Thursday, October 31, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 38, Time To Leave The Ark

"By the first day of the first month of Noah's six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry." (Genesis 8:13-14) Noah and his family and the animals spent slightly over a year living on the ark. They entered the ark on the 17th day of the second month of Noah's six hundredth year and they emerged from the ark on the 27th day of the second month of Noah's six hundred and first year.

It is just me, or does Noah seem a bit reluctant to come out of the ark? Forty-seven days after the tops of the mountains became visible, a dove returned to him with an olive leaf in its mouth, according to yesterday's passage. Seven days after that the dove went out and did not return because the ground was dry enough for it to find food to eat. Then on the first day of the first month of Noah's six hundred and first year, it appeared to him that the ground was dry, so he removed the ark's covering. But he kept living in the ark for almost another two months, for it's not til the 27th day of the following month that he finally exits the ark, and when he does it's because God tells him to come out.

Was Noah waiting for God to tell him he could leave the ark? Or did God have to tell Noah to leave the ark because Noah was afraid to leave the haven that kept him safe during the worst disaster in earth's history? If he was scared to come out, I can't blame him. The world has literally been turned upside down. Noah doesn't know how to live in it. Everything is different. Everyone he knew is gone, with the exception of his family. During the year he spent on the ark, it became a familiar and comforting place. It was cozy and warm. It shielded him from the reality of a world in which nothing would ever be the same. He may have felt that it shielded him from a God so holy that He was willing to bring such a catastrophe upon the earth in order to rid it of indescribable wickedness. Or it may have been that he had come to rely too much on the ark and not quite enough on the God who told him how to construct an ark capable of making it through the storm. I don't know that Noah was thinking any of these things, but it's human nature to struggle with doubts and fears, and no matter how faithfully Noah walked with God, I can't help thinking that he (like all of us) sometimes had troubling thoughts in the night. I can't help thinking he felt inadequate for the task of remaking society and that the thought of all that needed to be done appeared overwhelming to him.

If Noah and his family and the animals don't leave the ark, there's not going to be a fresh start for anyone. The world has to be repopulated. God isn't finished with man, with the animals, or with the earth. Life is going to go on. People are going to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. And in less than four thousand years, a descendant of Noah's is going to be the Redeemer of the souls of man. Noah can't stay on the ark. He has a role to play in God's plan, and he needs to get on with the Lord's work. "Then God said to Noah, 'Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you---the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground---so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.'" (Genesis 8:15-17)

God has a plan for each of us. When we know He is leading us in a particular direction, we mustn't keep sitting still. We need to move. When He says "stay" we need to stay, but when He says "move" we need to move. If we don't obey Him, we are going to miss out on some blessings. The road the Lord chooses for us won't always be easy, but as the saying goes, "I'd rather walk with God in the dark than walk alone in the light." There's a peace in knowing we are smack-dab in the middle of God's will. The storm may still rage around us. The winds may blow and the rain may fall, but there's no better place to be than where God has told us to be. Noah was living obediently in the will of God when he built the ark and entered it as God commanded him. No doubt it was a terrifying experience to go through the flood, but look what happened to those who weren't in God's will. They refused to believe and come aboard the ark, so they perished. Noah, who obeyed the Lord in spite of any fear he may have felt, survived the flood and lived to see a new day dawning on the earth. Imagine how his faith must have been strengthened after the Lord brought him through! When we obey the Lord, our faith is going to be strengthened. We are going to emerge with more confidence in our God. We are going to have practical experience of the faithfulness of God. Then we can say, like King David, "Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and Your servant loves them." (Psalm 119:140)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 37, The Flood, Part Four

"The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and He sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded." (Genesis 7:24-Genesis 8:1) God never forgot Noah and the people and the animals on the ark. When the Scriptures say the Lord "remembers" someone or something, the word is used to indicate His faithfulness. Genesis 8:1 could also be rendered as, "God didn't forget Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and He sent a wind over the earth so the waters would recede."

"Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible." (Genesis 8:2-5) The flooding has ceased but it takes time for the water to dry up. I did some reading regarding what would have happened to plant life while the earth was covered with water for months, and I found that roots and seeds would have survived. The Lord never said He was going to destroy plant life, so I don't think the world had to start over as far as vegetation was concerned. Things would have begun to grow and sprout as soon as they were once again exposed to sunlight.

"After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water all over the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him." (Genesis 8:6-12) Noah first sent out what is an unclean animal according to Leviticus 11:15. The raven is a scavenger, and scavenger animals were unclean under the law of Moses. We are told the raven flew back and forth but not that it returned to Noah in the ark as the dove did. One commentary I consulted states that the raven would have been able to perch on the carcasses of humans and animals that rose to the surface of the waters. Gruesome, but this explains why the raven was able to survive for many days outside of the ark until the waters dried up.

The raven is not a reliable messenger for Noah. It can't tell him what he needs to know. It's so busy feasting on flesh that it's not going to bring anything plant-related back to Noah to prove to him that the trees and plants are standing out of the water now. Noah is in the ark, perched atop a mountain, and through the windows he can only see mountaintops and sky. He doesn't know whether the lowlands and pastures are dry yet. So he sends out a dove, an animal that won't feed on the carcasses of the dead, and in time the dove brings back a fresh olive leaf. The next time he sends the dove out, it doesn't return because it is able to find food for itself now that the waters are gone. This is when Noah knows for certain that God has kept His promise---that God has "remembered" him and his family and all the animals on the ark. Just as God had promised, man and the animals are going to be able to survive in the post-flood world. They've been given a fresh start, and everything they will need for this fresh start has been provided for them.

The Lord is able to give a fresh start to you and me as well. No matter where we've been and what we've done, He extends the olive branch of peace to us. No matter how many mistakes we've made, God can do miraculous things with any life that is submitted to Him. Let's bring all our failures and mistakes, and our doubts and fears, and our weaknesses and inadequacies and lay them at His feet. The God who created the universe and everything in it out of nothing is more than able to make something honorable out of you and me.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 36, The Flood, Part Three

In today's passage we see the death of every animal and person who are not inside the ark.

"Every living thing that moved on land perished---birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind." (Genesis 7:21) The animal kingdom didn't fall from grace but it suffered the consequences of man's wickedness right along with man. You will recall from the creation account that God created land animals and man on the same day. We are inextricably linked together. What affects one affects the other.

It's sad to think about the animals perishing in the flood just because humans hated and rejected the Lord. It's easy for us to say that the rebellious humans chose their own fate by turning their backs on their Creator, but the animals were sinless. Why didn't the Lord somehow save the animals from the flood? Because the Lord knows what He's doing. There was a practical reason for reducing the animal kingdom down to a more basic level at this point in time. This is because the human race will be taken down to a more basic level by the flood. There won't be enough human beings on the earth to tend all the flocks that were in existence prior to the flood. Domesticated animals who are used to being provided for would die of starvation or from lack of shelter and medical care. The thought of so many innocent animals perishing in the flood breaks my heart, but it was a faster and more humane death than dying slowly from starvation or from lack of human care.

Another practical reason for reducing the animal population is that the wild animals would have gained the upper hand over man. Eight human beings would be no match for roving and hungry undomesticated creatures. The severe imbalance between the human race and the animal kingdom would throw the natural order of this world into chaos and would probably result in the end of  mankind. The Lord created the world and everything in it in the proper proportions, and after the flood He intends to keep all creatures in the proper proportions.

"Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died." (Genesis 7:22) Noah didn't have to install fish tanks on the ark because the creatures who live in the waters survived, or at least enough of them did to continue their species. The Bible doesn't say that the river or sea creatures died; it says everything that lived on dry land died.

"Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth." (Genesis 7:23a) Birds aren't able to remain airborne for forty days and forty nights, much less for all the days it will take for the waters to subside. Due to the waters covering all the land, all the trees, and even the mountains, they have nowhere to land. Plus we don't know how severe the pelting rain was and whether anything would have been able to fly during it. There was no way for the birds to survive the flood, except for those birds on the ark with Noah.

"Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark." (Genesis 7:23b)

Our passage today contains a lot of death that would never had occurred if only man had honored his Maker, but the Lord doesn't conclude today's passage on a hopeless note. The ark contains everything necessary for a fresh start in a vastly changed world.

The Lord didn't have to save mankind. He could have concluded that the human race was a complete failure and always would be. Instead He has chosen to save the human race, not only physically, but spiritually as well. The Redeemer is still coming. In spite of all man's failures and mistakes, in spite of man's unworthiness, the Redeemer is coming. The righteous Son of God is going to give His life to save unrighteous man. Why did He think we were worth it when we so clearly deserve nothing? Because He loves us. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Monday, October 28, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 35, The Flood, Part Two

"For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water." (Genesis 7:17-18) I watched a TV program some time back where a scale model of the ark was built and placed into a large glass water tank. As the tank gradually filled with water, the ark began to float. A device was set up to send down torrential "rains" on the model ark and it continued to float. The tank was hooked to a machine that caused it to rock back and forth to simulate stormy seas and tall waves, and still the ark floated. Gusts of air were aimed down on the ark and still it floated. The group of scientists conducting the experiment weren't seeking to prove or disprove the Biblical story of the flood; their purpose was to see whether the ark could withstand the conditions created by the flood. Their scale model passed the test with flying colors, causing them to conclude that the life sized ark would have been extremely seaworthy.

The waters continued to rise until even the mountains subsided beneath the waves. "They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits." (Genesis 7:19-20) This means that the mountain peaks were about 23 feet beneath the water's surface.

Nearly every culture in the world has a story about a worldwide flood that occurred in ancient times, a flood from which only one family was saved on a boat along with representatives of every species of land animal that existed at the time. The best and most logical explanation for the existence of a global flood story in cultures around the world is that it actually happened. The similarities in the flood legends of these cultures with the Biblical flood story can't be ignored. In the majority of these legends, God (or the "gods") forewarned one man or one family of the approaching flood because this man and his family found favor with the Higher Power during a time when man's wickedness was so great. In fact, most of these stories state that the flood was sent due to man's wickedness. The majority of these legends state that the family was saved by a boat, that representatives of every species of land animal were saved by the boat, and that the flood was a global flood. A smaller percentage of the stories include the ark coming to rest atop a mountain, a bird being sent out to find dry land, and a rainbow appearing in the sky. If as many cultures around the world had a written record of some other type of ancient disaster, most people would accept the story as fact. But because accounts of a worldwide flood match so closely with the Biblical account of the flood, many people have chosen to regard the story of a worldwide flood as a myth.

Many scientists are willing to accept the idea of a devastating regional flood but they are not willing to accept the idea of a global flood. In reading a lot of material regarding this issue, I've come to the conclusion that part of the problem is that they have a mental block when it comes to accepting proof that Biblical stories really happened. But if the flood wasn't worldwide, how can we explain the existence of flood stories from nearly every culture on earth? If the flood of Noah's day were only a local occurrence, how would someone on the other side of the world even know about it? How could a local flood attain such legendary status?

I grew up in a flood-prone region along the Clinch River in Southwest Virginia. The little town of Clinchport, which lay just outside of my very small community of Rye Cove, experienced a devastating flood in the spring of 1977. The town was essentially wiped off the map. I can remember sitting in the car with my parents on higher ground and looking down to see what had become of the town. We saw nothing standing out of the water except the tops of the tallest trees and the highest peaks of the tallest homes and businesses. Many other communities in the region suffered a great deal of property loss during this event. I can't recall whether there was also loss of life but I'd say there almost certainly was. This disaster along the Clinch River found its way into local lore, but I'd be willing to bet that very few people outside of the region ever heard of it even though it happened in modern times during the television and radio age. The story probably made the national news at the time, but have you ever heard of the Clinchport flood? Unless you're from my neck of the woods, I'm willing to bet you haven't. Thousands of years from now you won't find legends cropping up about the Clinchport flood. You won't find that the story of the Clinchport flood has grown from a regional disaster into a worldwide catastrophe myth. Why then should we believe that a local flood in Noah's time would have turned into a story of such great proportions? It wouldn't have. It didn't. 

If you have the time, try googling something like "evidence for Noah's flood" and you will find articles that support a worldwide flood and articles that scoff at the idea, but it's some worthwhile reading and there is too much material online that backs up the story of Noah's flood for me to include here in our study. For the most part, the more we learn about biology and archaeology and geology, the more we find evidence supporting the stories included in the Bible. The Bible is about real people, real places, and real events. Most of all, the Bible is about a real God who is personally involved in all of our lives---a God who wants to know us and be known by us.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 34, The Flood, Part One

"Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah." (Genesis 7:6-9) Noah and his family didn't have to go out looking for these animals to herd them onto the ark. The Lord spoke to the animals and they obeyed. Out of everything the Lord created, only man has ever chosen to be rebellious. Everything else in creation does exactly what God tells it to do.

"And after seven days the floodwaters came on the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month---on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights." (Genesis 7:10-12) In Genesis 1 the earth was covered with water and God created large areas of dry land by drawing some of the water up into the atmosphere and by using the water left on earth to create oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams. Here in Genesis 7 the Lord allows the water in the atmosphere to fall like rain and He allows underground streams to burst forth and geysers to shoot water out of the ground. The Bible doesn't tell us exactly what caused the underground waters to come rushing to the surface but it may have been due to seismic upheavals.

"On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord shut him in." (Genesis 7:13-16) One commentary I consulted points out that in the original language, "Then the Lord shut him in," is literally, "The Lord encompassed him round about." This is divine protection. All Noah had to do was get on board the ark; the Lord Himself shut the door and sealed it against the waters.

I think when we reach heaven we are going to be astonished to learn just how many times in our lives the Lord encompassed us round about. Sometimes it's evident to us when He diverts harm from us, like when we narrowly miss being in a bad traffic accident or when we are expecting bad news from a medical report and get good news instead. But I think the Lord actively protects us every day from things we don't even know are a threat to us. I think He lines up events all around us so as to give us those few extra seconds we need to completely avoid a catastrophe. I think He corrects cellular mutations in our bodies that threaten to turn into diseases. If it's not our time to go, God isn't going to allow our bodies to break down on us. In the unseen world, spiritual warfare goes on all the time because Satan hates the children of God and he would love to attack us in any way he can, but unless allowing a particular trial into our lives is going to accomplish something worthwhile for us, God shuts down the schemes of our enemy. I believe that when we fully realize, in the presence of our God, how many thousands or even millions of times He's provided divine protection for us, we are going to fall to our knees in awe and thanks.

I'm reminded right now of a time when the Lord encompassed me round about and kept me safe. Some years ago I used to drive an older model Honda. I couldn't park it in the garage because right then it was still packed with things my mother-in-law hadn't yet taken with her when she moved out of state. I went out to my car one clear morning after there had been some sleet followed by light snow the night before. My doors were all frozen shut. It was a four-door car but none of them would open. I went round and round it for some time trying to figure out what to do. It isn't until about midday when the sun hits my driveway and I knew I couldn't wait for that to happen or else I'd miss the whole morning of work. As it was, I was a little late already. Finally, while standing there in exasperation, the front passenger side door suddenly made a loud popping sound and visibly opened outward by just a fraction of an inch. I climbed in from the passenger side, started the car, and headed down the steep road out of my neighborhood. When I got near the last section of the road, I hit a patch of ice. Everything on the car locked up. I was unable to steer it or brake it or stop it, so the car slid straight on through the stop sign at the bottom of the hill and all the way to the middle lane of the four-lane highway. I think I was screaming the whole time. Usually when I leave for work the highway is covered with traffic. But remember, I was late for work because all my doors had been frozen shut. There was not a single vehicle on the highway when I made my terrifying journey across it. Do I believe the Lord shut the doors of my car because He knew there was a slick spot at the bottom of the hill and because He knew my aging car would careen out of control? Do I believe the Lord popped one of my car doors open at the precise second in time that would allow me to arrive at the bottom of my hill at the very moment when the highway would be empty? You bet I do! He shut me safely out of that car just as surely as He shut Noah safely into the ark.

If you are a child of God then He encompasses you round about. He isn't going to allow anything into your life that doesn't fit within His will for your life. Yes, it's possible for us (because we have free will) to make wrong decisions that get us into trouble, but in those cases we are bringing the harm onto ourselves. But every day the Lord is surrounding us with divine protection. He's diverting disasters we didn't even know were coming for us. He's fixing things in our bodies we didn't even know were going wrong. He's fighting spiritual battles on our behalf. King David, who was the victim of a number of evil schemes and plots during his lifetime, realized that we don't always know when we are in danger. Some frightful situations are obvious; some are not. So he wrote Psalm 140 asking the Lord to protect him from wicked plans and thanking the Lord for all the times He had already protected him, saying, "Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, You shield my head in the day of battle." (Psalm 140:7)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 33, Instructions For Bringing The Animals Onto The Ark

The Lord restates His intention to bring the great flood. "I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish My covenant with you, and you will enter the ark---you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you." (Genesis 6:17-18) God makes a covenant with man before the flood. Later on in Genesis we find God making a covenant with the animals after the flood. As an animal lover it makes me happy knowing that God makes and keeps promises not only to humans but to animals as well.

Now the Lord reveals His plan for preserving the animal kingdom. "You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive." (Genesis 6:19-20) The Lord previously sent the animals to Adam so he could name them in Genesis 2:19. Now He's going to send animals to Noah so they can survive the flood. I am sure the Lord selected the best and healthiest examples from each species. Noah didn't have to worry that any of the animals on the ark would be suffering from diseases or be incapable of reproducing. The Lord knew every cell in the body of every creature He made. He knew exactly which animals to send to Noah based on the genetic traits He wanted them to be able to pass on.

Noah has to store up supplies to feed himself, his family, and all the animals who will inhabit the ark. "You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them. Noah did everything just as God commanded him." (Genesis 6:21-22) Noah obeyed the Lord, but the people living around him on the earth did not, not even when they witnessed the remarkable sight of animals lining up in an orderly fashion to enter the ark. They thought Noah was a madman so they discounted his warnings, but it seems to me that the sight of all these animals joining in with the "madness" might have given them pause. You'd think they would have begun to wonder whether Noah was right after all. But nothing fazed them. I think their hearts were so hard that they were the type of people Jesus was referring to when He said, "They will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." (Luke 16:31b) Nothing was going to convince the people of Noah's generation because they didn't want to be convinced. In Noah's day and in our own day and in all the centuries in between, there have been people who "did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God". (Romans 1:28)

"The Lord then said to Noah, 'Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation." (Genesis 7:1) Noah wasn't perfect, but he had faith, and faith is what saves souls. Faith often saves lives too, as it did in the case of Noah and his family.

"Take with you seven pairs of every clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth." (Genesis 7:2-3) We tend to think just two of each type of animal went onto the ark, but here we are provided more detail about the numbers. The Lord wants the clean animals (animals He is going to allow humans to eat after the flood) to reproduce much faster than the unclean animals (animals He will forbid people to eat). So He instructs Noah to take seven pairs of the clean animals and only one pair of each unclean animal. If you're interested in taking a look at the list of clean and unclean animals, a detailed passage can be found in Leviticus 11.

"Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made. And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him." (Genesis 7:4-5) The people on the ark will be safe. The creatures on the ark will be safe. The creatures in the rivers and seas will be safe. It's only the humans and animals on the land who will be "wiped from the face of the earth".

The Lord is giving the people of the earth an extra week to repent. I have a feeling that Noah did the most fervent and impassioned preaching of his life during that week. But still no one repented. During his most intense preaching, I bet the people did their most intense mocking. But I doubt anything was on Noah's mind but how heartbroken he was for these lost souls. Their need was so urgent, and the flood was so imminent, that the laughter and jokes and disrespect of the people didn't discourage him in the slightest.

If we don't feel the same sense of urgency for the lost people around us, something is wrong with our relationship with the Lord. It should break our hearts that people are rejecting the Lord. In rejecting Him, they are rejecting everything that is best for them in the here and now and in the hereafter. When people don't want to hear our testimonies about the Lord and when they scoff at the gospel, we need to be thick-skinned enough to keep from taking it personally and becoming offended and discouraged. It's not us they are rejecting; it is Almighty God they are rejecting. It's not our message they are laughing at; it's the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ they are scorning. I think that's the attitude Noah had and I think that's why he was able to preach to a lost generation for so many years and why he kept on doing it during the last week before the flood. He didn't want anyone to perish. God Himself didn't want anyone to perish. But men and women choose their own destinies, and sadly, some choose to perish by rejecting the Lord. But that doesn't relieve you and me of our responsibility to be a living testimony to the power of Christ. That doesn't give us a free pass to stop sharing the gospel whenever we can. And if we notice our hearts aren't broken for lost people as they should be, we need to pray to the Lord to make our hearts more like His. When people see that we honestly care about them, they are going to be more receptive to the One whom we serve.

Friday, October 25, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 32, Instructions For Building The Ark

In Thursday's passage the Lord delivered some bad news to Noah. He said, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them." When the Lord said "all people", Noah---to whom He is speaking---is excluded. The Lord intends to spare Noah because Noah walks faithfully with Him. We don't know how faithful Noah's family may or may not have been, but the Lord is going to spare their lives too. He's going to give Noah instructions for creating a vessel in which he and his family can ride out the storm.

This family survives only because of Noah's faith in and obedience to God. He could have said, "Lord, I don't understand what this 'rain' is that you're talking about. It's hard for be to believe that such a thing is really going to happen. I've never seen rain and I can't imagine what it would even look like. And I know that the people of this earth have become indescribably wicked, but I just can't make myself believe that You'd actually destroy them." If Noah had said such a thing he would have doomed himself and probably his family too. Salvation is always by faith, whether we're talking about salvation from the great flood or whether we're talking about salvation from our sins. God makes the offer to save us, but it's up to us to accept or not. It takes faith to accept God's offer, and Noah had that faith. Because he has that type of faith, God provides him with instructions for making the ark.

"So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out." (Genesis 6:14) The ark was made of very durable wood and it was coated with pitch inside and out to make it waterproof.

"This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high." (Genesis 6:15) If we translate these cubits into feet, most scholars calculate that the ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. This means the dimensions of the ark were 1,518,750 cubit feet! To put the size into perspective, the first ship that was manufactured for pleasure cruising (the Prinzessin Victoria Luise) was 406 feet long and 52 feet wide, so the ark was actually quite a bit larger. The ark was not engineered for sailing but for floating; therefore it needed no engine and probably no type of steerage equipment. Since it was not designed to entertain people, it required no buffet restaurants, lounges, theaters, swimming pools, casinos, exercise rooms, or promenade decks. All of the space on the ark was usable for its intended purpose: to save enough people to continue the human race and to save enough of each species of animal to continue the species.

"Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks." (Genesis 6:16) Three story commercial buildings are usually built with 15 feet allowed per story, which allows room in between each floor for things like electric conduits, plumping pipes, and heating and air vents. This means a three story office building is about 45 feet tall, just like the ark, so clearly Noah's ark was large enough to contain three stories, just as the Lord instructed him.

Some critics of the Bible have scoffed at the idea that the ark was big enough to preserve every species of animal. But if we translate the cubit feet of the ark into standard size railroad cars, the ark could have held as many animals as 522 railroad cars. If we saw a train pass by with 522 railroad cars attached, and if every car was packed with as many animals as it could comfortably and humanely hold, I think we'd conclude that there was definitely enough space on the ark to contain enough animals to continue the line of each species. Remember, animal life wasn't as varied and diverse as it is today. For example, the canine species may have been represented on the ark by one pair of wolves. It is man who selectively bred canines in such a way as to create all the breeds we know today. There were no Dachshunds on the ark like my little dog. There were no Golden Retrievers or Bulldogs. There was probably just a pair of wolves and perhaps also a pair of hyenas or coyotes or whatever other canine species may have existed in the beginning. Some scientists estimate that in Noah's day only a few thousand distinct species actually existed. God created these species and then man, through selectively breeding together animals whose DNA was close enough for them to successfully mate and produce offspring, created the diversity we see on the earth today.

If the animals on the ark were juveniles and not fully grown animals, even less space would be needed to contain all of them. One commentary I consulted suggests that the ark could have easily held over 200,000 sheep with plenty of room left over for humans, food, tools, and all other needed survival equipment. A sheep is a mid-sized animal. Many of the ark animals would have been a great deal smaller than sheep, such as mice, squirrels, rabbits, cats, dogs, raccoons, and so on. Some would have been larger, like horses and cows. A few species would have been extra large, like elephants and giraffes. But by putting the size of the ark and the size of the animal kingdom of that time into perspective, we see that the scoffers are incorrect. The ark could and did contain enough space to house enough animals to continue these species on the earth after the floodwaters subsided.

We have accepted the word of God in the Bible on faith. God says He sent a great flood on the earth and that He saved the human race and the animal kingdom by having Noah build an ark. We believe these things because we trust God. But isn't it also nice when modern science backs up what the Bible says? Some people are only going to come to faith because there is a source outside of the Bible that supports what the Bible says. As we become more advanced in science and medicine, and as we discover more and more about the ancient world through archaeology and geology, we are finding that instead of disproving anything in the Bible, these sciences actually support what the Bible says. In our study today we have seen that a ship the size of the ark really could have contained and kept alive enough animals to continue the animal kingdom on earth. This is what it was designed to do and it performed its job perfectly. God knew exactly how the ark should be built in order to serve its purpose and, because He does all things well, it did precisely what He said it would do. God doesn't make mistakes. God doesn't lie either. We can fully and confidently place our trust in everything He says to us in His holy word.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 31, All About Noah

We concluded yesterday's passage with this information, "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." Today we take some time to learn more about who this man Noah was.

"This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God." (Genesis 6:9) Noah wasn't perfect, but righteousness is accredited to him because of his faith. In the same way, the Bible tells us that righteousness was accredited to Abraham because of his faith. (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3) When we arrive at the account of Abraham's life, it will be clear to us that he wasn't a perfect man, but his faith in the Lord is what saved him. The same could be said of us all. As long as we live in frail human bodies we are going to make mistakes, but the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ is imputed to us for our faith in Him. Our salvation doesn't come through our own good deeds or efforts to obtain righteousness by human means, which the prophet Isaiah says is like wearing filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), but by being clothed with the righteousness of Christ. "For by grace we have been saved by faith, not by works." (Ephesians 2:8) It is faith that pleases the Lord and causes Him to accredit us with righteousness, for without faith "it is impossible to please God". (Hebrews 11:6)

So Noah wasn't a sinless man, but compared to the people of his day whose thoughts were "evil all the time" (Genesis 6:5) he was a shining example of godliness. He walked faithfully with his God. You can't walk with someone unless you keep in step with them. This is what Noah was doing, keeping in step with God, maintaining communication with Him every day, consulting Him about every aspect of his life. Noah walked so closely with the Lord and was so used to talking to and hearing from the Lord in prayer that when the Lord warned him of the coming flood, he immediately took the action he was instructed to take. "By faith Noah, being warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family." (Hebrews 11:7a)

Has the Lord ever warned you about something? There have been times when I've felt very troubled in spirit about certain situations and certain people. I wasn't sure what was wrong but something seemed "off". Several times I shrugged off those feelings, to my own regret. The older I get and the longer I've been in the faith the quicker I am to just be obedient to these warnings. I don't always know what's wrong with a particular situation or with forming a close friendship with certain people, but I don't have to know why the Lord is warning me to steer clear. If the Lord is telling me to keep my distance it's because He knows something I don't. I've encountered bitter betrayal by not heeding His warning about hanging around with certain people who appeared to be genuine friends but who actually had selfish hidden motives. I've made decisions that weren't right for my life and have had to deal with the mess and regret that resulted from not obeying the Lord. When we feel the Lord saying to our spirit, "Watch out!" the best thing we can do is immediately obey.

We don't know the world population of Noah's day, but he alone and his family will be saved from the great flood that is soon to come. Out of everyone living on the earth in those days, he alone was honoring and serving the Lord. It didn't take many generations for the world population to descend into lawlessness and depravity. "Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways." (Genesis 6:11-12)

What exactly were these people doing? The Bible doesn't give us the specifics. But imagine if everyone in the world were godless and violent. In a situation like that, pretty much anything goes. If a person wanted something that someone else had, he took it by force. Sexual immorality is bad enough in our own day, but at least we have laws in place to prosecute those convicted of rape or child molestation. Imagine a society where no one is going to punish anyone for anything. If a man stronger than you wants to sleep with your wife, he's going to beat you up or kill you so he can sexually assault your wife. If a person is a pedophile, there is no courtroom in which he or she can be convicted and sentenced to prison. The only retribution a child molester has to fear is that the child's family will come after him. But suppose a person wants to abuse his or her own children or beat his own wife? Who is going to stop him? I think in Noah's day the people of the earth had the attitude that it was "every man for himself". If you wanted something, you took it, even if it belonged to another person. It was survival of the fittest, with the strong exploiting the weak. People were beating their employees if they made a mistake. People were killing each other over petty arguments. People were preying on each other in every way possible as they fell deeper and deeper into every kind of depravity. No matter what we imagine in our minds, I believe it was even worse than we think. We've never had to live in a society where there weren't laws and penalties, and yet there is a great deal of violence and immorality in our society. A society where no one is accountable to anyone else would be like hell on earth, and I think that's what the world was like in Noah's time.

"So God said to Noah, 'I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.'" (Genesis 6:13) God is going to commission Noah to build the ark and it will take him and his sons a long time to build it. During those years the Lord is giving the people of the world a chance to repent. If any of them had repented, they too would have found safety on the ark. If a revival had broken out and many many people had repented and turned to the Lord, I think the Lord would have called off the flood. But during the years Noah built the ark, he preached the word of the Lord to the people and they did not listen. We know he preached the word of God because the Apostle Peter tells us that Noah was a "preacher of righteousness". (2 Peter 2:5) Everyone was aware that Noah was building the ark for a flood he said the Lord told him was coming, even though it had never yet rained on the earth. Everyone was talking about Noah, this "crazy man" who believed water was going to fall from the sky and flood the world and kill everyone who didn't love the Lord. The world population was not spread out enough at this time to prevent everyone from hearing about Noah and the huge ship he was building. No doubt people came to see it and to laugh at him while he warned them they were sinners who needed to repent.

I can't help wondering how difficult it may have been for Noah to keep getting up every morning to work on the ark and to preach to everyone who showed up to gawk at him. But Noah, this man of faith, kept on keeping on. That's what faith enables us to do. When we know we are obeying the Lord, people may laugh at us or talk about us behind our backs, but knowing that we are in the Lord's will is going to give us the strength to continue. I'd rather be right with my God than be right with the world. There is no safer place than to be smack dab in the middle of the Lord's will. Being in the Lord's will won't always be easy. In fact, it's often harder than taking the sinful route and going with the flow. We are going to face opposition from unbelievers and even from the devil himself when we are committed to obeying the Lord. But when we walk faithfully with our God, we have all the power and strength and support of the Holy One behind us. And if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 30, Who Were The Nephilim?

Just as the identity of the "sons of God" is sometimes a controversial subject, so is the subject of who the Nephilim were in our passage today. We will take a look at the text and then discuss it.

After the "sons of God" married with the "daughters of humans", the Lord makes a statement. "Then the Lord said, 'My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.'" (Genesis 6:3) This shortening of the human lifespan doesn't happen overnight, but in the Old Testament we gradually find the human lifespan decreasing. For example, many of the men in the genealogy from Adam to Noah lived nearly a thousand years, but by the time we get to Moses we will learn he only lived 120 years. Eventually lifespans will decrease even more until living to about the age of 70 is the norm in the Bible. King David died at the age of 70. Due to good medical care and access to clean water and nutritious food, people in our day in highly developed countries are once again living into their 90s and to over 100. Two of my great-aunts who passed in recent years were aged 106 and 101. Several of my other great-aunts and great-uncles lived to be in their 90s. My late mother's only living sibling is about 96 right now. So we see that due to modern technology we have managed to gain some ground and are coming close to regaining a 120 year lifespan, but without the advances we've made in science our lifespans would be closer to what the people of King David's era were familiar with.

"The Nephilim were on the earth in those days---and also afterward---when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown." (Genesis 6:4) Some versions of the Bible render the word "nephilim" as "giants". This ancient Hebrew word has proven difficult to satisfactorily translate, but I feel that "giants" is the best rendering of it after consulting a number of commentaries. Some scholars feel the root of this word is the Hebrew "naphal" which means "fallen". But other scholars disagree with this theory, although it could be argued that the "sons of God", if indeed they were angels who mingled with human women, were fallen. They did something they were never intended to do. They may represent a small portion of the third of the angels who followed Satan in his rebellion and if so then they are likely the group of fallen angels to which the Lord's brother Jude refers when he says they have been locked in chains ever since, awaiting judgment day.

There are scholars who don't believe the Nephilim (believed to be the offspring of fallen angels and human women) were literal giants but that the word is used as a reference to great and highly respected men who performed amazing deeds. The problem with this is that the Bible clearly states that there were literal giants on the earth. References to these extra tall humans can be found in the Scriptures all the way up through the book of 1 Chronicles. In some cases their actual size is noted in the Bible. They appear to die out from the earth as time goes on until eventually we don't see them mentioned anymore. Gigantism in modern times is almost always caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland that causes the growth hormones to remain turned on past the point of adulthood, resulting in a human being who is unnaturally large. I don't believe that's what the giants of the Bible were afflicted with, since gigantism in the Bible appears to be a genetic trait that was passed down the line until this particular trait became too weak to keep reproducing itself. Scientists have found a mutated gene that is the cause of the cases of genetic gigantism of modern times, though in our day it's not common to find anyone with gigantism that compares to the size of the giants in the Bible, but it's not at all unrealistic to believe that in ancient times there was a genetic cause for the extreme cases of gigantism. The Bible indicates that this genetic cause was that the "sons of God" mated with human women.

In verse 4 of our passage today the Bible tells us that these giants were on the earth before the flood and also afterwards. We know that only Noah, his wife, his three sons, and his three sons' wives were saved from the great flood. Someone on the ark had to be carrying the genetic material of those known as the Nephilim. It has been proposed by some scholars that the genetic material came from the family lines of the women Noah's sons married. It's impossible for us to know for sure, but the Bible indicates that these giants were just as mortal as any other creature. For example, David killed the Philistine giant known as Goliath with a well-aimed stone from his slingshot. So I don't believe the giants survived the flood physically. But the genetic material that caused there to be giants on the earth survived the flood in the DNA of at least one person on the ark.

This intermingling of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of humans" is somehow responsible for the rapid and monstrous decline of morality and godliness on the earth. "The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that He had made human beings on the earth, and His heart was deeply troubled." (Genesis 6:5-6) It's not that the Lord didn't know how the human race was going to turn out. But that doesn't mean He wasn't grieved by it. There are things in our lives that we know ahead of time are going to work out in a particular way, yet this knowledge doesn't ease our sorrow.

"So the Lord said, 'I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created---and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground---for I regret that I have made them.'" (Genesis 6:7) As we said earlier in our study of Genesis and in our study of Revelation earlier this year, the animal kingdom became the collateral damage of man's fall from grace. Man's sin is not their fault, but because they inhabit the earth with man they have been affected by everything man does. In order to have kept from destroying most of the animal kingdom in the flood, the Lord would have had to supernaturally remove them from the earth somehow to keep them out of the flood. Instead He allows the majority of them to perish with the human beings who perished. We don't know how the wicked people of the world, whose thoughts were "only evil all the time", were treating the animals. We have no idea what life was like for the animal kingdom in those days. It could be that perishing in the flood was a more merciful fate for these animals than allowing them to perish and/or go extinct at the hands of sinful man.

Our portion of Scripture today has been serious and sad, but it closes on a hopeful note. "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." (Genesis 6:8) Why did he find favor with God? Because in tomorrow's passage we will be told that he "walked faithfully with God". Not only did Noah's faith save him, but it saved his whole family too and---by extension---the human race. Yet it is only Noah, out of his whole family, who is credited with walking faithfully with God. The reason this ought to give us hope is that the Lord so often does miraculous things for our loved ones because we are faithful to Him. Later when we study the life of Abraham we will find that the main reason the Lord spared Abraham's nephew Lot is because of Abraham's faith. The reason the Lord sometimes does great things for people is not because those people are walking faithfully with Him, but because someone who walks faithfully with Him interceded for them in prayer. This ought to comfort us regarding family members and friends who don't know the Lord. This ought to encourage us to keep praying that they will come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord hears the prayers of the faithful and "His ears are attentive to their cry". (Psalm 34:15) Keep praying for that lost person. Keep asking the Lord to keep them alive and safe so they don't leave this world before placing their trust in the Savior. There is much value in intercessory prayers prayed by the faithful, for the Bible tells us, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16b)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 29, The Sons Of God. Part Two

We have been studying the identity of those known as the "sons of God" in Genesis 6. The Bible says that they married "daughters of humans", as if the sons of God are something other than human. Yesterday we discussed the theory that these are angels. This is one of the most widely held beliefs regarding the identity of these creatures. But today we will take a look at a few other theories.

Some scholars propose that the sons of God are the descendants of Seth because his is the line from which the Messiah would come. These scholars think that the male descendants of Seth intermarried with the female descendants of Cain. If the descendants of Cain were not followers of the Lord, we can see why intermarriage with them could cause problems. The Bible warns believers not to marry with or form close alliances with unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 6:14) In Exodus 34 the Lord told Moses that He was going to drive the idolaters from the land which He had promised to Israel and that the Israelites were not to make military alliances with these people or intermarry with them. This is because the Lord knew that many of the Israelites would be drawn into idolatry if they mixed closely with the pagans of Canaan. If the line of Seth intermarried with the line of Cain, this could be considered yet another attempt of Satan to corrupt the human race to the point that God would be done with them. This would mean the Messiah---the King of kings and Lord of lords---would never come. Because Satan hates God, he wants to try and thwart the plans of God at every turn in the hopes he can someday laugh in His face and declare the creation of the human race a total failure. But God is going to have the last laugh. Even though the corruption that occurred from the mixing of the "sons of God" with the "daughters of humans" was severe enough to cause God to bring the great flood upon the earth, He still preserved the human race.

Another theory of some scholars is that the term "sons of God" simply refers to great leaders of old, men of high position and influence. They believe these men mixed with common pagan women, causing the men to fall away from their relationship with God. Because of their great influence and because of the respect they commanded, they drew others into idolatry with them. The Bible will say in Genesis 6:4 that the children born to the "sons of God" and the "daughters of humans" were "the heroes of old, men of renown". Due to the extended lifespans of people during this era, a man who was held in very high esteem could easily lead people in the wrong direction, so perhaps these "heroes" inspired so much hero worship that people followed them into sin. Or perhaps they are referred to as heroes and men of renown because they engaged in the magic arts. It's possible they used sleight of hand and the demonic powers of the occult in order to deceive those around them.

One theory I came across, which struck me as unlikely, is that the sons of God are human men who are possessed by demons and that they dragged their wives and children down into the mire with them. But the minority of scholars who propose this theory can't explain why the Bible would describe demon possessed men as the "sons of God" and there is nothing in the Bible to explain to us how so many men who lived near the dawn of creation came to be possessed in the first place.

Lastly, and only because it's become such a widespread theme of a number of popular TV shows, there are groups who claim the sons of God were aliens. I've watched some of these shows and they try to throw a little Scripture into the mix but most of it is from apocryphal and pseudoepigraphical books, not books that made it into the accepted canon of the Bible. They also take verses from the Holy Bible (the 66 books that most of us are familiar with) and leave parts out or add parts in to make these verses fit with their theory. For example, they leave out a good part of Ezekiel's description of his vision of seeing God enthroned, and they make it sound like God appeared to Ezekiel in a spaceship. When Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind without dying, the ancient alien theorists say he was beamed up to the mother ship. Fun as it may be sometimes to think about or joke about aliens, there is no Scriptural evidence that God created intelligent life anywhere other than on the earth. God is certainly great enough to create thousands of populated earthlike planets, but it is only our own planet that the Lord Jesus Christ will someday rule over from the throne of David at Jerusalem. How can we reconcile this with the idea of many other populated planets in the universe? The only way we could is if the beings on those planets are not capable of sin. If they were, then Christ would have had to go to each planet and die for the sins of every world in order to redeem them. And the Bible simply doesn't support such a notion. Instead the Bible says God has only one Son and that the Son died once to redeem forever all who believe in Him. As large as our universe is, there may be an untold number of planets capable of supporting intelligent life, but this doesn't mean there is intelligent life on those planets. The existence of planets suitable for life doesn't necessitate the creation of life to populate those planets.

I look forward to the day when we are in the presence of our Lord and He explains to us all the mysteries we didn't understand while we lived in the flesh on this earth. For this life, God has explained to us everything we need to know in order to acknowledge that we are sinners in need of the Savior. This is the primary focus of the Bible. This is the purpose for which it was written. There are things contained in the Bible that we don't entirely understand, but those are things that don't stand in the way of our salvation. They are interesting to think about, but they aren't going to make or break our faith. The Bible reveals to us all we need to know in order to come to a saving faith in Christ and to love Him and to enjoy knowing He loves us and wants to help us. The Apostle Paul stated that without this love in our lives, all the knowledge in the world doesn't mean a thing. "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2)

Monday, October 21, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 28, The Sons Of God, Part One

As we begin Chapter 6 we take a look at one of the most mysterious statements contained in the Bible. "When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose." (Genesis 6:1-2)

The way this passage is worded indicates that the "sons of god" are different and distinct from the "daughters of humans". But in what way? And how, as we will see before long in Genesis 6, did marriage between the two groups cause mankind to become so wicked that God brought the great flood?

We find a clue in the book of Job, a book of the Bible that is so old that many scholars believe it was composed well before Genesis. It is thought that Job may have been a contemporary of Abraham, which means he was born long before Moses who is believed to be the author of Genesis. Job 1:6 says, "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them." I have quoted from the KJV because many modern versions of the Bible render "sons of god" as "angels". Personally I feel that the term "sons of God" does represent angels. Job 1 seems to indicate that the angels must periodically present themselves to God and give an accounting of their work, for in the same passage we find the Lord asking Satan what he's been up to and Satan boldly replies that he's been "roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it". (Job 1:7b)

There is a passage in the book of Jude that may correspond to our passage in Genesis today. Jude says that a group of angels committed such a heinous crime that they have been imprisoned ever since as they await the great judgment. Jude says, "And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling---these He has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day." (Jude 1:6) What is it about this passage that makes us think it may be a reference to the "sons of God" of Genesis 6? Because Jude's statement about these particular angels is found in a passage dealing with sexual immorality. The behavior of this group of angels appears to be closely linked with sexual sins.

If some of the angels of God intermarried with human women, they were violating the purpose for which they were created. The Bible tells us that the purpose of angels is to be "ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation". (Hebrews 1:14) If some of the angels mixed with human women, they were interfering with the human race. This may have been a plot of Satan to corrupt the human race so irrevocably that God would wipe them from the face of the earth. Satan hates God. Satan wants to be God. But if Satan can't have what he wants, he thinks the next best thing would be to deprive God of something He wants---and God wants man to exist. Not only does God want man to exist, but God wants to save the souls of man in spite of man's sin and rebellion. It's easy to see why Satan would attack the human race in an effort to strike a blow to God. In interfering with the human race, Satan is harming the creatures the Lord holds most dear.

Have you ever noticed that every angel mentioned in the Scriptures is referred to as a male? When angels appear to people in the Bible, they appear in the form of human males in order to interact with humans. There are no female angels in the Bible. This may be because there are no female angels at all. I know we see a lot of female angels represented in artwork, but the Bible provides no basis for believing that female angels even exist. If they are all male, and if they have actual physical bodies or can assume the form of an actual physical body, then it's not impossible to believe that some of the angels who rebelled against the Lord were able to marry and procreate with human women.

There is a problem with this theory in that the Lord Jesus said, "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." (Matthew 22:30) Angels were never intended to marry. The angels who remained faithful to the Lord and who are in heaven serving Him do not marry. Does this mean that no angels ever married humans or does it mean that the angels in heaven (those who didn't rebel against God and violate His laws) do not marry? It's difficult to say. Bible scholars who reject the theory that the "sons of God" are angels often use this verse from Matthew to back up their opinion. We don't know whether Jesus was saying that it's impossible for any angel to marry or whether He was saying that none of the angels who remained in heaven (who did not follow Satan when he rebelled against God, for we are told in the book of Revelation that a third of the angels decided to give their allegiance to the devil) are able to marry or want to marry?

Our two verses of Genesis today provides us with a great deal of food for thought. What these verses mean has been hotly debated throughout the centuries. These verses have even been adopted by the growing fringe group known as the "ancient alien theorists" in order to back up their claim that aliens came to earth and mated with human women. The Bible simply doesn't provide us with enough details about the identity of the "sons of God" for us to come to any firm conclusion. Perhaps back in the day when books like Genesis and Job and Jude were written in the original languages, the readers understood what was meant. But in our day we struggle to understand what might have been a very simple statement when it was first written.

Join us tomorrow as we look at some alternate theories about who the "sons of God" may have been.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 27, From Adam To Noah, Part Two

We are picking up where we left off yesterday in the genealogy from Adam to Noah. We were told that Adam had a son named Seth. The Bible says, "When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years, and then he died." (Genesis 5:6-8) It could be that children matured more slowly in the beginning than they do now, since in today's world a male is capable of fathering a child in his teens but the males in this genealogy list don't father their first child until they are much much older.

"When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lives 815 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enosh lived a total of 905 years, and then he died." (Genesis 5:9-11)

"When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. After he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Kenan lived a total of 895 years, and then he died." (Genesis 5:12-14)

"When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared. After he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Mahalalel lived a total of 895 years, and then he died." (Genesis 5:15-17)

"When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died." (Genesis 5:18-20)

Now we come to something particularly interesting. "When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away." (Genesis 5:21-24) If this were the only Bible passage about Enoch, we wouldn't be certain what happened to him. The Bible doesn't say he died, but we might assume that because he lived a life so closely connected with the Lord that the Lord chose to phrase his death in a different way, by saying that He "took him away". But according to Hebrews 11:5, Enoch didn't die. "By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: 'He could not be found, because God had taken him away.' For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God." God literally swept Enoch off the earth and took him to heaven.

This isn't the only instance in the Bible of a person going to heaven without dying. The prophet Elijah also was taken up to be with God without having to experience death. (See 2 Kings 2, and especially 2 Kings 2:11-12) Enoch and Elijah aren't the only two human beings who will ever be taken to heaven without experiencing death. When what is known as the "rapture" of the church occurs, Christ will call out of the world those who belong to Him---both the living and the dead. Those who have already died in faith will be resurrected in bodies like Christ's and caught up to be with the Lord. Those who are still alive will also be caught up, and in that instant their bodies will be miraculously changed into immortal bodies like Christ's. (See 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) If we are still living when the Lord calls His church out of the world, we too will go to heaven without experiencing death.

"When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died." (Genesis 5:25-27) Methuselah holds the honor of being the longest-living man of the Bible. This is where we get the expression "old as Methuselah".

"When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, 'He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.' After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died." (Genesis 5:28-31) In Hebrew the word "noah" sounds very similar to the word "nuach" which means to "rest, repose, be comforted". Ever since Adam sinned, man has had to labor hard in order to put food on the table every day. But Lamech finds consolation in his hard labor by the presence of his firstborn son. Having this son makes his hard work more bearable, and I'm sure those of you who are parents can relate to what Lamech is saying. You work hard to provide for your children. You consider all your hard work worth it in order to give your children as comfortable a life as possible. You want your children to have everything they need, plus you want to supply more than just their needs; you want to be able to supply a lot of their wants as well. Having this son to provide for gives more meaning and purpose to Lamech's hard labor on the earth.

"After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth." (Genesis 5:32) Noah either remained a bachelor for a very long time or else he and his wife were unable to conceive for the first several centuries of their marriage. He was childless for almost the entire remainder of his father's life, so I wonder whether he didn't marry until quite late because he remained in the family home to co-manage the family farm with his father. I just have the feeling that he and his father enjoyed an especially good friendship with each other, and my feeling is based on the author of Genesis taking special care to tell us the words Lamech said upon the birth of his first son. He said (most likely to his wife) that Noah would "comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands". This leads me to believe that Noah was his father's right hand man. I think they labored hard together to make a living. I think they were partners in all their endeavors to provide for the family. Then perhaps, as Lamech grew old and his death was less than a century away, he either advised Noah or Noah decided for himself that it was time to think about making his own family. I don't know whether things actually happened this way, but I like to think they did because I like to think of Lamech and Noah being not only father and son but best friends as well. Lamech was thankful that God provided this son for him and I believe that Lamech taught his son about the Lord. He must have done a wonderful job, for Noah is going to be a man of whom it will be said: "He walked faithfully with God." (Genesis 5:9)

Saturday, October 19, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 26, From Adam To Noah, Part One

We are going to take a look at genealogy today as we begin to study the family line from Adam down to Noah.

"This is the written account of Adam's family line. When God created mankind, He made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And He named them 'mankind' when they were created." (Genesis 5:1-2) The Lord blessed Adam and Eve and told them to multiply and be fruitful. Some scholars estimate that by the time of Noah there could have been hundreds of thousands or even millions of people inhabiting the earth. Considering the extra long lifespans of humans in the pre-flood era, and considering there were no methods of birth control other than abstinence, and considering that people appeared to remain fertile for extended periods of time, the estimate of the earth's population being in the millions is not unreasonable. I hate to think there were millions of wicked people on the earth who perished in the great flood because they had turned their backs on the Lord to live in violence and depravity, but that very well may be the case. If so it's no wonder the Lord "regretted that He had made human beings on the earth". (Genesis 6:6)

We don't know at what age Adam and Eve first began to have children, but it wasn't until Adam was 130 years old that the son was born from whose line the Messiah would someday come. "When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image, and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died." (Genesis 5:3-5) A lot of people have tried to claim that the "years" in Genesis don't mean actual years, but I see no reason to doubt that when the author of Genesis says "years" he means years. The Bible is not the only source for evidence of extended lifespans in the early years of man's sojourn on earth. The Sumerian King List, an ancient stone document that includes the reigns of eight kings who ruled prior to the flood, states that these kings had unusually long lifespans and reigns. The lifespans attributed to them are far longer than those listed in Genesis, and there is likely some error in translation since it doesn't seem possible for anyone to have lived for several thousand years, but still we find evidence here that there was something different about the earth and about man's life on the earth before the great flood.

How and why did people live so long prior to the flood? One theory is that it's because the Lord created the bodies of human beings with the capability of living forever. If Adam and Eve had not eaten the fruit of the forbidden tree, they never would have died. When they sinned against God, the pollution of sin entered the world. It affected the bodies of every living creature, including humans. It affected plant life, for the Lord told Adam that the ground was now "cursed" because of sin. It probably affected the entire environment of earth, but the changes would have been somewhat gradual. If we think of sin as a pollutant that affects everything on the earth, then it would have taken some time to permeate every aspect of life. This could explain why lifespans were so long at first and why they decreased over time until they reached the level we are familiar with today.

Another potential---and practical---reason for extra long lifespans in the beginning is that they were needed in order to populate the earth quickly. Imagine how much more slowly this would have happened if each person only lived to be eighty to a hundred years old and if the females became infertile around age fifty as is typical today. 

Disease was not rampant in the early world. The closer a person lived to the dawn of time, the fewer germs and bacteria and viruses existed. If indeed a vapor canopy surrounded the earth as many scientists believe, then the first humans would have been protected from some of the damaging rays of the sun and from a lot of the radiation from space. This would have helped to prevent the buildup of free radicals in the body and it would have helped to prevent various types of cancer, skin cancer in particular. The food sources were also much healthier. There were no cheap and unhealthy processed foods. There were no pesticides and chemicals being used on the crops. People were eating the purest whole food diet possible, and that would have helped to prevent obesity and heart disease and so many other maladies that people suffer with today because of unhealthy diets.

Join us tomorrow as we look at the descendants of Adam's son Seth on down to Noah. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 25, A New Hope

This morning I was wondering whether Adam and Eve ever doubted the Lord's promise that a Redeemer was coming. The Lord had said that a man of their family line would be the Promised One. They must have hoped that one of their two sons would be the Messiah or that a descendant of Cain or Abel would be. Now Abel is dead, killed by the hand of his own brother, and Cain is living in exile from his family. But the Lord is a promise keeper. "The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does." (Psalm 145:13b) The Lord gives Adam and Eve another son, the one from whose line the Redeemer will come.

"Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, 'God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.'" (Genesis 4:25) Abel is gone and Cain is as good as dead to his family. Would Abel's line have been the line of the Messiah if Cain had not killed him? It's hard to say, but if so then this serves to back up the fact that nothing man did was capable of derailing God's plan of salvation. The Redeemer was coming, no matter what man did. The Redeemer was coming, no matter what Satan and all the demons of hell did to try to stop Him.

"Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord." (Genesis 4:20) Of course people knew about the Lord before now and I'm sure at least some of the people living on the earth prayed to Him. But perhaps their faith in Him was stagnant until they saw His intention to fulfill His promise. The Lord had said, before He banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, that One of their descendants would bruise the head of that old serpent called Satan. But when Cain became a murderer and killed Abel it may have appeared for a while that fulfilling the promise was impossible, but all things are possible with God. (Matthew 19:26) I think sometimes we make too much of ourselves, believing that mere human beings like us can throw God's plans off track. He is the God who spoke everything into existence out of nothing. Is keeping a promise too hard for Him? Is there anything our frail mortal selves can do to cause God to break His promises?

We can be rebellious and get ourselves outside of God's will and miss some of the blessings He wanted to bestow upon us, but the promise of the coming Redeemer didn't depend on man keeping his end of any kind of bargain with God. In fact, God sent the Redeemer because man couldn't keep his end of any bargain. Man couldn't live a sinless life. Man couldn't keep the law. Man couldn't go a single day without doing or saying or thinking something wrong. If we were able to live perfect lives, there would have been no need for God the Son to come into the world in the flesh to suffer and die on the cross as a sacrifice of atonement for our sins. Thank God our salvation doesn't depend on our own efforts! I would be without hope, for I fail daily. Thanks be to God that: "My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge." (Psalm 62:7) Thanks be to God that: "The Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation." (Psalm 118:14) Amen! "Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation." (Isaiah 25:9)

God did the work of salvation for us. No one else could do it. This is why the Lord Jesus---God the Son---was able to say of Himself, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 24, Another Murder

In our portion of Scripture today we find out that Cain's great-great-great grandson murdered a man too.

He was a man named Lamech. "Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah." (Genesis 4:19) Already we see mankind making alterations to God's plan for marriage. The Lord gave man the example for marriage when He created Adam and Eve. The Lord didn't give Adam more than one wife because no man needs more than one wife. This is always a recipe for conflict and jealousy within the family. Earlier in Genesis when the Lord said it wasn't good for a man to be alone, He stated his intention to create a "helpmate" for the man. He didn't intend to create for Adam "helpmates". Having more than one wife is going to bring trouble into a man's life, not help. The Bible doesn't tell us how everyone got along in Lamech's plural marriage, but in many other instances of plural marriage in the Bible we find conflict between the wives, conflict between the children of the wives, and conflict between the husband and his wives.

"Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain's sister was Naamah." (Genesis 4:20-22) Civilization is beginning to form. In Lamech's sons we see the emergence of agriculture and animal husbandry on a large scale, culture and the arts, and industry.

We've already seen that Lamech has a disregard for God's plan for marriage and the family. Now we learn that he has a disregard for human life as well. "Lamech said to his wives, 'Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.'" (Genesis 4:23-24)

Lamech doesn't provide us with any details about this incident. It appears that he and some young man were in an altercation. We don't know what brought about Lamech's "wounding". It could be that he was going about his business and a young man tried to rob him. It could be that the two of them got into a verbal argument and the young man punched him. Whatever the case, Lamech's reaction is out of proportion. He must have become enraged and beaten the young man to death or stabbed him with a knife or thrust him through with a sword. Lamech's killing of the young man is not justified. He doesn't say he killed the young man because he felt his life was threatened. He doesn't say he did it in self-defense. Instead he seems to be boasting about doing more harm to the young man than the young man did to him.

Lamech justifies his behavior by pointing back to great-great-great grandfather Cain. Cain killed Abel in cold blood. Abel had done nothing to provoke Cain's anger; Cain was angry because Cain's heart was wrong with the Lord and because Cain was jealous of Abel whose heart was right with the Lord. Yet the Lord spared Cain's life and protected him from being killed by anyone who might want to avenge Abel's blood. So Lamech is saying, "If the Lord was going to make anyone pay who did harm to Cain, how much more will He make anyone pay who tries to avenge this young man I killed? I didn't kill him in cold blood the way Cain killed Abel. I didn't commit premeditated murder like Cain did. In the heat of the moment, because I was attacked and injured, I killed a man. If the Lord spared Cain's life, He will surely spare mine."

Later in the Bible, when the law is given, we will find instructions for handling personal injury cases. In Exodus 21 we find the law that if a person inflicts serious injury upon another person, judgment will be rendered like this: "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise". (Exodus 21:23-25) In other words, the punishment should fit the crime. If a young man punched Lamech in the face, he deserved a punch in the face back. He didn't deserve death. Lamech lost control of himself during the altercation. I think he was offended and insulted that anyone would dare to touch him. I think his pride was wounded more than his body, so much so that he not only enjoyed killing the young man but felt justified and proud of doing so.

Civilization is now growing by leaps and bounds, but so is sin and lawlessness. This is the perfect time for the Lord to introduce to us the ancestor of the Messiah in tomorrow's passage. The Lord is going to provide another son to Adam and Eve, the one from whose line the Redeemer of sinful mankind will come.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 23, Cain's Life

In yesterday's study Cain expressed his fear that someone would kill him to avenge the death of Abel. God is not going to allow that to happen. Why is He protecting Cain? It's hard to say. Perhaps because Cain did repent, as we speculated yesterday. Perhaps God wanted to give him an opportunity to do things with his life, such as encouraging others to serve the Lord and not fall into the trap of jealousy as he did. There are other examples of men in the Bible who were guilty of murder but who repented and whom God used for His kingdom. Moses, for example, who killed an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave. The Apostle Paul was responsible for the persecution and deaths of some of the early Christians before he became a Christian himself. King David had a man killed in order to try and cover up his sin of adultery with the man's wife, but then David repented and continued to serve the Lord the rest of his life. If God can use for His kingdom men who have committed what is considered the worst crime on earth, then He can certainly use you and me.

The Lord reassures Cain that he is not going to be killed. "But the Lord said to him, 'Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.'" (Genesis 4:15a) Two wrongs don't make a right. If a person were to kill Cain in order to avenge Abel, little would be accomplished. I personally don't have strong feelings either for or against the death penalty in our country, but having the death penalty doesn't appear to deter anyone from committing crimes worthy of capital punishment. Later on in the Bible, when the world population is growing by leaps and bounds, laws for society will be put in place that allow capital punishment to be carried out for first-degree murder, but at this time we can assume that the world population was still quite small. For practical reasons, it's understandable that the Lord would preserve Cain's life and allow him to produce offspring.

In order to protect Cain, the Lord places a mark on him. "Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him." (Genesis 4:15b) The Bible doesn't describe this mark, but there is good Scriptural basis for considering this mark to be a supernatural form of protection, such as a "seal" as is mentioned often in the New Testament. In the New Testament there are several examples of a seal being the sign that we belong to the Lord. The Bible tells us that we who are in Christ have the seal of the Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30) We are told that the Lord knows who belongs to Him because He has placed a seal upon us. (2 Timothy 2:19) In Revelation the servants of God are sealed with a mark on their foreheads to protect them. (Revelation 7:4-5) We don't know whether the seal the Lord placed on Cain was visible or invisible to human beings, but by the power of God it protected Cain from harm. Even if someone plotted to kill Cain, their plot would be unsuccessful.

"So Cain went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech." (Genesis 4:16-18)

Adam and Eve will later have a son named Seth, from whose line the Messiah will be born. Many scholars state that only Seth's family line survived the great flood, although we can't accept this with any certainty since we don't know the family lines of the women Noah's sons married. The Bible only provides an accounting of Cain's lineage up to the end of Chapter 4. The Bible mainly only follows the family line from which the Messiah will come, so we can't draw any firm conclusions about the fate of Cain's family line simply because it is not mentioned after the conclusion of Chapter 4.

What we can conclude is that God is a merciful. He is a God of second chances. He's a God who offers a fresh start. We don't know whether Cain lived the remainder of his life in close relationship with the Lord or whether he taught his children to honor and obey the Lord. But if he didn't, Cain will never be able to stand before God's judgment seat and claim he was never given the opportunity to turn his life around. He will not be able to accuse the Lord of not giving him a chance to become a better man.

I am so thankful we serve a merciful God! For a long time I resisted His call. He could have written me off and stopped urging me to repent and turn to Christ. But He didn't. The summer I was twenty-two years old I bowed my knees to the Lord Jesus Christ and accepted Him as my Savior. I haven't been perfect; we will never be perfect as long as we live in these frail mortal bodies. But the Lord who extended enough mercy to save me has kept on extending mercy to me in my daily Christian life. He is working every day to make me look more and more like His Son, for that is His purpose for each of us who profess the name of Christ. (Romans 8:29)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 22, Did Cain Repent?

In yesterday's passage the Lord told Cain he would no longer be able to work the ground but would be a restless wanderer on the earth. We are going to look at Cain's reaction to the Lord's words.

"Cain said to the Lord, 'My punishment is more than I can bear.'" (Genesis 4:13) It sounds like he is saying, "I know I killed a man, but my punishment seems too severe." Some scholars believe that the Hebrew word which we find translated as "punishment" should be translated as "iniquity". If this is so, then they feel Cain is saying something like, "My sin is more than I can bear," or, "My sin is too great to be forgiven." The word translated into English as "bear" can also mean "forgive", for this same word is translated as "forgive" in various other books of the Bible.

Does this mean Cain repented of his sin? His words, in the original Hebrew, indicate acknowledgment that he was a sinner and that his sin was severe. The Bible doesn't state that he asked the Lord for forgiveness, but he does appear to be expressing a desire for forgiveness along with his doubt that such a heinous sin can ever be forgiven. How do we come to repentance and salvation? Isn't it by admitting we are sinners in need of forgiveness? Isn't it by acknowledging that our sins are terrible and that we don't deserve forgiveness? Then salvation comes by accepting the forgiveness that God so graciously bestows upon us. The Bible assures us that when "we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

I believe it's quite possible that Cain repents here in Genesis 4. His next statement reveals that it is now man's judgment he fears, not God's judgment. This indicates that he has received forgiveness from God because of his sorrow and repentance over his sin. "Today You are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from Your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." (Genesis 4:14) The Lord didn't kill Cain for being a murderer, but Cain thinks other people might.

Who are these other people? So far the Bible hasn't told us about any other people being on the earth. We are going to take a brief look at the top two theories about this.

1. Adam and Eve lived an extended lifespan, as did all their offspring, as did their descendants for many generations afterwards. The Bible tells us that Adam lived to be 930 years old. During that time he and Eve had children. Their children had children. Their grandchildren had children. We don't know how many descendants there are of Adam and Eve by the time Cain killed Abel. We will see later on in Genesis that Eve bears another son named Seth, but we don't know how many daughters she and Adam have had since the Bible tends to only name the sons a family has and not the daughters. There may have been quite a few people on the earth, descended from Adam and Eve, by the time Cain killed Abel. It would make sense that he fears one of them might kill him to avenge their kinsman.

2. God created other couples on the earth after creating Adam and Eve. The problem with this theory is that the Bible makes no mention of Him doing this. The attractiveness of this theory is that it explains how Cain has a wife (as Genesis 4:17a will state) and how she would not have been fairly closely related to him. Incestuous relationships are forbidden in the Bible. The more closely related a couple is to each other, the greater the risk that their children will be born with disabilities. If God didn't create other families on earth, who did the children of Adam and Eve marry? It's difficult to believe they married each other, but some Christian geneticists argue that in the early days of human population on the earth there may not have been genetic weaknesses that could be passed along to offspring. These people were living close to the dawn of creation when the earth's atmosphere and the food on the earth was still close to perfection. It could be that genetic problems hadn't yet cropped up in human beings yet. If that's the case, then this may be why we don't see God making a law against marrying a close relative until later on in the Bible.

We simply don't know the answer to this puzzling question. As I've said before in other studies, God hasn't told us everything we want to know, but He's told us everything we need to know. God has given us all the information we need in order to recognize our sinful natures, to be sorrowful over our sins and to repent of them, and to obtain salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.

In tomorrow's study the Lord is going to protect Cain from being killed for his crime, then the Bible will tell us a bit about what Cain does with his life.

Monday, October 14, 2019

In The Beginning. Day 21, Cain Sentenced By God For His Sin

Cain is going to be sent away from the family farm where he spilled his brother's blood. For the rest of his life he won't be able to succeed at his favorite occupation---farming. This will be a lifelong reminder to him of the consequences of sin.

"Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is your brother Abel?'" (Genesis 4:9a) Just as He did with Adam and Eve in the garden, the Lord asks a question in order to give Cain an opportunity to confess. Confession is the first step toward repentance. But Cain lies to the Lord instead. "'I don't know,' he replied. 'Am I my brother's keeper?'" (Genesis 4:9b) His reply to the Lord comes across as flippant and sarcastic. I can't say whether or not he feels any sorrow for his sin, but we can tell from his answer to the Lord that he fears his sin being found out. The Bible warns: "You may be sure that your sin will find you out." (Numbers 23b) It's so much better if we go straight to the Lord as soon as we realize we've messed up. He knows our sins anyway; we might as well get them out into the open as soon as possible. When we try to hide our sin instead of confessing it, we run the risk of hardening our hearts against the Lord. Then we may find it easier and easier to sin against Him until we get to the point where we don't feel bothered by sin at all. That's not a good place to be. That puts the Lord in the position of having to humble and discipline us in order to get us back on track. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy being humbled and disciplined by the Lord. He's had to humble and discipline me at times and it hasn't been pleasant for me or for Him. If we confess our mistakes as soon as we realize we've made them, we can avoid a lot of unpleasantness "trips to the woodshed", so to speak. We can avoid causing the Lord to feel fatherly sorrow when He has to discipline us for our own good.

Nothing can be hidden from God. I know sometimes it seems to us that wicked people are getting away with all sorts of crimes and murders. There are thousands of unsolved murders on the books and thousands of unsolved missing persons cases. We wonder when or if justice is coming, but the Bible promises: "There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." (Luke 8:17) No murder will go unavenged, for the Lord says: "The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will concel its slain no longer." (Isaiah 26:21) There are wicked people who have never had to face punishment in a court of human law, but they will face punishment in God's courtroom for the innocent blood they have shed.

In our passage today, the Lord is going to deal with Cain's sin right here and now. There is no human justice system in place yet, so Cain can't be arrested by police, charged with the crime of murder, and tried in a courtroom before a jury. God Himself---who witnessed the crime---is going to charge, try, and convict Cain. "The Lord said, 'What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops to you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth." (Genesis 4:10-12)

When Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, Adam was told he would have to toil for his food from then on. Adam was able to work the ground, but he had to fight the thorns and weeds to do so. Cain won't be able to work the ground at all. In tomorrow's study we will see that Cain feels his punishment is too much to bear, but in complaining about his punishment Cain seems to be blind to the fact that the Lord could have sentenced him to capital punishment for taking the life of an innocent man. The Lord had the right to say to Cain, "A life for a life! You killed your brother in cold blood, and for this crime you will be sentenced to death." But instead the Lord passed a sentence that is comparable to life without parole. Cain won't be locked up behind bars, but for the rest of his life he won't be free to do what he loves most. Imagine if you couldn't do or have what matters most to you in life. This is quite a severe sentence, but it's still more merciful than what Cain deserved.

The mercy of God is something none of us should ever take for granted, and I hope as time went on Cain didn't take it for granted. God could have killed Cain right then and there. The Messiah isn't going to come from Cain's line, so cutting off Cain's family line will have no impact on the bloodline of the coming Savior and King. But God is so merciful! His mercies are new every morning! Aren't we thankful for that? God could have thrown in the towel on us a long time ago, but He didn't. God could have given up on me during the years when I was living in sin without the light of Christ in my life. But He kept extending mercy to me instead. He kept calling me to repentance. He kept calling me to faith in His Son. In not sentencing Cain to capital punishment, God is giving him a lifetime in which to repent and be made right with Him.

Did Cain ever repent? The Bible doesn't specifically tell us so, but as we study Cain's reaction to his punishment in tomorrow's passage, we will take a look at why some scholars believe he did.