BNN Reports on the flooded Earth.
When the Lord saw that man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of nothing but evil all the time, the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Then the Lord said, “I will wipe off the face of the earth: man, whom I created, together with the animals, creatures that crawl, and birds of the sky—for I regret that I made them” (Genesis 6:5-8)
That’s a pretty heavy passage to read right after you watch or read the news. It seems not a day goes by without hearing a story about abuse, neglect, or perversion. Just today, I read a story about a school secretary who was caught making adult movies in her free time; how a local man was found guilty for beating his roommate to death, and of course all the latest news from the Libyan front. One could easily say that those verses in Genesis could easily apply today. There are days that it just seems hopeless.
But read on.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8)
Noah, one single man, found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah, one single man, was enough for God to rethink his plan to destroy man. What was it about Noah that was so amazing?
These are the family records of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries; Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:9)
Noah was righteous, he was a believer. He grew up with a great-grandfather whose faith and relationship with God was legendary. But not only was he familiar with God, he grew that into a deep relationship with God.
Noah was blameless among his contemporaries. Notice the bible doesn’t say Noah was sinless. But he was blameless. That means that among his peers, they could not find fault with him. He lived a relatively clean cut life.
Most importantly, Noah walked with God. This is the keystone of Noah’s life. Onethe one side, you have Noah’s legacy. He was raised in a family that believed in God. He took that knowledge and grew a relationship with God. And through that relationship, he lived a blameless life. Thereby, finding grace in the eyes of the Lord.
Salvation is really that simple. And through Jesus, it is available to us all. But the trick is it’s not a multiple choice test. You cannot achieve salvation through righteousness and living blameless. You cannot claim to walk with God, but live a wicked life. The three things go hand in hand. Finding grace in the eyes of the Lord, takes a full effort. Living righteous/blameless and walking with God go hand in hand.
I will admit it is difficult to do. Daily there are temptations to lead us into wickedness, but through having a relationship with God, we can overcome the wickedness.
And once we find favor with God, amazing things happen.
By faith Noah, after being warned about what was not yet seen, in reverence built an ark to deliver his family. By this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
Because of his relationship with God, Noah had the faith to do what God commanded, even when it seemed strange and unfathomable.
God isn’t going to come to us and tell us to build an ark, but he does come and ask us to follow him. Maybe it is to reach out to your neighbor, or someone who is suffering. Maybe it is to pack up your bags and move to a new place to serve where God needs you.
Faith is a powerful thing; when God knows that he can count on you, he can lead you to amazing things.
And it all starts by living righteous, blameless and walking with God.
I’ve got some work to do….
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
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 for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 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.”
But the LORD said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
I got a new puppy! Some friends of mine posted on Facebook that they had some puppies to give away. I called them up and when I found out their heritage, I really wanted one. The father of the litter is known around here as a super cattle working dog, and getting the chance to have one of his offspring was too good to pass up.
We brought him home Sunday night, and introduced him to my two other dogs. Skeeter is an old Basset Hound that is enjoying the twilight of her life. She took one look at him, growled and turned her back and went on her way. My black lab, Bob, didn’t know what to think. We’ve had Bob for 5 years; I got him about a month after Lela and I got married. He knows he is my buddy and we’ve always had a one on one relationship. But now there is this new puppy. Bob still gets attention, but now he has to share it with Alf (the puppy).
Monday, I began the new puppy training routine, and Bob had to interject himself and prove that he could still do all the same tricks. I would acknowledge him and try to go back to training Alf, but again, Bob would horn in. Finally, I had to take Alf into the house to continue his training. The entire time, Bob sat at the back door, looking in and whimpering. He felt like I had chosen a favorite.
It is so easy to claim favoritism when we don’t understand the master plan. Bob doesn’t understand why Alf is getting more attention, but as their master, I am trying to train them both to do as I ask. Bob knows what I expect, and is a very good and obedient dog. Alf is still a puppy; his maturity requires more attention, and more discipline.
The same thing is found in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain was furious because God was not impressed with his offering. It wasn’t just because God preferred livestock to grains. It was because Cain’s offering wasn’t as sincere as Abel’s.
In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the LORD. 4 And Abel also presented [an offering]—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast –Gen 4: 3-5
Notice that the Bible notes that Abel’s offering consisted of the firstborn of his flock, and their fat portions. Abel gave God the very best. Cain’s offering was just a portion of the land’s produce. He didn’t save his first and best crops for God.
God expects the very best from all of us. This was a lesson that Cain still had to learn. However, instead of going to God and asking what he had done wrong, he got angry and took matters into his own hands.
So many times we make mistakes, and instead of trying to learn from them and correct them, we just make a situation worse. Many times, it’s what we do after we’ve sinned that matters most.
Eden, Earth – Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”
And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
So the LORD God said to the serpent:
“ Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
To the woman He said:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“ Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
A couple of months ago while on “vacation,” I introduced Damon to one of the greatest TV shows of all time. You may remember in past blogs I’ve talked about my step-son’s visit to the hospital with a ruptured appendix. As anyone who has ever spent much time in a hospital can attest, most hospitals do not get the premium cable package. Personally, I think when you consider how much you pay during a hospital say, they should go ahead and pop for the premium package, but that’s another subject.
One afternoon I was flipping channels and came upon the classic “I Dream of Jeannie.” These were classic, first season, black and white episodes. The first episode opened with Nelson and Healey in their military uniforms walking the halls of NASA and discussing the next space experiment. Damon was hooked. (Anything involving the military in any way gets his attention.) Next, Jeannie appeared and complicated the situation and the episode unfolded. We watched the show every afternoon until he finally got to come home.
That brings us to this past Saturday. Our local college team has decided that actually playing is over-rated and so I was flipping channels trying to find something to watch. I came across the show, this time it was one of the episodes from the final season. This one was in color. Damon came walking through the house and saw the TV. “Does Jeannie always wear a pink outfit?” he asked.
“I had just pictured it as purple.” He said then he went outside to play with his friends. I got to thinking about what he said. When things are only black and white, we begin to imagine what the colors could be. Our own preferences define the color pallet.
God started out in black and white. He laid out his laws very simple and plain. Eat this. Do not eat this. Each and every one of his commandments have been that simple. The problem is we are sinners. We don’t like dealing in absolutes. So for centuries, we have been trying to add Technicolor to God’s commandments. Look at the original sin:
In Genesis 2:16-17 God set out a very simple and straight-forward command: And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” Very to the point wouldn’t you say? Eat from this specific tree and you will die.
But looks what happens when Eve and the Serpent get some crayons and try to tinker with God’s command.
Gen 3: 1-6: Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’ “
“No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate [it]; she also gave [some] to her husband, [who was] with her, and he ate [it].
Do you see how the Serpent began to manipulate God’s word to serve his own purpose? Do you see how he even went so far as to get Eve in on the “color commentary”? Even Adam had a roll in this. God had spoken directly to him about the tree and the fruit, but while Eve and the Serpent debated theology, he stood there silent. Did he interrupt the conversation and set them straight on what God really had told him? No. He just stood there and let them paint their picture of what God’s commands “really” meant.
Throughout time, this tradition of interpreting God’s word has continued. God spoke his commands and then “spiritual pundits” would take to the streets proclaiming what God really meant.
Finally after years of waiting, God trumped them all and introduced Hi-Def 3D. He sent his Son to be a mediator for us. Through Jesus, we now have a clear understanding of God’s intentions. Through Jesus we no longer have to rely on those “color commentators” to decide if we are living right and wrong. One of my favorite images in the bible is found in Matthew 27: 50 and 51.
Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split.
The curtain talked about here is the symbolic barrier that separated God from the people. The high priests were the only persons allowed to go behind the curtain. Anyone else was considered “unworthy” of being in direct contact with God.
However, the moment that Jesus died for our sins, that way of thinking became obsolete. The curtain was ripped in two, just like our separation from God. Jesus removed the barrier that sin had built between us. He renewed the relationship that God had intended in the Garden of Eden.
That’s what makes Christianity so great. While so many religions are based on what some dead “prophet” interpreted as “the way.” Christianity is based on “The Way” (John 14:6) reaching down, and becoming personally involved with us.
Now the task before us is to share Christ. We can’t be like Eve and let flashy talk confuse us, and we cannot be like Adam, standing silent and allowing ourselves to be lead into sin. We are to use that personal relationship with God, to get to know God; so that we are not lead into confusion and tricked into following someone else’s version of religion.
Something’s not right in Eden. The newscast speculates on the cause.
Back in the spring we had an incident involving the teenage girl that lives in our house. Long story short; she had, basically, decided that all I had done for her in the past two years wasn’t good enough and that she could do her own thing. That my rules weren’t worth respecting, much less obeying.
We find a similar situation in the Garden of Eden. God spent six day creating paradise. Then he put man and woman in it to live in and enjoy. The only rule was “you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” (Gen 2:17)
Like a parent laying out the ground rules to a child, God made one specific rule for Adam and Eve to follow. The problem was that, like children so often do, they disobeyed. They sinned.
The problem is we don’t like to recognize disobedience. We try so hard to legalize it, or to make it ok. I could spend hours talking about the types of disobedience, but I’m going to try to lump it into three categories: 1) Blatant Disobedience, 2) Selective Disobedience, and 3) “Justified” Disobedience.
1) Blatant Disobedience
I think the best example of this kind of disobedience is seen in the story of Jonah. We all know the story. God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah proceeded to go in the completely opposite direction. Instead of doing God’s will, Jonah decided to get as far from God as possible. This led to a mess. If Jonah hadn’t suddenly grown a backbone his disobedience would have lead to the deaths of an entire ship’s crew. Jonah was at least man enough to separate himself and not lead others to share in his demise. But in the end God still got to him. Jonah found himself sitting in the belly of a whale. Where he met a talking cricket and a wooden marionette boy –wait, that’s not the story, is it? Jonah came to the realization that Blatant disobedience leads to a really nasty place.
We do this don’t we? We decide that “God don’t know what he’s talking about,” and try to go our own direction, only to find that we are taking ourselves –and sometimes others– to destruction.
2) Selective Disobedience
We all know that David was a man after God’s own heart. He loved God and strived to keep all of His commandments, until, one sleepless night. (2 Samuel 11) David couldn’t sleep and went for a walk on the roof (like we all do when we can’t sleep). Suddenly, God’s chosen King became a simple Peeping Tom. Suddenly David was an avid follower of the 9 commandments. “Surely, God wasn’t serious about that whole ‘Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” thing. Surely 90% obedience is better than no obedience at all right? This lead to adultery (80% obedience), then bearing false witness (70%), murder for a grand total of 60% obedience. If you ask my kids a 60 on an exam is failing. It’s failing on God’s book also. 2 Samuel 12:11-12 says “This is what the LORD says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you from your own family: I will take your wives and give them to another before your very eyes, and he will sleep with them publicly. 12 You acted in secret, but I will do this before all Israel and in broad daylight.’ ”
God wants complete obedience, not just obedience that allows us to follow as we choose. Choosing to follow God a la carte leads right back to wrong side of God’s courtroom. Do we really want to pin our hopes that God grades us on a curve?
3) “Justified” Disobedience
This is the more common form of disobedience among people. We start to find a reason, or a verse we can take out of context to justify our sins. I’m reminded of a story our church’s youth director likes to tell about one of his students. One Wednesday night, during youth meeting, one of the kids piped up with a statement. “Hey Byron, did you know Jesus says it’s ok to smoke bud?” Byron knew that this student was new to any kind of church environment and so he decided to see where this led. The kid went on to quote Genesis 1:29 (God said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food.) So here was a kid who had never been in a church before, quoting the Bible out of context to satisfy his desires.
It’s not a once in a life time occurrence, this type of Disobedience is the oldest in the book. Remember Genesis 2:17? (you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.) Ok now read how the serpent and Eve started playing with God’s commandment in Genesis 3:1-7: Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden ‘?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die. ‘ ”
4 “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate [it]; she also gave [some] to her husband, [who was] with her, and he ate [it]. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
Do you see how in verse 1, the serpent misquoted God and introduced doubt. Then in verse 2 Eve misquoted the command, leading to confusion, doubt and eventually the fall of man. It’s so easy to use doubt and misinformation to justify disobeying God.
Disobedience is another word for sin. That is all there is to it. God provided everything Adam and Eve could ever want, and they only had to follow one command. They failed. The next thing they did was go and hide. They knew that they had done something wrong, but they didn’t know what to do next. We are lucky enough to have more information, thanks to Jesus. We know that we are sinners, and we also know that through the grace of Jesus, we are forgiven of our sins. We know that it is our nature to be disobedient and sinful. But it is also nature as followers of Jesus to be more like Him, perfect and sinless; obedient.
So the bad news is we are going to sin, and sin separates us from God. Next time, we are going to see how God works to bridge that gap.