Tag: descendants

Story 36: God’s Unthinkable Command

Genesis 22

 

The life and times of Sarah and Abraham rolled on as they raised the son that had caused them so much waiting…and then so much laughter.  The usual frustrations and tensions of life in the wilderness came and went.  Abraham continued to live a life of righteous faith in the land for all to see. Treaties were made over water wells, animals were born and raised, the seasons came and went, and Isaac grew to become a young man.

Then, once again, God came to Abraham.  This time, He came with the greatest test of all.  He said, “‘Abraham!’”  Abraham said, “‘I am here!’”

And then God gave him the most unimaginable instructions in history: “‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.’”

What?  Read that again!  What could God mean?  This was the God of life, the God of the great and precious promises!  Did He really want Abraham to kill his own son?   Could it be possible?  How could He be so cruel?

Now, the sacrifice of a child was nothing new to the people of the Ancient Near East, which is the time and place Abraham lived.  Many of the gods of that region demanded the sacrifice of offspring.  But this God, the God of Abraham, was different.  He was righteous and generous, the God of creation who made the world to be good…a world without sin or death or sorrow.  It took the mutiny of humans against this good God to bring all that is sad and destructive.  So this command by God seems strange, barbaric…out of character.  And not only that, but this God had promised Abraham this very son.  It was from Isaac that He promised to raise up a mighty nation.  Did He really mean what He said?

God made it clear that He knew exactly what He was demanding of His servant.  He pointed out how precious Isaac was to Abraham all along the way.  He repeated,  “‘This is your only son…this is the son of your great love,’”  and then said, “‘Now sacrifice him to Me.’”  Abraham had waited twenty-five years for this child.  He had loved him for seventeen more.  It was an impossible request.  It was radical obedience, the most extreme imaginable.  In all likelihood, it would have been easier for Abraham to take his own life than to bring an end to Isaac’s.

When we read this story, we are supposed to gasp.  We are meant to be shocked!  For anyone else to command this of Abraham would have been a horrific sin!  Through this story, God is pushing us…He is demanding more.  He wants us to be disturbed…to fight through our understanding of Him and His ways.  Just as Abraham had a response to give, so do we.

Faithfulness to the Most High God is the highest good.  Trusting Him is more important than anything.  Every other loyalty, even to the life of a son…even to a promise of God…must fall away, so that the Lord of all Creation Himself is our one true devotion.  And God, the Maker of all things, has the right to command life or death as He pleases.  He is not bound by the rules that humanity is bound by…the value we place on every human life is because of the value He places on every human life.  It is His right to bring life and end it.  It is the truth of every single day for every person in our world.  Our role as His trusting servants is to stand before Him with humbled reverence and awe, and to obey.  In this extreme command, God was requiring that Abraham surrender the depths of everything, even this deepest, most precious gift from God, even the most critical moral code, even the covenant…the his purpose in life…back to God.

It might have looked to Abraham like all was lost.  If he obeyed his mighty, worthy Lord, he would be without the heir of the Promise.  But he didn’t.  Abraham had already learned through many trials that his Lord was the God of the impossible.  Through each stage of his journey, God was training him and preparing his faith, stretching him and disciplining him to be his resilient, steadfast servant.  Abraham grew in endurance and power to hold on to God’s promises even when he could not understand God’s plan.

Through it all, Abraham did not weaken in faith, but became stronger.  He knew that God would keep His promises no matter what.  With this new command, he did not argue and he did not complain.  He did not even question God.  He would not fail to step out in obedience now to this great and mighty Lord, even when His directions were horrifying.

Abraham’s loyalties belonged completely and utterly to God.  His obedience was immediate. Early the very next morning, he prepared to go.  He put a saddle on his donkey.  He had two servants gather their things to come along.  He cut the wood for the sacrificial offering of his son, fully preparing to carry out God’s strange and unimaginable command.  And then they began their trek.  It was to be a journey of almost fifty miles.  What a lonely time it must have been for Abraham as they walked along through the heart of the Land of Promise.

The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about the journey.  We don’t learn how Abraham felt, what he dreaded or imagined.  We don’t know what he talked about with Isaac and their servants.  The silence in the text is a piece of literary mastery, forcing us to wonder, to be uncomfortable with both God and Abraham…to ask, “How could they?”  It is meant to provoke you and I to consider our own faith…to disciple us with the discipleship of Abraham.  To measure our own lack of faith, our own judgment of God, against the maturity and trust of Abraham.  Where we, in our lack of faith, might see a small and petty God, a cruel deity and a subservient and immoral Abraham…willing to kill his own child…the Bible casts a much grander possibility for life in relationship with God.  Abraham’s vision went beyond the limits of this natural world and put faith in His supernatural power to accomplish His covenant.  Abraham did not doubt that God could keep His covenant even now…that He could even raise Isaac from the dead.

It the process, Abraham demonstrated that his loyalty was to God himself, not to the promise of what he would gain from God…and not from the evidence of what could be seen, but from faith in that which is not seen.

 

 

Story 12: From Adam to Noah

Genesis 5

The God who created all of the universe and made it good had created a special Garden for humanity, those special creatures who were made in His own image.  The first humans had rebelled against their God, siding with His malicious enemy.  They brought utter destruction to the human race.  Expelled from the perfect sanctuary, Temple of the Garden, they were doomed to wander a hardened world full of the evil that they themselves had introduced.  Very soon after that, the curse spread.  The separation that evil had brought between God and humanity soon brought devastating separation within human families.  Adam and Eve’s son, Cain, murdered their other son, Abel, and was forced into isolation.

Cain wandered east to the land of Nod and built a city.  It was actually like a fortress.  It was built as protection for this man whose own heart was so full of violence.  There he could huddle from the violence of others.   For you see, the curse was in full effect.  The humans that were made to create order and peace in the world were making it a malicious and dangerous place to live.

In truth, what was Cain afraid of?  God had put a special mark on him and promised Cain His protection.  He didn’t need a fortress.

But Cain continued to be a man who did not believe God.  Just as he had found his own way to solve his anger with Abel, he worked apart from God to solve the problems of his punishment.   Eve had learned to depend on her Lord, but Cain’s heart was hard.  He refused to rely on God’s promise of protection.  He would rely on a fortress of his own making.  He would hunker down there behind walls of disobedience.  God had cursed Cain with wandering, and Cain did everything he could to avoid having to obey God’s punishment.

Over time, Cain’s wife gave birth to a son whose name was Enoch.  Cain named this first fortified city after him.  Enoch grew and had a son of his own.  His name was Irad, and his firstborn son was named Mehujael.  Mehujael’s son was named Lamech.  He was the seventh generation of the sons of Cain from Adam.  Remember that.  Lamech was seventh in line.  This will be important.  The Bible records the descendants of Cain because there is a lesson for us there.

The line of Cain’s descendants, his children and their children, were just like Cain.  For you see, Cain had never repented.  His heart was hardened in sin, and he passed that rejection of God and that arrogant selfishness on to his sons and daughters, and then they passed it along, too. He had been given the unimaginably great privilege of being a father, but instead of leading his children to the Lord, he led them to evil.  They were the seed of the Serpent, the children of Satan.

The line of Cain lived in rebellion against God, and it grew worse with every generation. By the seventh generation, Lamech had rejected God’s plan for marriage.  He took two wives for himself and had children with them both.  Then one day, he killed a man because he had wounded him.  When he came home, he bragged about the murder to his wife and daughters!   There was no repentance in his heart. He did not speak with grief over violence and death.  He spoke with vengeful pleasure, bragging that he stood in the line of murderous Cain.

For all those generations, the sons and grandsons of Cain had been identifying themselves proudly with the hateful violence of their ancestor.  They were proud of the sin that Cain had committed against Abel.  The injustice of his shed blood was an insidious victory to them.  They were bloodthirsty.  Now Lamech rejoiced that his own violence had gone even further.  He said, “‘If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times’” (Gen. 4:24).

If Cain had been truly sorry for killing his brother, would he have explained the story to his descendants like it was victory?  No.  He would have spoken about it with sadness and regret.  But because Cain never repented, he passed the story down to his sons and their sons in a way that taught them to savor the conquest of violence and murder.

The consequences of Cain’s unrepented sin tore through his family line, and their hearts became harder and more bitter against the ways of God.  They were not acting like children of God.  They were not even acting like the children of sinful yet repentant Eve.  Their actions showed that they fell in line with the great enemy of God.

When we read the Bible, there are some things we can pay attention to that teach us how to understand what is important to God.  The way the story is written teaches us a lot about what the true lesson of the story is.  In this story, the writer (who was probably Moses himself!) wrote the horrifying story of rebellious Lamech.  But immediately after, we learn about a bright and brilliant hope!  The descendants of Cain are not the end of the story!  God was going to show his lavish grace by giving humanity another chance! For you see, the LORD, the Most High God, prepared His perfect, sovereign plan before He created the world.  Even in the midst of sin and rebellion, He made sure that everything would work out for His good in His time.

When Adam was a hundred and thirty years old, Eve had another son.  They named him Seth.   His name meant, “granted.”  Eve understood by faith that Seth was a gift granted to them from the LORD.  God had allowed the wages of sin and death to fall on Adam and Eve because of the curse.  The lives of their first two children had been destroyed.  But He was still a God who loved to bless and increase.  God would use Seth and his descendants to be the servants of God on earth.  Though they were broken and cursed, they would bear His image to the world (Gen. 5:1).

The sons and grandsons that came from Seth would be very different from the ones that came from Cain.  Seth’s firstborn son was named Enoch, which means “weakness.”  Seth gave his son a name that showed the humility that Adam and Eve’s suffering had taught them.  We were created to need our Lord from the beginning and live in perfect reliance on Him, even in the Garden.  How much more does the human race need the help of God now that we live in a cursed world with a powerful enemy!

Humans are especially weak and frail under the Curse, and we must live in total dependence on God.  Adam and Eve had learned this lesson in terribly painful ways, and they taught them to this son.  The Bible says that it was within this faithful line of Seth that humans first began to call out to the LORD God in humble prayer.  The Lord would honor their prayers. Through Seth’s descendants, God would bless and restore the entire universe.

In the generations of first born sons that came from Cain, Lamech was the seventh generation after Adam.  In the generations of first born sons that came from Seth, Enoch was the seventh generation after Adam.  Yet Enoch and Lamech could not have been more different men.

Lamech was murderous and spoke in rebellion against God.  He bragged as if Cain was right to kill Abel!  But Enoch loved God.  The Bible says this about him; “‘Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away’” (Gen. 5:24).  Did you understand that?  Enoch never died.  He lived his life in the presence of the Lord, and God brought him home to Heaven.  The powerful curse of sin and death was transformed by faith and love for God.

Enoch had a son named Methuselah.  Methuselah had a son named Lamech who also had a son.  He is someone you might have heard of before.  His name was Noah.  The Bible tells us the whole line of sons from Adam to Noah for a very special reason.  It explains the links between Adam, the first human, and Noah, the man God would use to start the human race all over again.

There were many thousands of stories that the Bible could have told about what happened in the time between the lives of Adam and his sons and the birth of Noah.  By the time Noah was born, many thousands of people walked the earth, and they each lived for hundreds of years!  Those stories were not the ones that God knew we needed to hear.  Each character that we meet in the Bible and every story we read is there for a very special reason.  Each story was chosen because it teaches something important about God.  These stories are told to explain how He created and worked in human lives to bring about His epic, glorious plan for all of history.  Each story in the Bible tells an important moment along the path of God’s plan.  We are about to learn about Noah, whose life was very valuable in the eyes of God.

 

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