Waltke writes, “”That famous tree symbolizes the ability to discern good (i.e., what advances life) and evil (i.e., what hinders life)” (p. 85).

And guess what folks, we’ve been eating from that tree ever since. God’s Word prescribes for us the best way to live our lives and yet we keep pretending to know better than Him. Sex, gluttony, hatred, lust, greed … when we choose to sin we are asserting that we know better than God what is good for us.

Surely we won’t die … right? 

Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. When we claim to know more than God about what’s right and wrong for us we are choosing a route that will lead to our deaths. We would do well to learn the lesson of Job:

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ (Job 42:3-4). 

God alone knows what’s best for our lives. It takes tremendous audacity for us to presume to know more about our lives than the very God that created us. God is God and we are not. He has the right as the Lord of all creation to tell us what’s best for our lives. When we presume to know better, we are choosing spiritual death.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). 

The best way for us to live our lives is the way our Creator has told us to live our lives. We would do well to listen to Him … after all, He is God and we are not.


Related Posts: Lessons from Genesis: God Delights in Blessing Mankind

Lessons from Genesis: God Delights in Blessing Mankind

genesisIn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” These are the words that open the Bible’s account of creation. Far too often, we read these words and immediately try to turn Scripture into a science textbook.

  • When did He do it? 
  • How old’s the earth? 
  • How did He do it? 

I don’t mean to suggest these question are not important, however, I do believe there is a more important and better question … Why did He do it? 

Why did God create the heavens and the earth? One answer I hear quite often is that God created the heavens, the earth, and ultimately mankind because He was lonely and longed for companionship. I’m not sure about this answer. God is presented in Scripture as living a perfectly harmonious and unified relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit. It is a relationship so closely knit that the three persons of the Trinity are defined as One God. Three in one. God exists in the most perfect relationship imaginable so I tend to reject the argument that He was somehow lonely and needed mankind to complete Him. I also believe Scripture provides us with a better answer.

Over and over, God is presented as declaring His creation as “good.” God created light and saw that it was good (Gen 1:3-4), God created the earth and the seas and saw that is was good (1:10), God created vegetation and saw it was good (1:12), God created the sun and the moon and saw it was good (1:18), likewise God goes on to create all the animals of the sky, oceans, and land and declares them as good. Good for what we might ask? What is all this stuff good for?

It’s good for us. Mankind. The one and only creatures that were created in God’s image.

Chapter 2 of Genesis demonstrates to us that God created mankind from the dust of the ground and then “breathed the breath of life into us” (2:7). Then God proceeds to create the Garden of Eden for mankind in verse 2:8. He didn’t create man for the Garden, He created the Garden for the man!

Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (2:9).

God cause to grow trees that were pleasing for food and sight for mankind. He wasn’t just concerned with feeding us, He also wanted us to enjoy ourselves. I can imagine God thinking to Himself as He created:

  • “Oh yes, they are going to love this tree! It is beautiful! it is good!”
  • “These tomatoes are so juicy and ripe … just wait until he sinks His teeth into them!”

God created the world the way He did to bless us. There is something innate to His person that wants to see mankind blessed. He created us in His image and placed us on a planet that is conducive to our survival and enjoyment. He blessed us because that’s the kind of God He is. He is a God who blesses. The prophet Isaiah described Him as an Artist:

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). 

He is the potter and we are the clay. Carefully crafted in the image of the Father, Son, and Spirit and created to be blessed and to glorify Him. Isaiah also reveals we were created to glorify the God who created us (Isaiah 43:7). That’s the way it was meant to work. He blesses us and we glorify Him.

It’s easy to see how God blesses us. Just look out your window at the world we live in. Look up into the mystery of space in the night sky. Look at you family and loved ones. God blesses us. It might be harder to discern how we are supposed to glorify Him. Scripture tells us there is one vehicle between our blessings and His glory – Jesus Christ.

The apostle John tells us that nothing that has been created has been created apart from Jesus Christ for it is through Him that all things were created (John 1:1-5). All of our blessing came though Jesus Christ … He is the vehicle through which God the Father blesses us through creation. Likewise, it is through Jesus Christ that we glorify God. Jesus said that He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one gets to the Father but through [Him]” (John 14:6). God the Father blesses us through Jesus and we glorify the Father through Jesus. There simply is no other way.

And here is the wonderful part. The same God who delighted in creating the world to bless us is still delighting in creating for us. Revelation tells us that we will someday inherit a new heaven and a new earth to replace the one we have tainted with our sin. Guess where that new heaven and new earth is going to come from …

“If I [Jesus] go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).

Just as God the Father created the heavens and the earth through Jesus to bless mankind at the beginning of time in Genesis, He is creating a new heaven and a new earth through Jesus to bless us at the end of time. He will continue to bless us and we can continue to glorify Him through His Son Jesus.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). 

Our God is a God who delights in blessing His creation. How can we not have the desire to glorify His Holy Name.

Amen?

Lessons from Genesis: What Can We Learn From Jacob's Wrestling Match with God?

wrestling
Jacob’s Wrestling Match

Frederick Buechner’s Secrets in the Dark contains a sermon he preached titled ‘The Magnificent Defeat’ that details the story of Jacob’s all-night wrestling match with God:

22 Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. (Genesis 32:22-31)

If I’m being honest, I’ve always had a little trouble grasping this passage. Buechner’s take on it, however, is beautiful and spoke to me a great deal. Jacob is a man who has always gotten ahead by being just a little crafty and devious. If you recall, he caught his brother Esau in a moment of weakness and essentially tricked him into trading his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34). He then set about with the help of his mother to trick his father into granting him a blessing that was intended for Esau (Genesis 27:1-29). Jacob was a little devious … and here’s the hard part to understand – his deviousness worked for him.

Jacob got ahead as a result of his trickery. He gained his brother’s birthright and blessing and, although he had to flee before Esau exacted revenge, he enjoyed the benefits of his deviousness. Buechner writes:

… the shrewd and ambitious man who is strong on guts and weak on conscious, who knows very well what he wants and directs all his energies toward getting it, the Jacobs of this world, all do pretty well.

Jacob is the guy at your workplace who gets ahead on the backs of his coworkers. The guy who isn’t afraid to sacrifice others on his way to the top. But it is essential for us to remember that such trickery will only get us so far. Look again at Jacob’s wrestling match with God. The battle goes on for the entire night. Though Jacob struggles in all his might he is unable to get the advantage. He battles and battles until God finally reaches out and cripples him by simply touching the socket of his thigh. One can only wonder why God didn’t do this from the beginning. Why did God allow the wrestling match to wage for the entire night when He could win so easily. Perhaps there was a greater lesson for Jacob to learn.

Once crippled, Jacob grows desperate. He grabs on to God and begs, “I will not let go unless you bless me!” Jacob knows he is losing the wrestling match. He is crippled. God can’t be taken advantage of like Esau or duped like his father Isaac. Buechner writes:

[God’s blessing] is not a blessing that he can have now by the strength of his cunning or the force of his will, but a blessing that he can only have as a gift.

Once Jacob gets desperate, God extends His grace, “So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there” (Genesis 32:27-29). 

God’s blessings are a gift and they reach a crescendo in Jesus Christ “… that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). We can not trick, demand, or force our way into eternal life – we must humble ourselves and accept the free gift of Jesus Christ.

Not in our strength, but His.