Tag: God

Story 35: Hagar’s Tears

Genesis 21:8-21

Years of joy went by for Abraham and Sarah.  Isaac learned to crawl and toddle around on his little feet.  When he was two or three, they weaned him from his mother.  To celebrate, Abraham threw a great feast.

At the banquet, Sarah watched on as Ishmael made fun of her beloved son with contempt.  This was no innocent play.  Sarah could hear malice in Ishmael’s voice, and she was overcome with fear.   It seemed to reveal his desire to dominate and demean her boy…he was a real threat to her child.

This was not just about the normal conflicts that arise between brothers.  This was about the status of these boys and their future.  Ismael was showing contempt for the true heir of Abraham.

She was filled with anger.  How dare he treat her child this way?   The same disrespect that Hagar had shown Sarah was now showing up in her son.

Did Sarah consider the pain of Hagar…to be the unwed mother of Abraham’s first born?  Did the vulnerability of Ishmael occur to her…now that this new son had come along?  Did she see what this situation…a situation of her own making…was doing to others who had so little power?

Sarah went to Abraham and said, “‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’”

Sarah wasn’t merely asking for Hagar and her son to be sent away.  In order to do so, they would have to relinquish their service.   As long as they stayed with Abraham’s household, the boy would have the right to claim inheritance from his father.   Abraham had raised Ishmael and made it clear that this was his son.  But if Hagar and Ishmael were freed, they would never be able to claim Abraham’s wealth against Isaac. Sarah was asking Abraham to grant them their freedom, but it was for her own selfish gain.

Rather than trust the Lord to bring about his promise…to raise up her son as the heir to God’s covenant with Abraham…Sarah panicked and acted out of fear and spite.

Imagine the despair of Abraham.  He loved his first born son.  They had spent thirteen years living among the their tents together.  How could he thrust them out into the desert alone?  Years ago Abraham and Sarah lacked the faith to believe that God would provide a child through Sarah.  Now Hagar and Ishmael would have to go through a terrible trial for their mistake.  Abraham took his deep grief to the LORD.

God came to his faithful servant as he agonized into the night.  He said, “‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant.  Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’”

These words reveal something interesting about the thoughts of God.  When God called Abraham, the call was not on Abraham alone.  The call was on his wife as well.  As husband and wife, they were one.  Sarah was an important part of God’s plan, and no other woman could stand in her place.  It was her child that would become the nation of God’s great promise to the world.  Her role as mother had tremendous value in the eyes of God…she was as irreplaceable as Abraham to God’s plan.  God told Abraham to honor her words in spite of the fact that they were marked by her brokenness and sin.

Then God spoke to Abraham about Ishmael and Hagar, “‘I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.’”

Wow.  That was a tremendous promise!  The Lord reigns in power over all, and he cared for Hagar, too.  He had made a promise to Abraham about his descendents, and it would be true for both his sons.  Ishmael’s descendents would grow into a mighty nation just as surely as Isaac’s would.  Abraham could trust that God would watch over and protect Hagar and Ishmael just as he had watched over Abraham for twenty five years.  They had a great hope that was grounded in the character of God…a great future lay before them.

Abraham listened to his LORD and trusted him to keep his promise.  He obeyed immediately.  Early the very next morning, Abraham brought Hagar and Ishmael out of their tents.  He loaded Hagar’s shoulders with food and water and sent them on their way.  Imagine the tearing on Abraham’s heart as he watched the two, small figures walking off into the vast wilderness.  A woman alone with her teenage son in a wild land of tribal nations who often lived in unspeakable sin.  Imagine his faith as he prayed for them and trusted them in the hands of God.  Imagine Ishmael’s confusion as his loving father sent him away with such sadness.  Why did he have to go?  Imagine Hagar’s fear as she stepped out onto the lonely sands.

She had nothing, but she brought with her the responsibility of a child.  Had she asked for this?

Hagar wandered out into the desert of Beersheba on her way back to Egypt, the land of her birth.  Along the way, she got lost.  She spent days moving in the wrong directions, not knowing how to find her way home.  She had been given plenty of food and water for the trip, but as the time stretched on, they began to run out.

How thirsty they became, and how her son suffered.  The days were long and the nights were cold, and there was no help.  Her son became weaker and weaker.   They weren’t able to go on.  Finally she set him under a bush. She walked away and sat down.  She was far enough away to so that she would not have to watch him die, but near enough to protect him and come to his body once he was gone.  Her heart tore in two with grief and despair.  Her body shook with the sobs of her overwhelming loss and sorrow.  And Ishmael lay there, near death, crying out to the God of his father.

God heard Ishmael’s cries.  The angel of the Lord came from Heaven.  The Lord heard, and he came.  He came to Hagar in the wilderness and spoke tenderly to her; “‘What is the matter, Hagar?  Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.  Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’  Then the LORD opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.  So she went and filled the skin with water and gave it to her boy to drink” (Genesis 21:17-19).

This wasn’t the first time the angel of the Lord had come to Hagar.  She had run away once before when Sarah’s treatment had grown so cruel she could no longer bear it.  She called out to the Lord, then, too.  After he came, she declared him to be “the One who sees me…” Utterly alone in the desert, a rejected servant sitting by a stream of water, she was seen by the God of the universe.

Now he had come again, and revealed a well of water that she could not find on her own.

The arrogance of Ishmael and the fearful selfishness of Sarah had caused this dark time for him and his mother, but his cry to God brought their salvation.  Once again, God came gently down to Hagar with great promises.

The LORD watched over Ishmael as he grew.  And God kept his promise to Abraham.  Hagar raised him in the desert and he learned to become a skilled archer.  And eventually, she found him a wife from the land of Egypt.

 

Story 29: The Son of God’s Choosing

Genesis 17

The human race had plunged itself into a terrible situation.  God created humanity to live in perfect harmony with Himself.  We were to live in a perfect Garden Temple called Eden, which means “pleasure.”  But the first humans, the ancestors of us all, rebelled against the one limitation God had given them.  They sided with God’s enemy, and in so doing, subjected the whole race to his bondage.  Yet even as they rejected God’s way, He had a plan to draw them back, a design for human history that would provide a ransom for the souls of humanity.  Abram and Sarai were at the center of God’s plan.  He chose them to be the ones through whom He would bless the nations of the world.  Their offspring would be His holy priesthood, and somehow, they would bring salvation.

Yet there was a problem.  Abram and Sarai had no children.  Sarai was barren.  After many years of waiting on the Lord’s plan, they grew impatient, and sought to have a child through Hagar, Sarai’s servant.  They lost faith in God’s plan and took matters into their own hands, violating the sacred covenant of marriage in the process.  Abram and Hagar had a son named Ishmael.

Thirteen years passed after Ishmael was born.  Many things must have happened in their lives over those years.  Still Abram and Sarai were without a child.  What ache did Sarai live with as she watched her maidservant raise a son before her eyes.

By the time of this story, Abram was ninety-nine years old.  The LORD appeared to him again.  He said:

“‘I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’”

When Abram heard this, he fell down with his face to the ground before the LORD.  God continued to speak:

“‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.   I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; I will be their God.’”

Genesis 17:4-8

Abram was given a new name.  It was a mark that the promises the LORD had given His servant before were growing.  God was filling in the details and showing Abraham just how great and awesome His promises truly were.  This covenant would bring whole nations and kings…it would be everlasting!

Then God gave Abraham a sign that would be the symbol of His covenant.  Abraham and every man who descended from him was to be circumcised.  Circumcision is a quick but painful operation.  A small piece of extra skin is cut off of a male’s private parts.  Every male in Abraham’s family or his servant’s family was to have this operation done as a sign that they belonged to the LORD.  They were part of His covenant blessing.  Most of them would have it done when they were infants, when they were eight days old.  They would hardly know what was happening to them.

It was a high honor, marked out in their very flesh, that they were to remember at all times!  Each descendant of Abraham had to chose to follow after God with the same faith as Abraham.  Whoever did not keep the sign of the covenant by being circumcised would be cut off from the people.  It was a breaking of the covenant itself.

Then God told Abraham that He was changing Sarai’s name.  It would now be Sarah.  God promised that He would bless her, and she would give birth to a son.  This son would become the head of twelve tribes, or clans, and from them whole nations would come.  Her role as the mother of the coming nation of God was high and honored.  The Lord had watched her go through every trial of faith with her husband.  She had carried the shame of her barren state as she waited on the Lord for His promises.  She, too, had remained faithful.

But when Abraham heard this, he threw himself onto the ground and started laughing.  Sarah was ninety years old!  Abraham was almost a hundred!  How could this be?  When it came to childbearing, their bodies were as good as dead!  It was impossible.  So Abraham reminded the Lord about Ishmael.  Perhaps God should use him.

Abraham did not yet fully understand that his Lord was the one who could call things into being that were not (see Romans 4).  Abraham was limiting his imagination to the things that a human could do.  God has no such limitations.  If God made the stars and the earth from nothing, surely He could raise up a nation out of nothing!  Surely He could make a child, even from the bodies of an aging couple!  God was able to bring life from the death of old age.

The fact that it seemed impossible was part of God’s plan.  Everyone would know that this was a miracle.  It was clearly something only God could do.  All of the surrounding tribes and villages, all of the towns where Abraham had visited and even saved in war, would know that something different was happening in the lives of God’s covenant family.  This was a power and a provision there that would shake their understanding of the world.  When the LORD began His holy nation through this child, the whole region would be gossiping and wondering how it happened.  It was a testimony and an opportunity to follow the God of Abraham.

God knew how impossible it was for Abraham to have a child and said, “‘Nevertheless.’”  Then He told Abraham that a son would be born to Abraham and Sarah the very next year. Abraham accepted the unique plans of his LORD and stepped out in immediate obedience. That very day, he circumcised himself and Ishmael and all the servants of the house.

Story 26: Strange Mysteries from Distant Times: The Sealing of the Covenant

Genesis 15

When God called Abram to leave his home and journey to the land of promise, He gave conditions.  If Abram obeyed, then God would bless him.  Abram did obey.  He ventured out into the unknown with his barren wife, taking everything with him.  He completely left the life he’d had behind, trusting totally in God’s promise.  Over time, Abram proved his faith in the LORD in new and greater ways.  He righteously lived for the Most High God in the midst of a pagan, idolatrous place and waited for God to bring His covenant blessings. And so God came to him with His covenant once again, only this time things had changed a bit.  Now God made His promises without condition.  Abram’s faith was established, and God could assure him that His promises would come true no matter what.  God would give him more descendants than there were stars in the sky, and He would deliver to them the land of the Canaanites.  Yet Abram still felt unsure.  How could he know that God would truly give him the land?

For his answer, LORD told Abram to bring a cow, a goat and a ram, a dove and a young pigeon.  Does that seem like a strange answer to you?  Why bring animals?

When we read the Bible, we always need to remember the time of human history we are reading about.  We are reaching back through time to a world far different from our own.  Often what we read will seem mysterious and strange to us.  Abraham lived in what we called the Ancient Near East.  In order to understand the story, we have to imagine what that world was like.  So let’s try.

It was quieter.  These were the days before electricity, cars, and airplanes.  There were no televisions or radios, engines or blasting horns or telephone chatter.  The noises that filled their lives were the quiet sounds of their flocks and herds, the blowing wind, and the tinkling of streams.  It was the sound of the women singing as they hand washed clothes in water hauled from a well or at the river.  It was the discussions and calls of men at their work.  There were no photographs or paintings. The only faces any one person knew throughout his whole life were those from his own village or town.  Any visitor would have been a great curiosity.  It would have been a new face to see!

Nature was their artwork.  Trees and streams, sunrises and sunsets and the vast display of stars in the dark night sky were the things of beauty that filled their lives.  It was a simpler world, but it was a deeper one.  They ate the same basic food every day with a profound gratitude that is hard for us to understand.  You see, in those days, they knew what famine was like.  Most families went through at least one or two hard seasons when they went hungry for weeks and months on end.  They were keenly aware of the weather and how the crops were doing because it all had an immediate impact on their own survival.  It strengthened their spirit of gratefulness and sharpened the pleasure of their food in times when it was abundant.

When God showed Abram the stars and used them to explain the wonderful blessing He was going to give him, He was using the most magnificent and awesome visual in Abraham’s world to inspire his faith.  Humans will never paint or create anything that will surpass the beauty of a starry night.  But we may have lost our ability to cherish and wonder at the sprawling night sky the way the ancient people did.  It was their nightly glory.

Now God would strengthen Abram’s faith by using animals as a symbol, just as He had used the stars.  In Abram’s time, human society was largely dependent on their animals to survive.  For a family, each creature brought value and security to their home as their flocks and herds grew.  Their lives were arranged around making sure the animals were protected and fed.  They moved when they needed to find more grassland for them.   They took special care to keep out of the way of bandits and thieves who might steal them.

The people of Abram’s day lived their lives close to their animals to make sure they could protect them.  They could hear their sheep and goats bleating through the night and drank the milk from their own cows and goats in the day.  They did not go to a store to buy their sandals and sweaters.  The leather and wool they used to make their own clothes and shoes came from creatures they had watched being born.

They did not go to a store to buy meat.  Usually, the only time they ate meat was when a sacrificial offering was made.  It was a rare treat, a feast that would mark the day as a high point in the year.

Every piece of meat they ate came from a creature they had watched over, fed, and nursed back to health when it was sick.  Their whole lives were filled with the provisions given to them by the lives of their animals.  These creatures had worth and meaning, what they offered humanity were answers to some of the great needs and enjoyments of life.  They were gifts from God, and they were meant for the provision of those things.  For the people of Abram’s time, the sacrifice of meat had greater meaning and worth than most of us can possibly understand.

In the societies of Abram’s time, the value of animals was so great that killing one of them was something that was only done with great consideration and care.  Usually it was only done for the high and sacred moments devoted to their gods.  Sometimes they were used for feasts.  Sometimes they were used when a great treaty was being made between one king and another, or between a king and his people.  When the animal became a sacrificial offering, its death showed the high importance of the occasion.

God  understood the culture and times that Abram was living, and so He chose a ceremony that Abram would understand, that would be meaningful to him.  He told Abram to bring Him a cow, a goat and a ram, a dove and a young pigeon.  These creatures would become the sacrificial offerings to commemorate the high and holy making of the Great Covenant between God and His chosen servant.

 

Story 24: Melchizedek

Genesis 14

In the dead of night, Abraham and his men went after the four kings. The kings had decimated the corrupt cities of the Jordan River Valley, and now they had taken his own nephew captive.  It was time to act.  Under the cover of darkness, Abram divided his soldiers into two groups and attacked the four kings from two directions.

Imagine Abram’s men moving in deft silence, sneaking up on the clueless soldiers. Imagine the cry of attack and the roars of Abram’s men as they descended on the armies of the four kings.  How terrifying their fury must have been.

Abram’s men utterly defeated Kedorlaomer and his allies that night.  They claimed Lot’s freedom along with all of his possessions.  They also brought back all of the men, women, and children from the five kingdoms that had been plundered.  They had rescued them all from abject poverty and enslavement.

Abram and his men were the great heroes of the entire region.  They had utterly saved the day.  And because they were the ones who won the battle, all of the booty that was taken now belonged to Abram.  According to the rules of their day, all of the animals and gold and silver and even the people that the four kings had captured were now Abram’s.  What would he do with this lavish new wealth?  Would he use this turn of events to rule over the region?  Would he grasp for power or trust the Lord?

The King of Sodom came out to meet with Abram along with a man named Melchizedek.  Melchizedek’s name meant “my king is righteous.” He was the king of Salem, a region that would one day become the home of another great city:  Jerusalem.  He was also a priest of the Most High God.  When the Bible tells of this mysterious and righteous man, it is the first time a priest is mentioned.  He had come to bless Abram for the wondrous victory he had brought to the people of the land.  He had come to celebrate the warrior who fought by faith.  He said:

 

“‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High,

Creator of Heaven and earth.

And blessed be God Most High,

Who delivered your enemies into your hand.’”

Genesis 14:19-20

Let’s stand here for and think upon this high and holy moment.  Here was a man whose position before the LORD was so great that he could bestow blessings down upon Abram, God’s chosen servant!  This priest of God came to place the name of God on Abram.  We might be in danger of thinking that this blessing was just a polite way to honor Abram.  It was much, much more than that.  This blessing was powerful and potent to effect the life of Abram and to cause great good to move forward into his future.  God’s blessings move in history and make things happen.  God was moving in power to take the divine blessings that Noah had blessed on Shem’s line and focus them in on Abram and his descendants!  The line of Japheth would one day find salvation through Abram’s descendants.  The line of Ham through the Canaanites would one day become Abram’s slaves.

These blessings were from the one true God, the Creator, who made all the wondrous things of the entire universe burst out in a dazzling array by speaking words.  He is the one that continually brings life and newness to the hours of each day by His powerful Word.  God’s Words are a magnificent, effective force, and now His Word was being spoken through Melchizedek.  He declared that Abram had the blessing of God.  The same God Who made heaven and earth promised before kings that His creation power would move on Abram’s behalf.

After Melchizedek’s splendid blessing, Abram gave him a tenth of all the plunder.   This priest was a king to his Lord, and he would pay him his dues.  What a meeting of greatness this was!  These were two men of incomparable honor and nobility, and they stood together in the midst of the cursed and chaotic world with the dignity and blessings of God’s divine hand.

But the king of Sodom was an entirely different story.  He ruled over a land of wickedness and horrific sin, and Abram would have nothing to do with him.  This contemptible king came to Abram with a command.  His entire city had been plundered in the war.  His cowardly men had run from the battle scene and allowed an army to invade their city.

By the courage of his men and the work of his God, Abram brought all of those things back, including the men, women, and children of Sodom.  He saved them all.  He was their true hero.  But the king of Sodom did not come with a grateful attitude or a humble spirit.  He came with arrogant demands.  It would have been right for him to wait and listen to Abram, the man to whom he owed so much.  Instead, he jumped in and told Abram that he could keep all of the plunder, but asked him to return his citizens to him.  He had no right to give any instructions, it was not his role to tell Abram what he could keep or not.  He had lost the privilege of rule.

Abram looked at the despicable king and said, “‘I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of Heaven and Earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even the thread of a thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, “I made Abram rich”’” (Gen. 14:22-23).

Wow. Abram knew that the King of Sodom was not a man of honor.  This king’s promises meant nothing; only a fool would trust him.  He was a ruler who led his own people into filth and shame.  Abram wanted to make sure that the glory of all his victories and his wealth went to the LORD.  This horrific man would have no chance to take credit.  Abram was willing to give up any fortune or wealth to protect the honor and image of God.  The blessing of Melchizedek was worth far more than the gold and silver of Sodom!

Abram’s righteous life would continue to reflect the strength and character of God to all the nations that knew his name.  By now, every city and nation of people far and wide would have heard of the righteousness of God’s servant.  Their eyes would have been watching his life.  They would have known his ways.  God was giving the wicked nations of Canaan a bright example of His goodness in Abram.  Would they turn from their wickedness and sin?  Would the king of Sodom think twice about the violence and perversion of his city?  Would Abram’s rebuke cause him to repent and change?  Or would the rebellion continue?

Story 22: Parting Ways: The Foolish and the Wise

Genesis 13:1-18

Abram was a chosen man.  Adam and Eve, the first humans, had plunged the world under a terrible curse by rebelling against God in the garden of paradise that he had provided with him.  They had sided with his enemy and given the enemy power over them and all of their descendants.  Yet God had a solution already prepared.  From those descendants, God promised that one of them would one day crush the power of God’s enemy (Gen. 3:14-15).

One of the most significant stages in the unfolding of God’s plan was the covenant he made with Abram (see Gen. 12:1-4 or Story 20).  God was going to make Abram’s descendants into a great nation, and somehow he would bless all the other nations of the world through them. God brought Abram out of the land of his own people and brought him to the land of Canaan, the Land of Promise, that he would give to Abram’s children.  Abram was called to stay there and live by faith in what God promised he would do.  Yet at the first sign of trouble, Abram took his wife and nephew, all his flocks and servants, and left the land.  A famine had come, and they fled to Egypt.  That didn’t turn out too well (see Story 21).

After a coming against a crazy situation in Egypt, Abram moved his family back to Canaan, to a place called Negev.  They returned to the region near Bethel.  This was the place where Abram had built his second altar to God.  That moment was a high and holy moment for Abram; it was a place of great remembrance.  Perhaps Abram felt the need to seek a recommitment of faith to the covenant that had come to him there.

As Abraham was traveling about, his nephew Lot went with him.  Both of them had huge herds of cows and goats and sheep.  There were so many animals that they were eating up all the grass.  There wasn’t enough for all the animals to eat. The herdsmen and shepherds of Lot and Abram began to fight with each other over the land and the grass.

So Abram said to Lot, “‘Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.  Is not the whole land before you?  Let’s part company.  If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left’” (Gen. 13:8-9).

Wow.  That was very generous of Abram.  He had already raised Lot.  Now he was giving his nephew first choice of the land.  Yet Abraham was the elder man, and the covenant promise had been given to him.  He had every right to claim the best of the land for himself.

What does his choice show us about Abram?  He did not need to grasp with greed.  He was demonstrating with his actions that he put his trust in the Lord.  He believed his future was in the hands of God.  That gave him freedom to give lavishly and graciously to his nephew.  His desire to keep peace with his nephew was greater than his desire for the security and honor of wealth and property.

Lot looked out over the land and saw the plain of the Jordan River.  It was lush and green with well watered plants.  It was perfect ground for farming and raising crops.  His livestock would have plenty to eat.  It was like the garden of the LORD.  Lot claimed the very best for himself. His decision was based on what he could see.  It was not a decision made by faith in God.  Abram honored Lot’s choice and moved on to the land of Canaan.

Lot’s first selfish choice was almost as unwise as his second choice.  Of all the cities on the plain, he chose to pitch his tents next to the city of Sodom.  It was known to be a place of great wickedness, where the people lived lives of filthy immorality and despicable sin.  The wrath of God was filling up against them.  They were not wise people for Lot to befriend.

After Lot left, the LORD spoke with Abram once again:

 “‘Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.  Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you’”

Gen. 13:14-17

Isn’t it interesting that God waited for Lot to make his choice and leave before He continued with the promise?

The LORD was rewarding Abram’s faith with assurances of His promises. Abram was to go out and walk along the land, knowing it was truly set apart for him by God.  As a king surveys the realm of his kingdom, Abram walked his land and saw with his own eyes this good place that God had prepared for him.

When Abram was done with his tour, he and Sarai moved with all their servants, flocks and herds to a place with beautiful trees called Mamre.  It was in the region of Hebron. This area was not like the place where Lot chose to live, where rivers provided a constant flow of water.  It was not like Egypt, with the never ending Nile.  Hebron was an area that depended on rain for water.  The people who lived there were at greater risk for drought or famine.   There was no river to go to when things got dry.  Abram was well aware of the danger of drought, but he also knew that his God was the Lord over the rain systems of the earth.  He trusted these gifts from God’s hands more than the safety of living in larger numbers near a constant water source.  He could trust God as he separated his family and servants from the sins and temptations of the city.   This was the faith that was growing in our hero.  Think of how he had changed from the man who fled to Egypt!   Abram showed his devotion and gratitude to God by building an altar of worship to him.

After Lot left, the LORD spoke with Abram once again:

 

 “‘Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.  Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you’” (Gen. 13:14-17). 

 

The LORD was rewarding Abram’s faith with assurances of his promises. Abram was to go out and walk along the land, knowing it was truly set apart for him by God.  As a king surveys the realm of his kingdom, Abram walked his land and saw with his own eyes this good place that God was preparing for him.

When Abram was done with his tour, he and Sarah moved with all their servants, flocks and herds to a place with beautiful trees called Mamre.  It was in the region of Hebron. This area was not like the place where Lot chose to live, where rivers provided a constant flow of water.  It was not like Egypt, with the never ending Nile.  Hebron was an area that depended on rain for water.  The people who lived there were at greater risk for drought or famine.   There was no river to go to when things got dry.  Abram was well aware of the danger of drought, but he also knew that his God was the Lord over the rain systems of the earth.  He knew that he was safe in God’s hands.   This was the faith that was growing in our hero!  How different he was from the man who had fled to Egypt!   Abram showed his devotion and gratitude to God by building an altar of worship to him there.

 

Story 19: From Shem to Abram

Genesis 11:10-32

When we look at the time between Adam and Noah, there were ten generations of humans that multiplied on the earth.  They became so hardened and wicked that God had to wash the earth clean of their polluting sin.  God started the human race all over again through the sons of Noah.  Two years after the waters of the Flood went down, Shem, the son of God’s great blessing, and his wife had a child, and they named him Arphaxad.  When he grew up, he also had a son, and later that son had a son.  This carried on for ten generations.  Now the Bible points out someone who was born in the tenth generation after Noah.  His name was Abram.  In Scripture, the number ten is a symbol of perfection or completion.  By pointing out the generations broken into groups of ten descendants, the biblical author (who we believe to be Moses) was pointing out that just as with Noah, the time had come for God to move.  He was going to fulfill a new step in His perfect, sovereign plan to save the world.

But first, we have to ask, why did the world need saving?  Hadn’t Noah ushered in a whole new era for the human race?  Hadn’t everything changed?  Did the rebellion continue?  Throughout the those ten generations, had the people become just as wicked as they were right before the Flood?

We already know the answer, don’t we?  We learn a lot when we read the Table of Nations (see Story 16 and 17) and the story of the tower of Babel (see Story 18).  Humanity would utterly reject God once again.  They would choose violence, hatred, and corruption instead of the bright, beautiful goodness and purity of the Almighty Lord.  What was God going to do?

The Lord had already promised not to send another flood.  Now God was going to do a new thing.  He was going to raise up another man of righteous faith.  Only this man would be used by God in a very different way.  God had previously saved the human race from total extinction through Noah’s family. The earth had been cleansed of wickedness by the flood.  Now, God was going to create a nation that would be given a way to continually come to him for cleansing of their sin.  Their pursuit of their righteous Lord would create a purified place on earth so that God’s holy presence could rest among them in the Most Holy Place.  He would be their God, and they would be His people…and they would be a priestly nation that would serve the rest of humanity.

The generations of this nation would come from one man.  He would be the first step in God’s Great Solution to the problem of sin.  For you see, in God’s Great Solution, the problem of sin and death and the horrific curse would be taken care of completely and finally.  One day, humans would be given a new heart.  They would be able to love the Lord and walk in holiness just as they had in the Garden of Eden!

That is all very exciting, but we are rushing ahead of ourselves.  That is the end of the story, and the human race is not there yet.  Those amazing and wonderful things are still to come at the end of time. We await them with great joy!

God’s amazing plan, His Great Solution to the problem of sin, started in the tenth generation after Noah. God would raise up a man of great faith.  This man would be the beginning of a mighty new work.  His life is so important that the Bible stops telling the story of all humanity and the great nations and focuses close up onto this one man’s little world.  We are about to hear his story, and we have a lot to learn.  We can grow to love him, because this man is the great spiritual father of everyone that has faith in God.

The sons of the tenth generation from the line of Shem were brought into the world by a man named Terah.  He had three sons and their names were Abram, Nahor, and Haran.  After they had grown, a terrible tragedy came upon the family.  Haran died.  He had a son and a daughter who were left vulnerable.   In our time, this is a horrible thing.  In those days it was far worse.  The tribal living of the Ancient Near East was brutal and unforgiving.  It was dangerous for a woman to be alone.  What was the family going to do?   The best way to take care of Haran’s daughter was to find her a husband.  They decided that Haran’s daughter, Milcah, would marry Nahor.  He would be her husband and her protector.  Terah and Abram would raise Haran’s son, Lot, and watch over him.

Abram was married to a woman named Sarai, which meant “princess.”  Abram’s wife was very beautiful, and their love for each other was very great.  But over the years, they experienced a terrible grief.  Sarai was barren.  She could not have children.  What terrible pain it must have caused her that she couldn’t give her husband the great gift of a child.  How hard it must have been for Abram to see his wife go year after year without a baby in her arms.  Their future must have seemed dry and pale without the joy of new life.  Why had God withheld from them that beautiful blessing…the privilege of obedience to be fruitful and multiply?  They would each have to depend on God’s comfort and grace. They would have to depend on Him for hope.

Terah decided it was time to leave Ur, the grand city that was their home, and move to the land of the Canaanites.  His sons and their wives went with him.  But along the way, after a long journey, they stopped at a place called Haran and settled there, .  They had traveled five hundred and fifty miles, but they hadn’t made it to the land of Canaan.  They hadn’t reached their goal.  Then, after many years of living at the half-way point, Terah died.

What dark days those must have been for Abram.  There he was in Haran with his barren wife, grieving over his father, and caring for his brother’s son.  And he was still miles and miles from Canaan, the land of their destiny.

Yet Abram and Sarai continued on faithfully bearing the responsibility of caring for Lot, Abram’s orphaned nephew.

Then one day, something remarkable happened.  The LORD came to Abram.  What God said to him is one of the most significant things ever spoken in history:

 

“‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.

I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;

I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’”

Genesis 12:1-3

 

Wow.  Read that again.  God told Abram to leave everything.  He was to abandon whatever life he had in Haran and go into a strange land.  But with that obedience would come with overwhelming blessings.  God would lead him to Canaan, the land of his destiny.  And for his faith and obedience, the LORD promised to make Abram’s descendants into a mighty nation.

This promise was called a covenant.   If Abram obeyed, God would bind Himself to Abram with a sacred promise that He would never break.  Now remember, when God speaks, things happen!  He created the whole universe by the words of His mouth.  God’s words would also cause things to happen in the future.  Abram could be as certain that God would keep His covenant as he was that the sun would rise every morning.  And what a blessing this covenant would be.

Abram would be like Shem!  He would father an entire people group!  God also promised to make his name great.  God would curse anyone that tried to hurt him. And somehow, God was going to use him to bless all the nations of the world.  What a bright and wonderful hope!  But Abram had to choose to believe it.

When God promised to protect Cain after he murdered his brother, Cain chose not to believe that promise.  He built a fortress city to protect himself instead.  He did it on his own.  When the children of Noah were wandering the earth, they were supposed to scatter to far off lands.  Instead, they stayed together.  They thought they could keep themselves safe apart from the help of God.  They tried to make a great name for themselves apart from God by building a temple.  They did it on their own.

Now Abram would have a chance to show where he put his hope.  He could follow in the ways of Cain and build a life on his own.  Or he could do it God’s way.  He would have to have faith to leave the land of safety and go out into dangerous regions of unknown people and their unknown ways.  He would have to trust God to protect him in ways his forefathers had refused.  Abram would have to have faith that God could create something out of absolutely nothing.  It was impossible for his wife to have children, let alone give birth to a nation.  He would be staking his whole life on a miracle.  

Story 17: The Blessed Line of Shem

Genesis 10

Shem was the son of Noah’s greatest blessings.  His children and their descendants were chosen by God in a special way.  He had five sons whose families grew to become great nations.  Their names were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram.  From them more sons were born.  The Bible lists twenty-six nations that came through his line.  Each would have their own language and their own territory, their own cities, and their own cultures.  For example, the sons of Elam settled in what would now be Southern Iran.  Aram’s clan was probably somewhere near where Syria is now.

Shem’ son Eber had a son named Peleg.  The Bible points this out especially because it was through Peleg’s line that God would one day bring a man into the world named Abram.  God would rename him Abraham, and he would be the father of God’s chosen, priestly nation.  An Israelite would read this and know with pride that these were the men of his ancestry, the noble ones with a sacred blessing from Noah, the father of all humanity, and the favored ones of God.

Altogether, the Bible lists seventy different nations that are the fruit of the marriage of Noah and his wife.  If we looked at the nations that rise from Japheth, Shem, and Ham, it would seem that the most powerful and successful came from the line of Ham.  Nimrod was the great builder of the early cities.  His empires were the most powerful and wealthy in the world.  During Nimrod’s lifetime, it probably seemed the ways of evil and cruel men would have total victory.

It is interesting for us to look back now, thousands of years later, at what God has done.  The empires of Assyria and Babylon rose and fell.  Their bright, cruel lights went out over 2,500 years ago, and they have never been heard from since.  Nobody alive today can be sure if their ancestors are from Babylon or if they came from the line of Ham.  That has been lost and forgotten.

But there is an ancient nation that still stands.  Israel and its people are alive and well in the land that God promised them. They can still trace their ancestry back to Abram and even further back to Shem, the blessed son of Noah.  The Lord of all Creation taught the people of the world how to seek Him and find Him through them, the Jewish people.  And through the Jewish people, God would send the Savior of the world in Jesus Christ.  All of us who believe in Jesus are a part of God’s blessing on Shem.  While few remember the name of Nimrod or think about long dead nations called Assyria and Babylon, the name of Jesus Christ is proclaimed all over the world every day by those who are totally devoted to Him.  And that has been the case for over two thousand years.  When we see the evil nations and tyrants of the world today, we must remember that while the forces of evil may seem strong and powerful, God is constantly at work, preparing the way and raising up His own people to transform the world.  In the end, He wins.  And the amazing thing is we get to join Him and be a part of His great and mighty victories.

Seventy nations are listed in the Table of Nations.  That number is important. In the Bible, the number ten is a symbol that something is whole and complete.  The number seven is a special, sacred number that is a sign of divine completion.  So when seven and ten are multiplied to make the number seventy, it is a signal to the reader of the Bible that this was something perfected, complete, and divinely whole.  It bears the special marks of God’s sovereign plan.  Whether the people of the world followed the Lord like the descendants of Shem or whether they rebelled like the descendants of Ham, they were all still moving forward into history according to God’s will.  The Lord has a plan, and He is completely able to accomplish it in His exact time and way.  The descendants of Noah scattered out, filling the map of the earth, just as the Lord had said.  Each nation was given its time and place by God.  He is Lord of all.

It isn’t understood why they moved so far away from each other.  Was it because of their faithful obedience to the Lord, or was there something else at work?  And where did they all learn to speak different languages?

Story 16: The Table of Nations: Japheth and the Unspoken One

Genesis 10

The chapter of Genesis that comes after the flood is fascinating.  It is called the Table of Nations.  It tells of the people on earth that came from Noah’s three sons.  It starts out like this:

 

“‘The sons of Japheth:

Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshach, and Tiras.’”

 

The Bible goes on to list who all of their sons were.  Then it moves to the descendants of Ham.  They were:

 

“‘Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan’”

 

Once again, it goes on to list their sons as well.  Finally, the Table of Nations tells about Shem.  His sons were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram.

Over hundreds of years, the children of Japheth, Ham, and Shem filled the earth with great nations.  They spoke many different languages and had very different cultures.  They each moved to different regions of the world and had territories of their own.

This was all very important for the Bible to teach.  It shows the link of all the people of the earth back to Noah and Noah’s God.  Every single clan and nation on earth started out knowing the goodness of the Lord of all Creation.  Any group that does not worship Him and love Him had to rebel and walk away at some point in their history.  Everyone on the planet has an ancestor that started out knowing the living God.

The Table of Nations also shows how every nation on the planet took part in God’s great blessings.  Because of God’s goodness, they were fruitful, and their children multiplied.  Even as they rebelled, He continued to show them grace by giving them the chief joys of life.  He cared deeply for them, preparing their lands and their languages, their blessings and even their curses far in advance.

There was another important reason for the Bible to have the Table of Nations.  Into this great mass of different nations and people groups, God was going to insert a very special nation that would serve them all.  He wanted to create a nation that would be set apart to specialize in the high and holy ways of the Lord.

This nation would be the nation of Israel.  They would be a nation of priests whose whole way of life and culture would be crafted around the commands of God.  The Lord’s holy presence would be with them in a very sacred, special way.  These people were meant to spend their whole lives learning and pursuing God and being near to Him. They would be transformed into a higher goodness than ever seen before in this cursed world.  They would be the model to other nations, showing how the human race was meant to relate to their Creator.

God would reveal Himself to them in special ways.   Humanity could not return to the Garden to walk with God in the cool of the day.  But the nation of Israel was to build a holy Temple in their most sacred city, and it would be like the throne of God on earth.  His intense, holy presence would honor them above all the other nations of the earth.

God would also reveal Himself to the nation of Israel through Holy Scripture.  They would write down His words through stories and prophecies and poems and sacred legal codes.  The people of this nation could draw near to God by studying His Word.   It would make a way for the fallen human race to learn about the Most High God, His righteousness, and His plans for history.   (When you read the book of Genesis, you read an important part of that blessing!)

The nation of Israel did not exist at the time of the Table of Nations.  But the Table prepares the reader  to be ready for the day when God would move in history to create His nation of priests.

As the reader looks at all of the names on the Table of Nations, each with thousands upon thousands of human souls, a problem arises.  How was God working to help free the wicked on earth from their entanglement with sin?  How was He going to stop the terrible curse?  He promised He wouldn’t send another flood, so what was His plan?  The nation of Israel was the answer.  They were meant to be a priestly blessing to all the nations that are on the Table.

The Table of Nations was written to show the people of the world where they belonged in the history of God’s work in humanity all the way back to the Flood.  But it was especially written to teach the nation of Israel its special place of blessing, leading all the way back to Noah.  They would be called out as a nation from the line of Shem, and the blessing of Shem was upon them.

The Table of Nations first tells us about the sons of Japheth.  He had seven!  Fourteen nations or language groups would come from Japheth’s marriage.  The clans of these different language groups ended up being the people who settled in a land called Anatolia, or modern day Turkey.

Then the Bible tells us about the children of two of them: Gomer and Javan.  Javan had a son named Rodanim, and his descendants were people of the sea.  They built boats and navigating the waters of the glistening Mediterranean.  Their ships took them farther and farther away as they settled new territories across the sea.  We believe his son named Elishu settled on the island of Cyprus.  Rodanim probably settled on the island of Rhodes.

The Table of Nations tells us how the human race grew and spread across the earth after Noah and the flood.  After telling about Noah’s son Japheth, the Bible teaches about Ham’s sons.  Remember, Ham was a man who rejected the ways of his godly father.  His heart was bent towards rebellion and sin.  The ways he chose were the ways of Satan.  Because of his wicked behavior, Ham and his descendants were under Noah’s curse.  The curse of their sin would show its spreading poison over time.  From Ham’s descendants the Bible lists thirty nations or language groups.

Ham’s sons were named Cush, Mizraim, and Canaan.  Cush was the father of a man named Nimrod.  He was brilliantly famous as a great and mighty warrior.  He was the founder of the great cities of the ancient world.  Together they made up Nimrod’s mighty empire.  Yet Nimrod was cut from the same sinful cloth as Cain and Lamech and Ham.  His name means, “we shall rebel.”  He built his empire on force and violence and his own will to power.  It spread across whole regions, eating up the land and everyone in it.

It was Nimrod who first built the cities of Babylon and Nineveh.  They would one day become the empires of Babylon and Assyria, and they would follow in Nimrod’s footsteps.  One of the reasons Nimrod’s story is told in the Bible is because both of these nations would become great oppressors of God’s holy people,the nation of Israel.  Assyria would one day destroy a whole section of God’s holy nation, the Northern Kingdom, forcing the people into captivity and slavery.  Babylon would do the same to the Southern Kingdom.  It would only be after Babylon was conquered by another nation that the Israelite people would be allowed to return to their land.  The Bible taught that these cruel nations came from the line of Ham, a people whose father chose wickedness over the ways of God.

Mizraim would be the father of those who lived in the region that became Egypt.  It would become a place of great idolatry.  They would worship everything from the sun to the Nile River to their very own Pharaoh!  Egypt, too, would become a great oppressor of God’s holy people, the nation of Israel.  But God would do a mighty work to free his people from their tyrannical king.

Another group that came from the line of Mizraim was the Philistines.  These  people would come across the sea to Israel to attack them and take their land.  In the famous story when David fights against Goliath, it was to defeat the Philistine army.

Ham’s son Canaan would settle in the land that God would promise to Israel.  They would become the great enemies of God’s holy people.  They would live in the land for hundreds of years in horrific rebellion, idolatry, and moral filth against the Lord.  Sodom and Gomorrah were in the land of Canaan, and their sin was so violently wicked that God would utterly wipe them out.  But it wasn’t just Sodom and Gomorrah.  The whole land would become contaminated with the toxic pollution of sin, so much so that the Bible says the land would end up vomiting them out in disgust!  That was a poetic way to say that God would use the nation of Israel to judge them for their sin and remove them from the land.

The Table of Nations teaches many things.  As an Israelite read through the list of Ham’s descendants, it would have been like reading through the record of all their nation’s greatest enemies.  The line of Ham produced the great violators of God’s way.  They were idol worshipers who forcefully imposed their immorality on the other nations of the world.  They did not simply wish to live in their own private sins, they pushed and forced their wickedness and idolatry on others, enslaving them and brutally punishing those who did not join them.

These stories tell us about things that happened in ancient history.  But part of the reason God put them in the Bible is because they teach us why the world is the way it is now.  The reason we have sin and suffering and shame now are the same reasons there was sin and suffering and shame in the past.  Our situation on planet earth now comes from what happened in the past.  Through these stories, God is teaching us how to understand our world.  The violence and brokenness and lack of love in this world started with separation from God in the Garden.  As whole sections of the human race rejected the perfect, holy ways of the LORD, they brought greater and greater wickedness and pollution of sin onto the earth.  Everyone bears the pain of this.  Every life is marked with hardship.  And right now many, many people across the world live in terrible conditions of loss, hunger, and degradation because of the systems of wickedness and oppression that are set in their governments and their cultures.

This is important for us to understand because it is God’s truth.  It is also important for us to understand because if we wish to be a part of God’s bright, holy transforming work of good against the powers of evil, we have to understand why the evil is there.  We have to know the enemy of God’s perfect goodness so that we can join the LORD and His holy angels in the battle against him.

The wicked nations and cultures that rose up from the line of Cain did exactly the opposite of what God created the nation of Israel to do.  Israel would be His nation of priests, and God would use them to bring His bright and holy presence into the midst of a dark and cursed world.  This nation would come from Noah’s son Shem, or the Semite people.

Story 13: The Broken Image of God

Genesis 6:1-8

After having Seth, Adam and Eve had more sons and daughters.  All of them had many sons and daughters as well.  The world was filling up with these humans that were made in the image of God.  But there was a problem.  The image of God was just as broken in the descendants of Adam and Eve as it had been in Adam and Eve.  They had passed the brokenness and pollution forward.  The great, tragic rebellion against the Lord continued, just as we saw in the life of Cain and his sons.  It certainly looked like Satan was winning.

As the civilizations of humanity grew, certain men rose to power.  They were men of great renown.  They saw themselves as divine kings who ruled over the rest of the people.  They were arrogant against the Lord just like Cain and Lamech, only now they were worse.  Now they claimed to be gods themselves!  Their power and success came from the demonic forces of the fallen angels they served.  Satan and his evil servants were doing everything they could to tempt and destroy humans.  The demons must have cackled as these men gave into temptation. They became totally possessed and controlled by them.  The leaders of humanity sunk further and further into darkness, violence, and corruption.  The rest of the human race followed  right after them.

Humans were made in the image of God to bring the order and purity of God’s ways, but instead, they gave themselves over to chaos and filth.  As the power of these men grew, they began to abuse it.  The rulers took whatever women they found beautiful and married as many of them as they desired.   The children of these demonic unions were called the Nephilim, which means “fallen ones.”  They lived as tyrants, violent and foul.  They terrorized the land.  The stories of their lives grew into myths and legends, and they, too, allowed themselves to be worshiped as gods.

Society fell into deeper and darker and filthier ways.  Humanity became a race of horrific violence, cold-blooded and cruel.  The whole culture was corrupt.   This is what the Bible says,

 

“The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.  The LORD grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.  So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth…for I am grieved that I have made them.’  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”

            Genesis 6:5-8

 

Imagine what it would be like to live in the midst of and at the mercy of this evil.  Danger and abuse were around ever corner.  Imagine how difficult it would be to be a righteous person when everyone around you was doing wrong.  If everyone cheated and lied to get their desires, it would be very hard, almost impossible, to stay honest, especially if that meant you couldn’t get the things you really needed.  If everyone around you was violent and stole things, even stealing from you, it would be much harder not to be violent or steal from them!  When nobody else cared about what was right and good, it was much harder to do what was right and good.  The righteousness of Noah is truly a remarkable thing.

What was God going to do about His faithful servant Noah?  How would He wipe every other human off the planet?  And would it stop the rebellion?

 

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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