Jacob’s Dream

The story of Jacob’s ladder is well known by many who do not know the Bible. Jacob is depicted in song lyrics from Led Zeppelin to U2 to Rush to Huey Lewis and the News. Jacob is also a topic for motivational speakers communicating ones ability to climb the ladder of personal success because “the skies the limit”. The story of Jacob’s ladder has taken on varying shades of meaning and interpretation, which are a stretch from its original biblical context.

The story of Jacob’s ladder dream appears at the beginning of Jacob’s narrative. Jacob had just deceived his twin brother Esau by ripping off his birthright and lying to get his father’s deathbed blessing. Therefore Esau is out to get Jacob’s head and see him dead. So Jacob flees the Promised Land and the momma’s boy who once loved staying home was now driven from his home. He becomes a fugitive from his family fearing his brother’s ferocious rage.

The tension in the story rises as Jacob comes to a certain place at the sunsets. He spends the night out in the elements alone. Without protection in an unknown place Jacob finds a sandy spot to sleep with a rock for his pillow. The tension continues to rises as he nods off to sleep and dreams a strange dream about a ladder that the angels of God ascend and descend upon. God comes to Jacob in a dramatic dream in the middle of the night. For the first time in his life, Jacob encounters God.

How in the world is God going work with this guy?

At this point in Genesis, the covenant promises of God have been applied to the less than perfect people—from Abraham to Isaac to sinfully deceptive Jacob who stole both the birthright and blessing from his older brother Esau. Jacob possesses the covenant blessing, but lacks faith-driven relationship with God like that of Isaac and Abraham. Jacob is not a God-pursuer [worshiper, believer]; he is a man-pleaser and self-gratifier. For the first time, Jacob is not living under the faith of his parents, but begins his own relationship with God.

So how does he go from Jacob to Israel? From trickster and deceiver to a worshiper of God? From a total goober to a godly guy? Jacob is probably in his 70s, still living with his parents, mom still washes his whitie-tighties, and has her pack his lunch box with PB & J. He’s totally a late bloomer with no wife, no job, allowed to underachieve, enjoys being spoiled, and has inconstant God-following parents.

The story climaxes as Jacob sees God in his dream. And no, it wasn’t a dose of spicy chili the night before. God speaks to him and promises to be everything that He was to Jacob’s dad [26:3-4] and grand-dad [12:2-3; 15:1-6]. The God of Abraham and Isaac will also be known as the God of Jacob. The Lord not only extends patriarchal promises [i.e. land, descendants, and blessing] but also adds a special promise—His presence—that the Lord will always be with him [and Israel] wherever he goes. The symbol of His presence is the ladder in his dream, which connects heaven with earth.

If I were Jacob, I would have wet my pants seeing God, especially after his sinful escapade. Jacob should have been cursed for all his sin, however God has grace on him and blesses him. In holy fear, Jacob awakes from his dream awed by the Lord. The change in Jacob’s heart turning toward God arises in his commitment to tithe to God as an act of worship to God [cf. 26:25]. Above all it is God who seeks out a covenant relationship with Jacob, which is the pattern continued for all believers throughout human history.

How do we get from Jacob to Jesus?

As Jacob leaves the Promised Land, God promise to be with Jacob wherever he goes. This is an important redemptive theme that progresses throughout the history of Israel to those who follow Jesus.

As Moses is called out of Egypt—leading the Hebrew people to the Promised Land—God promises His presence [Exodus 3:12; Deuteronomy 31:6]. He proves His presence with a pillar of clouds by day, a pillar of fire by night, and His glory in the tabernacle. As Joshua carries the torch of Moses and enters the Promised Land, God assures His presence [Joshua 1:5]. God promises His presence with Israelites kings [1 Kings 8:57]. And when Israel is cast int0 exile God promises His presence with His people [Isaiah 43:2; 41:10].

The culmination of the promise of God’s presence came when He was born as a babe with human skin and walked among His people. His name is Jesus. He is also known by the name, “Emmanuel,” which means, “God with us.” [Matthew 1:23; John 14:9-10; Colossians 2:9; cf. Isaiah 7:14]. After Jesus rises from the dead He promises His presence with His followers [Matthew 28:20; Hebrew 13:5] and His Spirit dwells in His people [Acts 2:33; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19]. On the last day, when Jesus comes again, He promises to dwell with His people forever in the divine Promised Land of His eternal presence [Revelation 21:3].

The promise give to Jacob by God was fulfilled when God brings him back to Canaan, when God returns the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, and when God returns the remnant from exile in Babylon, but promise is ultimately fulfilled through Jesus Christ the Son of God. The ladder Jacob sees in his dream is a picture of God promise “to be with you.” God is not absent from His creation or His covenant people. He is intimately connected with His creation. The ladder represents His mediation between heaven and earth. Jesus even makes this correlation between the ladder and Himself [John 1:49-51]. Jesus is the mediator between heaven and earth—God and man [1 Timothy 2:5; John 14:6]. Jesus is the ladder; He is the connection between heaven and earth.

The purpose of Jacob’s strange ladder dream was to get his attention. Once God got his attention, He promised to be with Him always wherever he would go. That promise would ripple to His holy people [Israel] and also in the Scripture later to His church. The promise of God’s presence is one of the most precious and assuring promises of the Scripture. This promise is meant to be a source of comfort for all His followers. God knows that His people sometimes feel forsaken. However, remember as Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:20]

tale of twin brothers

I am one of six. I have three brothers and two sisters. I am at least 10-years older than my closest sibling. If you have siblings then you know what it is to have a rival. Since most of my siblings are much younger than I am our battles were either unfair or annihilation’s. I was more of the big-brother-built-in-babysitter, but now as my siblings are getting older I get my fair share of beat downs. Mostly verbal onslaughts related to my balding scalp and growing belly.

Today we will peer under the roof of a family with twin brothers who were all boy and at times bad to the bone. Most siblings can relate to these two dudes. However, what their story unfolds is a story that opens up a greater story of redemption and reconciliation, which we will discover over the next few weeks.

Two boys are born [Genesis 25:19-28]

Isaac [the promised son] married Rebekah [the prayed for wife], but come to find out she is barren. This is not a good thing for a family that is promised to bear the Seed of Hope [the promised Son—Jesus]! However, Isaac learned from the story of his mother and father. Instead of taking matters into his own hands he prayed to God who can open wombs as He did with his mother’s womb. God answered with a miracle bringing to life Rebekah’s dead womb.

Rebekah was blessed with not just one, but with two rambunctious boys. Even before her boys breathed their first full breath of oxygen they were picking on each other. Inside their mother’s belly the boys were like to UFC brawlers throwing fists and feet, but instead of a rope and ring they were using the walls of their mothers womb. I have seen my wife’s reaction when our little girl got moving. I could not image two burly boys bouncing around.

Rebekah does not understand why this is happening so she asks God. Isn’t this family something great? Two parents seeking God on behalf of their children. God responds to Rebekah’s inquire with historic news. The two boys within her would be two nations, two divided people, one [Jacob] stronger and the other [Esau] a servant to the younger [cf. Romans 9:10-13; 2 Samuel 8:13]. This is an incredibly important oracle, which would come to play later in the life of the twin brothers.

The first boy to be born was Esau [also called Edom]. He was red and hairy with a coat of fur like Elmo or Clifford the big red dog. The second boy to be born was not far behind. In fact, on the way out he was holding onto his hairy brother’s heel. They named their heel grabbing son heel [or trickster], which in our language is translated Jacob. As they grew Esau became the man’s man always out in the field hunting and gathering trophy game, while his brother Jacob was more of the homebody hanging out with his mommy.

As great as this family started out to be—building a foundation of prayer and faith—there was another foundation being laid of partiality and favoritism. Since, Esau hunted meat his dad favored him, and since Jacob was at home cooking and cleaning with his mom, she favored him. This unbalanced foundation, if left unchecked, will lead to some major conflict in the home, which we are about to see [cf. 37:3].

Buying his brother’s birthright outright [Genesis 25:29-34]

Esau is the firstborn son. There are major perks for being the firstborn. Being the first born Esau was entitled to the family birthright, which would make him the inheritor of a double portion of his father’s estate, leave him as the head of the family when his father passed away, as well as enable him to receive a special blessing from his father. In Abraham and Isaac’s case the one who possesses the birthright inherited the Abrahamic covenant. Esau wielded a lot of power and promise as the firstborn son.

However, Esau did not treat his birthright with that kind of importance. On an ordinary day,  Esau, probably after a long day of hunting came hungry to his brother Jacob who was cooking a yummy smelling pot of stew or spaghetti. Esau was exhausted and wanted something to eat. So Jacob being the trickster got his brother to trade his birthright for a meal. Quite the unfair trade, but as crazy as it was Esau accepted. At the bottom of Esau’s trade was an indifference towards God’s covenant promise to bless all nations through the descendants of his grandfather Abraham, which would ultimately bring forth Jesus Christ. Instead in a moment of flippancy he gave up God’s covenant for the munchies.  Later when he realized what a dumb and dishonoring thing he did it was too late [cf. Hebrews 12:16-17].

It is interesting to note this struggle between two brothers in the womb would continue well into the future. In fact, many years later it reached its climax when King Herod—a descendant of Esau—sought to slaughter all firstborn sons, which included Jesus Christ—a descendant of Isaac [Matthew 1:1-2, 2:13].

God reaffirms promises to the twins father [Genesis 26:1-5ff]

Similar to God speaking to Abraham, God speaks to Abraham’s son Isaac. The major similarities are God’s covenant promise to be with Isaac, bless him, and give him descendants and land. God blesses Isaac because his father Abraham “obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commands, My decrees, and My laws.” [26:5; cf. Deuteronomy 11:1ff]

Throughout the rest of Genesis 26 are a number of similarities between Abraham and Isaac unfold:
•    Both men received God’s call and promise. Both lived during a period of famine.
•    Both men dwelt in Gerar both men had lovely wives. Both men were cowards in the face of possible harm.
•    Both men lied and said their wife was their sister. Both men were spared the consequences of their sin by God’s mercy.
•    Both men were rebuked by good Gentiles for their lying schemes. Both build altars to worship God.
•    Both men were pursued by Abimelech for a covenant [two different Abimelech’s but both related].
•    Both men were a blessing to their neighbors. Both men trusted God and lived peacefully with their neighbors.

Like Abraham, God redeemed Isaac’s unbelief. Isaac was blessed only because of God’s grace to him. God uses imperfect people and keeps His covenant promises. The chapter concludes with a brief note about Esau. Like Isaac, Esau marries at the age of 40. However, unlike Isaac he married two godless women without the counsel of his father, which following the birthright fiasco shows his foolish heart. Esau is a type of prodigal son who becomes a “source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.”

Blindsiding big brother to get father’s blessing [Genesis 27:1-28:9]

Isaac was becoming old and senile. Therefore he called for his eldest son to give him a blessing. This is an important moment in the life of a son—often a life-changing and course-directing moment. Before Isaac offers Esau the blessing he sends him out to hunt a juicy steak.

Rebekah, like Eve and Sarah, took matters into her own hands. Since she favored Jacob over Esau she devised a deceitful plan to rob her son Esau of his blessing. Could this be where Jacob learned his trickery? So Rebekah cooks up some goat meat to Isaac’s liking and dresses Jacob in Esau’s hunting clothes and pads his neck and hands with fur to match to texture of his brother’s man-sweater. Then she sends Jacob into Isaac’s tent and unbelievably the sinful scheme works as schemed. Isaac is duped and Jacob steals Esau’s special deathbed blessing.

Esau comes to his father shortly after with his hunt, but learns he is late and missed the blessing because of his younger brothers trickiness. Isaac becomes furious. Esau weeps, turns bitter towards his brother, and plans to comfort himself by killing him [cf. Genesis 4]. Rebekah catches wind of Esau’s plan and sends Jacob to Laban until Esau cool’s down out of fear that she might lose her both sons over her sin, but a few days ended up being 20-years. This family’s firm foundation of faith and prayer is quickly crumbling, and beginning to look more like an episode of the Maury Povich Show.

Before leaving for Laban’s, Jacob is blessed by his father and commanded to marry only a woman who belongs to God so that the promises of the covenant would continue through his family line. To spite his parents, Esau intentionally marries another godless wife in addition to his other wives that had brought nothing but grief to his parents. Both boys do not appear very godly or worthy of the family blessings promised through Abraham.

Jacob, Jacob, Jacob…How does his story fit into the “Big Story?”

First, a look at Jacob gives you a glimpse of yourselves. He was struggling for power, even from birth through lies and strategic steals. Showing how sly and stealthy we are at sinning to get ahead. Second, his story gives us unusual insight into the Gospel and how God works. Despite his sin and imperfection God uses Jacob as the “covenant carrying” son of Isaac. Just like he uses sinful Jesus-followers to bear the message of good news to a darkened world. God is gracious and merciful!

a bride for Isaac

Genesis 24:67 “Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”

Genesis now begins to focus not just on the God of Abraham, but also the God of Isaac and Jacob as Jesus taught in Matthew 22:32. Genesis 24 tells us that Abraham was old and had been blessed by God in every way as God had promised. And to ensure that his son Isaac would marry a woman who would worship his God by faith Abraham sent his servant back to his home to find a wife for his son. Abraham did this trusting that the God who had blessed him would be faithful to now provide for Isaac by sending an angel ahead to arrange the details.

Abraham’s faithful servant did as he was told and went to the region of Abraham’s brother Nahor. Stopping at a spring the servant prayed for God to provide. Before he had finished his prayer God had already answered it, sending the lovely virgin Rebekah to the spring. Rebekah drew water for Nahor and his animals. When the servant inquired of her family she said her father was Nahor and that he was welcome to stay at their home. The servant was so overjoyed at God’s perfect provision that he bowed down and worshiped the Lord for answering his prayer.

Rebekah agreed to go with Abraham’s servant to be Isaac’s wife. Upon arriving at Abraham’s household Rebekah was brought into the former tent of Isaac’s mother Sarah and married her. Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage ends with the beautiful words that “he loved her” and she was such a fitting bride that he was comforted by her love after the death of his mother.

We learn a great deal about God from the Genesis 24 narrative. God does not speak, but is silent in the narrative. However, God’s unseen hand of providence moves the story along showing Himself to be faithful to Abraham and Isaac. God also answers prayer and can be trusted to provide even when he has not spoken but has been spoken to in prayer.

There are some great applications from the story of Genesis 24 that are truths to take home. I will praise God for his faithfulness and steadfast love [24:12, 27]. I will remember my future is in God’s hands. I will encourage young men to pray and wait for a godly brides and encourage them to listen to their parents wisdom. I will pray to God with sincerity believing He does provide and keep His promises. I will trust God even when life does not make sense. I will serve God and others with expedience and efficiency.

I remember when I was a single man praying for God to provide a godly wife. What a joy it is to wait for His timing and to pursue His will. The wait was long and hard, but it was well worth the wait!

Keys to Genesis 24: bless [1, 27, 31, 35, 48, 60], prosper the way [12, 21, 27, 42, 56]

God will provide

I love stories of people who finish the race with fortitude. Who doesn’t gain inspiration from stories that beat the odds? I think of Team Hoyt [father with his paraplegic son] who completed the iron man, or Kerri Strug who finish the Olympics hurt on the hurdles, or Lance Armstrong who won seven Tour De France bike races after battling cancer, or King George VI who fought through the fear of speaking to become a voice comforter during WWII, or Temple Grandin who persevered through autism to become a leading advocate for autism and the cattle industry. Each of these people fought with grit to the finish.

Abraham also had an incredible journey of faith to the finish. Throughout Abraham’s struggle of faith God provided in miraculous ways. Today we will see three specific ways God provided: 1) God provides a son, 2) God provides a sacrifice, and 3) God provides land. Each of these provisions was for promises given by God when he called Abraham [Genesis 12:1-3]. God says what He means, and means what He says. When He promises something, He means to fulfill those promises exactly as He promised, but not always exactly as we think He would do it.

God provides a SON [Genesis 21:1-7]

After 25 years of waiting and wondering God gives Abraham and Sarah a son. Abraham finally has his boy. They name him, Isaac, which means laughter—fitting for a boy born to an old granny [90 years old] and triple-digit pappy [100 years old]. Sarah laughed at Isaac’s birth, but this time in joyous worship for the grace of God, which brought her a son.[1] God miraculously provides Isaac, the promised seed. It is good to rejoice in God’s faithfulness to His promises by giving Abraham a son. God would echo this miracle 2000 years later, when the seed of Isaac was fulfilled in the promised seed born through a virgin girl in a small town named Bethlehem [cf. Matthew 1 & Luke 3].

How have you rejoiced in His faithfulness? This week, I rejoiced with my wife remembering how God had blessed her over the past 10 years. God has been faithful to provide for her in some miraculous and mysterious ways. To God be all the glory!

God provides a SACRIFICE [Genesis 22:1-19]

Soon after God provides Abraham with a son, God in climatic twist calls him to a final test of faith. Before I proceed, it is important to remember that God tests your faith so that it might grow, and Satan tempts you to sin in an attempt to destroy your faith. God never tempts [cf. James 1:13ff]; He only tests. Even when you blow the test God uses it to grow your faith. Abraham’s marathon journey of faith leads him to this last grueling mile and God will ask Abraham to sprint to the finish. God asks father Abraham to build an altar and sacrifice his one and only son.

I’ve got one child. She’s a baby girl. I thank God for her. If I just had one child, that child would be the center of my universe, and as a father, my whole life would be about protecting that child because that would be my only child. When God says, sacrifice this child “whom you love” it shows that Abraham has a deep affection for his boy. They went camping, they worked the field, they played ball, and they did devotions together. I could not imagine how difficult this would have been for Abraham.

Without any deliberation or doubt Abraham awakes early in the morning, responds in faith, takes a 50-mile 3-day donkey ride, cuts wood for the altar [for this is no ordinary camping trip], binds up Isaac on the altar, and raises his knife to kill his son. Was he really going to kill his son on the altar? I think so. I think Abraham had seen God fulfill promise after unbelievable promise and made a womb that was dead-dead alive.

Now Isaac was no baby. He was probably between the ages of 15-35. He could have easily wrestled his 115-135 year old weak-boned dad to the ground. However, as Abraham’s son, he willingly submits himself to God’s plan too. He trusts his dad. I could image that Isaac had a terrified look on his face saying. “Dad, you want me to lay down on the altar? You want me to die here today?” “Yes, son, that’s what the Lord is saying.” “Okay. I trust you, dad.” Isaac willingly lies down on the altar, but God intervenes by providing an animal sacrifice for the burnt offering. The story that climaxes with Isaac, ultimately climax with Christ.

  • Isaac and Jesus were both sons promised many years before their birth.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both born to women who could not have conceived apart from a miracle.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both firstborn sons.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both loved by their father/Father.
  • Isaac and Jesus both carried wood to their sacrifice.
  • Isaac and Jesus both willingly laid down their lives to their father/Father.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both laughed at. One for being born, and the later for claiming to be king.
  • Isaac and Jesus both lay down as a burnt offering for sin [i.e. substitutionary atonement, 2 Corinthians 5:21].
  • Isaac was resurrected figuratively and Jesus was resurrected literally [1 Corinthians 15].
  • Isaac was just a man, but Isaac was the God/Man who came to save mankind.

God provides the lamb for a burnt offering so that Isaac may live. Likewise, God provides the Lamb of God—Jesus Christ—as the sin offering so that those who believe in Him may live forever [cf. John 1:29; Mark 10:45]. God is faithful to provide the sacrifice for our redemption.

God provides SOIL [Genesis 23:1-20]

Remember, Abraham was a pagan living in Iraq who worked as a nomad. Now he is living many miles from his childhood home on the doorstep of the land God has promised him. He is old and his wife has just passed. In an obscure way, Sarah’s small and insignificant burial plot was the only property Abraham owned in the Promised Land. The land that was promised to his heirs would not arise as a nation until God would call another man, Moses, who would take God’s people to the Promised Land, but it took Joshua to finally bring the people across the river Jordan [21:43-34]. As the Hebrew people longed for their promised homeland [Hebrews 11:9-14] so followers of Christ long for their eternal homeland with Him [John 14:3; 2 Peter 3:13].

In conclusion, it is a worthwhile endeavor to think back on all the times God has provided. It is encouraging to journal or write a thank you letter to God for all that He has done. As I think back, he has provided in so many miraculous ways: He provided the means through jobs and mysterious donors to pay off my college education, He has provided friends who have given me timely and wise counsel from high school until now, He provided a beautiful and godly wife who has taught me much about God through the way she lives, and He has provided me with a gracious and generous church that has reinvigorated my passion for Christ and His Body. None of these provisions compare to those that the last leg of Abraham’s journey remind me of—God has provided me a Son who was the sacrifice for my sin and through faith in Him I have an eternal home with Him. God has provided far above what I could ever think or ask! It is enough to motivate me to fight the good fight of faith to the finish.


[1] Cf. Genesis 17:15ff, this was unlike Sarah’s previous laughter of unbelief that mocked the promises of God.

Melchizedek

Commercial breaks. They are moments in our TV watching when we go get a snack, run to the restroom, change the channel or tune out. Today, we are going to re-watch a commercial break that we skipped over that appears near the beginning of the Abraham narrative. This commercial break is too important to skip over for it concerns the man, the mystery, and important biblical character—Melchizedek.

The Bible’s First Throw-down [Genesis 14:1-16][1]

Genesis 14, interrupts with a great war breaking out—the first war of many recorded in the Bible—between four powerful regional rulers and five others fighting for control of trade routes, loot, influence, slaves and women in the land-between. Lot’s city is taken captive, and he becomes a POW. Word gets to Abram about Lot through an escapee. So Abram pulls together 318 of his own trained warriors. Once a homeless guy living in a tent, now he’s doing pretty well with his own personal posse. The rescue mission proves to be successful. Abram liberates Lot, the loot, the women, and even spares the wicked people of Sodom.

The Battle Belongs to the LORD [Genesis 14:17-24]

Do you see Abram’s faith in God put on display through the great battle? First, in faith, he graciously rescues his knucklehead nephew Lot living in the wicked and defeated Sodom by taking on the control-freak kings [v.14]. He gave them a good whipping dealing with them quickly and thoroughly. Not too mention he is nearly 75 years old.

Second, in faith, he honors God’s sovereignty [vs.21-24]. He could have taken the credit, but he recognized he was not alone in this battle. He ultimately won this battle by the blessing of God [cf. 12:1-3]. God blesses Abraham AS HE SAID. God blesses those who bless Abraham AS HE SAID. God curses those who cursed Abraham AS HE SAID. God made Abraham a great name AS HE SAID. God is beginning to let Abraham have an international influence AS HE SAID.

Third, he was a testimony of faith to those around him. Abram, the warrior-ruler, was gracious to the self-centered king of Sodom, and was praised by the priest-king Melchizedek. Melchizedek also recognized it was God who won the day [14:20]. Abram had a contagious faith. Now Abram’s faith was not perfect, but the object of His faith was.

Introducing Priest-King Melchizedek [Genesis 14:17-20][2]

Who is this man named Melchizedek? Melchizedek is a man of mystery to many. He has a curious resume and no recorded genealogy, which is odd for a major character in Genesis. The lack of details on Melchizedek has caused some Bible commentators to believe that he was a Christophony [cameo appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ], but he has no connections to YHWH. Instead his connections seem to lie with El [God Most High], the highest of the pagan gods in the Canaanite pantheon. Others believe Melchizedek was an angel, a type of Christ, or just a powerful man.

It appears from Genesis that Melchizedek is just a powerful man. First, he was the king of Salem [“peace”], which is likely Jerusalem. Second, he brought bread and wine to fellowship with Abram, not to be mistaken with communion, but simply to help out hungry and thirsty men that just finish trekking and fighting in a great battle. Third, he was a priest. At this time the priesthood from Aaron had not yet been established. Fourth, he blessed Abram like God had, and he blessed Abram’s God. Fifth, Abram recognized him by giving him a tenth of his possessions [note: this is where the church has often imposed the 10% tithing thing; cf. Numbers 18; Leviticus 27:30–33; 2 Corinthians 8-9].

Whoever Melchizedek was, Abram’s response to him is one of great faith. The powerful and wealthy Melchizedek offered Abram more great wealth, but Abram rejected the offering. He understood God had promised to bless him, protect him, and make him prosper. If Abram accepted wealth from Melchizedek it could conflict his loyalties to God. By faith Abram leaves his fate and future in God’s hands.

The Ballad of Melchizedek [Psalm 110][3]

This song of King David was written 1000 years after Abraham and 1000 years before Jesus. It gives more details about Melchizedek. How did David know about Melchizedek? He did his devotions [cf. Deuteronomy 17:14-20]. His song describes two oracles about the infamous priest-king [vs.1&4]. The first oracle declares the position of the Messiah as conqueror, “seated at the God’s right hand.” David acknowledges and anticipates his Messiah—the king who is to come after him. David points to Jesus who is greater king [Mark 12:35ff; Acts 2:34-36]. The Torah points to Jesus who fulfilled the Law, is greater than the priestly system, and is greater than the sacrificial system [Hebrews 1-13]. Heaven points to Jesus who is greater than angels and whom God exalts with a seat at His right side [the side of conquest, Acts 5:30-31; Hebrews 10]. It all points to Jesus.

The second oracle declares the position of the Messiah as priest, “you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Law of Moses stated a king could not be a priest, and a priest could not be king. King Saul tried to be both, but God would not permit it. David did not want to make the same mistake. Only Jesus will be the ruler and priest over all [Revelation 19:11]. God used David to prepare the way. When he became king in Jerusalem he moved the tabernacle and priestly system there, and for the first time the king and priest are in the same town [2 Samuel 6-8].

Jesus Christ Compared to Melchizedek [Hebrews 5 & 7]

The author of Hebrews is teaching new Jewish Christians who are wrestling with the fact that Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi, so how could He be a priest? Therefore the author shares details that compare Jesus with Melchizedek. The purpose of the character Melchizedek is now clear; He points you to Jesus:

  1. His name means king of righteousness [7:2].
  2. There is value to his missing records of mommy, daddy, or genealogy [7:3a]. His Father and ancestry is God.
  3. He is like the Son of God, an eternal son [7:3b].
  4. He is a priest of his own order [7:4-12]. Jesus is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Jesus is not a priest according to Levi [like the priests under the Law] He is of the tribe of Judah [7:13-14].
  5. He took an oath unlike a Levite [7:20-21].
  6. He is the guarantor of a better and eternal covenant [7:22].
  7. He is a permanent priest who continues forever [7:23-24].
  8. He intercedes and saves completely [7:25].
  9. He is the perfect mediator between God and man [7:26].
  10. He sacrifices once and for all [7:27-28].

Hebrews 8:1-2 goes on to say, “Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a High Priest, One who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” [cf.4:14-5:10]. His name is Jesus Christ. Do you know Him?

In conclusion, Melchizedek is probably the most important commercial breaks in Scripture. Abraham and Melchizedek are pointers to Jesus Christ [Genesis 14; Romans 4]. Abraham’s faith in God’s promises is a golden brick road that leads to Savior. Jesus, the priest-king, in the order of Melchizedek rules and intercedes for those who have faith in Him alone. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, He is your High Priest today.

I need a priest to sacrifice for me. Jesus sacrificed for my sins once and for all. He is my High Priest of priests.

I need a king to subdue me. Jesus is my sovereign ruler. He is my King of kings.

I need a prophet to speak truth to me. Jesus is the Word in flesh showing me God’s redemptive plan. He is prophet of prophets.

Jesus has done all for He is all.


[1] Here we are introduced to the continual battles that this piece of real estate would face [modern day, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, and Turkey].  The piece of land that God would give to Abraham was the cross roads of the world at that time. Throughout the history of this piece of land there has been turf battles. Whoever, controlled this narrow strip of land and its trade routes, controlled the world at that time.

[2] Only 3 passages teach about the biblical character Melchizedek: Genesis 14; Psalm 110; Hebrews 5-7.

[3] Psalm 110 is quoted more times in the NT than any other psalm. For more on Psalm 110, check out D.A. Carson’s sermon, Getting Excited about Melchizedek.

journey of faith

Have you ever been on a road trip when you got lost taking a wrong turn? I remember back in college after finals I drive home for the holidays. Back then I did not have a GPS or cell phones. I had a few college buds with me along for the ride via Chicago. I drove while the 13-hour trek while the one sitting shotgun navigated with an old Randall McNally map. When we reach Indianapolis we got on the I-465 beltway. It was sometime after midnight, we were getting tired. With the windows cracked, Mountain Dew running through our veins, the music cranked to DC Talk, and sunflower seeds all over the car seats we made our way around the beltway. I do not think any of us were paying attention to the road signs and detours because of the construction on the beltway. We missed our exit. For the next 2-hours we drove around and around the Indy beltway before we realized that we were just going in circles.

I am sure you have been there, right? Sometimes life can be like that too. You seem to be going somewhere and then you find yourself lost, spinning in circles, and delaying the journey. Life is a journey, especially if you are living a life of faith. Abraham is on that journey of faith. His journey of faith might not be that much different than yours.

DIRECTION FROM GOD FOR THE JOURNEY: A Call to Faith [Genesis 12:1-9]

God calls Abram out of a sinful people and nation to go to a place he does not yet know. As Abram goes, God makes a promise to him that He will make him a great nation. At this moment Abram is 75 years old, without an heir because his wife is barren, and attached to his father’s possession. Abram does know how God is going to fulfill His promise, but in faith he goes. When he reaches Canaan [a dead end for a nomad] he sets up an altar of worship for God will give him this land. As Abram and his family settle in the land they face a series of obstacles that from the human perspective seem like major detours.

DETOUR #1: Making up your own story is not part of God’s story [Genesis 12:10-20]

As Abram settles in Canaan, another challenge arises for Abram and his family. There is no food. So Abram, being the man of his house, takes action and heads south to Egypt. Afraid that he will lose his beautiful wife he crafts a story, “Sarah, babe, those Egyptians are going to think you are a smokin’ hot! Surely they will kill me to get you. Let’s pretend you’re my sister.” Lying is never part of God’s plan; truth is always the best option. Truth is part of God’s plan.

Indeed, when Abram and Sarai roll through town, Pharaoh’s prince’s gawk at Sarai—like men whistling at a passing girl next to a construction sight. They ran back to the palace bragging about her beauty to Pharaoh. And what Pharaoh wants, Pharaoh gets. Lucky, for Abram, Pharaoh is feeling particularly nice and spares Abram’s head. Unlucky for Pharaoh, he and his house get stuck with a plague. Knowing something is wrong he calls for Abram, “You have some explaining to do? Everything was groovy around here until you can around. Is there something you want to tell me about this woman? Why did you lie to me?” God had his hand on Abram. He should have been executed for lying to the ruler of Egypt, but God had grace on him through Pharaoh. Abram must have learned a valuable lesson that day: speak the truth and let God deal with the possible obstacles.

DETOUR #2: Sometimes the most obvious choice is not the right choice [Genesis 13]

I am not sure Abram and Sarai did much talking on the way home from Egypt. So Abram worships at the altar [13:4, maybe seeking forgiveness; cf. 12:8] and then goes back to work with Lot among their herds. Both men have large herds. Their herds are so large that their workers were not getting along [over turf, pooper scooper duties, etc.]. As a peacemaker, Abram asks Lot to leave, but gives him first choice of the land. Lot chose the greener grass, eastward [towards Sodom].

I am sure this was a hard decision for Abram. God gives him a nephew—possible heir—but they are forced to separate. Could Lot be the seed God was promising? According to Abram, the choice was not working out as he planned. He sits and sulks about his conflicted family separation, but God is working out His plan. In fact God says to Abram, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth [i.e. countless], so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” [13:14-17; cf. 12:7] God has a different choice for Abram’s seed in mind, but He also reaffirms His promise to Abram it will happen,

DETOUR #3: Expect unexpected challenges with unexpected results [Genesis 14]

A great war breaks, Lot’s city is taken captive, and Lot becomes a prisoner of war. Word gets to Abram through an escapee, and he pulls together 318 of his own men who are trained warriors. This gives you an idea of the wealth of Abram that he had his own personal army and defeated those holding onto Lot. Abram was not alone in this battle. He ultimately won this battle by the blessing of God who promised to protect him and curse those who cursed him [cf. 12:3]. Abram then praised by kings [i.e. Melchizedek, more on him next week] who also recognized that it was God who won the day [14:20].

COURSE DIRECTION FROM GOD: The Seed will come from through Abram [Genesis 15]

Following these three divine detours God sheds some light onto the path for Abram. God tells Abram in a dream that the promised seed would come through his seed. There is just one major problem: Abram has no children and he’s really old. Notice For the first time Abram speaks up, and asks God a question, “What about Eliezer?” God responds and reaffirms His covenant with Abram, “I will not use Eliezer [a non-related heir], but one of your own children.”

Again, with radical faith, Abram believes God [15:6; cf.12:4], and God “counted it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6, becomes central to Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith [Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6]. Also, James quotes this verse to teach that true faith in God results in good works in life with God [2:23-24]. God’s covenant with Abram was confirmed with a sacrifice and the shedding of blood, which foreshadows the New Covenant confirmed with Jesus’ sacrifice of His own life on the cross and the shedding of His blood.

DETOUR #4: Ignoring the possibility of the impossible [Genesis 16]

Sarah is not mentiond in the promise [cf. 15:1-6]. Abram does not even consider Sarai. Sarah is old and barren, and too old for it to be humanly possible for her to carry a child. They had waited a long time on God to come through with His promises. What options did Abram have? Taking matters into his own hands, he logically concludes that Hagar—one of his servant girls—is a prime candidate to carry his seed. Of course, Sarai spearheaded the faithless idea. So Abram slept with Hagar and she bore him a son [Ishmael, the son of Islam].

Is Abram immoral? Is he doing what he thinks God wants him to do? Impatience on God is never right the option.[1] If you are unsure waiting on God is always the best option. Ironically, Sarai bitterly blamed Abram for the split in their family because he slept with Hagar, and Hagar flees from the Sarai’s fury. Again, God intervenes.

COURSE DIRECTION FROM GOD: God gives a sign and specifics to His covenant [Genesis 17:1-18:21]

God reaffirms who He is and how He will fulfill His promises through Abram. Abram immediately worships [17:3, maybe seeking forgiveness; cf. 12:8; 13:4]. First, God confirms his covenant by giving Abram a new name and give a symbol for the covenant between God and Abraham, circumcision.[2] Second, God confirms his covenant with Abraham through Sarai by giving her a new name and saying the promised seed will be born through her barren womb. In one moment, God’s promise becomes very specific to Abraham and Sarah. And with a miraculous divine intervention God will open Sarah dead womb at 90 years old and give her a son who will be the living Seed of Promise [cf. 21:1-7].

DETOUR #5: Failing to see trials that purify your faith [Genesis 19-21]

In short, God sends His wrath upon Sodom and Gomorrah for their perverse sexual sin, which leaves a salty crater where the cities once stood [Genesis 19]. Lot and his daughter are not much different than the community he lived and farmed [19:30-38]. Again, Abraham lies and gives Sarah away to another man, almost identical to the situation with Pharaoh [20:1-18; cf. 12:10-20]. God in His grace and sovereignty intervenes preventing Sarah from getting pregnant by another man. Then tensions stir between Hagar son, Ishmael, and Sarah’s son, Isaac. Ishmael is the one favored by everyone in the passage, except Sarah; however, God does not favor him in relationship to the covenant promise, but cares and provides for him. These detours are looking more like construction zones where God is at work growing your faith.

FINAL COURSE DIRECTION FROM GOD: God uses sacrifice as the proof of faith [Genesis 21-23]

25 years after the promise and nearly losing his wife twice, God gives Abraham and Sarah a son. He finally has his boy. They name him, Isaac, meaning laughter, which is fitting for a boy born from an old lady. Isaac is the promised seed. However, in a climatic twist God tests Abraham’s quarter century churned faith. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son.

Up to this point in the narrative, Abraham has seen God fulfill promise after unbelievable promise and made a womb that was dead-dead alive. Echoing his call [12:1-3], he immediately responded in faith. Was he really going to kill his son on the altar? I think so. I think he knew God would raise his son to life because He has already done it through Sarah’s dead womb.

God answers by providing a sacrifice caught in the thicket. In doing so He fulfills all His promises just as He said. What about the land? The last promise that we do not see fulfilled is the land promise. In an obscure way, Sarah’s small and insignificant burial plot was the only property Abraham own in the Promised Land [Genesis 23]. The land that was promised to his heirs would not arise as a nation until God would call another man, Moses, who would take God’s people to the Promised Land [cf. Exodus & Joshua].

In Hebrews 11:8-12, Abraham went where God asked, even though he did not know how God would work it out, but his faith believed God would work it out. God blessed his faith then and offers it to you now through His Promised Seed—His Son—Jesus Christ. The story that climaxes with Isaac, ultimately climax with Christ:

  • Isaac and Jesus were both sons promised many years before their birth.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both born to women who could not have conceived apart from a miracle.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both firstborn sons.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both loved by their father/Father.
  • Isaac and Jesus both carried wood to their sacrifice.
  • Isaac and Jesus both willingly laid down their lives to their father/Father.
  • Isaac and Jesus both laid down as a burnt offering for sin.
  • Isaac was resurrected figuratively and Jesus was resurrected literally.
  • Isaac was just a man, but Isaac was the God/Man who came to save mankind.

[1] Abram marries Hagar while married to Sarai. The result of this polygamy is truly tragic, as is the case with other instances of adultery and polygamy in Scripture. God’s intention is that each man would have one wife [Genesis 2:18; Matthew 19:4-6]. The first man to take more than one wife was the godless man Lamech [Genesis 4:19-24]. Two women is two too many. Polygamy is wrought with favoritism, fighting, jealousy, and mistreatment [i.e. Genesis 25:28, 27:1-45, 35:22, 38:18-28; 2 Samuel 3:2-5, 13:1-29, 15:1- 18:33; 1 Kings 11:1-4]. In the New Testament church elders serve as the pattern for Christian families are to be one-woman-men [1 Timothy 3:2,12].

[2] It is uncertain why God chose circumcision as the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. Possibly the seed comes from the male organ and/or Headship is an important concept to God. God used symbols to convey his covenant with mankind [i.e. a rainbow was a sign of covenant between God and Noah; Genesis 9:14]. Throughout the rest of Bible the concepts of covenant and circumcision are built upon to include Christian who are the descendants of Abraham by new birth. Circumcision points to the circumcision that God brings to our hearts through His covenant relationship with us [Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 44:7-9; Romans 2:25-29; 4:1-12; Colossians 2:11; Galatians 3:6-8].

the call of Abram

A few years ago Sarah and I began to grow a garden. Gardens do not just grow over night by mere happenstance. You have to till the ground, plant seeds, water, and harvest. It takes work and a lot of initiative. In Genesis 12, God takes the imitative to nurture the seed of humanity; He readies the land and blesses the growth. He does it all through an ordinary man named Abram.

An Unexpected Call: God intersects with man [Genesis 12:1-3]

Can you image the day, Abram is out in the field tending to his herds and he hears a strange voice calling to him. Remember, God had not spoken verbally His covenant with Noah. It is God, again, who initiates a covenant relationship. Like Noah, Abram was a sinner living with sinners, but found favor [grace] in the eyes of God from among all the scatter people on the earth.

What was God calling Abram to do? First, Abram was called to leave the land that he was used to traveling around. Second, he was to leave his family and specifically his father’s house. Third, he was to go to a strange land that is not specifically named. God simply calls Abram to leave his homeland to journey to a new land that God would show him. Do you sense the radical measure of this call and the details left out? Put yourself in Abram’s sandals. How would you respond to such a radical call?

Why was Abram called to do something so radical? God promised to bless Abram’s faith and obedience beyond just him and his tribe. Abram was called by God to become the father of a new nation, become an example of living faith, and become one of the Bibles most mention patriarchs of Gods promise [i.e. over 300 times in the OT & NT].

Here in this short, three verse—text message sized—call, God rehearses some of the major themes of Genesis. First, God promises land [12:1b]. Second, God promises seed [12:2a; cf. 4:25-26; 6:5; 9:20ff; 11:4]. God says later his seed will be like the dust of the earth [13:16; 28:14]. In a real sense God promised Abram he would be a father and through his son a great nation blessed by God would be a blessing to all nations.[1] Third, God promises blessing [12:2b; cf. 22:17; 26:3; 28:3] of His presence, protection and covenant. Fourth, another theme arises that has not been mentioned until now, nation [12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14]. God promises to make Abram’s name great,[2] which ironically is the same thing the Babylonians failed to achieve for they pursued it apart from God.

Abram Answers the Call: a faith that grows on [Genesis 12:4-9]

You don’t see a long deliberation in between the call of God and the answer of Abram. You do not see him lying in his bed at night thinking about his conversation with God, or talking with his wife over dinner, or asking God some clarifying questions like, “Where did you say I was going?” The amazing fact is: Abraham believes God and goes [12:4]. No questions. No hesitations. He goes, in spite of leaving everything he knew behind and not knowing specifically how God was going to do all that He promised. It is as if he says to God, “Alright, God, I’ve got nothing else to lose.” At 75 ears old, a guy who at his age should be enjoying retirement and grandchildren takes his wife, their household, and his Nephew Lot to an unknown land.

This is the first step of faith in Abram’s life. It is a step that will affect not only him but also all of mankind. God will use Abram’s mustard seed sized faith. Have you ever been where Abram is in your life?  You decide to trust God, doing things His way, even in the face of the impossible. Abram starts off his journey with faith. No excuses, like “I forgot to lock the front door honey?” No turning back to feed the goats and camels, he takes them all with them.

As Abram goes, he comes to a land where people are living; a brick wall for a nomad. What does Abram do? Does he decide to go back home deciding this must be a dead end and not a part of God’s plan? No. Abram reacts by trusting God. He owns his faith and praises God on this blind journey of faith. His faith in the One True God is coming alive. For the first time Abram is offering praise to a God who speaks and is loyal to those trust in Him. He dedicates the land to God [cf. Leviticus 20:22-24; Psalm 72:8, 17-19]. By worshiping Abram is saying, “There is no other god, but You!”[3]

From this point forward, the lens of Genesis focuses in on the descendants of Abram as God’s covenant people raised up to be blessed nation and a be blessing to all other nations and people who follow. If you contrast Abram with Babylon, both the story, which preceded his call and the city that was the location he was called from [Genesis 11]. The Babylonians sought to be a great nation, blessed people, and great in name, but they pursued this apart from faith and apart from God. So, God called one of them, Abram, out from the land and into covenant with Himself and promised to give to Abram all that the Babylonians had strived for by His gracious provision. Therefore, God is demonstrating that our hope is not in the efforts of sinners who save and bless themselves, but only in entering into covenant relationship with God by faith.

What lessons about faith do we learn from Abram? How does his faith point us to Jesus?

First, your obedience to God is always connected to your faith in God. If you trust God you will obey God. The more you obey God the greater your faith will grow. Though Abram’s faith is incredible it is not complete. Only Jesus’ faith and obedience were complete.

Second, any time you obey God expect opposition through seeming dead ends, speed bumps, or foggy roads ahead. Faith helps you press on when the road ahead is hard or uncertain. The disciple’s obedience led to persecution [Matthew 5:3, 5, 10]. Jesus obedience led to a suffering cross.

Third, God calls ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary plans. Abram was a sinner, but God’s grace was upon him. The covenant promises carried out by Abram’s faith point to the New Covenant in Christ.

Finally, the seed of Abram that will bless all nations points to Jesus, the promised seed, who will redeem the sinfulness of mankind [Matthew 1:1; 24:14; Romans 4:13]. Those who obey and have faith in Him will live with him in the Promised Land in the Eternal Kingdom [Hebrews 11:10; Revelation 22:1-4].


[1] This promised seed is singular, which points to Jesus [cf. Genesis 3:15; Matthew 1:1, 1:17; Galatians 3:16].

[2] Abram was also told he would that his descendants would receive the Promised Land if he in faith go from the land God called him to. Reaching the Promised Land was not fulfilled in Genesis because Genesis ends with Joseph requesting his bones to be taken from Egypt to the Promised Land in the day that God’s people finally entered that place. Also, Exodus ends with the expectation that one day the Promised Land will be entered [Exodus 40:34-38], which is not realized until after the death of Moses [cf. Joshua 1-4].

[3] Abram responds by worshiping God in faith by building an altar other times in Genesis [12:7, 8, 13:18, 22:9].

honest Abram: an introduction to a Patriarch

Abram worked as a nomadic herdsman [Genesis 11:31-32]. Abram’s family settles in Haran, which is in modern day Iraq, near the tower of Babel [Genesis 11:1-9].[1] As a nomad, he did not have permanent property;[2] instead he would live with his herds of camels, cattle, and goats that moved around to new land to graze [Genesis 12:10; 13:2, 5-6]. Nomads took all their possessions—family, houses, and servants—with them wherever they traveled [12:5]. Nomads can have great power and influence because they own many animals, which are lucrative for trading. Yet God will call them from this land to travel to an unknown land of promise and blessing!

Abram worshiped as pagan idolater [Genesis 11:27-29]. Say it is not so? According to Joshua 24:2, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.” Surely, this is some other guy named Abraham? Nope. Abraham’s daddy and brother are named with him too. When we first meet Abram he is an ordinary godless Babylonian.[3] Yet God will draw them out of this land into a new land with a new God!

Abram’s wife was barren and broken [Genesis 11:30]. Barrenness might not sound like a big deal. Today, some women chose not to have children, and even if they are barren they can visit the doctor to get fertility treatments or consider adoption. However, barrenness in Abram’s day was much different. Barrenness was thought of as punishment or curse from a pagan god. With bareness came personal humiliation and community pressure because no children meant, no power to invent a future [i.e. no family lineage].[4] In Abram’s day there were no 401K retirement accounts or nursing homes to take care of the elderly. You either had your family care for you or you died alone. Barrenness is a picture of hopelessness in the ancient world. Yet God will use her barrenness to lead their family to a fruitful future of faith!


[1] Nehemiah 9:7 and Acts 7:2-3 seem to indicate that God in fact called Abram in Ur of the Chaldeans he may have even been called out of Babylon as a Babylonian that perhaps even sought to help build that great city which God judged as the key city of the Chaldeans was Babylon [i.e. Isaiah 13:19, 48:14; Jeremiah 24:5, 25:12, 50:1; Ezekiel 1:3, 12:13, 23:15].

[2] The only property Abraham ever owned was the property he bought for Sarah’s grave [Gen 23:1-20].

[3] Even Abram’s relative’s names have pagan roots: Terah [Hb: yerah; moon], Sarai [Hb: princess; Akkadian: Sharratu, name of wife of moon god Sin], and Milcah [Akkadian: Ishtar, daughter of moon god Sin] have pagan roots.

[4] Children are a mark of God’s blessing. God shares many examples of barrenness in the Bible [25:21; 29:31; 1 Samuel 1:2; Isaiah 54:1].

babel

There is a funny joke I heard from a small African man a few years ago. With seriousness in his voice and face he asked, “What do you call a man who speaks three languages?” I responded, “Tri-lingual.” Then he asked, “What do you call a man who speaks two languages?”  I was quick to respond, “Bi-lingual.” And then he asked, “What do you call a man who speaks one language?” I began to say, “mono…,” but he chirped in with a smile on his face and laugh in his gut, “No, no, my friend, a person who speaks one language is called an American.” We both laughed. Now the African man sharing with me this joke could speak over five languages fluently.

Today, in our world, there are between 3,000 to 10,000 different spoken languages. According to Wycliffe Bible Translators there are over 6,800 language groups. Where did all these languages originate? Why so many languages? Why so many boundaries on the map? Why so many conflicts between culture and races? Why not one language, nation, culture, or dictionary? Wouldn’t life and communication be easier? We will tackle these questions and more important questions from Genesis 10-11.

How does The Tower of Babel fit within the story of the Bible, God and humanity? [Genesis 10:1-11:1]

Genesis 10 opens with another lengthy genealogy [cf. Genesis 5; 11:10-26; Adam to Abraham], which breaking down into the descendants of Noah’s three sons, Japheth, Shem, and Ham. This is more than a biblical phonebook, but a tracking of the godly and ungodly patriarchs [male headship] from whom all people groups, languages, and nations descended. These are people like us who inhabit the earth. These people were sinful even after the flood. There was the example of Noah’s sin [9:20-29] and now, the example of corporate sin [11:1-9]. The story of Babel calls us to long for redemption.

Genesis 11:1-2 says, “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated east, they found a plain in the lad of Shinar and settled there.” In these verses are two important items to note. First, the world became monolingual. Everybody spoke the same language, the same framework of communication, the same dictionary definitions, and a unified identity. Language is important to God. He spoke first, He speaks through His Son the Word made flesh, and He gives His creation the ability to speak, communicate and relate.

Second, the concept of going east corresponded with going farther and farther from God. For example, when Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden they went eastward [3:24]. When Cain sinned he wandered east of Eden [4:7]. People move east. When people who go eastward in Genesis tthey run away from God [i.e. Eden; paradise] and into ruin [i.e. Sodom and Ninevah; eastward cities].

What is sinful about building a tower in the city of Babel? [Genesis 11:2-4]

There is nothing wrong with building a tower, a city, or a tall structure in a city. Babel [aka: Babylon] is described as an advanced intellectual and architectural city not unlike most in our own day where regular people simply seek to build a secular society apart from God [i.e. NYC, Dubai, London, Rio, etc.]. The story does not mention any particularly heinous sins that the Babylonians committed, but what is sinful is their motivation for building the city and tower. In these view short verses we see the sinful hearts of people:

First, it is sinful for people to crave to make their name great [11:4]. The people of Babel desire to spread the fame of their name rather than spreading God’s name. This was the same problem for Adam and Eve in the Garden [3:5-6], and it is the same problem you have [James 3:16]. Followers of Christ make their Masters look good. Make great the name of God! To give glory to God is to make Him look good!

Second, it is sinful for people to crave to live against the creation mandate [11:4, cf. 1:26-31; 9:1,7]. God commands His people in the Creation and the Covenant with Noah to be fruitful, to multiply, to have dominion, and to scatter across the earth. However, in direct opposition to those commands the people here purpose to stay put, gather together, and move up. This may be the first great city in the history of the world, but its purpose was to stand against all other people and God as a sort of secular seat of authority on the earth. They were proud and self-centered. God humbles the proud.

Third, it is also sinful for people to crave to get to Heaven without God. The people seek to build a tower in the heavens [i.e. heaven/kingdom on earth]. This is the same wicked logic beneath every false religion and cult [cf. Acts 4:12]—man works really hard to gain acceptance with God. The Bible is clear it is not by man’s work, but through the gracious work of Christ you go to heaven [Ephesians 2:8-10].

What is God’s response to man’s plan? [Genesis 11:5-9]

Structure of Babel Narrative
In the climax of the narrative God “comes down” [11:5, 7] to see the tower the “children of man are making.” These people think they are gigantic, but God thinks they are minuscule [cf. Psalm 2:1-6]. God is not impressed and judges their small insignificant project. You see, God made the universe, time, man, and all things. Man can create because God taught him how. God lets them build for a little bit. However, God confuses their language [11:7, 9] and scatters them over the face of the earth [11:8].

Ironically, the scattering of the people and confusing of the languages were two of the primary things these people were seeking to prevent from happening in the first place. The name Babel is humorously parallel to our English word babble, which is exactly what their communication sounded like once God confused their language [i.e. babbling on and on]. They could no longer understand one another, so they walk away from the job. Babel wanted a name, heavenly glory, and absolute power, which corrupt absolutely. God made sure that they got none of it. God loves; therefore, He saves them from themselves.

How do I get from Babel to Jesus?

First, the genealogy leads directly to Jesus Christ [11:10ff, cf. Luke 3:23-38]. Second, God disorders the language of the people to stop them from glorifying themselves, but reorders the language of the people so he can glorify his Son [Acts 2:1-13; John 16:14]. Third, the combination of judgment and mercy at Babel points to the fulfillment of judgment and mercy at the cross [Isaiah 53:6]. Fourth, the divine response at Babel solves a behavior problem, but we need the work of Jesus Christ to fix our heart problem [Ezekiel 36:26-27].

Like the fall of Adam and drunken-fall of Noah, Babel is yet another fall of man. To overcome the sin problem people do not turn to God, rather they rely on one another and place their hope in military might, technological advancement, and the building of a good and decent society. What man longs for is eternity, which cannot be had on this earth now. Man needs redemption to remedy man’s sin problem. Jesus is the Redeemer and solution for man eternal need. His kingdom one day will come down to earth and Jesus will be the King of Great Zion. Jesus will sit on His high throne. Around Him will be gather people from every nation and language praising His glorious name with one voice. Do you know Him?

Noah (Part 3): The Covenant

Doesn’t it feel great to finish a big test? Or come to the end of a long school year? Or arrive at the weekend from a drudging week on the job? Or come to the close of a long hard trial in the family or with friends? You get home sit down with a sign and say, “It’s finally over.” I am sure Noah felt some relief as he saw the waters begin to reside and land began to appear. After all the darkness and drowning of God’s wrath in Genesis 6-8, chapter 9 is a breath of fresh flood-free air.

Noah Worships God [Genesis 8:20-22]

After the flood subsides and God dries the ground, God called Noah and his family to step out of the Ark. What does Noah do after getting off the boat? Does he stretch? Take a shower? Take a nap? Go to MacDonald’s for a burger and shake? No. The first thing he does shows his hearts highest priority. The first thing the father of new humanity does is gathered dirt, sticks and some clean animals to sacrifice [cf. 7:1-3]. He builds an altar to the Lord. The first thing Noah does is worship God.

Genesis 8:20 reads, “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” After living through the devastation that God wrought upon the earth Noah is convicted of his own sin knowing that he too should have been killed like everyone else in the flood. Therefore, he offers a burnt offering for the atonement of his sin [cf. Leviticus 1:4; Job 1:5; and ultimately foreshadowed in the death of Jesus for sin]. God was so pleased with the odor of Noah’s repentant worship [cf. Leviticus 1:9,13,17] that He responded by promising to never flood the earth again.

God blesses Noah’s obedience and worship [Genesis 9:1-7]

God blesses Noah’s obedience building and boarding the big boat, and blesses his God-centered worship and confession of sin. “Bless” appears over 80 times in Genesis. If a word appears that much it must be a major theme. When God blesses marriages, families, lives are restored. God is good. He is a giver of good gifts [James 1:17-18].

How does God specifically bless Noah? He gives Noah children that will fill the earth [cf. 9:1,7; cf. 1:28]. Biblically, children are a symbol of God’s blessing. God celebrates new life. God gracious sends His people out into the earth to fill it again. However, the new world is now different.

The peaceful harmony between creatures is broken because animals eat humans. God must make provision and man is able to eat meat of animals. Up to this point in human history everyone was a vegetarian, now you have the privilege of killing and grilling beef, bacon, birds, and fish on your BBQ. As a steward and dominioneer of God’s green earth, man is not to abuse his right to kill beast. Also, man is called to continue to respect the sanctity of human life because man bears God’s image [cf. 1:26-27].

God Keeps His Promise and Gives Noah a Covenant [Genesis 9:8-17]

What is a covenant? Once you turn 18 you are a legal adult. You don’t need your parents to sign a consent form anymore. A covenant is not a consent form or a contract. It is a treaty of guaranteed promise [i.e. marriage, oneness]. It is a binding agreement that brings relationships together. The covenant given to Noah is originated and crafted by God for Noah and all his descendants, which includes you and me.

There are some important truths to understand about God’s covenant to Noah. First, this covenant is universal, meaning they cover all people for all time. Some covenants, like the New Covenant, are limited. The New Covenant is only for regenerate followers of Christ. Second, this covenant is unconditional, meaning that God will uphold it no matter what man does [9:15; cf. 8:1, remember]. He will promise to keep His covenant no matter what. Some covenants are conditional and dependant upon the obedience of the other party involved in the covenant [cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14, Promise Land]. Be careful not to make all God’s covenants unconditional and universal because they are not.

Third, this covenant came with a signature. God promised that He would never again send a cataclysmic flood and that the seasons would continue by His provision. What sign did God give of His covenant? The sign of the covenant was the rainbow to remind God’s people of His promise [i.e. Abraham’s circumcision, Lord’s Supper, Baptism, rings in a marriage, etc.]. God gives meaning to the rainbow: God kills sinners, but not yet nor through a flood [cf. Isaiah 54:9-10]. Through the covenant God restores His intentions to bless people—even sinful people—because God is good.

Life After the Flood [Genesis 9:18-29]

Man is still tainted by evil [cf. 8:21b]. Noah responded to God’s kindness by growing grapes, getting drunk and passing out naked in his tent, and as pastor Mark Driscoll says, “like a Redneck on vacation. You don’t see this kind of stuff in your kid’s church coloring book. You don’t sing, ‘in the arky-ark, no drunky-drunky.’”

Ham, Noah’s son, walks into tent searching for his dad in the nude and tattles to his brothers. The other two brothers come into the tent backwards out of respect and cover their father’s shame. Whatever happened, no one knows, but one thing is for sure: it is not a good thing when a son walks in on his dad drunk and naked. This is a really bad day recorded about Noah.

What is the point of this sinful situation including Noah? Is sleeping naked sinful? No. Is it that drinking alcohol is sinful? No. Drinking alcohol is not sinful, but drunkenness is. The point of this sinful inclusion is simply that sin remains the human predicament even after the flood.

After Noah’s hangover, he wakes up. He realizes that his sons have dishonored him [cf. Exodus 21:15-17; Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Mark 7:10]. We all have sinful fathers, but they still need to be honored. In Genesis 9:25-27, Noah’s declares cursing and blessing directed toward his sons. Ham’s son, Canaan, is cursed to serve the line of God’s people that would come from Shem. Canaanites are forever labeled unclean perverts. It was also promised that Japheth would prosper for God would dwell in their tents. In Genesis 9:28-29, the genealogy resumes [cf. 5:32] as Noah dies and the human race again begins to grow and still sin.

In conclusion, what do we learn about God from the narrative of Noah? First, God is holy. His love and justice demands that sin be punished [6:5, 11-12]. Second, God is personal. He is sorrowful that He made man [6:6]. Third, God values life, especially human life [9:1-6]. Fourth, God keeps His promises [9:8-17] and remembers His people [8:1]. Fifth, God is Father. Even when you earthly dad is sinful and not a good example, you have a great on in your Heavenly Father. Honor both.

Is Jesus seen in the story of Noah, the ark, the flood, and the covenant? You bet! First, Jesus is a better Noah. Like Noah, Jesus was chosen by God, He was favored by God, He faithfully preached though many rejected and mocked, He was obedience to God, He offered sacrifice to God. Second, Jesus is the ark of salvation to escape the impending flood of God’s wrath by fire [2 Peter 2:5,9]. The ark was the only hope of salvation for Noah and his family. Jesus is the only hope of salvation for you and your family, even Canaanites [cf. Joshua 2:14; 6:17, 22-25; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31].

Third, Jesus is the author of the New Covenant fulfilled in His death, sealed by His blood, and confirmed by His resurrection. Those who repent and respond to Jesus in faith will be saved. Fourth, Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for man’s sin once and for all. You do not need to sacrifice an animal on the altar. Jesus did that for you with Himself on the cross. Repent of your sin and believe in Him, as your Savior, and you will be saved [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Jesus is the hope promised through Noah.

Noah (Part 2): God is faithful through the flood

Without God’s grace on Noah and his family, you and I would not be here today. Remember, the reason God chose to save Noah is given in Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the LORD.” Noah did not begin his life a blameless [6:9], righteous man [7:1], “walking with God,” but he began a sinner. The only difference between Noah and the other sinners who drowned in the flood was that God was gracious to Noah. God choose undeserving Noah to be an object of His grace. This is the first time in the grace appears in word form in the Bible.[1] God is so faithful to mankind despite their flagrant sin.

The time has come [Genesis 7:1-5]

God calls Noah to enter the ark. Final preparations from God arrive about the ark and the future flood. There are two very interesting items to note. First, God asks Noah to gather seven pairs of clean animals, and a pair of unclean animals. In God’s wisdom, the mixed genders of the animals give the ability for the animals to procreate after the flood, but what is the deal with the clean and unclean animals? At this point, there was no law [cf. Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14:3-12], nor any recorded conversation with Noah concerning the difference between pure and impure animals. In the context of the first chapters of Genesis, I tend to lean towards the belief that the distinction of clean and unclean animals was for the purpose of sacrifice. Sacrifice and worship were already a big part of God’s created order [cf. 3:21; 4:3-5; 9:20ff].

Second, God’s patience for man’s sin extended for 1600 years [Genesis 5], He allowed 120 years for people to repent [6:3], but no one did. The time has come and Noah has only one week to gather two of every kind of animal.[2] This is totally an impossible task for one family to accomplish on their own, unless they have divine help [cf. 7:16; 2:19]. And again, Noah obeys all that God commands Him to do [cf. 6:22]. God’s sovereign rule and His expectation for man’s obedience run parallel to each other. God requires Noah to build the ark—taking 120 years—possibly showing the diligence of Noah’s obedience.

Put your feet in Noah’s Nike’s [Genesis 7:6-24]

Noah builds a big boat in a desert, for 120 preaches with no one listening only mocking, and God gives him 7 days to gather all the animals of the field and air before the flood walls burst [note: water came from above and below]. The decree of God comes to pass just as He promised. His sovereignty is displayed in His wrath against sin.[3] This is one of the most sobering passages in all the Bible. The destruction was all encompassing and annihilating to every living thing on earth [7:19-23], except for what was in the ark of His grace. Doesn’t that sound like a great way to celebrate your 600th birthday? I am sure Noah was flooded with emotion.

What would you be thinking? Could you image what Noah and his family was thinking as the storm clouds move in, as he notices neighbors and friends working the field, as he hears the voices of children and mothers in their homes, as they stand in the ark during the flood? “What about the other people who do not get into the boat? Is it fair that they are out there and we are in here? Has God left us alone? Will this boat stand the strength of this storm? Will we ever be able to get out of this boat? Will we have enough food?” We do not know what they were thinking, maybe fear, doubt, or loneliness.

I remember as a child, I would hide from my mother in the clothing racks while shopping. She did not like that very much. One time we were in JC Penny’s and I thought it would be fun to hide extra hard and extra long. So I hid in the center of a tall rack of jean. I could hear my mother saying, “Justin, where are you? Come out this minute!” I waited until I couldn’t hear her anymore. I peaked out from the clothes and she was gone. I was alone. For a split second, I was excited because I lost her, but then I was filled with fear because I didn’t want to live in JC Penny’s the rest of my life. I loved my mom and didn’t want to lose her. I searched throughout the store yelling her name, but could not find her. Until I heard a voice from above say, “This is the costumer service counter. Would Justin Hutts please report to the service counter immediately.” The voice said it again. I ran to the front of the store. There was my mother with a look anger mixed with an embrace of grace.

God has already shown Himself faithful. He is in the storm. His sovereignty is displayed as He fills the ark, He shuts the door on time, and He unleashes the flood re-creating of all He created. Holding the boat afloat and by His grace filled it with 8 people and enough animals to replenish the earth. God’s progress of redemption again takes chaos and shows His absolute control. The same language in Genesis 7 is used in the initial act of creation [Genesis 1; Note: Creation and Re-creation Comparison chart].

God Remembers Noah [Genesis 8:1-19]

Even in the floods of judgment, when God seems most distant to our eyes, He is faithful to remember His own [8:1]. Noah is not forgotten. God gives Noah a glimmer of hope amidst the stormy seas. The word “remembrance” is found twice in this passage and only two other times in Genesis in relation to God and man.[4] This word is used primarily to speak of a covenant God makes with His people, thus recalling a promise made by God to sustain man.  In Exodus, this word used again, as God recalls the covenant relationship between Abraham and His children as they are living in Egypt [Exodus 2:24; 6:5]. This is the kind of remembrance that God has for Noah and his family in the ark. God is faithful in carrying out His plan and executing His promises to Noah [cf. 6:18].

It only took forty days for the waters to rise and destroy the earth, but it took about 5 months for the waters reside.  What is Noah doing during this time? He patiently waits [8:10, 12]. How many of you would be willing to wait on God like Noah? How many of you when bad things happen with impatience plead with God for immediate relief? Noah simply waits. He waits for a word from God before leaving the ark [8:15, 18]. God speaks; Noah obeys. Noah knew God was at work. The rain stopped and the waters began to reside. Do you see the sovereignty and faithfulness of God at work? Do you see the rhythmic ebb and flow of the flood story?

In conclusion, the flood flexes the character of God as sovereign dealing with sin [death, Romans 3:23; 6:23], and faithful to His own through the flood. We are also confronted with the patience of God and how He is offended by sin. We are encouraged by Noah’s faithful obedience. Noah was particular, not partial, in following God’s instruction. ‘Cutting corners’ would mean the destruction of his family too. God expects lifelong obedience. Noah is an example to all of us not just of obedience but also the faithfulness of God in the midst of the fierce flood.

Questions for Reflections and Application: In light of Genesis 6:5-7 and 2 Peter 2:4-9 why did God send the flood? What does the flood reveal about the fate of those who continue in sin without repentance? According to Romans 3:21-28,  how is the Old Testament act of atonement ultimately applied to Jesus Christ? According to I John 4:7-21, how is Jesus’ atonement related to Gods love and ours?


[1] Later, Paul the apostle carries this word in his New Testament teaching on salvation ”by grace through faith alone”. Noah was a favored because God saved him by grace and he had faith in God alone.

[2] Is God just to send the flood? Yes. Why didn’t He give them more time? He gave them 1600 years, plus 120 years of warning, and 7 final days to turn. Why didn’t he send a preacher? He did. Noah preached for 120 years, but no one repented. He was the Billy Graham of his day. Why didn’t God let them sin? You would curse God for His injustice. Why didn’t God save them? He did. He had Noah build a boat. No matter all that God does to people still choose not to heed God.

[3] The flood was a day of judgment, which would be echoed in God’s prophets as they foretold the Day of the Lord,  “The prophets also appealed to the imagery of creation’s reversal to depict the day of the Lord’s judgment [i.e. Isaiah 24:18b; Jeremiah 4:23-26; Amos 7:4].” (cf. Bruce Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. 2001. 139.) This type of imagery is not seen until the end of time, which is prophesied in the Book of Revelation.

[4] Cf. 9:14-15; 19:29; 30:22; Exodus 2:24; 6:5; 32:13; 1 Samuel 1:19; Judges 16:28; Job 14:13; Psalm 8:4; 9:12; 74:1-3; 98:3; 105:8; 106:45; 111:5; Jeremiah 15:15.

Noah (Part 1): walking in obedience

If you grew up in Sunday School as a child [unlike me] you learned silly Bible songs about characters like Noah. Maybe you sang this song, “God told Noah to build him an arky, arky. God told Noah to build him an arky, arky. Build it out of gopher barky, barky. Children of the Lord.” Now there is nothing wrong with this fun song, but it is silly for kiddies. Today we are going to take a big boy and girl approach to God’s call to Noah to build the ark.

Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe

Before jumping into the life of Noah, let’s look at Genesis 5. This is an interesting chapter in the Bible that leads up to Noah. It’s a genealogy of men from Adam to Noah. If you like tracing your family tree you will love this chapter. The chapter covers a time span of 1600 years, which is almost the same amount of time covered in the remainder of the Old Testament. The primary theological purpose of this genealogy is to show that every generation and person descended from Adam were sinners who lived and died [cf. Romans 6:23]. Notice how the phrase “and then he died” lingers and looms like a dreadful chorus through the genealogy [cf. 5:5,8,11,14,20,27,31].

This genealogy includes two curious characters. First, Methuselah, who lived to be 969 years old [5:27], which is possibly the Guinness Book world record for the oldest man to ever live. Second, Enoch, who is supposedly the only godly man w129ho lived during these generations [5:22-24]. Enoch “walked with God,” which means that he had a lifestyle of wholehearted worship and obedience to God. Enoch is the Bible’s first prophet who predicted the coming flood [cf. Hebrews 11:5-6; Jude 14-16]. Enoch is also the only man in the genealogy that did not die, but was spared from death [cf. Elijah, the only other man in the Bible that did not die]. The only way to avoid death and have eternal life is to “walk with God,” like Enoch. No better place to be than with God!

Now, we arrive to Genesis 6:1-9, which is one of the most controversial passages in the entire Bible. Here therein are posed four difficult questions: Who are the sons of God who marry the daughters of men? What is the meaning of 120 years? Who are the Nephilim? And why did God choose Noah to build the Ark?

Who are the sons of God that married the daughters of men? [Genesis 6:1-2]

Biblical scholars and theologians have argued two major opinions: First, angels had sex with women [cf. Job 1:6; Numbers 13, Ezekiel 28:11-17]. This theory collapses because the judgment for sin by the flood was upon people, not angels. Also, Jesus taught that angels do not marry or breed [cf. Matthew 22:30], and in the days of Noah people were simply marrying each other [cf. Matthew 24:37-39]. Jesus’ teaching follows the flow of context in Genesis 5 genealogy. The second opinion [that I embrace] is that the godly line of Seth had sex with attractive ungodly women. In other words, the sons of God—the line of the covenant people mentioned in Genesis 5—intermarried the daughters of men who were from ungodly families.

What is the meaning of 120 years? [Genesis 6:3]

In response to the sons of God intermarrying with the daughters of men [6:1-2], God limits their life to 120 years. There are two possible explanations for the meaning of this verse: First, God no longer allows people to live as long as they had previously [i.e. 300-900 years old] and determines that no human being would live longer than 120 years. An interesting factoid that supports this is Moses died at 120 [cf. Deuteronomy 34:7] and today the longest living people die around 120.

Second, God promised judgment by flood, but waited 120 years to give people an opportunity to repent. 1 Peter 3:20 says, “God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water.” God is gracious because He gives mankind 1600 years, gives examples of people who walked with God, and gives Noah who preaches for 120 years [2 Peter 2:5]. No one repents or responds to God’s patience. 120 years gives Noah enough time to obey and build the ark, and after the 120 years the rains of judgment fell upon the earth.

Who are these huge Nephilim? [Genesis 6:4]

In short, we are do not know. In Numbers 13:33 the word Nephilim is used and also refers to an oversized race of people. This has caused scholars to speculate that the Nephilim in Genesis 6:4 are the same people mentioned in Numbers. Genesis does not say they were gigantic in size, but it does say they were gigantic in status, “They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” Therefore, the Nephilim could be a group of ungodly men in that day that reach celebrity status like the gigantic reputations given to athletes, rock stars, and media moguls in our day.

Why did God choose Noah to build the Ark? [Genesis 6:5-9]

Let’s be clear, God did not chose Noah to build the ark because he was sinless or better than the guy next to him. Sometimes teachers paint Noah to be this overly sanctified character living in an excessively wicked world. God does not just like good people and annihilate bad people. This teaching is contrary to the Bible’s story of redemption. What this introduction to Noah teaches is that every man is totally depraved. Other than Romans 1:18-27, the description of man given in Genesis 6:5-7 is one of the most sin-saturated images of man in all of Scripture. God gazes upon man’s pervasive evil and grieves that He had made man, which would include Noah and his family.

The reason God chooses to save Noah is given in Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the LORD.” Noah did not begin his life a blameless and righteous man, “walking with God,” but he began as a sinner. The only difference between Noah and the other sinners who drowned in the flood of judgment was that God was gracious to Noah. God choose undeserving Noah to be an object of His grace. The word favor [6:9] in Hebrew means grace. This is the first time in the grace appears in word form in the Bible. Paul the apostle carries this word in his New Testament teaching on salvation by grace through faith alone. Noah was a favored because God saved him by grace and he had faith in God alone.

The joy of obedience [Genesis 6:10-7:1]

Noah believes God; therefore, God shares with Noah His plan to judge sin through a catastrophic global flood. In His grace, God will preserve Noah, his family of six, and two of each animal on earth. To house this floating zoo, Noah is commissioned to build a huge wooden boat. It is the largest wooden ocean cargo carrier recorded in history. It has space for more than 500 containers. Compare that with the modern day Maersk Triple E that carries over 2500 containers.

Noah obeyed God’s commands and built the ark [6:22], probably with only the help of his three boys. In the hall of faith, Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah did so in holy fear as a man of faith who believed God would bring the flood even while others continued in sin without repentance. After completing the construction of the ark, Noah, his family, and the animals board the boat and wait for God to fulfill His promised judgment. God’s patience towards man’s sin runs out, but His grace runs strong through Noah’s Ark.

In conclusion, through the Noah narrative we learn many practical lessons concerning obedience. First, you are called to obey God in tough times [Genesis 6:1–9]. Despite rampant sin all hope was not lost. God’s grace is still available. Second, walking closely with God develops faith for an unsure future [11–13]. Noah believed God, walked with God, and lived contrary to the evil world around him. God makes the difference in Noah’s story. Third, obeying God will often require sacrifice and hard work [14–22]. Noah obeyed by building a big boat with mocking neighbors. Scripture gives no indication that Noah doubts God or wavers in his faith, no matter how long it took or how hard it was to obey. Obedience is to walk with God through wholehearted worship.

Rain is coming. Instead of raining water, it will rain fire. A final judgment day is coming [Revelation 20:7-15], when God will ultimately deal with the total depravity of man. God did not ask you to build an ark like Noah, but He does ask you to obey in faith and bring people to the ark He provides—through His Son—Jesus Christ.

raising Cain: the call for repentance

Raising Cain is an expression given to someone who causes havoc. We get the phrase from the Genesis 4, where we get a glimpse into the first family and the children they raised. The children of Adam and Eve were far from perfect. This is a tale of two brothers. Woven into this story are incredible lessons for parents, children, and everyday followers of God.

What’s in a name? [Genesis 4:1-2]

Biblical names have meanings. The biblical meanings of names are significant and often shape the life of the one who bears the names. Let’s meet our two brothers: The first brother is Cain. His name means ‘acquire, get, possess’. The second brother is Abel. His name means ‘vapor or breath’.  As we will see in the story their names have a predetermining affect on their futures.

What is the purpose of your work? [4:3-5]

In Genesis 1-2, during the days of created God set an example for man to live by—6-days a week man works the land God creates and the seventh day man worships the God who created the land which they work [1:26-28]. Both the brothers are hard workers. Cain works the land and Abel ranches the animals. They are generous workers. From an early age both brothers learn the value of giving God a portion of their labors for praise and worship. Work is a means of worship because work involves sacrifice. This is a great lesson for all laborers.

Your mission while working is to give God your best in time, effort, aspirations, career, and money. Come to God with something in your hands to worship God from rewards of your reaping. Both brothers recognize their work and rewards of their work come from God. Both brothers bring gifts of their labors to God. Cain brings the first fruits of his land and Abel brings the firstborn of his flock. Both brothers come with something in their hand, but also something in their heart.

God questions what you bring for worship [4:6-7a]

In Genesis 3:9-13, God questions Cain’s parents over their actions in the Garden; He does the same here with Cain. God loves to ask questions. Man seeks to avoid questions. Man’s motto is, “Don’t ask; don’t tell.” God asks, “Why are you angry? It’s all over your face. I see your heart. Will you do what is right and repent?”

Cain comes to God with full hands but a jealous heart of unbelief [cf. 1 John 3:12; Hebrew 11:4]. He looks at his bowl of Cheerios and then at his brother’s box of Omaha Steaks and thinks, “Wow, my offering is pretty lame,” and jealous grew in his heart over Abel. Was it that Abel’s offering was better? No. The mass of the offering in your hands does not matter a bit, but the manner of your heart before God does matter.

Do you compare your worship with others? When in church are you looking around at what others bring? Are you jealous because someone else has your is growing in their relationship with God more than you, better life [job, girl or guy] than you, appears more success than you? Are you obsessed with other people around you, rather than the only One whose opinion matters? Abel comes to God with a love for God in his heart. His offering is regarded because his heart is to please God. Cain’s offering looked religious, but his heart is not dependent upon God. Some Christians are a lot like Cain, even worse because they come to God with nothing in their hands. He at least comes with something in his hand, even though what he had in his heart was wicked and twisted.

What are the consequences of keeping a jealous heart? [4:7b-9]

If Cain does not get a handle on his jealousy it will handle him. God warns Cain, “Your sin will drive you insane.” Sin is powerful enough to drive one to insanity and death. Cain must have learned the desire for power and prestige from his mommy [cf. desire; Genesis 3:16b]. Do you notice the pride in Eve’s statement, “I have made a man” [4:1]? She didn’t make man, God did. Eve is trying to rule over her roost and her redemption, but Cain is not the promised Redeemer Seed [cf. 3:15].

The consequences of keeping jealousy in your heart will cause it to grow and spiral out of control. First, if you internalize jealousy you will be depressed. Second, if you externalize jealousy you will get violent [i.e. Cain]. Third, if you deal with jealousy through repent you will rule over it with self-control. If you are convicted of a jealous heart, repent, before it gets worse. And worse it did get for Cain. Cain invites his brother to the farm, kills him in broad daylight, and buries his bloody body under the ground. This is a premeditated murder. Jealousy led to insanity. Insanity led to Abel’s mortality.

God as Counselor and Judge [4:9-12]

Echoing God’s question in the Garden [3:9], God asks Cain, “Where is your brother, Abel?” [v.9]. And like his parents, He covers with a lie, “I don’t know! Am I Abel’s babysitter?” This should have been an opportunity for immediate repentance and restoration. Instead, God has to step in as the law enforcer, CSI agent, prosecutor, and Judge. Therefore, since Cain alienates himself from God, God alienates him from good farmland. Cain dishonors the dirt, and the dirt dishonors Cain [cf. 3:17].

What happens when you repent? [4:13-26]

I believe, Cain responds to God’s curse with a repentant heart, “My sin is greater than I can bear” [v.13]. The curse cracks the hard shell of Cain’s heart. He realizes and wakes up to the consequences of his sin. He knows he will have to move away [East of Nod = “wandering” alienation from God], be a fugitive, believes someone will track him down and kill him too.

It is not a popular opinion, but I believe Cain repents because God blesses him through protection [15-16, tattoo], gives him a family [17a], gives him a refuge city [17b], gives him another brother [25a], promises a Redeemer Seed [25b-26a], and brings a revival [26]. God is a good God—a gracious God. God gives Cain good gifts despite his sin.

In Genesis 4, you see Cain’s worst day. Lame Lamech gives you a look into where Cain’s sin could lead without repentance [vs.19-24]. I am glad that the Bible is an honest book describing the gruesome details of people’s lives. I could not image God putting my worst days in the Bible as an example for others to read and remember. God gives these examples to learn about His grace, so that in your worst day you can also have your best because God’s restoration follows repentance.

The story of Cain and Abel does not make sense until you put yourself into the shoes of Cain. You are Cain. You have killed your brother, Jesus. You come to God with empty worship and an unrepentant jealous heart. Jesus’ death offers you life and hope. Jesus’ death and blood cries out so that you would believe in your brother and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ [Hebrews 12:24].

Questions for Reflections and Application:

What are some of the lessons in this story for parents? Children? Or everyday followers of God?

What is the overall effect of sin’s mastery as this story is played out?

What do you think Genesis 4 is meant to instill in you? How does it impact you?

creations need for reconciliation with its Creator

I am the product of the normal dysfunctional American home, which means my parents divorced before I was able to speak, I was in and out of special education classes in school, needed specialized counseling, and struggled with parental authority until after college. I am grateful today for my family situation and how God used it all as a means to mature me into the man I am today. However, when I was younger, I was not so grateful. In fact, I was bitter, jealous, self-centered, and had ungodly expectations of my parents, especially my mother.

It was until the summer after college, I came under conviction for my sinful expectations and need for reconciliation with my mother. After years of church, 4-years of Bible College training for the ministry, and life of ministry awaiting ahead God convicted me through His Word and His Spirit, “Justin, if you are going to be a vehicle of reconciliation into the lives you are ministering and have not reconciled with your own mother, you are living a lie. I have reconciled your relationship with Me. How dare you are slapping Me in the face.” By the end of that summer I sat down with my Father seeking forgiveness, and my mother seeking reconciliation for my hidden expectations. And God reconciled.

First, God promises to conquer sin and remove it from His creation [Genesis 3:15]. In the beginning of the fall of mankind, God gives a glimmer of hope. This verse is known as the protevangelium, or the first proclamation of the gospel. In the seriousness of the situation, Adam’s sin, gives a sobering mention of a seed of salvation. Although centuries of conflict will follow this fall, a day would come when the seed of the women triumphed over sin. Eve’s daughter, Mary, gives birth to the promised seed. “He”, namely Jesus, the promised seed [Galatians 4:4], will one day crush the head of Satan [Galatians 3:16-19]. In a sense, as followers of Christ live under the gospel and become reconciled to God they are destroying the devil and his work [Romans 16:20].

Second, God works throughout history to reveal Himself and reconcile His creation to Himself. From Genesis 3 to Revelation 22, God progressively works out His redemptive plan. In Genesis, we will see His plan worked out through Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and later with Moses, David and the prophets. God is relentless and passionate about His redemptive purposes for the people of this planet. God remedies creations need through the Redeeming Seed. He is the climax of history and the saving activity of God. He conquered sin, death, and Satan.

Third, God uses sacrifice as the means for reconciliation. It is a sacrifice that clothed Adam and Eve [3:21]; a sacrifice where blood was spilt because of sin. God provided this sacrifice. God initiated reconciliation and provided its means. What the Lord Jesus Christ is called in 1 Corinthians 15:45 is the second Adam. That the first Adam failed, and that the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ succeeded.[1]

Interesting connection, in the Garden before Jesus’ death, remember who comes to the second Adam? The serpent. The serpent tempts Jesus as He did Adam with food. He also tempts Jesus with pride. He takes Him and shows Him all the kingdoms of the earth, and says, “You can rule and reign over all. You don’t need to go to the cross and suffer. All you need to do is bow down and worship me.”

The first Adam allowed the serpent to speak. Jesus steps in and speaks. The first Adam allowed the Word of God to be misquoted. Satan again, in his temptation of Jesus as Adam, misquotes Scripture and changes its meaning. But Hebrews 4:15 says that every moment that the serpent came to tempt Him, He was tempted in every way as you are, yet without sin. At every moment that the serpent came to Jesus, He emerged sinless, triumphant, and victorious.

And so the serpent devised one final plan. As he had caused the first Adam to kill himself via sin that led to his death, he knew that he could not get Jesus, the second Adam, to kill Himself, so he decided that he would simply kill Him. In Luke 22:3, we are told that Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ own 12 disciples. He possessed Judas Iscariot, fulfilling the prophecy of Zachariah in which a friend through a kiss for 30 pieces of silver would betray Jesus. Indeed, Jesus was betrayed. Jesus was handed over. And Jesus was ultimately murdered unjustly.

Colossians 2:13-15 says that though this appears as a victory for Satan and his minions, it was the greatest victory in the history of the world for the Lord Jesus Christ. On the cross, Jesus did something extraordinary. He took sin upon Himself.[2] And Romans 5 says, “We’re either in the first Adam – dead, or in the second Adam – alive.“ Are you dead or alive? Which Adam do you follow? The Second Adam is your only hope of salvation and a forever. Follow Him.


[1] Cf. Daniel 7:13-14; Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 12.

[2] Struggle, affliction and suffering won the battle over the serpent. Cf. Isaiah 53:12; Luke 24:26, 46-47; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 1:5-7; Colossians 1:24; 1 Peter 1:11.

the consequences of sin

Have you ever fallen so hard that you hurt yourself and needed help? I remember a few years ago, Hannah, a gal in our church fell so hard that she fractured her scull on the concrete sidewalk. She did not remember her fall after the initial impact, other than what other people tell her. Supposedly she was able to get up from the sidewalk and say, “My head hurts, really bad,” but doesn’t remember anything. When visiting her in the hospital she was noticeably dazed and confused. The fall left her with some immediate pain and sickness and long-lasting consequences such as memory troubles, headaches, and cautious attention to future activities. The consequences of the Fall of Mankind in the Garden of Eden were not at all different.

First, there are immediate consequences to the fall of man [3:7-13]. The major immediate consequence of the fall was death [Romans 3:23]. No longer was man innocent. They now knew right and wrong and their innocence could not be undone. This was not the only immediate consequence for sin.

Immediately sin brought guilt [3:7]. Satan promised Adam and Eve freedom, instead they received guilt. They thought sin would bring freedom, but all it brought was bondage. Their guilt caused them to be ashamed. They once were naked and unashamed, now they were naked, humiliated, and ashamed. They noticed their nakedness. Now, no one told them they were bare-naked, they simply felt open and vulnerable because God uncovered their hearts.

Immediately sin brought alienation from God [3:8-13]. Man was fooled into thinking they would be like God, instead they found themselves hiding from God. Like little kids hiding from their parent they tried to duck and cover from God but that is impossible [i.e. talking to bf or gf, porno under bed, drinking, immodest outfit, homework, etc.]. How silly is it to hide from an all-knowing, ever-present God? Sin makes you stupid. Have you ever watched COPS? Sin makes you do silly things. Sin alienates mankind from God, which breaks their relationship with Him.

Do you notice God has a lot of questions of Adam and Eve? Why so many questions? Through a few direct questions God quickly uncovers man’s heart. What you cover, God uncovers. However, what you uncover God covers. What Adam and Eve should have done is confessed to God immediately. When God asks, “Where are you?” They should have responded, “Here I am, I have sinned against you, God.”

You cannot run from God, for long. He is a pursuer. Man does not seek God; God seeks man. He is on a mission to “seek and save the lost [and hiders].” No matter how far or fast you run God, He is right there. You cannot shake Him. He is a pursuer because He is a lover. Will you stop running? Are you willing to come out of hiding and uncover your shame?

Second, with the fall of man came specific curses and consequences for specific characters [3:14-19]:

Character Curse Consequence
Serpent [14-15]

 

Note: he has already Fallen.

Cursed above all animals

Eat the ground [Cf. Is.65:25]

Made enemy of Seed

Death and promised judgment [3:15]
Woman [16] Pain in childbearing, childrearing, childbirth, & parenting [cf.Gen.1:28] Desire to rule over husband [i.e. control, dominate, manipulate, boss, cf. 4:7]
Man [17-19]

 

Note: Man was with Eve when she sinned. God holds him responsible for family.

Ground is cursed [17]

Struggle against the ground [18-19]

Go back to the ground [19]

Banished from the Garden [23]

Ground treat man like man treats God.

Weeds will mock man. Work will mock man.

Alienation from the land and Paradise. Relationship with ground and God affected.

Third, there are long-term consequences because of the fall of man [Genesis 3:20-24]. Shame caused the two-sinners to sew fig-leaf-undies to cover their nakedness. Like soldiers arming themselves with protection and defense they cloth themselves with weak and useless greens.[1] Notice God does not shame them even more because of their new Fruit of the Looms; rather God replaces their man-made coverings with a sacrificial garment [v.21]. God does for man what they cannot do for themselves. God sheds animal blood to give them a garment to wear, which begins the biblical theme of sacrifice, which weaves its way through Scripture.

The consequences for sin are serious, but God in His grace sends a sacrifice. Adam and Eve’s garment is the first sacrifice of many bloody sacrifices to come that stretch all the way to Jesus Christ on the cross [cf. John 1:29]. He is the Sacrificer for mankind’s sin, and therefore the self-declared Savior for mankind.


[1] Cf. Deuteronomy 28:48; Job 1:21; Isaiah 58:7.

how sin infects

With the entrance of sin into the garden a devastating chain of events happened within relationships and creation. In the Fall of Mankind into sin you learn what went wrong with the world in which you live. Sin is like a contagious infection that spread like a rapid plague through this world infecting the heart of man and the creation God made.

First, sin infects man’s relationship with God. The first man and women were created to know God and fellowship with Him in the Garden of Eden. The garden was a temple where they could, walk, talk and worship God.

Rather than responding to God in dependence their sinfulness craved independence. Like a teenager desiring independence from their parents, such is the state of man ever since the Fall—in a battle to become god in ourselves or create our own gods that were lift up higher than the One True God [Romans 1:21-25]. All gods we create are cheap imitations and lead man into confusion and frustration because they never quite satisfy like a relationship with God.

Second, sin infects affects man’s relationship with one another. Sin has devastated and disintegrated human relationships. I have seen in my short lifetime the devastating effects of sin within relationships. I have seen how bitterness and anger rip apart friendships, how temptations and immorality explode a marriage, how rape and abuse tailspin a women’s trust in a man, how a woman’s words emasculates a man, how fathers neglect their homes, how mothers forsake their babies, how siblings splinter over self-centered rivalries and jealousy, how tyrant bosses inflict their fearful subjects with slavish tactics, how governments sponsor genocide upon people groups. Sin has infected every relationship at every level. Man’s inhumanity to man has been the story of human history.

Third, sin infects all of creation [Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 8:20-22]. Humans are not the only ones affected by the Fall. The material world now resists man and makes life hard for him. Creation groans under the affects of the Fall. Sickness, crime, poverty, injustice, suffering, famine, death—this in not the world God created it to be. The sin of mankind is the source. So what must be done? What did God do? What can man do?

The infection of mankind sin has been passed down from generation to generation. It has permeated every living soul. As discussed, sin infects man’s relationship with God, man’s relationship with fellow man, and all of creation bears the scars of sinfulness. God, like a Great Physician is able to remove the cancerous tumor at a cost with consequences [more on this next week].