Monday, November 18, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 55, Abram Gets In Trouble, Part Two

Abram has gone into Egypt because of the famine in Canaan. He's pretending Sarai is his sister and not his wife because she's so beautiful he's afraid someone will kill him in order to have her.

Yesterday we observed Abram sliding down a slippery slope. He didn't trust the Lord to provide for him during the famine in Canaan and he didn't stay put there, even though Canaan is where the Lord told him to dwell. He didn't trust the Lord to keep him safe from violent men in Egypt, even though the Lord already promised to make a great nation from his descendants (which he doesn't yet have). Now he's putting on a deception to protect himself, but the lie is going to make things worse, not better. He's pretending Sarai is his sister and not his wife because he's afraid someone will kill him in order to have her, but this plan is going to backfire.

"When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace." (Genesis 12:14-15) Sarah is the talk of the town. Even the king hears about her and has to see her for himself.

When the Bible says she was "taken into his palace" it likely means she was placed with the harem. If you've ever studied the book of Esther, the women who were being considered for the position of queen were taken into the harem where they were provided for and protected until each one had her turn to meet the king. During that time, no man was allowed to have physical relations with her. The ladies who were not chosen as queen would still remain in the harem for the rest of their lives and would become "minor wives" of the king. No other man could ever court them or marry them or have any physical contact with them. While Sarai was housed with the harem, I do not believe Pharaoh had physical relations with her. But he intended to get around to it eventually.

Meanwhile, the Bible tells us that Pharaoh showered Abram with gifts in exchange for the loss of Abram's "sister" from his household. It was the custom in ancient times for a prospective bridegroom to give valuable gifts to the head of the household when declaring his honorable intention to marry a young lady of the household. I don't know whether Pharoah was technically single at the time; as in, he had no chief wife who was his queen. But Sarai held enough value in his eyes that he was willing to pay quite a handsome bride price for her. "He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels." (Genesis 12:16)

These gifts are going to keep on giving, and not in a good way, for among these male and female servants is a woman called Hagar an Egyptian slave who will become a source of trouble for Abram and Sarai later on in their lives. Her very existence, and the existence of a son she will bear, will drive an unhappy wedge between Abram and Sarai as Sarai grows to passionately hate her. Abram appears to be profiting from his lies, but nothing good is going to come from his lack of faith, from his sojourn in Egypt, or from the deception he perpetrates on the king.

I can't help thinking about poor Sarai who is basically imprisoned with the women of the harem. From indoors the harem is watched over by eunuchs. From outside they are protected by soldiers. There is no chance of escape for Sarai. She doesn't know whether she'll ever see her husband again. (Honestly, if my husband did to me what Abram did to Sarai, I might not care if I ever saw him again, but I'd still want my freedom back.) Abram is profiting from his lie but he has no way of rescuing Sarai from Pharaoh's guards. He's now without his life partner and he sees no possibility of getting her back. Yes, he's saved his own neck, which probably wasn't in danger in the first place. But the woman who has been his companion and his friend through thick and thin is in the household of another man and soon to be a wife of the other man.

From a human standpoint, this problem can't be solved. It looks like Abram might as well cut his losses, take what he's gained in Egypt, and go back to Canaan. Sarai probably thinks she needs to resign herself to never being a free woman again. But our lives don't depend only on what we can do for ourselves. Our lives depend on the power of the Most High God. Even though Abram can't be said to "deserve" the Lord's help, the Lord steps in "because of Abram's wife Sarai", as we see in the following verse: "But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai." (Genesis 12:17) Sarai is the innocent, helpless victim in all of this mess. Because a married woman is being held in Pharoah's harem, the Lord sends illness into the royal household.

Pharaoh himself, though not a moral man or a godly man, is also a victim to Abram's deception. So why does the Lord send illness into his household? I think when it came to the Egyptians of that era, it took something big to make them take things seriously. When we see Moses intervening for the Hebrew people several centuries later, the Lord will have to send a number of plagues into the land before the king agrees to let the people go. He doesn't agree until the final plague hits, and then he only does it because he suffers a personal tragedy of his own. The Lord knows He has to afflict Pharaoh and his household personally so He can get the king's attention.

When everyone falls ill, Pharaoh senses some sort of judgment has come into his palace. He seeks an answer. The Bible doesn't tell us how he learns the answer, but we know that the Egyptian pharaohs employed people who dabbled in the magic arts. The kings often consulted these men for help, and I think that even though these men didn't know the one true God, the one true God spoke to one of them and revealed the truth. Or at the very least, the Lord caused one of them to take note that the trouble in the household began around the time Sarai was added to the harem. It could be that someone was sent to question her and she admitted she was Abram's wife. Whatever the case, Pharaoh calls for Abram and takes him to task for his lies. "So Pharaoh summoned Abram. 'What have you done to me?' he said. 'Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her to be my wife? Now, here is your wife. Take her and go!' Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had." (Genesis 12:18-20)

Abram has been shown more mercy than he deserves, but haven't we all received more mercy than we deserve? The Lord didn't say to Abram, "Well, you've made your bed. You'll have to lie in it." He rescued Abram, Sarai, and all the possession they came into Egypt with and all the possessions they gained while in Egypt. It's not as if there won't be natural consequences of Abram's wrong actions. I don't know how much of a toll Abram's actions took on his marriage. It may be that Sarai never looked at him quite the same way again. I don't think I could properly love and respect a man who did to me what Abram did to Sarai. The slave woman Hagar is going to cause problems later on, so much so that I think Abram will rue the day he ever set foot in Egypt. Even in our own times, the descendants of Hagar's son and the descendants of Sarai's son are enemies of each other, and this is a situation that never would have occurred if Abram hadn't gone into Egypt. This is a situation that wouldn't be present in the world if, later on, Abram and Sarai didn't begin to doubt the Lord's promise to give them a son together. At that point they will draw Hagar into their plan to take matters into their own hands.

The Lord had to step into this mess in Egypt because His own Son is going to come from the line of the one promised to Abram and Sarai. Sarai couldn't be allowed to remain in Pharoah's household. Abram couldn't be allowed to leave her behind in Egypt. There are some promises of the Bible that depend on our obedience to the Lord, but there are other promises that depend solely on the Lord's faithfulness. The promise of a Redeemer depended solely on the Lord's faithfulness. There was nothing man could do to make this promise void.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 54, Abram Gets In Trouble, Part One

A famine hits the land of Canaan and Abram goes down to Egypt where food was more plentiful. Many scholars believe he was out of the will of God when he did this. I tend to agree with them. The Lord had told him to go to Canaan, but when hard times came he left Canaan for Egypt. It's as if he doubted God's ability to take care of him in Canaan. If it's the case that he was out of the will of God when he went to Egypt, then it's easy to understand how he manages to get himself and his wife into trouble there.

"Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe." (Genesis 12:10) I started thinking about why Abram may have begun to doubt whether it was possible to survive in Canaan. I started wondering whether his doubt was a result of the doubt of his family and the other people with him. As conditions in Canaan began to look worse and worse, maybe the people with him began to doubt whether God had really spoken to him at all. His wife, his nephew Lot, the servants, and any others in Abram's care were looking to him for guidance and support. They had followed him this far, but now it looked like they were in danger of starving to death. I think the pressure got to him. As a man with a family and as the person responsible for bringing these people into Canaan, Abram could have begun to feel inadequate to fulfill his responsibilities to these people and to all the livestock. I wonder if perhaps it wasn't so much that he doubted God, but that he doubted himself. He could have begun to feel that their survival depended on him alone, and whenever we think a situation depends on us alone (and not on God) we are in danger of making a bad decision.

Abram makes a bad decision, and as so often happens, this leads to other bad decisions. "As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, 'I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me and let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.'" (Genesis 12:11-13) Abram already made the mistake of thinking God wasn't going to provide for him in the land He told him to inhabit. Now he doesn't trust the Lord to protect him in Egypt. This causes Abram to decide honesty isn't the best policy when dealing with the Egyptians. He's trusting in himself, and in a lie, for protection.

Later, when a child is born to Abram and Sarai, we will find out that Sarai is about ten years younger than her husband. We've been told that Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out for Canaan, which means Sarai was sixty-five years old at that time. We don't know how long they lived in Canaan before the famine hit, but we know Sarai was at least sixty-five. But she's only halfway through her life because the Bible will tell us she lived to be 127 years old. So she's middle aged when she accompanies her husband on his trip to Egypt. She's still so beautiful that Abram fears the men of Egypt will lust for her to the extent of killing him so they can have her. But if he tells them she is his sister, they will treat him with respect in hopes that he might give her hand in marriage to one of them. Though she is probably already past the age of childbearing, or close to it, having her be the mother of their children is not what's going to be in these men's minds. They are going to want to sleep with her, and if that means having to be nice to her supposed brother, they will be willing to do it in case he might agree to let her be the wife of one of them.

In Genesis 20 we will find out that Sarai actually is Abram's half-sister, but he's still a liar when he tells the Egyptians she's his sister. Their husband/wife relationship is their true relationship. A half truth is still a lie, just like half obedience is still disobedience.

Abram's mistakes are going to snowball into what could easily have been a disaster, not only for Abram's own family but for the entire Messianic line. In tomorrow's passage we find the Lord mercifully coming to the rescue, and we will discuss why the Lord has to intervene in this case even though Abram has brought his trouble upon himself.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 53, Abram Sets Out For Canaan

The Lord commanded Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you." Today Abram sets out for the land of Canaan in obedience to the Lord.

"So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him." (Genesis 12:4a) I think Abram took on a fatherly role for his fatherless nephew Lot. Abram himself was childless. Lot was the closest thing he had to a son.

"Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there." (Genesis 12:4b-5) We will learn later in Genesis that Abram lived to be one hundred and seventy-five years old. He's not even halfway through his life when he sets out for Canaan. We might consider him "middle aged" when he sets out for Canaan, but making huge changes in middle age isn't as easy as when you are young and adventurous and unencumbered by dependents. Abram is responsible for his wife, his nephew, and "the people they had acquired in Harran". Who are these people? Some scholars believe they are servants who work for the family. Others believe that these people are converts to the God of Abram who chose to go with Abram into Canaan. This is because a literal translation of the word "people" in verse 5 is "souls" in the original text. So the author of Genesis may be saying that Abram won souls to the Lord while he lived in Harran.

"Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land." (Genesis 12:6) This tree must have been of the type that lives for hundreds of years, since Moses speaks of it as if his readers are familiar with this landmark.

The Canaanites are descended from Noah's son Ham, the son upon whose lineage Noah prophetically placed a curse. They were wild and uncivilized. They worshiped false gods. Later in the Old Testament we will be told that some sects of the Canaanites practiced child sacrifice. They were an exceedingly wicked and violent group of people, and Abram must have felt overwhelmed when he reached the land of Canaan and saw the great task that lay before him and his people. The reason I think this is because the Lord appears to him in Canaan to encourage him.

"The Lord appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring I will give this land.' So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him." (Genesis 12:7) The road of obedience is not always smooth. Sometimes we need the Lord to repeat His promise to us to reassure us that we are on the right path. We know in our hearts that He told us to do this particular thing, but when difficulties arise we can fall into doubt and discouragement. We may ask ourselves, "Did the Lord really tell me to do this? Or did I misunderstand?" When Abram reached Canaan he may have begun to wonder whether he misunderstood the Lord. Our faithful God who is so patient with our weaknesses shows up at just the right time to give Abram the confidence he needs. As an act of faith, Abram builds an altar and worships the Lord in the very place the Lord spoke to him. Abram doesn't know when or how the Lord is going to give him offspring. He doesn't know when or how the Lord is going to give his offspring the land of Canaan. But he believes the Lord will do it, and because he believes the Lord he goes ahead and praises the Lord for things not yet seen.

"From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev." (Genesis 12:8-9) Abram knew the importance of having a place of worship everywhere he went. At each step of the journey he was saying, in the manner of the prophet Samuel, "This far the Lord has helped us." (1 Samuel 7:12)

Wherever you are today, this far the Lord has helped you. You wouldn't have made it this far without Him. It would be a good idea to stop and thank Him for that today. And, like Abram, thank Him for the things He's going to do.

Friday, November 15, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 52, The Lord Calls Abram

In Thursday's study we learned that Abram's father Terah suffered the loss of one of his sons (Haran) while the family still lived in Ur. Today some of the family decides to move from Ur into the land of Canaan.

"Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran." (Genesis 11:31-32) It was not actually Terah's idea to leave Ur, but Abram's, for in Acts 7:2-4 we find Stephen, a follower of Christ, making this statement to the high priest and the council: "The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.' So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to the land where you are now living."

The one true God spoke to Abram while Abram still lived in the heathen land of the Chaldeans. It was God who told Abram to leave Ur and strike out for Canaan. The Bible doesn't tell us why the family settled in Harran instead of continuing on to Canaan, but it could be because Abram's father Terah became too ill to continue on. The passage from Acts appears to indicate that Abram's journey was hampered by something to do with Terah since it says it was "after the death of his father" that God sent Abram on to Canaan.

Some scholars speculate that Terah lacked the faith of his son Abram and wanted to finish out his life in the comfort of Harran instead of trying to scrape out a living in Canaan. In ancient times Harran was an important city that lay along a trade route between Nineveh and Carchemish. Terah was used to the luxuries of Ur, so Harran might have seemed like a good substitute for his hometown. Excavations of the ruins of Ur have shown it to have been an enormous city capable of supporting up to 24,000 citizens. The city was so modern and sophisticated that many of the larger structures contained what passed for indoor plumbing in ancient times. A number of carved tablets have been recovered from Ur that provide us with the information that its citizens were idolaters who worshiped a pantheon of gods, with the chief god (Nanna) being a moon god. Perhaps Terah's heart still longed for his hometown and for his old gods, but it was too painful for him to remain in Ur after the death of his son Haran. Settling in the city of Harran may have appeared more attractive to him than moving on into the land of Canaan.

As we begin Chapter 12, the author of Genesis takes a step back in time to tell us how the Lord called Abram in the first place, when Abram was still in Ur. It sounds as if the Lord may have been telling Abram to leave his father behind in Ur, but instead Abram took him along and ended up having to dwell in Harran. "The Lord had said to Abram, 'Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land that I will show you.'" (Genesis 12:1) This verse makes me wonder whether the scholars are correct who believe Terah was still caught up in idolatry. The Lord told Abram to leave his father's house, and this could be because Terah wasn't a godly influence on his son who is rejecting the gods of his homeland in favor of the God who has spoken to him. No other god ever spoke to him. No other god ever established a personal relationship with him. The gods of Ur left Abram feeling empty and alone and unfulfilled. His heart longed for something more, for a real connection with the One who created him. Because his heart sought God, (even when he didn't know who God was), God made Himself known to him. But perhaps Abram felt sorry for his father who had already suffered the loss of one son. It may have been too difficult for Abram to leave his father behind, knowing they would never see each other again. If this is the case, and if Abram's failure to strike out without Terah was in disobedience to God, then we can see why the journey was hampered. Partial obedience is disobedience, and when we disobey God we are going to bring difficulties on ourselves.

We will conclude today with the promise the Lord made to Abram. "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 12:2-3)

This powerful promise must have been as welcome to Abram as rain is on a dry and sun-scorched land. Abram has no children. He's going to be seventy-five years old when he leaves Harran for Canaan, so he and his wife long ago gave up any hope of becoming parents. But the God who "gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not" (Romans 4:17) is going to do a great thing for Abram and Sarai within about twenty-five years. God is going to keep His promise of making "a great nation" out of Abram. God is going to keep His promise that "all peoples on earth will be blessed" by this great nation that will come from Abram. How is the Lord going to bless all people? By bringing the Redeemer from Abram's family line. Christ died for all people so that all people---whether Jew or Gentile---could obtain salvation through Him.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 51, Abram

Today we begin our look at Abram, who is the son of Terah, who is a descendant of Noah's son Shem.

"This is the account of Terah's family line. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot." (Genesis 11:27) Lot, the nephew of Abram, is going to become part of a significant Bible event later on.

"While his father was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth." (Genesis 11:28) Terah outlives his son Haran. Some of you may know this type of heartbreak. Lifespans have greatly decreased since the flood and here we see a man dying in what was probably the prime of his life.

"Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah." (Genesis 11:29) Nahor married his niece. Early on in the Bible we often find close relatives marrying each other. Later in the Bible we will find this practice forbidden by God in Leviticus 18. It is believed by many scholars and geneticists that the longer man lived on earth, the more corrupted his DNA became. The farther man lived from the dawn of time, the more frequently mutations cropped up. This means that the closer two people are related to each other, the more likely they are to carry the same genetic mutations. When these two people produce offspring together, their shared genealogy increases the chance that their children will be born with disabilities and inherited diseases. Prior to the flood, and in the first several hundred years following the flood, the Lord didn't forbid man to marry a close relative because there weren't yet enough mutations in man's DNA to pass along to offspring.

We will learn in Genesis 20 that Abram's wife Sarai is actually his half-sister. His father Terah lived a total of 205 years and may have outlived his first wife. He probably married again and had more children by a second wife. One of these children became Abram's wife. It's possible Terah had more that one wife at a time, but that practice hasn't yet become very common in the Old Testament. So far I believe the only time we've seen a man with two wives was when Lamech (the great-great-great grandson of Cain) had two wives in Genesis 4.

Abram and his wife were unable to have children. "Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive." (Genesis 11:38) This infertility is going to affect everything about their life together and about the decisions they make and about their faith in God. Any of you who have struggled with infertility can relate to how this disappointment colored everything in this couple's life together. But their many years of disappointment and struggle are going to result in one of the greatest miracles of the Bible. The Lord is going to grant them a child once Sarai is so far past the age of childbearing that no one can help giving glory to God for the miraculous birth of a much-wanted child---a child who will be the ancestor of the Messiah.

No one, including Abram and Sarai, believed it was still possible for them to have a natural, biological child together. But nothing is impossible for God! I've been in some situations that looked impossible. A good outcome was impossible by man's standards. Defeat and disappointment and heartbreak seemed certain. I thought so and so did everyone around me. But God stepped in. But God moved mountains. But God made a way where previously there was no way. So don't ever count yourself down and out. If a miraculous turnaround of your circumstances depended solely on human effort, then it might be impossible. But the God who spoke light into darkness and who created everything out of nothing is still as powerful today as He ever was. He never changes. He will "make a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland". (Isaiah 43:19)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 50, From Shem To Abram

We are going to be looking at some more genealogy today. Previously we studied the descendants of all of Noah's three sons, but from now on the Bible mainly concentrates only on the Messianic family line. The Lord Jesus Christ is descended from Noah's son Shem, and today we study the lineage from Shem down to Abram.

It's important that we don't skip over genealogical records in the Bible. Vital information is embedded in them. I know these portions of Scripture can seem a bit dry to us, but the Lord placed them here for a reason. He knows we would wonder about how all the different nations, races, and languages got their start. He knows we would wonder about the genealogy of the Lord Jesus. If He hadn't provided all this information to us, doubt might have begun to grow in our hearts. We wouldn't have been able to put the puzzle pieces together, and humans want to be able to put the puzzle pieces together. We are curious creatures and it's important to us to understand how and why things happened. Let's take a look now at the family line from Noah's son Shem down to Abram (who will later be called Abraham) and learn a few new and interesting things today.

"This is the account of Shem's family line. Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters." (Genesis 11:10-11) Remember how people often lived into their 900s prior to the flood? From this point on we are going to see lifespans decreasing by several centuries. People are also going to start having children at a younger age. Previously the Bible told us that men were 100 years old or more before they begat children; now they will begin having children in their 30s and sometimes even younger.

"When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah. And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters." (Genesis 11:12-13) Arphaxad lived a total of 438 years.

"When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber. And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters." (Genesis 11:14) Shelah lived a total of 433 years.

"When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg. And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters." (Genesis 11:16-17) Eber lived to be 464 years old.

"When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu. And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters." (Genesis 11:18-19) Lifespans decrease even more rapidly now. Peleg only lived to be 239 years old. You'll recall that earlier in Genesis we were told that the earth was divided around the time Peleg was born; his name literally means "divided". Climate change is continuing to take place swiftly here in Genesis 11 in the post-flood world. Continents are drifting apart. The entire human race no longer speaks the same language and they are beginning to spread out across different areas of the world. This means each group has to start over with establishing homesteads, with getting agricultural pursuits up and running, and with the building of society. We don't know exactly how all these things may have contributed to shorter lifespans, but it's evident that something is changing---and changing quickly.

"When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug. And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters." Genesis 11:20-21) Reu lived to be 239 years old.

"When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah. And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters." (Genesis 11:24-25) Nahor only lived 148 years.

"After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran." (Genesis 11:26) Terah is noticeably older than all these other men were when they became fathers. The Bible doesn't explain to us why this happened. Perhaps Terah married late. Or maybe he and his wife struggled with infertility. Terah's son Abram and his wife will also struggle with infertility. When Terah does become a father, the Bible lists all three of his sons at once as if all three of them were born the year Terah turned 70. Some scholars take this to mean they were triplets. If Terah's wife was getting older like he was, the likelihood that she would have had twins or triplets would have increased. Twins, for example, are more often born to older moms than to younger moms. The ovaries sometimes release more than one egg each month as a woman nears the end of her fertile years, and this can result in more than one egg being fertilized. Another possibility that these sons of Terah were not triplets but that they are listed together, almost as equals, because the future of each of them is going to be mentioned later on in the Bible. We are going to see Nahor and Haran, and their descendants, again.

Tomorrow we are going to begin studying the life of Abram, and the narrative is going to slow down a lot. Up til now we've seen centuries go by with just a simple sentence or two. But starting tomorrow we are going to begin a section of Genesis, from Chapter 11 on into Chapter 25, that details the life of a man who forsook the pagan gods of his hometown and struck out for parts unknown because he believed in and trusted the God who spoke to him.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 49, The Tower Of Babel, Part Two

Now that humans have learned how to make sturdy baked bricks, it occurs to them that they can "save" themselves from scattering all over the earth as the Lord instructed them to do. They intend to build a city of such glory and renown that no one will ever want to leave it. They intend to build a tower so tall that it can reach heaven itself. Many scholars believe that the purpose of the tower is to provide a means of escape should another global flood ever occur. The Lord has given His word never to bring another global flood, but they don't trust Him.

Another theory regarding the tower is that the people now consider themselves so great that they think they can be on equal footing with God. They believe they can enter heaven itself, not by the righteousness which must be imputed by faith in the Lord, but by their own efforts. In that sense, they are attempting to make "gods" of themselves. But isn't that what man does when he refuses to allow God to be Lord of his life? Isn't he, in essence, making a god of himself and serving only himself?

Some scholars and archaeologists think the tower was to be used for astronomy and astrology. The remains of several ancient observation towers still remain here and there on the earth. It is believed that people used them to calculate days and months and seasons (for the purpose of planting and harvesting) and also that people used them for the purpose of astrology. Astrology is condemned by the Lord in the Bible. It was practiced by many ancient pagan cultures who believed in false gods and who made choices about their lives based on astrological charts.

If you don't believe there's any harm in reading horoscopes or in casting astrological charts, let me just tell you that someone related to me became so caught up in such things that they dropped out of church, fell into a sinful lifestyle, and basically tore apart everything good in their life and ended up losing almost everything. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, but take my word for it: something very dark lurks behind what is presented to us as a harmless hobby. The Lord regarded astrology as an occult practice because it is an occult practice. It puts people in a position to be influenced by the hidden forces of evil, and you don't know what might stealthily creep into your life when you begin messing with something that the Lord specifically forbids in His holy word. My relative was so caught up in what they were doing that when I spoke out against astrology I thought for a minute that this person was going to hit me. The rage in their face was shocking and frightening and I honestly felt like I was in danger. But thanks be to God, the Lord stepped in and turned this person's life completely around at just the right time and in just the right way, which is what He is going to do in today's passage for the people on the plain of Shinar.

"Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.'" (Genesis 11:4) The devil had a similar attitude when he declared, "I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God." (Isaiah 14:13) Satan didn't want to lift up the name of God; he wanted to make a name for himself. This is what the people on the plain of Shinar want to do. They want to make a name for themselves instead of giving glory and praise to the God who created them.

The Lord is going to intervene. For the sake of the human race, He can't allow every person on the face of the earth to band together to finish the task of trying to reach heaven on their own efforts. You know and I know that they weren't capable of building a tower that could actually reach the throne room of Almighty God, but they didn't know it, and this isn't a valuable use of their time. It's not a valuable use of time, manpower, mental effort, emotional investment, or spiritual focus. "But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building." (Genesis 11:5) Did the Lord literally come down in person and walk through the city? Earlier in Genesis we were told it was His habit to walk in the garden with Adam and Eve. I suspect these appearances are what are known as "Christophanies": Old Testament appearances of Christ. There are several instances of these appearances before the Lord was born into the world in human form, and we will study them as we go through the Old Testament. But let's stop and think about this for a minute. We know Christ came in the flesh and dwelt among us, but long before the day came when He was born into this world as a human being, He was personally interacting with mankind. Long before He hung on the cross for us, He intervened for us in other ways. Here in Genesis 11, He intervenes on behalf of the human race. He changes the course for them. He redirects them from a path that will bring them no good.

"The Lord said, 'If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.'" (Genesis 11:6-7) I picture the pre-incarnate Christ walking through the streets of the city and observing the ongoing construction of the tower, then I picture Him back in heaven discussing everything He saw with the two other persons of the Trinity I don't know if it happened this way, but I can't help seeing it this way in my head. Then God the Father says to God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, "Let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."

"So the Lord scattered them from there all over the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel---because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 11:8-9) If the human race had devoted itself to the worship of the Lord from the very beginning on up until now, I believe we would all be speaking the same language. I believe we would have enjoyed a beautiful unity and fellowship with each other, no matter what our race or sex or background or nationality. If we had honored the Lord as we should, all our great projects would have been projects that helped people and that honored our Creator. They would not have been projects that lifted up the name of man to the level of the name of God, which is what the people at the tower of Babel were attempting to do.

Left to our own devices, we would have either made ourselves extinct long ago by doing ridiculous and harmful things or else we would be so wicked and reprobate that life here in this world would be hell on earth. But the Lord came down. But the Lord came to the rescue. Time and time again, the Lord intervened in history and in the personal lives of human beings. Finally, at the right season in time, the Lord came down in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. The One who is above all things, the One whose name is to be praised, the One who is high and lifted up, lowered Himself to come down and be made flesh and live in a world that human beings have polluted with sin. He pulled off the greatest rescue ever known. He did it with His own flesh and with His own blood. He did it out of love. From Genesis to Revelation we could sum up this miraculous rescue with one verse from our passage today: "But the Lord came down."