Boot Camp: “Legacy of A Builder” – Genesis 6-9

The other day my wife and I became the proud owners of a new shed. That allowed me to move her house implements and décor items from the tool shed area, and get them into a little home of their own. I am proud to say that our garage is now free of Christmas décor items, fall flags and Easter flower arrangements. They are neatly tucked away in marked plastic totes, set on shelves in an organized shed of their very own. I am certain they are happy, and I know I am!

There is a special satisfaction in organizing chaos. There is a wonderful gratification in building something that is both functional for your life and well outfitted to help you accomplish important tasks in the future. A well-placed outlet pleases me. A hose bib that is located right where the water needs to be controlled brings contentment. Whether you are a contractor or just working a small home improvement project, when you take the time to plan and build something, there is a special kind of fulfillment in taming your landscape and bringing organization to what appears to be nature’s chaos.

In this lesson, we want to consider how the items we build reflect the state of our heart. We want to follow a very famous builder of antiquity, who is best known for things he constructed, and observe how his projects reflected the state of his heart. As we drop our eyes back into Genesis, we will be observing the long life of a world-saving contracting company known as “Noah and Sons.” As we search the pages of the Scripture for keys to understanding the lessons provided by his example, I believe you will come to see his life as a crafted example of a Biblical truth…

Key Principle: Our heart is exposed by where we expend our greatest efforts.

That’s right! This is a plagiarized restatement of Jesus’ own words from the end of Matthew 6:20: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Background (5:32-6:8)

Think about the life of Noah for a moment. To really grasp what this monumental builder and his sons left behind, we must look through the background statements for our story in Genesis 5. We find, with some careful inspection, the following facts about Noah:

He got a late start building a family. The text recorded he was five hundred years old when he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth (5:32). Apparently, Noah was not swift when it came to family ambitions and planning.

He was raising a family at a dark time. Genesis 6 opened with a reminder that evil was spreading at a fantastic rate, and that it was a deliberate attack by God’s enemy to ruin mankind both genetically and morally (Genesis 6:1-2). The attack included polluting the gene pool of man by impregnating women of varied lines within the race to counter God’s promise that a woman would bear the redeemer of man (back in Genesis 3:15). Note the special conditions of that time:

Genesis 6:4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. 5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

He received a promise from God. The Lord’s counter-attack against the demonic overthrow in the realm of men was revealed. God would unleash judgment in a period of one hundred and twenty years from the time it was revealed (Genesis 6:3). His reasons cannot be fully understood by men, but the text offered a sense that God was deeply grieved by what happened on earth, and made clear His divine plan was to eliminate the demonic incursion from the planet. Included in the counter-attack, God would eliminate animals that could become the resting place of the demonic hordes. Genesis reminds:

Genesis 6:7 The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the [f]sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Even with that impending peril, Noah found God’s blessing. God took note of Noah and marked him for grace. Genesis 6:8 noted: But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. A bit later, the text also noted:

Genesis 6:9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.

The words of the text are not merely repetition of the same idea, they reveal different aspects of Noah.

• The term righteous or “tsaddik” is the term used of a godly elder, or one known in the community as a man of honor and integrity.
• The term blameless is “tawmim” and is used for something that is “sound, purely as advertised, or of clean blood (when used of a sacrifice).

Noah was a GOOD GUY in a BAD COMMUNITY, but the text tips us off that he may have been something more – a man with a clean bloodline and pedigree in the middle of a genetic war. That is worth noting. Now, take a look at what he DID that reflected what he FELT.

Reading a man’s heart through his building projects

The building of the ark is not an unfamiliar story. The most secular person among us knows at least the general frame of the story. It may seem like Noah’s story is about saving the earth from total annihilation, and clearly part of his story IS that – but that isn’t the whole idea. In fact, the ark is only ONE of the items built by Noah and Sons construction company. If you read his whole story, Noah’s life was marked by three objects he built with his hands. The first he was called by God to build, and it led to his family’s physical salvation. The second he built because of overwhelming thanksgiving and it led to God’s renewed blessing and promise. The third he built out of boredom and pain, and it led to shame. Consider his three building projects:

• Noah built an Ark – This was built out of obedience. The mammoth effort appears to be constructed alongside preaching of repentance, for Noah’s greatest efforts were expended in compassion and hope for his neighbors, sharing salvation with people. This ark was the building by which God would save the race, but one must choose to enter believing in the coming doom.
• Noah built an Altar – This was built to facilitate worship. Noah’s greatest efforts were driven by his sense of thankfulness for what God did for him and his family – and for the world.
• Noah built an Arbor – This appears to be built out of pain. Noah’s greatest efforts reflected self-pain, where he mused over losses and a life that no longer existed. It became about his compassion twisted into rage. He would fit into the skin of many who live today.

Each construction project reflected Noah’s heart. They offered a glimpse into where he was placing his HOPE, and what he was living for. The ark was a reflection of a long period of pleading with men about the state of their heart and hoping they would come to a place of repentance and salvation – but it was largely unheeded beyond his family. The altar came amidst the delivery of more promises of God to Noah (and by that to mankind). The small pile of rocks was heaped in gratitude, in thanksgiving, and in relief that time on the boat was over! Noah’s final building project included a vineyard, and I am using the term “an arbor” to keep the pattern of the words as a device to make it easier to recall the details of his life. Clearly, toward the end of his life, something changed that demands we look more closely at the text.

Before we do, let me ask you something pointed this story begs to challenge in each of us: “What do you really LIVE for?” Looking at the productivity of your life right now, where is your treasure? What are you building, right now in your life, that reflects where your heart it?

Clearly, Noah’s life reflected different values at different stages in his life. Maybe you can see the same thing in what you have built.

The First Construction Project: An Ark (6:11-8:12)

Let’s take a few minutes and lay out the record of the story of his building work of the ark, breaking it into three logical parts:

• The Construction of the Ark
• The Cataclysm of the Flood
• The Continuation of Life

The Construction: Building the Ark (Genesis 6:11-7:5)

Essentially, the account of the ark’s construction is revealed in four stages:

Stage One: First, in the opening of the construction narrative there is a note about the cause of “the Flood.” There is a clear reminder that evil, violence and corruption became the norm in Genesis 6:11, but there is also an indicator the story had a specific corruption of the flesh, or the genetic material itself in 6:12:

Genesis 6:12 God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.

In light of the attack and its devastating results, God made clear to Noah the end of the world was coming in Genesis 6:13.

Stage Two: A second part of the construction narrative is dedicated to the construction plan given by God to Noah. You can check Genesis 6:14-16 to see the specifics:

• It was to be made of “gopher” wood – a term we cannot actually determine, though some suggest a type of cypress.
• It would be subdivided into rooms.
• It would have tar pitch lining the bulkhead to make it watertight.
• It was to measure about four hundred fifty feet long, be forty-five feet wide and thirty-five feet high. It was a long, sleek and low profile vessel.
• It would house three decks, each more than a dozen feet high. The giraffe section was likely a high spot in the design.
• Near the top, a window shutter was designed. (Putting one at the bottom would have been a disaster.
• What the ark did NOT have was any steering mechanism. There was no rudder. This wasn’t the “love boat” cruising off to the islands – it was a vessel without a port of call to reach. It would only make one voyage, and her captain was in the heavens! Noah didn’t put a rudder on, because Noah didn’t know where he was going!

Stage Three: A third part of the construction record is dedicated to notes about an invitation to populating the cabins (Genesis 6:17-21). If you look carefully, the instructions included:

• The plan to bring the flood (6:17)
• The promise to keep Noah’s family alive (6:18)
• The proposal to fill the ark with at least one pair of each of three kinds of living creatures: bird, animals, creeping things Each was to remain distinct from one another 6:19-20).
• The parceling of food for both people and each animal on board (6:21)

Stage Four: The final section in the account about the construction of the ark recalls entering the ark at the end of the building project (Genesis 6:22-7:5). The beginning and the end of this narrative emphasized Noah’s obedience:

Genesis 6:22 Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did. Genesis 7:5 Noah did according to all that the Lord had commanded him.

Between these endorsements, God told Noah to get inside with his family and to bring along the zoo. God added to the original number of “two by two” some other animals for the purpose of sacrifice at the end of the journey.

Genesis 7:2 You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female…

The Cataclysm of the Flood (7:6-8:1)

Construction complete and all hands aboard as planned, the flood commenced. A six hundred year old Noah and his one hundred year old children entered the ark with the animals (Genesis 7:6-9).

Two events are recorded that caused the great worldwide flood. First, the crust of the earth was opened and water beneath the surface poured over the landscape. Very likely, subduction of the crust caused huge tsunami waves to cover large portions of the landscape in Genesis 7:11. The rains followed, but weren’t the main reason for the huge flood (7:12).

In Genesis 7:16 there are some very sad words found – words that would haunt Noah later in his life:

Genesis 7:16 Those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and the Lord closed it behind him.

That day people may have sneered at him, but the shaking of the earth’s crust wasn’t far off. Destruction began with a vengeance and the earth rocked with a surge of water. The sad summary of Genesis 7:23 reminds:

Genesis 7:23 Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land…24 The water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days.

If Noah was a good man, this wasn’t a moment of victory – but one of a sobering and painful reality. All of life as he knew it was swallowed up in judgment. Few are the hearts so hard that could find satisfaction in such a time. At least he had his family, and he had a lot of work to do with the animals on board. The lifting of the ark brought an uncertainty into his footing, but the meaning of the ark certainly also put some shakiness into his heart.

Don’t make him a “Teflon” character where nothing stuck to his heart. By every appearance, Noah was a man who cared about people – not only animals. There is nothing noble about someone who clings to justice so much they feel no pain or compassion for the one who is judged.

The Continuation of Life (8:1-9:29)

Eventually, the Flood receded about a half year later (8:1-5). Hearing nothing from God for a time, Noah ran a few tests to let him know when life would continue outside the floating zoo. About forty days after the receding of the water, Noah launched a raven drone to little success. Next he tried a dove drone, but it didn’t work out well either. A week later, he re-tested with a dove and that one brought back a sprig of olive, suggesting plants were beginning to be renewed. A week after that he sent a third dove text, but that one didn’t return. It was time to get off the boat! That set up the second building project of Noah.

Cut everything away from the story of the flood and you will see a man building a boat out of obedience. His heart must have been wrenched with the thought of the loss of his world, but he did what God told him to do, at the time God told him to do it, according to the method God told him to accomplish it. If I had a wish in my heart it would be this: that I would grow in my walk to the place where God would look at my life someday and see such an obedient heart. Noah’s ark was a physical manifestation of Noah’s obedience, his trust in God’s will for his life, and his focus to do what he was told in service to God. His hands built what his heart valued.

The Second Building Project: An Altar (Genesis 8:13-9:17)

Much shorter than the story of the Ark, there is a short passage about Noah stepping off the ark into a new world, and building an altar.

Genesis 8:13 reminds us that it had been a LONG time since Noah walked on the earth. The surface showed and God spoke again to the great captain of the floating zoo. God said:

Genesis 8:16 Go out of the ark.

He, his family and the whole zoo left the ship. Then Noah stopped to build something else.

Genesis 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man…”

Anyone with a brain can figure out that Noah recognized he had just lived the top line of his biography. What would he ever do to “top” the ark experience? His obedience offered him his greatest victory. What now?

Noah stood on new ground, surrounded by his closest loved ones. He stared at a new landscape and stood in a strange place. He understood how he got there – God took him there. He wasn’t claiming his ability as a cruise ship captain as he exited a rudderless vessel! He knew all that he had had come from the Lord of Heaven and Earth. He had no other response than to build an altar and worship. It was made of stones that were all provided by the maker of all. He offered animals the Lord preserved for the year long ordeal. He bowed because it was the right thing – the ONLY THING – that he could do.

Every believer gets to that place. In the beginning, salvation is all about us. We enter the Kingdom thinking about OUR sin and OUR eternal life. As we grow up, we increasingly realize that our life and our salvation is really about HIM. It is about HIS WORK, HIS HONOR, HIS WORTH. We bow in wonder. We bow in awe. We bow because it is all we can think to do to one who loves us enough to give what He gave.

In the shadow of the altar, God gave new rules and new promises. The first half of chapter nine recorded God’s words. They included:

A blessing:

Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”

A change in relationship to the animals:

Genesis 9:2 The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.

An expanded diet into meat:

Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.

A careful restriction about eating blood:

Genesis 9:4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

After an important “drop in” about what constitutes life and the sacredness of it before God, the Lord offered a “covenant” in Genesis 9:

Genesis 9:9 “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; … 11 I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant … 13 I set My bow in the cloud…”

Seven times God used the word COVENANT in the passage. In response to the assembling of simple stones on a flat piece of ground, God pressed light through the refraction of water in the air and built a rainbow. Noah’s construction was a simple brown pile of rocks. God constructed something colorful and beautiful.

Don’t miss the fact that the second building project of Noah held a symbol of thankfulness and was built to facilitate worship because he recognize God was worthy of praise for all that He did. The evil of the world was washed away – at least the part that came from the attack of demonic forces. Noah still had sin to contend with, and we will see that in his last building project…

The Third Building Project: An Arbor (Genesis 9:18-29)

Before we finish with Noah’s story, note yet a third building project. Genesis recorded:

Genesis 9:20 Then Noah began [farming and planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent.

Truly this story was designed to help us understand the character instilled in his sons Shem and Japheth, while highlighting the lack of character in Canaan, the father of Ham. There can be no doubt that was the great lesson of the verses. At the same time, don’t gloss to quickly over what Noah built and WHY.

Noah and his family had been through a time of trust, reverence and obedience that marked his heart within. At the same time, he MUST have had some tender bruises within when he looked around at the wilderness and remembered the camps and cities of his youth. Life was different now. The deaths around him changed everything. They changed him. Those who have been through war know what I mean. The images of those now gone could easily haunt him, even if they were evil. They were still people, and he was still an ordinary human being.

Noah’s last building project may have been about his own pleasure – I cannot tell – but I don’t think it was. The vineyard and its arbor seem more likely to have been built to quell the disturbance of his own heart tossed about by the memories of a world destroyed. No matter whether you think this was the case or not, you can’t argue that his last building project wasn’t a total failure and embarrassment. It clearly was. Too often I think we read of Noah and celebrate the salvation of his family (and by it our human family) without understanding the exacting toll on him emotionally. We simply tend to forget about the intensity of his pain.

• Noah lost everyone he went to school with in his youth.
• He lost all of the people in his neighborhood that didn’t live under his roof.
• He lost the fight to be heard by them in presenting his testimony and warnings.
• He lost his society… and it may have just crept up and gotten to his soul.

He planted the vineyard, not because he liked grapes with his morning yogurt, but because he wanted to drink and forget. His best days were past now. His today didn’t feel bright. It felt dismal. He started digging and planting vines. Where his earlier buildings overflowed with obedience to God and delight in God – this little farm adventure doesn’t have the same feel in the text at all. The arbor seems more like a symbol of some self-focus.

Let’s be honest: As we age, it becomes less and less about big plans for the future and we can easily slip into a nonstop conversation about our doctor appointments, our medications and our aches and pains. We can look back and feel like things were better before. We can look around and feel like people all around us are rushing by and life isn’t exciting; it is painful and often painfully boring.

People face pain a number of ways. In our day, they may not plant a vineyard, but there are dozens of very legal and respectable pills that will do the trick. For others, they use social media as a way to vent their lack of real connection, and their honest loneliness. For still others, they appear to live to fight a never-finished cause for justice, even when they don’t know the people for whom they have become so enraged. They may not know their neighbor next door, but they know what liberals are doing to destroy the American dream. Ultimately, our lives will not be about what social justice we rage for, but what loving Savior we promote.

I guess I have to honestly ask this: What is someone who is raging actually building? Then I have to get really personal and ask myself: “What are YOU building?”

Isn’t it true? Our heart is exposed by where we expend our greatest efforts. I ask you, Father, to help me grow in my desire to help, not critique. I ask you to help me build in the end things worthy of your great name. I want to leave behind an ark and an altar, but not an arbor.

Boot Camp: “The Hidden Fingerprints” – Genesis 4 and 5

It has become so common on crime dramas that we don’t even think about it. A weapon is found at a crime scene, and the first thing the investigator does is “dust it for prints.” What the naked eye cannot see is “brought to life” with a little smoke and the application of scotch tape. The hidden marks identify a criminal! They were there the whole time, but they needed to be discovered and matched to the person to place them at the scene. This wasn’t always the case. You may be interested to know…

Dactylography or the “science of fingerprint lifting for the purpose of identification” probably began in Mesopotamia as far back as the time of Abraham, about 4,000 years ago. King Hammurabi (c. 1950 BCE) apparently used “finger seals” (on clay impressions) embedded in contracts. Law officers of the day were authorized to secure fingerprints of arrested persons accused of violating their contracts. We have no information on how the prints were used (like point-to-point comparisons) but we know they were used.

On the other side of the Himalayan Mountains in about 650 CE, a Chinese historian made reference to fingerprints being used in the preparation of contracts. A law book from the same period insisted that a divorcee sign a document with his fingerprint. Yet in the west, it wasn’t until the late 1700’s that a German doctor reported fingerprints were “never duplicated by nature.” A little later, historians credit Sir William Herschal in 1858 as the first western person to deliberately use fingerprints for identification purposes. Working in Bengal, India under the British crown, Herschal made natives place their inked prints on contracts and receipts.

The first person in western history given credit for using fingerprints to solve a crime was Henry Faulds. He wrote in Nature magazine that when bloody finger marks or impressions on clay, glass, etc. exist, they may lead to the scientific identification of criminals. Ironically, Faulds’ first use of the science was to successfully resolve a case of stolen liquor. He eventually joined Scotland Yard Police where he later worked to establish fingerprint identification methods.

I mention this little history to suggest something from the Scriptures. If God is the Author of the Bible, as He claims, can we uncover with certainty His identity by looking for “prints?” I think we can. The strange part is they have been staring us in the face silently tucked over scrolls of genealogy lists. Here is the truth for our study…

Key Principle: In even the most mundane parts of Scripture, the Author left fingerprints of His identity.

In this lesson, we want to look at two name lists, two records of family genealogies. I am almost hesitant to tell you what we will read, because our natural inclination is to switch off our minds on mundanity. Yet, there is a “Cracker Jack” surprise for anyone who will take the time to search the box. It is in there. To find it, we must look at the end of Genesis 4 and contrast it to the list of names offered in Genesis 5:1-6:8.

This List came with a specific context marker:

Genesis 4:17 Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son.

In our last lessons, we noted that when expelled from the Garden, Eve conceived and the moment of her greatest blessing ensued. We noted that as a moment of HOPE for the one broken by rebellion. Here in Genesis 4 is the same pattern: Though expelled, Cain’s life wasn’t done yet. The writer noted Cain became a city builder and made something he could leave to his son. Both men were apparently proud of the labor of Cain.

Following that note, Genesis offered the line of Cain in a little more detail…

Genesis 4:18 Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael became the father of Methushael, and Methushael became the father of Lamech.

Fixated on the character of the “last of the line” named Lamech, the writer then offered this detail about his family:

Genesis 4:19 Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah.

The narrative even offered details about the children of each wife.

Genesis 4:20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

The text ends with the boastful expression of the end of that family line.

Genesis 4:23 Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, Listen to my voice, You wives of Lamech, Give heed to my speech, For I have killed a man for wounding me; And a boy for striking me; 24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

Even on a first-pass over this short record, there are a couple of observations about the words that are in order.
First, the text is a genealogy, just like the one that follows it in Genesis 5. No matter how you cut it, the text appears to be a boring list of names with a few interjected notes about the people. If you feel that way when you read them, you aren’t unspiritual; you have common sense. It isn’t more exciting on its face than reading a phone book for pleasure. Yet, there are a few interesting clues that more may be here than first understood.

Note that when man has turned from God and spurned a life of following Him – his life becomes about his ability to make something, build something, or leave something behind. In the absence of a view toward afterlife, his human journey becomes about what he can do to leave something on Earth. In Cain’s story in verse 17, it was the city he left for Enoch (Hanoch) that his son could have for his use. There is nothing wrong with leaving behind something for your children – provided you leave them a heritage of spiritual connection with God. Apart from that, you are working, night and day, to accumulate yard sale items that will be sold for pennies on the dollar after your demise.

Let me say it this way: A life lived without eternity’s values will become a life swallowed by temporal treasures, where moth and rust will work their wonders to reduce it all to nothing.

Drop your eyes to the end of the list in verse 19, and look at the colorful character of Lamech. He decided that one wife wasn’t enough, and added a second. Adah and Zillah became his prizes. There is no note that God instructed in this area, and this line of Cain, destined for extinction in the flood of Noah, simply made up its own rules. Please note that.

Man, when denying God the right to make the rules and set the boundaries on everything and its use, makes up his own version based on what he DESIRES. This isn’t done without intentional arrogance about his right to satiate any desire he chooses. Listen to Lamech’s hot hits from the local radio station recalled in Genesis 4:23-24. He demanded the attention of his women based on his physical prowess and his unrepentant spirit of vengeance. His song revealed he truly believed the best way to live was to “look out for number one” and mercilessly avenge any infraction against him.

Don’t look past the details. In the first line of people who lived on our planet, among people who defied God openly, there is found another marker of the work of the enemy. Lamech was arrogant, vengeful and “touchy” about anyone who challenged his right to be whatever he wanted to be, according to moral standards he “made up on the fly.” Keep your eyes open for people who have such a character in modern life. This is an old play, re-run in a new theater.

Let’s think of it this way: A life lived apart from God is a life forging moral standards from his own desires and hungers. What one desires becomes enshrined first in his identity, then in his practice.

It appears there really are lessons here.

Yet, genealogies may have something even MORE than the lessons found, not in the lists, but in the little inserted stories of some of the people of the list. Maybe it would help us not to overplay the lessons if we understood what genealogies are made to do.

In the Bible, genealogies organize narratives. The whole record of Genesis is organized around the Hebrew word “toledot” translated “these are the descendants of…” That word marks transitions between stories as we have noted before in our study. We find it in places like:

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created (Genesis 2:4a).

The very idea of “generations” organizes the narrative into “scroll” sections, even in cases where family histories are not the heart of the story.

Genealogies also make claims about social roles. Kings and queens prove their bloodlines to demonstrate rightful claims. Other positions in ancient society are organized by kinship, like that of jobs assigned to Levitical families. Take, for example, the choosing of musicians appointed from each of the families of Korah, Gershom, and Merari for service in the sanctuary (1 Chronicles 6:31-48).

Genealogies established national and tribal inclusion. After the temple was destroyed and the exile to Babylon was complete, Ezra and Nehemiah both counted on the tribal record of the Levites to show who could work in the renewed temple. Nehemiah enrolled returnees by genealogies, establishing who “rightfully” belonged in which community. When returnees claimed priestly descent but couldn’t find their names in the genealogical record, they were excluded from priestly roles (Nehemiah 7:61-65).

Here is another tip, though. Sometimes genealogies tell a story. This is where the smoke and scotch tape lifting of the prints becomes important.

One obvious example can be found in Matthew’s Gospel at the opening of the story. One of two genealogies of Jesus is offered by the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 1:1-17, cp. Luke 3). Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus doesn’t seem to align with Luke’s (see Luke 3:23-38) nor does it recount any story of the Hebrew Scriptures that we can readily identify. The oddity of it seems to point to offering truth about something else. The scene offers clues that must be followed…

Matthew’s genealogy places Jesus within a story of the people of Israel as a whole. Yet, it offers four unique features:

• First, the list connected Jesus to Abraham, as One Who descended from the patriarch to whom God promised to “make of you a great nation” (Genesis 12:2).
• Second, the list highlighted the prominence of King David in the credentials of Jesus as King in order to be the Messiah (the Anointed, just as ancient Israelite kings were anointed).
• Third, Matthew’s genealogy highlights four female ancestors of Jesus, in addition to his mother Mary: Tamar (1:3), Rahab (1:5), Ruth (1:5), and the wife of Uriah (i.e., Bathsheba, 1:7). Each woman has something both scandalous and heroic in her story. Perhaps this was to make clear that Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was an unwed mother, did not create a scandal eliminating her from God’s use in her (Matthew 1:19). That deserves more exploration, but we will simply make the note and pass by in this lesson.
• Fourth, the notation of the number of generations is made obvious in Matthew 1:17.

Matthew 1:17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

The problem is, the number of fourteen generations is not historically correct. Check the Hebrew Scriptures. There are more generations than fourteen.

For example, Matthew 1:8 states that “Joram begat Uzziah,” but 2 Kings chapters 8, 11 and 14 show that:

Jehoram or Joram was the father of Ahaziah.
• Ahaziah fathered Jehoash or Joash.
• Jehoash or Joash was the father of Amaziah.
• Amaziah was the father of Uzziah.

In other words, ‘begat’ can mean “was related in the line to.” In the Bible, terms like ‘son’ and ‘father’ can mean ‘descendant’ and ‘ancestor’ respectively.

Matthew’s genealogy (Matthew 1:1-17) of Jesus was arranged into three successions of 14 generations each, and that genealogy is clearly selective. The secret is in the number “14”.

In Hebrew as in ancient Roman culture, numbers did not reserve their own fonts. People wrote numbers in letterform. As a result, a name was a number and often a
number formed a name. In Revelation 13, the “number of the name of the Antichrist” is called “666.” In Hebrew, the number “14” is formed by the spelling of the word “David.” The genealogy didn’t ignore the number of people in each segment – it offered fingerprints to the clue that Messiah was a son of David. The number wasn’t WRONG; it was the POINT of offering Matthew 1:1-17.

Granted, this isn’t really riveting stuff.

In fact, Ray Stedman tells the story of an old Scots minister who was reading from the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel, which is another genealogy. Ray wrote:

“He started reading, ‘Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac beget Jacob, and Jacob begat Judah,’ and he looked on ahead and saw the list to follow and said, ‘and they kept on begetting one another all the way down this page and halfway into the next.’”

On its face, a genealogy isn’t interesting, but it may have within it a clue to something essential to your understanding. It may offer the fingerprints of the One behind the scene of the obvious.

Let me show you by going back to where we were in Genesis 4.

Take a moment and see if you can recognize a pattern when I read to you the meanings of the names on the list. Be a little careful here, because Hebrew words can have more than one meaning, and are less specific than their English counterparts. With that in mind, look at this as a viable possibility of fingerprints:

Adam – means man

Cain is from Qayin, a word that can mean a spear from quwn (a word for a lance), but in its most basic consonant form (used only in antiquity) could be the base of a verb can be “acquired,” “received” or “gotten.”

Enoch or Hanoch, was from a verb Hanach, meaning “initiating” or “commencing,” like the beginning of a new stage of life.

Irad is from the word “Ir” which means city. It appears to be an early term for townsman or citizen. It may be “city dweller” as opposed to cowboy.

Mehujael (mekh-ee-yaw-ale’ is from machah and ‘el: smitten of God). The name simply means, “smitten of God” and may be a positive sense of “God struck.”

Methusael (meth-oo-shaw-ale’) is a tough combined word that includes a couple of ideas. Look it up and you will find a range from “Man of God” to “Who demands his death?” It is used in a wide range of forms. Meth was sometimes used in antiquity as the poetic designation of “that guy” or “a male.” It was used of a “champion” or a “man’s man.” In some places, it was used of a sword-wielding man who could increase his spoils, etc.

Lamech (leh’-mek) probably came from “to make low” in Hebrew and became the figurative word for “despairing.”

In Genesis 4:19 Lamech’s two wives had boys named…

Jabal (yaw-bawl’) which was a word for the meandering stream or watercourse, which figuratively seems to mean “wanderer.”

Jubal (yoo-bawl’) is another form of the word for his brother’s name, the fertile root-verb יבל (yabal), figuratively meaning to watercourse, but in this form perhaps more to “carry or bring along” probably as an early word for transport of goods on the water.

The half-brother of the boys was “Tubal-cain” (too-bal’ kah’-yin) is a word not of Hebrew origin. It was likely originally associated etymologically with a foreign priest and meant “higher man or exalted man.” It became a word used in forms as an answer, sometimes to “return an answer.”

After all that complexity, let’s see if we can venture into figuring what the name list COULD mean (if it is intended to tell a story).

• Adam – Man
• Cain – Acquired or received
• Enoch – (his) beginning or start.
• Irad – citizenship
• Mehujael – smitten of God
• Methusael – a man of increase.
• Lamech – despairing or lamenting
• Jabal” – a wanderer
• Jubal – brought along or brought about
• Tubal-cain – a man exalted.

How about this as a rough try: “Man received [a] beginning [of] citizenship smitten of God. Increasing as a champion, he laments and wanders [attempting] to bring about or bare along his [own] exaltation.”

Is that right? We don’t know. It isn’t far off, however. What is interesting is that it IS the story of Cain’s line. It ended with Lamech’s song, later found in Right Said Fred’s 1991 version of the song: “I’m too sexy for my shirt.”

Strip the whole thing down and here is what you will see: The line of Cain went from bad (Cain) to worse (Lamech). The line of Seth held out a little promise. It was in Seth’s days that men began to “call upon the name of the Lord” (4:26).Cain started his banished life making it all about what his hands could build. Men of his line accomplished innovations in self-made morality and exalted themselves. In the next chapter, they all died in the flood at enmity with God.

Ah, but the story with the fingerprints isn’t done. There is another whole chapter of genealogies!

They begin in Genesis 4:26. Let’s zero in on the names of the OTHER LINE of Adam and Eve’s next child, given to lift the countenance of their parents after the couple buried their son, Abel.

Genesis 4:25 Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.

Did you notice chapter four ended with a song that was a direct contrast with the “I’m too sexy for my shirt” anthem of Lamech? Seth’s line produced Enosh (en-ohsh’) who seems to have been instrumental in the development of worship – perhaps even making the first worship songs!

Look at Seth’s line in the names alone:

Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.

Mark the names:

Genesis 5:3 …Adam or man.

Genesis 5:3 …Seth (Shayth) or appointed.

Genesis 5:6 …Enosh (En-ohsh’) or “mortal,” “frail,” or “miserable.” (Note: It is likely from the root “anash” as in to be incurable).

Genesis 5:9 …Kenan (Kay-nawn’). (Note: Many study aids unfortunately presume an Aramaic root synonymous with “Cainan” rather, it appears to be a word from a “sorrow,” dirge,” or “elegy.”

Genesis 5:12 …Mahalalel (Mah-hal-al-ale’). (Note: It appears to be from mahala,l which means “blessed” or “praise”; and El, the name for God). Many Hebrew names included El, the title of God (as in Dani-el, “God is my Judge” or Nathani-el as in “Gift of God.”)

Genesis 5:15…Jared (Yeh’-red). (Note: Probably the future of the verb “yaradh” meaning, “shall descend” or “shall come down.”)

Genesis 5:19 …Enoch (Khan-oke’). (Note: Likely from the word meaning “commencement.” He was the first of four generations of preachers. In fact, the earliest recorded prophecy was by Enoch, which amazingly enough deals with the Second Coming of Christ.)

Genesis 5:21 …Methuselah (Meth-oo-sheh’-lakh). (Note: The name Methuselah may come from two roots: muth – a root that means “death” and from shelach, which means “to bring.” If these are correct, the name Methuselah signifies, “his death shall bring.”

It is worth understanding here that the Flood of Noah in the next chapter was not wholly a surprise.

Enoch appears to have named his son to reflect a prophecy of the coming cataclysm. In fact, by all we can see in the text, it appears in the year that Methuselah died, the flood came.

The text reveals Methuselah was 187 when he fathered Lamech and he lived 782 years more (Genesis 5:25-26).

Lamech had Noah when he was 182 (Genesis 5:28).

The Flood came in Noah’s 600th year according to Genesis 9:28:

Genesis 9:28 Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood. 29 So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years, and he died.

Add up the 187 years of age of Methuselah when he had Lamech, and add the 182 years of growth of Lamech until he had Noah, and then add 600 years to Noah’s life and you will get 969 years, Methuselah’s age when he died.

Genesis 5:25 … Lamech (Leh’-mek) likely meant “despairing.”
Genesis 5:29 … Noah (No’-akh) means comfort.

If we are even close, when we put this all together you will get:

‘Man [was] appointed mortal and sorrowful – The Blessed God shall come down [and] commencing with his death [one] shall bring the despairing rest.’

Was this a prophecy of the Gospel? Maybe. Was this a prophecy of the death of Methuselah ushering in the end of a time of earthly despair? Surely. We will look at the despair and remedy in our next lesson. For now, it is worth noting this:

If God wrote the story, did He leave His fingerprints anywhere we can find them?

I would say without apology: “He certainly did.” God revealed to man what man could not otherwise know. That is why we study the Bible. It isn’t so we can somehow stump people over the curiosities – it is so we can stand in the presence of an awesome God and know that the line of Seth knew: God is to be praised.

• Cain’s selfishness and sinfulness played out its hand and ended singing an anthem to man’s goodness, man’s rights and man’s self-made morality.
• The gift of God to Eve in Seth was there was another way. The line of Seth would yield worship, wonder and, in the end, warning.

If you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior, you understand the wonder of God well enough, because you have seen His love to you when you didn’t deserve it at all. You have stood back in wonder and fallen down in worship. Today, you have no pleasure in warning a generation that God is serious about sin, and the return of the Savior excites you for yourself, but troubles you for your neighbor who does not yet know Jesus.

If you care little for these things, thank Cain. You can measure life in accomplishments, but the Bible assures they will be swept away. One generation erects memorials to men; the next generation may well tear them down.

It is a generation following Cain’s way that makes up its own rules, defines family as they see fit, and raises arrogant and self-entitled children that have confidence they can bring down God Himself. The problem is, the day of the rains arrives, and they don’t have a boat to save them.

There is a true story about two brothers from the nineteenth century. When I reveal their identities, you will know one of them well enough to share even his middle name.

The older brother was born in 1833 and became perhaps the most famous actor of his generation. He toured throughout America and the major capitals of Europe, performing his signature roles in Shakespearean plays. In 1869, he founded a theatre in New York. Theatrical historians consider him among the greatest American actors, and mark him as the greatest Prince Hamlet of the 19th century. Virtually every one of his generation knew his name, but it was lost after a single action of another actor, his younger brother. The older brother’s name was Edwin Thomas Booth. Ironically, Edwin was noted for his ardent support of the Union in the Civil War, and in 1864, he saved Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert, from serious injury or death on a train platform in Jersey City, New Jersey. Robert Lincoln recalled the incident in a 1909 letter to Richard Watson Gilder, editor of The Century Magazine. Edwin managed the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City and bought the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. He made a fortune, opened a theatre, lost it in the panic of 1873, traveled Europe and regained it all. He founded The Players, a private club for performing, literary, and visual artists and their supporters, and dedicated his home on Gramercy Park to it. Nothing could stop his popularity and success – except his brother. John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865 and the infamy associated with the Booth name forced Edwin Booth to abandon the stage for many months. He recovered, but you probably have never heard of his brother John.

Two boys grew up together. They came from the same place. They made different choices, and they led to different ends.

The Cain and Seth story is an old tale, but it is still happening.

Boot Camp: “What Went Wrong?” (Part Five) – Genesis 4:1-16

In the autumn of 1952, Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck published a now famous work called East of Eden. Critics described the work as his “most ambitious” novel, while (according to his third and last wife Elaine) Steinbeck considered it his “magnum opus.”

If you haven’t read it, the novel has some rough language and tough scenes (so I hesitate to recommend it even if it is a classic work), but the plot line details the growth of two families – the Trask family and the Hamilton family – and shows how the two intertwined over the decades. The manuscript was addressed to Thom and John Steinbeck, the two sons of the author who were both grade school aged at the time of the publishing.

Steinbeck wanted to eloquently describe life in the now lush (but once harsh and uninviting) Salinas Valley. The area has become one of the most productive agricultural regions in central California, following the course of the Salinas River south of San Francisco Bay and Silicon Valley. The story offered grand detail of the landscape – the sights, sounds, smells, and colors. Its beginnings were filled with stories of grit, dirt, rock and stiff-lipped arduous laborers.

I won’t ruin the plot of the novel except to offer up its underlying theme. Set in an ongoing philosophical debate by two of the stories characters, a discussion about Cain and Abel revealed the author’s true query: Do men have the power to choose their course in life, or are they somehow compelled to plot a course toward “sainthood” or “doomed sinner”?

The title of the book was taken from Genesis 4:16, the last verse we will consider in this lesson. East of Eden suggests an ending place after one has savagely betrayed another. The story details a scorned walk into banished lands.

The problem is that many people tell the story of their life as if ongoing rebellion is somehow God’s fault. The banishment and its exhausting and punishing effects seem to just happen to these hapless victims.

That isn’t the truth. While it is true we are born broken, it is also true that our continued troubles come as the result of our deliberate choice to continue in rebellion against God.

That is at the heart of the next part of the Genesis story. In chapter four, we get the opportunity to remain tucked behind a bush and witness the first murder of a man by another man. As we are shocked by this heinous crime, consider an essential underlying truth of the passage…

Key Principle: Though our sin nature was passed from Adam, it offers no excuse to the rebel. We must admit to ourselves that we still choose to sin – because our default setting is set to “selfish.”

Take a moment and read the text of God’s Word from the familiar story of Cain and Abel:

Genesis 4:1 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a man child with the help of the Lord.” 2 Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 11 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. 16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Before we explore what we just read, let’s refresh memories concerning the path behind us in our book study of the first of our collected works of Moses. We have looked at some important truths over these studies:

• First, when we began our study, we noted the divisions of the book into a prologue and ten “scrolls” that unfolded a deliberate story – beginning with the Creation and moving into the formation of a tribal family through whom God decided to show Himself to the world.

• Next, we looked at the prologue of Genesis 1:1-2:3 where the text revealed the facts that God both made everything and that He liked what He made. Each element of creation served His decreed purpose.

• Finally, as we dove headlong into the first “scroll” in Genesis 2:4-4:26 unfolded the story of “what went wrong” in God’s treasured Creation. We are still in the midst of that tale in this study.

As you look at the familiar story of Cain and Abel, you will note that God took three steps on behalf of a rebel in spite of his continued angry insurgence.

First, God offered a rest and blessing even after rebellion.

Adam and Eve sinned and were dismissed from the Garden. Yet, the sun rose. A new day began…

First, Eve experienced God’s blessing in spite of her sin:

Genesis 4:1 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a man child with the help of the LORD.” 2 Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Sin and rebellion wasn’t the END of the human story – and that opening offers great hope and promise for all of us! God purposed to move the human story forward – and Eve knew that God was at work. Though the words of the story of Cain and Abel were meant as a sampling of sin’s consequences and spread, even those words included the goodness of God in spite of human failing. It is an important reminder: God works in spite of us because of His character and His decree. He desires obedience, but doesn’t only bless us because of obedience.

Eve overtly credited God with her offspring, suggesting that she saw God as continuing in blessing even after expulsion from the Garden.

Many scholars see an implication of personal repentance in the exclamation of Eve that her womb was filled with the help of the Lord. They do so because people who reject God are prone to overlook His goodness, and do not easily offer Him credit when they reach their greatest life moments. Clearly, for Eve, becoming the mother of the living was her greatest achievement, and she saw it as something from the hand of God

Second, the next generation grew into relationship with God:

Note the beginning of the account:

Genesis 4:2b …And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

Two things are obvious about these words:

The first one is there is a diversity of what the children of Adam and Eve accomplished. Two children from the same parents can respond to the opportunities and challenges of life in two very different ways. Bear in mind that Biblical scholars believe the depth of variation in the earliest genetic material was far greater than what we have today. As a result, the differences between the sons may have been much more drastic physically than in the case of our children. They may have looked quite different, and clearly, they chose different occupational paths.

Stop and consider for a second the words of Proverbs 22:6:

Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The child-rearing lessons of the text appear, many believe, are taken from the images of a growing fig tree and its fruit. For instance, the term “train” is the Hebrew word “khawnak” – a word that was also used in reference to the work of a midwife rubbing the gums of a newborn with oil, or with the white milky juice of a “pag” or green fig. In Arab culture, chewed dates or figs are still used to get a reluctant baby to nurse from a mother. The idea is to “squeeze into the child things that will cause the child to intrinsically desire truth.” Add to that the phrase, “in the way he should go” which should be more accurately translated “according to his bend” and the illusion to the fig tree is obvious.

Let’s say the verse this way: “Squeeze into the child truth that causes him to desire more, but do it according to the bend of the child, and when they are old, they will not depart from those truths because they were intrinsic and explained in a way that made sense to them.”

Since we know children may be starkly different from one another, we must recognize each will require different ways to reach into their heart. Each will respond uniquely to the type and number of restrictions we place on them. A good parent learns the child before they make the rules. That allows them to speak into the life of a very young child in a language the child will recognize as loving and intentionally helping. As the child grows, a parent must prepare them for a more impersonal system meant for older children and young adults.

Next, note how closely these early young men were identified by what they accomplished in life. In our last lesson, we made the point that behavior and identity are not the same thing. Here it is important to understand how early that confusion was woven into the human experience. From some of the earliest words of Scripture, we see accomplishment and behavior became a summary statement of one’s identity. It can be hard to see it as you read, because it has become so fluent in our thinking. Cain farmed. Abel shepherded. Yet, look at the words and you will see something different: Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. It is subtle, but it is there. We all refer to people by what they do, and are very casual about it. That isn’t wrong; it is simply incomplete. We are all much more than what we do.

Remember, though the crossing of identity and accomplishment is a very old idea, it can easily lead to a misunderstanding. Remember the story of of Cain and Abel isn’t one of success, but one of complete failure and breakdown in relationship. Let’s say it clearly, so we don’t allow a haze to remain on the text:

Cain wasn’t simply a farmer. Abel wasn’t simply a shepherd. Both began as children implanted into the womb by God’s grace.

They were sons of a family who saw, experienced, and even FAILED God. I don’t want to read too much into the way they were introduced, but it is important to see how early in history men framed their identity by their work, and to understand why that can be a dangerous proposition.

I implore young men and women not to wrap your identity in your accomplishments. The day will come as you age when you will no longer be able to do what you once did. Does that diminish your identity? It will tend to do so if you don’t understand that your accomplishments are not what make you who you are, rather your character is. When the lights go down and the crowd has moved on to younger talent, you will need to know the things you did were not who you are – or your life will fall apart. Go back to the text…

Second, God still made Himself personally available to fallen men.

Watch how the relationship between each man and God developed individually. Moses recorded:

Genesis 4:3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.

Before we focus on the details of the respective offerings, there is something that must be addressed about these words. It is obvious that much more was going on in the background of the story that is not verbalized in it. Don’t forget that.

For instance, other children were clearly born to Eve, because Cain and Abel needed and found wives to continue the adventure of human history. Unrecorded instruction must have been given to men and women on the subject of worship. Cain and Abel knew to bring offerings of their labor to the Lord, but the call to do so is not overtly specified in the text up to this point. How did they know? The answer is simple, but also critical. Most people who lived in the time of the text never got as much as an honorable mention in it. Much happened that was not recorded because the nature of history is selective. Many events and many people critical to forming the most important ideals are left in the unremembered dust of history.

Not to be too pointed, but would you allow me to ask: One hundred years from now, how many people will know ANY contribution you made on the planet? It is simply a mistake to think that only those mentioned in the text were born, and only instructions mentioned in the text were offered. That is clearly not the case if you read the whole account closely.

Look carefully at the words that describe the offerings given to God.

• You will note that each man gave from his increase (that increase came because of God’s enabling).

• You will note that Cain came first with an offering, and Abel followed.

• You will note that God didn’t receive the two offerings the same way.

Because of the brevity of the account, we don’t really have detail on what the specific issue that was between God and Cain – but there clearly was an issue. We also cannot be certain how Cain KNEW his offering didn’t get God’s approval, but we know from the story that Cain knew God simply didn’t regard his offering as He did in the case of his brother’s offering. The Hebrew term translated “regard” is “shaw-aw” and is normally translated with words like “gazed at.” The word suggests something that draws your attention in a way that makes it difficult to look away. God’s “eye” was caught by Abel’s offering, but not by Cain’s offering.

Third, God offered counsel to the distraught rebel.

Without God’s gaze, Cain became angry within (khawraw is “burnt up”) and despondent (with a sullen face) without. Rather than drop to his knees to ask God about His lack of regard, Cain simply turned to emotionalism and burned inwardly. I suspect he didn’t ask because he knew what the problem was already.

Regardless of what you think caused God’s disregard, I would like you to be open to the idea that the source of Cain’s trouble was neither God nor his brother Abel. In fact, his problem was made plain by God’s own declaration. To find it we must keep reading:

Genesis 4:6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Here is the heart of the passage. It seems clear that Cain thought he was entitled to be considered acceptable to God, especially if his brother was! Yet, God made it clear:

• Cain had a choice in the presentation of his offering.
• Cain had a choice in his response to God’s apparent rejection.
• Cain’s wrong choices about both invited the lion at the door to bound into his door and pounce on him.
• Cain could not insist that he couldn’t be held responsible because God made clear: “You must master it!”

Consider for a moment the phrase: “It lies crouching at his door.” Of whom or what was God speaking? It will take more investigation to find the answer. Stop and think of it this way: There are three primary reasons why you may do wrong.

First, we act out our identity – and we are born sinners. We can almost “auto-sin” by nature. Our default switch is set to self-protection and self-focus. Because Cain was conceived after the Fall of man, he was formed with that flawed switch – yet that wasn’t a fool-proof excuse to be released from responsibility for his choices, as God made clear.

Second, we get enticed by the enemy and drawn into rebellion. Clearly, God’s enemy is involved in fanning the flames of mutiny in us and in our culture. Yet God has offered a resistance plan – so it IS possible to resist. Further, God didn’t blame the enemy for Cain’s choices – He blamed Cain.

Third, we respond to chastening with “digging in” further. Cain may simply have chosen the path of continued intentional rebellion instead of softening before God – and each step is easier to continue and harder to reverse. Rebellion causes a momentum flow like a downhill ride. The initial push against inertia is more than it takes to “go with the flow” once rebellion has taken hold.

In this case, the fallen nature within Cain assisted him in choosing to do wrong, AND the continued momentum made it easier to remain in rebellion than turn back in repentance, so he chose to keep digging himself in. It appears to me the enemy was a part of the problem only after Cain invited him in by rebellion. Remember our key principle:

Though our sin nature was passed from Adam to all of us, we must admit to ourselves that we still willfully choose to sin – because our default setting is set to “selfish.”

There is a temptation to blame Satan for things that believers do without his assistance. Cain’s trouble was the continual rebellion and rejection of God’s right to rule as He sees fit. That mutinous rejection robbed Cain of happiness and set him up for a terrible attack in his life. It wasn’t simply Cain’s basic sin nature that became the main problem here; rather his main problem was his refusal to turn around the actions of his life in softness toward God and recognition of His right to rule. The wrong choice wounded his heart and set him up for attack. Enter Satan.

Let’s think of it this way: While there was a sin nature infecting Adam and Eve’s sons, the setting of the jaw in rebellion was the real culprit.

How do I know it wasn’t Satan at the beginning? 1 John 3 mentions:

1 John 3:11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, [who] was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.

If you look closely at what John revealed, long after the fact (by means of the Spirit) you will note that he depicted Cain as lacking love, being “of the evil one” and committing a murder. Look at the order. First there was a choice to love and do good, THEN (only after that choice) did sin crouch at the door. Satan entered a situation where disobedience was already an acceptable option. That is why we identified the one crouching at the door as the very lion who sought to devour, Satan himself. John asked, “Why did Cain murder Abel?” His answer was straightforward: “Cain’s deeds were evil, while Abel’s deeds were righteous. That isn’t a complete answer, but it is a hint. Remember, when Jesus addressed the statute of murder, He reminded us that:

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person.

The problem for Cain was not that he was being treated unfairly, nor was it his ignorance of offerings. Sin is of the heart. His problem was the heart with which he brought the offering.

Remember Abel? Hebrews 11:4 reminds:

By faith, Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

What did Abel do by faith? He offered to God an acceptable sacrifice. Why was his offering accepted? It was NOT the substance of the offering, since Moses was clear – Cain was a farmer; Abel was a shepherd. The issue was what was in their hearts, not their hands.

At this point, you would think God was DONE with Cain, but He wasn’t. God willingly engaged Cain long after Cain wouldn’t speak the truth:

Moses recorded:

Genesis 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.

If my count is correct, this is the third time God pressed Cain to come clean and make right his rebellion. Only when the rebel wrapped himself in mutiny, God made plain the cost of what he chose to do:

Genesis 4:11 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 So the LORD said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. 16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

You end up in Nod, east of Eden, when you dig in instead of turning back.

Though our sin nature was passed from Adam to all of us, we must admit to ourselves that we still willfully choose to sin – because our default setting is set to “selfish.”

Stop overplaying that God has somehow abandoned you because of your gross sinfulness. It isn’t true.

• He blesses even when we don’t deserve it.

• He makes Himself available even after we are willfully wrong.

• He offers counsel when we are bewildered by the troubles of life.

If you are honest, it isn’t the number of times God makes overtures in your life to please Him. The real problem is how comfortable you and I become with living in rebellion!

Boot Camp: “What Went Wrong?” (Part Four) – Genesis 2:4-4:26

John Simon Ritchie was born on a spring day in 1957 in Lewisham, England to a middle-aged couple, John and Anne Ritchie. John’s mom was a high-school dropout who left school to join the RAF. His dad was a guardsman at Buckingham Palace and a trombone player on the London Jazz scene. Shortly after Ritchie’s birth, the couple split up and in his early years, little John lived in a small rented flat in east London. As a teen, he became an avid David Bowie fan and a “clothes hound.” He learned to play bass guitar and eventually became the most famous member of the influential punk rock band the “Sex Pistols” where John took the stage name “Sid Vicious.”

During the meteoric rise of the band, Vicious befriended and later lived with manager Nancy Spungen, as the pair entered a destructive codependent relationship based on heavy drug use. Sometime later, Nancy Spungen’s murder was well publicized, as she was found in a pool of blood, stabbed while the couple was staying in New York City’s Hotel Chelsea. Under suspicion of the crime, Vicious was released on bail to continue performing but was later re-arrested after assaulting a man at a nightclub. A judge ordered a psychological evaluation and John forcibly underwent drug rehabilitation on Rikers Island in New York. In celebration of Vicious’ temporary release from prison, his mother hosted a homecoming drug party for him (she had been supplying him with drugs and paraphernalia since he was young). Late that night she assisted him in procuring heroin, and he died in his sleep after overdosing on it.

By all accounts, in less than twenty-two years of life, John Ritchie had seen life. He knew what it was to be rich and what it was to be poor. He knew fame and he knew loneliness and rejection. He lived a short, tumultuous life. I wanted to read you some of his lyrics, to help us hear how his bleeding heart was so very obvious, but couldn’t find any that had words I could be comfortable reading silently, let alone reading out loud in mixed company. I thought it telling that his most purchased song was a takeoff of the Sinatra song: “I did it MY way!” The lyrics are vulgar, woven together with some of the more familiar Sinatra ones.

Why do I mention Sid as we open Genesis 3. The answer is simple, but painful. Sid lived life on his terms. So did Frank Sinatra… so did Adam and Eve – and that is the problem. Many in our day frame life as though “living on my terms” becomes a statement of freedom. The record of the original sin confirms a contrary view.

Life lived by rules formed in rebellion will not lead me where I think it will.

Let me go backward for a moment to set that statement in context… Over the last few weeks, we have been walking carefully through the record of the beginning of the human story, looking at the Biblical Creation account and then searching the text for an explanation of the origin of evil in the world. We have called that pursuit “What Went Wrong?”

• We looked at Genesis 1 and recognized the story told us two things: God created everything and gave it the purpose for its existence, and God LIKED things the way He designed them.

• We followed that in Genesis 2 and found that God designed man, then woman. He assigned them both certain tasks, and then made them MORAL AGENTS with the opportunity to obey Him and commune with Him, or not. We recognized from Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22 of the “Greatest Commandment” that God’s highest moral ethic was love, and true love requires choice. God’s original design allowed the possibility of evil, though God did not create evil.

As we continue our look at “What went wrong?” we should keep reading Genesis 3 to the end. As we do we will note the following truth:

Key Principle: Every facet of life was disastrously infected by the introduction of sin into a world not designed to operate well after the assault.

Understanding what Evil Is

Before we look at the impact of the introduction of evil and sin into the story of humanity (which is the heart of the rest of Genesis 3), we need to stop and emphasize something so that we don’t go astray from the truth. We must address a definition so that we can discern what evil truly IS and what it is NOT.

To that end, let me offer a simple illustration I used at the Youth Conference this past week speaking to the crowd of teens in attendance:

If I place a chair in the middle of the platform, can you seriously make the argument the area beside that chair is the place I created a “not chair” space? That is how many people approach evil. In other words, some people argue about EVIL as if it is something God could have created – but evil IS NOT a thing. It is the absence of something.

Ask any police officer derided for the ticket they just wrote, and he or she will tell you: “You don’t create disobedience by creating a standard.

Let’s say it this way: Evil is mutiny against His designed order and ultimately against God Himself. When any of us disobey God, we engage in evil. Evil is not the presence of something; it is the absence of righteousness, the negative, and the disobedient diversion from the standard. It is the willful absence of submission to God’s perfection. It is the abandonment of holiness (the distinctive quality of God).

We must be clear on this: Evil is NOT a thing created, a substance invented, an entity discovered, or a dark force God surprisingly encountered along the way. Evil is the lack of moral perfection. Therefore, God did not create evil, author evil, or make evil – that is simply the wrong way to think of the concept.

That doesn’t solve everything because there is something God DID that bothers people.

The Lord God of Heaven decreed evil would be included as part of His eternal story. He used the heinous departure from His good desire for His own purposes in the telling of His story. Don’t forget! The point of the story has always been to REVEAL WHO HE IS to the cosmos (in contradistinction to His enemy’s claims about Him). God’s story was constructed for an audience that includes both mankind and the angelic world that preceded man in creation.

Let’s not float in the stars – let‘s get down to the account of how evil entered the human story, and what it affected.

We read in our last lesson the story of 3:1-7 and learned:

• The story began with the serpent and his arrival to the Garden (3:1).

• Satan’s mimicry of a known animal of the field was a trick explained in later portions of the Bible, where his sneaky ploy was unmasked (3:1).

• In costume, Satan used Eve’s misperception of what it means to “die” and used that to twist her thinking (3:2-4).

• Eve was drawn by the appeal of the fruit and rejected God’s analysis that the fruit was poison. She called it “good for food” in her mind, when God said it would, in fact, kill her (3:5)

• After Eve touched the fruit she kept breathing, so she decided to eat it as well (3:6).

• By the end of the account, Adam and Eve had defied God, and suddenly things in the Garden looked “changed” to them (3:7).

It is at that point we resume the story with the devastating results of their mutiny against God.

The backdrop was a beautiful canvas. Remember the words that ended the creation account in Genesis 2:25?

Genesis 3:25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

When they were created, man and woman were feeling good. Man was OK with himself. Woman was OK with herself. No billboard advertisements at the edge of the garden made them feel inadequate. They had no marred self-image – no need for better makeup or another exercise machine they would eventually save for a garage sale. The issue wasn’t whether they were beautiful enough or felt important enough – they were happy with who God made them.

Enter the tempter (3:1). Think about the series of events that led to a long row of dominoes falling in an escapade of destruction:

• The man was to guard the garden and failed – exposing his wife to the guile of the tempter and neglecting the protection of the boundaries of God (Genesis 3:1b).

• The woman actively entertained the vital question of God’s authority over her and focused on the one thing God told them to leave alone – deciding the promised poison looked perfectly palatable (Genesis 3:2-3). She failed to trust God’s Word.

• The serpent openly accused God of holding back on what was best for them and they failed to recognize that God was exactly Who He claimed to be (Genesis 3:4-6).

What came from the fall affected every area of life:

They faced the initial LOSS of INNOCENCE – when the text reminds, “their eyes were opened” in Genesis 3:7a.

In 1998, Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels and Joan Allen starred in the Hollywood version of a play named “Pleasantville.” In the story, David Wagner (played by Maguire) was a TV loving kid whose mind was stuck in the 1950s. He was addicted to a classic 50’s sitcom show named “Pleasantville,” a story about people living in a simple place where all of its citizens were swell and simple-minded. They knew nothing of violence and life seemed idyllic. Watching the show one evening, David and his obnoxious sister Jennifer (played by Reese Witherspoon) are tossed into the TV world of that town when an eccentric repairman gave them a mysterious magical remote. Dropped into 1950’s Pleasantville, David and Jennifer bring the village out of their 1950s lifestyle of repressed desires and move them into more modern societal values (read: they bring in sexual immorality as a device to set people free) while trying to find their way home. In the beginning of their time in Pleasantville, the whole screen is in “black and white” as a 1950’s show would be. As each person in the movie launches from repression to freer sexuality, he/she becomes color. The town begins to become rich in color. That is the view of the producers of the film. Life that is beautiful is life that has left even the simplest of ethical morays – like sexual expression in the context of marriage bonds.

Isn’t that exactly what Satan promises? “Throw off the rules and you will be free!” Live with your eyes wide open. Don’t be naïve, as if the worst thing that can happen to you is to miss the dirty connotation to the joke just told. From that generation of “freedom thinkers” we saw the value of childhood diminished. Little girls needed to grow up faster.

Let me challenge this way of thinking for a moment. “Worldly wise” when it really means “Sexualized and forced from innocence” is no wisdom at all.

Keep reading what else casting off God’s Word and leadership did:

They faced the DEATH of a positive SELF IMAGE, seen in the phrase “they knew they were naked” in Genesis 3:7b. Suddenly, they found themselves deficient. This was the birth of fashion houses, cosmetic companies, and Gold’s gym. Eve looked at her body and began to evaluate that she wasn’t looking as fine as she did yesterday. She was going to need some accessorizing. Adam noted some mid-section pudginess and started thumbing through magazines for an “ab buster” to keep that “six pack.” Wait a minute! Wasn’t eating the fruit supposed to make them BE LIKE GOD and know everything? What they learned is that without God, life doesn’t look the same!

Not only that, but they faced the first embarrassing blush of SHAME when the text reminds they “covered themselves” in Genesis 3:7b. It wasn’t bad enough they didn’t like what they saw on themselves, but they suddenly felt it wasn’t good enough for anyone else to see either. Shame convinces us we are worthless – because worth was instilled by God and living in disobedience makes us feel like a fraud. Shame makes us feel unlovable to others. It isolates us.

Remember this: One of Satan’s most important ploys is to entice you to isolate yourself.

If he can convince you that you should be ashamed, you will volunteer to live in a prison with an unlocked cell door!

It was only that, they faced a DEBILITATING CHANGE in their relationship with the Creator, feeling, for the first time, the need to “hide themselves” from God in Genesis 3:8-10. Not only did Satan beckon them to isolation, but guilt drove them to run from the only ONE Who was deeply invested in making them truly successful. They could have run up to God weeping and told Him they were wrong…but that isn’t like us. We’d prefer to hide what is wrong and hope He doesn’t know as much as His Word teaches He truly does.

They faced the anguish of all that DESERVED GUILT and exchanged healthy and holy reverence of God for open FEAR to be seen of God in Genesis 3:10. Reverence leads us to worship. Fear leads us to HIDE. One ends in acknowledging how GOOD God is in spite of us, the other leads us to believe we are rejected before we even ask for forgiveness.

The bottom line is that man’s pain came from his deliberate mutiny against His Creator’s right to rule his life – and so does YOURS.

When we decide we know better than God does about our children, our finances, our emotional needs and our sense of fulfillment – we relinquish the benefits of trusting Him to meet our every need. Seeking to gain, we lose out on blessing. Blessing comes from submission, correction and re-connection. The wages of mutiny are a grand dose of shame, discontent, guilt and a host of unforeseen problems and unintended consequences.

Go to Genesis 3:12 and listen to the sound of blame shifting and guilt:

First, hear the sound of BLAME:

Genesis 3:12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

• Man tried to blame the woman for his lack of guardianship and leadership (3:12) – the leader blames the followers!

• The woman blamed the tempter (3:13) – like the shopper blaming the advertiser for MAKING HER BUY the product!

Don’t miss the common thread in the two! Blame is formed by ignoring personal responsibility while victimizing yourself. It is an exercise of making someone else responsible for your response to a situation.

Inside the BLAME can be found the dulcet tones of human RATIONALIZATION: We are prepared to trade long held grand ethics for short term practical benefits.

Dottie and I bought another older vehicle for her use this week. The seller thought they were being kind by leaving off the purchase price of the vehicle so we could claim less if we didn’t want to pay the full sales tax. After all, they said, the tax was paid on the vehicle when it was bought new. Why should the government get another tax revenue on the used price sale? Can you hear how easy it is to rationalize? Can you read the hash tag “#not my tax” as if people who don’t agree with something have a right to lie to cover their disagreement? Remember this: rationalizing is making a plausible excuse that is entirely acceptable to you, but is not actually correct. We do it when our morals call us to sacrifice our account balances. If you want to work to change tax policy, that is a great place to get involved in government. The wrong way to do it is lie about a price to receive the benefit of it. Why? The answer is simple.

God didn’t amend “thou shalt not lie” with words like, “unless thou thinkest thy government already has enough and shouldn’t get more of yours.”

Keep reading in the text:

Genesis 3:14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;

It is clear that God immediately imposed judgment against the creature. Don’t miss that this is the first time in the Bible that we read about God “cursing” something. What does that mean? In short, God’s curse is the opposite of God’s blessing. It is the turning of the winds of support into the face of the one advancing. Where God guides, He provides. Where God forbids, He allows the elements to harm us in exposure.

Picture God’s blessing as a warm parka in an Alaskan snowstorm. Picture His curse as taking away the waterproof quality of that parka, and allowing the elements to seep, creep and freeze. It isn’t designed to be comfortable. It is designed to be punitive, instructive and corrective – as well as a deterrent to onlookers.

Even greater than what man could understand, the mutiny opened the front in a spiritual WAR.

Look at Genesis 3:15:

Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Because of sin, God promised to engage man in a battle between the deceiver and his own future through the provision of the Messianic seed (3:15). Look closely at the verse. God would bring enmity (read: a “knockdown, drag out fight”) between Satan and man. In the process, the seed of the enemy (those convinced to follow him) would battle the seed of the woman that was coming.

Look at the promise, because something is obviously incorrect on the face of the statement.

Women don’t provide “seed” to make a child. That necessary ingredient is placed within them. Only ONE WOMAN would have “seed” placed within without the assistance of the man (perhaps in response to his passivity in the Garden). That woman was the physical mother of the Savior, who bore a child without carnally “knowing” a man.

The bottom line of the passage was this: Satan’s seduction, Eve’s mutiny, Adam’s passivity and stupidity – none of it surprised God. Not one thing. He already had a plan in place to redeem from the moment sin occurred.

The passage is one of judgment, but even in the midst of God’s strong hand there was GOOD NEWS of undeserved grace and unstoppable salvation. Theologians call this passage the first proto-evangelion – the first “Gospel” if you will.

The great news exposed in this promise was this: sin will not rule forever. In fact, even in His judgment of death, God made clear that physical death was not immediate, and the woman would have offspring. That offspring would one day crush the serpent’s head. That good news found fulfillment at Calvary in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The fact is that you were born into a spiritual war. There is a real enemy. There is a real fight – but you were given the armor of Ephesians 6 to stand the ground upon which God has placed you!

God turned His eyes to the woman, and in a famous passage He promised her PHYSICAL PAIN would replace the joy of the reproductive system. A collective groan may now rise from the females of the assembly! The pain of childbirth is not ALL there is to this! He said:

Genesis 3:16 To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth; in pain you will bring forth children…”

Whereas the woman was designed to find great joy in bearing a child, there would be physical pain in the reproductive cycle, in pregnancy, and in delivery. What should bring JOY now brought pain. What should have been SAFE, now often became unsafe. For centuries, many women left this life while bearing a child. I suspect Adam (if he saw her delivering children) probably never forgot the risks were directly associated with their rebellion.

In addition to PHYSICAL PAIN, there was another change in the woman. She, who was designed to be an assistant to do good, became A HELPER in REBELLION! Woman was made to AID man in his walk with God – and now she would COMPETE with him and help him by supplying her own rebellious spirit to his fully saturated rebellious heart (3:16b).

Look at the phrase:

Genesis 3:16b “…Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

The text suggests that she will want HIS JOB – and struggle with submission. I believe this record of the early penalty was given to remind us more and more of what will happen as the end draws near. What began as man’s passivity and woman’s mutiny will evolve into all kinds of confusion in relationship. What was designed to be TEAMWORK was about to become COMPETITION. She would find her relationship to her husband now to be a struggle for dominance. If physical pain weren’t the needed reminder, emotional struggle would be!
Look at the whole of the STRUGGLE: Because of the lack of guardianship and leadership, God ended His dealings with their rebellion in words to Adam – the work I gave you will now be a struggle. The ground won’t cooperate (3:17b-19).

Genesis 3:17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground because from it you were taken. For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Instead of Paradise, you will move to Thornburg. Nothing will be easy. Simple work will become sweaty toil. And the ultimate judgment for sin is death – and the bringing of the body BACK TO DUST.

Life went on.

If you keep reading, you will see that God wasn’t done with Adam and Eve’s role in the story.

Genesis 3:20 Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all [the] living. 21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

In Genesis 3:15, God showed He had a plan to provide for man long before man ever realized his problems. God set forth a coming VICTOR in the struggle against the enemy (3:15). In the interim, God supplied a temporary covering when man felt naked (3:21). Sadly, both the coming Victor and the short-term covering required the death of an innocent for their sin.

Before the end of the chapter, man was cast from the Garden into the fallen world (Genesis 3:22-24).

The text simply states:

Genesis 3: 22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

In Genesis 3:22, we became “like God” in that we now bore full culpability for our sin, because our defiance cast off the protection of innocence. Most of us experienced this as we grew into adulthood, so that we are now fully responsible for things were weren’t before.

• If you put your shirt on backward at age three – you tried and we give you credit for that. If you put your shirt on backward at twenty-three you are probably trying to say something, make a social commentary or protest. We think you are weird, but we accept that you are young. If you put your shirt on backward at 73, we think about calling your doctor!

• A perfectly understandable lapse of table manners at age two becomes a public point of shame if you don’t catch on by fifty-two.

• We understand when you run down the beach without your pants at age three, but if you do it at forty-three, we are going to collect our children, run to the car and call the police!

In Genesis 3:22b God said: “…and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—

From the beginning, death wasn’t the only option. There was another way for man to remain physically alive by God’s provision – if man ate from the tree of life. If he ate, his cells would regenerate, and his physical death would be pushed back. If he kept eating, the time of his physical death would keep moving back. God could have easily shut the system down, but that wasn’t His choice. He wanted to set up systems and operate within them. For the most part, He still does. There is the occasional breach of the norm – a miracle here or a healing there – but that isn’t the norm of our lives, even those of us who know Him.

If you keep reading, Genesis 3:23 reveals that, “God sent him out from the garden of Eden”.

Look at the link between man and the ground. He CAME from it, and now he would FIGHT with it to sustain himself. Held away from the cell regenerating plant of the Tree of Life, man needed to work the landscape and plant food. Eventually, he and his wife would go back to the ground – ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The chapter ends…

Genesis 3:24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

The end of the story can be felt in the words “drove the man out.” He was pushed to the OUTSIDE of the place of peace and blessing. He faced a hostile landscape with a sense of blame and failure, a newly changed competitive relationship with his wife.

Apart from God, our lives are DRIVEN OUT. We don’t have God ever-guiding, ever-providing. We live without the security of His divine approval.

Every facet of life was disastrously infected by the introduction of sin into a world not designed to operate well after the assault.

Boot Camp: “What Went Wrong?” (Part Three) – Genesis 2:4-4:26

It was a beautiful wedding! Your little sister brought a young man home from college – and he was a football and track star. The two looked very much in love, so it was no surprise when he asked her to be his wife. You were excited because she seemed truly happy – maybe the happiest you had ever seen her!

That was a decade ago…. Over the ten years, none of you recognized that he had been cheating on her in a series of sneaky relationships. One day she picked up his cell phone, read some texts, and it felt as if her world was reduced to a pile of rubble. Confronted, he stormed out of the house muttering something inane about her invading his privacy, but did not even acknowledge her pain over the substance of the texts.

A few months later, this man showed up at your house and sat down on your patio lamenting what he had done. He sobbed and seemed broken over that reality that he lost his wife. Stop. Listen closely to his words…If you aren’t distracted by his tears, you will hear his words. He is broken because he now has to cook his own meals. His heart is heavy over the reality that his life is now made up of laundry, alimony payments, child support, and embarrassment in front of many people in his life. How do you feel? Honestly, you are deeply offended by his tears. You are indignant that your dear sister has been crushed, your family has been burdened and you don’t hear him CARING about the effect his choices had on innocent people. His remorse isn’t about the relationship with his wife. He hurts over the consequences of his sin because they brought HIM discomfort and guilt.

One pastor I know said, “Many people come into my office weeping because of the consequences of sin, but few weep because of the sin itself. They have far more concern about the discomfort they feel in life than they do over the deep offense against the living God they have made in attitudes and choices that show unbelief.

If we are honest, most of us would admit we are often wounded by the consequences of our sinful choices, but are rarely broken over the sin itself.

Much repentance in our life has been more motivated by pain of consequence rather than an overwhelming sense of how greatly we have offended God’s holiness. We act like we sinned against inanimate “principles” when we sinned against a very personal Creator. Let’s talk about how we got to this state…

This is our fourth “dip” into the Scripture in this study of Genesis. For three of them (after the Prologue in 1:1-2:3), we have been searching intently for “What went wrong?” In a world created by a perfect God, we live with pain and problems. We haven’t rushed in our study, because this isn’t that kind of subject you run past. Deep troubles and pains take careful excavation to uncover the foundation.

So far, we discovered two reasons we face trouble:

• First, we noted that because of God’s highest ethic – that of love – man was created with the ability to choose to follow God or NOT. That choice was essential because love cannot be forced (or it is not truly love). As a result, the very design of man left the back door open to the temptation to fall away from God. That wasn’t a flaw in the design; it served the Author to tell His story.

• Second, we carefully uncovered the fact that the enemy exploited the designated purposes for both men and women in the creation narrative in the garden.

Truthfully, these insights lead us toward the moment of sin’s introduction. The present darkness of our world came from an historical past we will uncover today in Genesis 3. As we study the words of the text, look for this truth:

Key Principle: Every facet of life was disastrously infected by the insertion of sin into a world not designed to operate well after that incursion.

It is important to note that while man willfully chose to do wrong, he had no real idea of the extent of the cataclysm that would result from his actions. He was warned, but the warning had no context he could fully grasp. That doesn’t excuse the choice – but it explains one aspect of why the results seemed surprising to him.

Ultimately, he chose to mutiny for two core reasons:

• First, man didn’t truly believe that God’s Word was accurate.

• Second, man didn’t believe God’s will was paramount to his life.

The truth is: most people in our world still think like Adam and Eve. They trade what they truly want for what they want RIGHT NOW. They believe pleasing God is a good thing, unless it gets in the way of pleasing SELF.

Genesis 3 unwinds the perfection of the Garden of Eden in three parts:

• First, Genesis 3:1-7 tells of the conversation between Eve and the serpent.

• Second, Genesis 3:8-21 explains the curse because of sin.

• Third, Genesis 3:22-24 revealed man’s casting from the Garden into the fallen world.

The Conversation with the Serpent (3:1-7)

In this lesson, I want to focus ONLY on the first part of the chapter in Genesis 3:1-7. The conversation between Eve and the serpent is the single passage that describes the temptation process at its core.

Go back to the place where mutiny came into the human story, and death began its long reign in our world… Go back to Genesis 3. It opens with the story of a shadowy figure walking low in the garden:

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”

These words begin the twenty-four verses in Genesis 3 that are among the hardest to read in the entire Bible. They aren’t difficult in verbiage, but in even a glancing observation of the passage, this is the story of an explosion and destruction of something beautiful. Genesis 2 ended with two unashamed people tending God’s wondrous garden, taking walks with God in the cool of the day, and living with one another in harmony, without shame or struggle. As Genesis 3 opens, a serpent walks calmly into the garden and will leave nothing behind but total scorched earth when he is done his work. Look at Genesis 3:1 and note his description:

First, he came in the form of the most “crafty” animal in the land.

The text suggests the animal that approached was one known to man as “from the field,” but doesn’t specify if the speech of the animal should denote a “possession” of the animal by God’s enemy, or if some animals in the garden originally had a range of communication larger than they had after the Fall. The FACT the animal spoke didn’t seem to bother Adam or Eve. Perhaps they were still quite unfamiliar with many of the animals beyond a brief encounter where Adam “named” them. On the other hand, animals may have had greater communication skills at Creation than after “the Fall.” I don’t have a “Dr. Doolittle” complex about talking animals, but we just don’t know for sure.

Be open to another thought, if you can. Before sin, the line between the spiritual world and the physical world hadn’t yet been drastically cut. Let me say it this way: It may seem amazing to watch animals at a zoo, but imagine angelic beings wandering around in the beginning at Eden. They may well have been seen as part of the wondrous things God made. The break between material and spiritual may have come at the Fall, not before.

What I can see in the text is this: Adam and Eve perceived the talking serpent as acceptable.

At his introduction in Genesis 3, the serpent leaves us questioning: “Who or what was this ‘crafty animal?’”

Think of it this way: If you were in the Garden, everything you could see was good. The place was filled with wonder and color and all manner of creation to behold – and you were NEW to the place. Some of the creations could fly over your head into the sky. Others walked slowly, lumbering along the earth. Some had high necks and could eat from trees while others walked low to the ground. You saw them all and were excited by each variation.

Along the ground walked a serpent. The term for serpent (Heb: “nachash”) is the name used later for a reptile. Though artists often picture a snake wound around a tree, we don’t really know if that’s what they saw. The word for the serpents was “low to the ground” until the penalty God placed in Genesis 3:14 to slither on the ground. It appears the animal may have begun with short legs originally. Interestingly, the word nachash wasn’t a reference to appearance, but relates to the verb “to hiss,” and is associated with sounds that a reptile makes. That isn’t the only Hebrew term for a snake. The other word referring to reptiles, tannin seems to be used interchangeably (as in Moses and Aaron in Pharaoh’s court in Exodus 7:9-15).

Note carefully this serpent was compared to other animals in the field. It “was more crafty than any beast of the field,” which suggests this animal belonged in the animal kingdom. This doesn’t seem to be a “one off” singular kind of creation, a unique animal.

Take a look at that word “crafty” for a moment. It offers us a hint.

The term “crafty” (Hebrew “aw-room”) which is a common term for “shrewd” or even “discerning” and:

• It is used in Job for those who plot and deceive (Job 5:2, 15:5).

• It is used in Proverbs to denote someone who is difficult to “read” by face, particularly when insulted (their look doesn’t show how they feel – Proverbs 12:16, 23).

Something seems strange about that description on its face. The idea of the term is one who cannot be read easily, but keeps his intentions to himself. Remember: it is characteristic for a reptile to be able to look at peace even when it is about to strike. I suspect that is the true reason the enemy took its form.

How do I know the enemy took the form of this animal? It is very likely this wasn’t simply an inhabitant of the garden, but a mock materialization of the enemy of God in a form that mimicked a known animal. Later Scripture revealed the fallen Lucifer, Satan, as a serpent of deception. Revelation 12 called him the serpent that deceived the world. Revelation 20:2 reminds us Satan is the “serpent of old.” 2 Corinthians 11:3 made clear that Satan was, in fact, “the serpent who deceived Eve by his craftiness.” 2 Timothy 2:13 made clear the deception was physical, literal and historical.

With that in mind, think about the cunning craftiness of the enemy. He doesn’t show you where you are going to end up if you follow him. He attracts you and beckons to your desire, but has no interest in you at all. He wants what he wants from you…rebellion and mutiny and self-serving behavior.

Second, (in keeping with his description) his opening line was crafted to deceive.

Read the words again:

Genesis 3:1b … And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?

It is clear reading the account the serpent had no real question about what God did or didn’t say. This was a misleading question designed to deceive, not gain insight. Consider for a moment what that shows about the difference between God’s interactions with man, and Satan’s interaction:

• God started the story by SHARING with man all that He made. Adam had God’s instruction concerning what would happen if the path of disobedience was followed. God hid nothing and disclosed the end at the beginning. It is not God’s nature to HIDE or OBSCURE His intentions.

• Conversely, note how the enemy of God BLOCKED man from seeing where he wanted things to go in their time together. He essentially “masked” the nature of his desires in the opening line of his appearance before men.

Deception thrives in an environment where no one can easily connect the negative outcomes of succumbing to current temptations.

If you keep reading, you will notice the woman engaged the serpent as if more information was what was needed:

By Genesis 3:2, we have the first words of the woman found in Scripture. Not surprisingly, they were words of helpful explanation:

Genesis 3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”

By design, Eve was a helpful person. She was brought into the scene to add what was missing from her husband.

• Adam was made to oversee organization and administration of the garden, to do the practical work of maintaining both the garden and his walk with God, and also to maintain an intimate relationship with Eve.

• For her part, Eve was to deliberately assist him in his labors of life, to love and connect with him and to (eventually) care for the blessings of the womb. HELPING was what she was designed to do. Being helpful was her natural state.

We made the point that although Eve had no way of knowing, additional information couldn’t help in this situation. The serpent wasn’t confused, he was deliberately deceptive. When one desires to manipulate and obfuscate, more information only offers more to twist. It took a moment, but the serpent couldn’t WAIT to stand in direct opposition to God’s word and oppose Him.

Eve left the door open in what she said: “God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” Some commentators attempt to suggest her reference was inaccurate, but that is not at all certain. Perhaps Adam offered more information to Eve that was not incorporated into the text. Perhaps God told them more in the cool of the Garden afternoon walks. What is clear is this: if Eve thought “death” would be immediate and if she thought it would look like her toppling to the ground clutching her heart, she was wrong.

God used the terminology of “death” to refer to the umbilical cord of free flowing connection between Him and man.

In the Bible, the physical death of the body is a mere symptom of “real” death – the forced separation between God and man because of man’s mutiny against God’s authority. When man walked unquestionably with God, there was no mutiny. As a result, there was unending intimacy and obvious transparency. When man chose sin, a break with God was immediate. That was the primary meaning of death. Yet, that caused a problem. If her perception was immediate physical death, it seemed untrue when she first touched the fruit of the tree. It wasn’t her eating of the fruit that was her first sin – it was the decision to reach for it. Sin is of the heart, not of the hands.

Satan focused Eve on the notion that touching the fruit wouldn’t kill her, as if God wasn’t telling the truth. Watch what he said:

Genesis 3:4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!”

The serpent was subtle until he had Eve’s attention. This serpent clearly hated God. He was angry and on a mission to foment mutiny and pull mankind down into iniquity.

Don’t let the familiar passage cause you to lose focus. In this simple story we can observe one of the enemy’s oldest and dearest tricks. Satan takes our PERCEPTION of something (especially if it is incomplete) and uses it to show how God’s Word about something is at least insufficient of at worst just plain wrong!”

Think of it this way: Eve touched the fruit on the tree (after what Satan said) and perhaps she thought to herself: “See! I am still breathing! It didn’t KILL me. I wonder why eating it will be any different!” One bite and the enemy effectively used deception and her misconception to help her rationalize open rebellion.

Let me offer a simple example:

Maybe you grew up in a Christian home and had family devotions where someone read:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Following that reading, your dear loving grandma taught you “as if” from the Word, “You know, God will never give you more than you can handle!” That misstatement became a “Bible truth” that you placed into your heart. It became a part of your faith. You believed that like you believe that Jesus died for you. After all, God is good and He wouldn’t throw you into troubles beyond your ability, would He? If He were a teacher, He would gauge what you could handle before any assignment, or He wouldn’t be a very good teacher, would He?

Then the car accident happened. Your little child was killed. You sat in a dark corner and angrily told God He lied. “This IS more than I can handle!” It just IS. You told lies, God, if you are even real!” You didn’t notice the Word didn’t promise what Grandma promised in Jesus’ name. You didn’t recognize the passage had to do with “escape hatches” when it came to temptation. Your misconception opened the door for Satan to drive you to open rebellion.

By the way, just so I don’t leave the door open let me be clear: God WILL “sign off” on MANY THINGS that are beyond your ability to handle without Him. Your need of God continually opens the door to His gracious supply. People who won’t be pushed won’t grow. People who cannot be broken will not be reconstructed by God’s good hand, period!

Look at the follow up ploy of the enemy:

Genesis 3:5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The opening of the verse is marinated in rebellion. When He said, “For” he was contradicting God’s claim and saying “The REAL REASON is…” Strip that down and all it means, all it CAN mean is this: “You cannot trust God! You cannot trust His Word. You cannot count on His goodness and you should suspect His intentions toward you. All the enemy said was absolutely true – but not about GOD. She should have applied all the suspicion to the serpent, and NONE toward her ever-good Creator.

Look at the promise Satan made: “You will be like God!” If you look back at the description of the fall of Satan, you will identify that was the chief desire HE HAD that led to his own rebellion.

In the poetry of Isaiah 14:13, the prophet recorded of Lucifer’s fall:

Isaiah 14:13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”

Some time before Lucifer made that choice of rebellion to unseat His Creator. He thought he could be like God. He thought God got where He is by some knowledge He acquired – a knowledge that could be duplicated or attained by Satan.

That isn’t what it takes to be GOD. Satan may be cunning, but he’s not omniscient, he’s not omnipotent, and he’s not omnipresent. He’s not immutable and he’s not sovereign. In fact, he’s not like God at all. He is as UNGOD as he possibly could be.

Yet, he knew that promise held an appeal.

Watch closely as Eve gazed at the forbidden. She knew what God said. She rehearsed it. The problem is, the thing she wanted NOW became more important than the thing she wanted MOST. Genesis recorded:

Genesis 3:6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 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 loin coverings.

Look at the careful description of the first human temptation…

Eve “saw” (Hebrew: raw-aw’) it was “good for food” literally says she entertained the notion that the food was edible. But wait, God said it would KILL HER. Nothing is LESS GOOD for food than poison – and that is what God said this was to her. Remember, in temptation, we believe that we know what will be GOOD for us more than the God Who made us.

She observed it was a “delight to the eyes.” The term “delight” (tah-av-aw’) is sometimes translated desire, greed or lust. It is a word for “appetite” and “longing.” It is used in both a positive and negative sense, but always of a strong inner compulsion. Remember, often our desires don’t reveal what is best for us. Because we want it badly, doesn’t mean it will, in the end, be a good thing for us.

Look at the final phrase before she succumbed, where it recorded: “the tree was desirable to make one wise.” Eve reckoned acquisition of the fruit would improve her life beyond the counsel of God. Remember, the beginning of sin occurs when we believe God is not looking out for our best interest, so we have to attend to it ourselves. We sin because we have lost confidence in God’s intentions, and therefore in His Word.

Consider the wise words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his little book “Temptation” where he shared:

In our members there is a slumbering inclination toward desire, which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power, desire seizes mastery of the flesh. All at once a secret, smoldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames. It makes no difference whether it is a sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, our love of fame and power, or greed for money…At this moment God is quite unreal to us. [Remember those words.] He loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real. The only reality is the devil. Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God… The lust thus aroused envelopes the mind and will of a man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us. …It is here that everything within me rises up against the Word of God…. Therefore the Bible teaches us in times of temptation in the flesh, there is one command: Flee! Flee fornication. Flee idolatry. Flee youthful lusts. Flee the lusts of the world. There is no resistance to Satan in lust other than flight. Every struggle against lust in one’s own strength is doomed to failure.”

Temptation, then, is focusing on self-interest. It is losing trust in God to fulfill your needs. It is fixating on the promise that something else can satisfy in a way your Creator simply cannot.

Succumbing to temptation killed Paradise. It killed Eve. It killed Adam. Thankfully, that isn’t the end of the story God told us.

Because of Jesus Christ, Paradise will be restored. That truth is our chief comfort in our currently sin-cursed world.

Before I leave the passage, let me close by answering a question that many have posed over the years I have been in ministry. In one form or another, people ask: “Is the Adam and Eve story to be understood literally?” A few years ago at a Youth Conference, I was confronted with this question by a professor in a public university.

In response, let us assume the view of the antagonist for a moment. Let’s assume the record of Adam and Eve are simple stories, not meant to be understood literally.

What would be the harm in such a view? Would our faith be adversely affected by removing this literal sense to the story?

Let me suggest our faith would be dramatically altered by citing the history as a mere fable or moral story. Let me even suggest that virtually every major doctrine of the Christian faith hangs on this story and its veracity!

For instance, if Adam was not a real man, a specific choice to mutiny against God did not enter the world through one man as Paul related to the Roman church in Romans 5:12 states. He wrote:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned

When and how did sin enter world, then? We have no answer. Since the Word’s account, repeated many places in the text, is found to be a myth – our faith offers no answer to the problem of sin, suffering, injustice and wrong.

Consider something more. If Romans 5:12 repeats a moral myth as though it were an event, how do what other parts of Scripture are simply stories that should be taken lightly?

Never take the eternal words of a Sovereign God with a “grain of salt.”

That was the essence of the first temptation: You don’t have to believe the Word of God.

Honestly, if we didn’t have rebel parents in Adam and Eve, how do we know that Satan himself isn’t supposed to be an “avatar of evil” like a “dark force” and not a person?

Chopping parts of the Bible off to make the story palatable to modernity plays directly into the hands of the enemy to remain unseen, doesn’t it?

If Adam wasn’t real, maybe Satan wasn’t real. Maybe sin is a general concept. Maybe Cain didn’t slay Abel. Maybe Jesus’ reference to “the beginning” and “the blood of Abel” was all just a way of teaching moral lessons based on made up details.

Here is the point: once parts of the Bible can be tossed aside, why should we believe anything is literal? Did Jesus come? Was He God in human skin? Did He die on the Cross? Why would He do so if sin wasn’t a specific violation as taught in the Word?

When Jesus referred to these events as history, was He naïve or even intentionally deceiving people?

To deny the literalness of Adam and Eve is to place oneself in opposition to Jesus and the apostle Paul. If one has the audacity to claim he is right and Jesus and Paul are wrong, then Jesus is a sinner, not God, and not the Savior; the apostle Paul is a false prophet; and the Bible is not inspired, inerrant, or trustworthy.

Every facet of life was disastrously infected by the introduction of sin into a world not designed to operate well after the assault.

It all started with a singular temptation: Don’t trust what God says. Don’t believe His Word. He doesn’t know how to care for you…Isn’t it ironic that so many dismiss the story, but claim allegiance to the God Who told the story?

What do YOU believe?

Eve’s problem was food. This wasn’t the last time in the Bible the enemy used this ploy. Go to the desert. Sit with a hungry Jesus surrounded by stone. The enemy said: “If you are the Son of God, make these stones bread.” Jesus wouldn’t do it.

Bread wasn’t wrong. Fulfilling perceived needs enticed by the enemy without seeking that fulfillment from His Father would have shown what Jesus thought was most important. Hunger was second to doing His Father’s will. Temptation is about what we come to believe is most important.

Boot Camp: “What Went Wrong?” (Part Two) – Genesis 2:4-4:26

 Our history books can be filled, not only with stories of great men, but stories of incredible women. For instance:

Marie Curie (Maria Sklodowska) was born in Warsaw, Poland in the second half of the nineteenth century. Even from a very young age she showed vast academic promise, but was not allowed to attend university because she was a young woman – and these were the days when women weren’t to work in such areas. That wasn’t true everywhere, so she relocated. First diving into studies secretly, she eventually moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne in the open in a society that allowed her to pursue her passion. She excelled and earned advanced degrees in both mathematics and physics. Within a short time after she was noticed by the French academy, she met an impressive scientist named Pierre Curie, and the two fell in love and were married. Not a normal husband and wife, they formed a unique partnership in scientific study – each helping the other in projects and experimentation. Over the years of her work, Marie Curie organized disciplines of study and essentially is credited with largely assembling what today is dubbed “atomic physics.” In a paper, she coined the term “radioactivity” as her description of atomic phenomena observed in the collective lab work they did, along with the work of other contemporary scientists. Pierre and Marie discovered together two radioactive elements: polonium (named after Poland) and radium. In 1903, Marie Curie’s work was recognized internationally when she became the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in physics. After Pierre died in 1906, Marie took over his position as a university professor, becoming the first female professor at the Sorbonne. Later, in 1911, Marie was recognized again in a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry. To this day, Curie is the only woman to win two Nobel Prizes. She is one of many incredible historical figures, explorers, artists and brilliant minds that dot the landscape of human history.

What is clear to anyone who has truly studied history is this: women contributed in dramatic ways throughout human history. They still do, and they will until time gives way to eternity. In this lesson, we want to look at the design and purpose of God’s creation of woman.

In our study of Genesis, we found two important (and intentionally densely worded) truths:

• In the prologue of Genesis 1:1-2:3, we learned in the “story of the seven days” that God made everything according to His desire, ascribed each creation its only true purposes, and is (by virtue of creation) the absolute Owner of all of the universe.

• In the first of four stories in the scroll of “What Went Wrong” (2:4-4:26) God made man and placed within the design MORAL AGENCY, thereby opening the possibility of sin and destruction – because it suited Him to tell His story in such a world.

We noted there are three more stories of the “What Went Wrong” scroll.

Last time we looked at the “creation of man.” This time we will examine the “creation of woman.” As we look at the passage, I want you to notice yet another foundational truth that helps explain how “things went wrong.”

As man was designed to be a moral agent, so woman was designed with very specific purpose. Within the statement of her purpose there is more than just a pedantic story of “Adam gets a helper” – as the children’s storybook version suggests. Her purpose was disclosed as part of the story of how things went wrong in the cosmos. If you read the passage carefully, I believe you will see that the woman was created with purpose, and then (as you knit the account into the scroll from which the story was taken) you will see this truth…

Key Principle: The enemy exploited the unique design for man and woman to use their own purposes against them.

Go back to near the beginning of the human story…The fall of angels had already happened, and a rebellion was afoot by the time man was first placed in the garden. The “morning stars” that sang at creation were now divided into two groups – one following God and one in mutiny against God. When God placed man in the garden, He moved forward with a story the entire cosmos could observe. It is the story of Who our Creator truly is.

Genesis 2:18-25 is the primary text that described the creation of woman by God. The passage can be cut into three natural parts:

• The first part supplied the background: it teaches about man before her creation and his needs to set the stage for her introduction into the story.

• The second part offered the “essential substance” of the story: God brought forth the woman.

• The final part included an important note about the basic building block of human society – the formation of the nuclear family.

All of it ties into a larger story of how evil and trouble entered our world.

The First Part: Genesis recorded the following about man and his needs:

Take a moment and examine the background setting in Genesis 2:

Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.

From the first part of the record, ironically we learn four essential truths about man, before the woman is on the scene in the garden:

First, man was not only designed for organization, administration, service (work) and guardianship of God’s estate, but also intimate relationship with others (2:18).

Look again at the simple statement:

Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…

It may be hard to tell when you look at the behavior of some men in your life, but men were originally designed to crave relationship and connection. “Alone” was not a description of what was BEST for man.

Consider two important observations that we learn from this simple sentence:

First, the twisting of a God-given desire for companionship, including physical contact, was one of the most effective weapons Satan could invent by twisting it from its natural shape. He isn’t creative; he is an impostor. He steals what God made and warps it to help us mutiny still more. The man’s inherent created desire for connection, when twisted, becomes his inordinate attention to sexual expression and physical relationship. He was made to DESIRE TO CONNECT. In his lost state, that connection of heart is all too willingly traded for self-pleasure.

Second, anyone who counsels those who struggle emotionally and spiritually will easily testify that isolation is another one of the excellent weapons our enemy has formed against us from our design. As the father of deception, he pushes us to isolate ourselves with shame and guilt because we are most vulnerable and susceptible to his direction when isolated. That isolation is, perhaps, the area we need to guard most strongly against. We need to force ourselves to keep relationships solid when we are tempted to retreat. Think of it! There are a plethora of “one another” commands in the Scriptures that suggest that in our fallen state we will not naturally connect and care for one another as we ought without a push from God.

Second, man needed a specific kind of companion (2:18b).

Genesis 2:18 “…God said…“I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

Though animals can bring both comfort and companionship, the true relationship man lacked deep inside was intentionally designed to be something MORE. It included a helper SUITABLE (neh-ghed) for him. The term means “conspicuous” or “obvious” for his needs (2:18b).

Don’t get distracted by the word “helper” (Hebrew: ay’-zer). Clear in the text is the notion that God made for man a woman as a helpmate, someone who would help him fulfill God’s assignment for his life. Yet, we can make a terrible error here. Does “helper” imply that the woman was made strictly as a servant to the man? Not at all!

Helper is not synonymous with assistant, servant, minion, or subordinate.

Indeed, the Hebrew word “helper” is often used for God as a helper of man (cp. Ex. 18:4). The term doesn’t presume lesser value in and of itself, as it may denote in the English. Rather, it focuses on the end result – assistance to the one needing help.

God helps man, but He is not man’s servant – His desire is for the man’s success and so aid is offered.

The term “helper” is unrelated to any claim of worth or value – the idea is entirely separate. To be clear, one cannot argue from this term that woman was simply created to serve man – rather she was created to complement man on his mission before God and help him succeed to that end. Her purpose is obviously tied to his – but not in any way that makes her less valued by God. She offers man much needed assistance without which man would fall short of his Creator’s desire.

Furthermore, the Hebrew word translated “suitable,” kenegdow, carries much more meaning than simply “fit” or “appropriate.” This word also means “opposite or contrasting.” This implies that the two beings were designed to work and fit together perfectly, not just physically, but in all ways.

In many ways, the strengths of each compensated for the weaknesses of the other.

It was “not good” for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18), but, together, Adam and Eve became something far stronger and more able than either of them could have been alone. Adam lost a bit of tissue from his side, but he gained so much more!

We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk. – Thomas Moore

There were times in the history of the church (and of the West) where even Jesus followers became sloppy with our Holy Writ and adopted prejudices and attitudes that are not actually defensible from the Word at all. In some instances, we held women back from things like a vote for elected officers, etc. that are well outside of the reasoning of Scripture. You cannot find a place in the Bible where it defends inequality in access to education or personal development. In the Word, there is no question that God made women equally intelligent and quite able to cast a vote with discernment equal to men. Any argument to the contrary seems hostile, not simply to our culture, but to the text of God’s Word.

At the same time, we must face the fact that we live in a highly feminized environment, with some cultural ideals that have been openly developed as HOSTILE to God’s Word. We can easily see that some of the highest values of God’s Word (the inherent dignity of human life, the wondrous and exalted place of motherhood, etc.) stand in direct conflict with some of the loudest voices in our culture. Be careful here.

God called women “suitable helpers” and DID distinguish between the man and the woman in terms of spiritual culpability – but NOT in terms of worth. In the Law, specifically in Numbers 30, a woman was restricted from making a DIRECT VOW before the Lord. That wasn’t because she was undiscerning – it was because she was created FROM MAN, in an indirect creative work of God. Paul made that argument in the 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2. That is a difficult to understand argument, and it deserves time (perhaps later) to dissect. At the same time, I would be remiss if I didn’t openly point out that God’s Word is structured around two creations – man and woman – equal in value by different in how they approach and serve God. I have no interest in holding anyone back from serving as they choose – provided it fits inside what the Scripture expressly allows.

A third important truth: man isn’t the first to recognize his needs. (2:19-20).

Look at the end of the short sentence in Genesis 2:20.

Genesis 2:20 “… but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.

In the story, God clearly knew the need man had of a companion and helper, but He desired that man feel that need as well. This is one simple example of how God may bring us through a times of LACK to help us understand our own needs – even the ones He is filling (or longing to fill) in our lives. That lack is not a punishment; it is a school (Gen. 2:19). God knows your needs before you do, but may bring you through a series of circumstances simply to help YOU see your needs (2:18-25). Adam needed a helper – God knew it (2:18) but Adam had to discover it (2:20). Only after Adam felt the loneliness, did God take care of it. Perhaps the reason this detail is included is to help us understand something of the nature of the man that needed the assistance of the woman.

Is it possible this account was included to remind men they need to be open to another set of eyes on “what they need?” I suspect that is the case.

Men, listen to this simple truth: You need a better perspective than you can provide yourself. In the home, you need a wife who can tell you what you didn’t see. At work, you need a team mate to make sure you are learning to perceive what is happening around you. We don’t have all the tools in our toolbox because we were made for relationship.

By the way, don’t fuss about lack. Lack can help you learn to see more clearly. A periodic sense of profound weakness can produce a life of intense strength. Constant fullness and elated bliss isn’t healthy. One writer put it this way:

Never have I seen so many young, privileged, people trying so hard to be happy. There are countless articles written about it, blogs named for it, workshops attending to it. Who ever said we’re supposed to be happy all the time, anyway? We’re not. And the pressure to do so might be what’s making us unhappy to begin with. It’s OK if you’re not completely content with your life twenty-four hours a day. Can you imagine what a boring person you’d be if you were? Going through … storms, feeling uninspired, hating the way you look and having guilt over not accomplishing enough are just some of the things that make you interesting, relatable and human. ..This is not to say that people shouldn’t strive to better their positions in life, however it seems like so many of us are no longer content with a regular amount of happy, yet dead-set on being maniacally jubilant, all of the time. -Kelly Rheel (blogger).

Fourth, it is also important to note that man named things to symbolically show his responsibility for them (2:20).

Don’t skip the detail in verse 20:

Genesis 2:20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.

Giving a name was more than authoring a dictionary; it was about taking the assigned responsibility over the environment. One cannot manage what one does not distinguish and name. For some people, they can’t eat an animal after they named it. They feel a sense of betrayal.

Adam needed to wade out into his job and take responsibility for what God designed him to accomplish. He needed to take on life and own the work before him. The only way you truly fail at life is if you retreat from participation in your calling. Don’t miss that he was busy FOLLOWING GOD’S DIRECTION before God entrusted a mate to him.

Let me say this: Don’t expect God to take one of His best and most precious creations and drop them into your life BEFORE you are willing to show Him you desire to obey His direction!

The second part of the narrative examines the actual creation story of woman:

We have seen the first part of the story – that man had true needs and God was about to fulfill them. Now comes the FUN PART if you have discovered (as I have) a happy marriage…

First, God deliberately and intentionally designed woman without consultation from man (2:21).

Consider the words of Genesis 2:21:

Genesis 2:21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.

Take a look at the fact that woman was formed while man was in “a deep sleep” (tar-day-maw’) which is a term for “deeply sedated” or even “comatose.” Her “formation” (baw-naw’) was the term for “constructed” and is sometimes used for building, but also used for the term of what happens inside the womb as a baby is formed. It can even be used of God “building up a house” by adding children to the family.

• You may never have considered the difference between how God made man and how He made woman. Remember that Genesis 2 revealed that God “formed Adam out of the dust of the ground.” The Hebrew term “yawtsar” meant “to mold or shape as in a potter shaping clay.” The word is one that denotes the making of a pot by a potter – the shaping of a substance for USEFULNESS.

• In the case of the woman, the term “bawnaw” denoted she was “fashioned” not simply “shaped.” That term was used of a complex structure, such as a temple, palace or perhaps a “work of art” would have been. Most scholars would agree the terminology implied that the woman was meant as both a companion, and an aesthetic work, a design for pleasant appearance.

It may also be worth noting that she was not only designed to be aesthetically pleasing (which became obvious by Adam’s response to her), but to be more aesthetically sensitive – it seems she was designed to CARE about appearance more. Consider this:

Researchers note nearly one of ten men are color blind (actually 8%), but a mere one out of two hundred women share that malady. Some think this implies God built into women a greater capacity to be aesthetically sensitive, though with the Fall it is hard to know for sure.

Now consider how the enemy took advantage of the way God made man and woman.

• In the case of the woman, she could (if led away) become overly concerned with appearance to the point that it distracts her away from helping the man complete the God-given mission. She could get caught up in how she catches his eye, rather than how she helps his heart.

• In the case of man, he could (if led away) become obsessed with her beauty to the detriment of his own mission. He could care more about capturing her affections than following God’s will.

It isn’t difficult to imagine either of those issues, but they are part of the twisting of God’s original design of each. That is part of the reason God took the time to explain the creation of each.

Second, woman was formed out of the tissue of man (2:22).

Keep reading, and the technical side of her creation is exposed.

Genesis 2:22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.

The word for “rib” (tsay-law’) is actually a term that can refer to the side of a structure, or the side wall of a terrace. It simply refers to the location from which the tissue was extracted by God, but not necessarily the technical piece of bone itself. In effect, the text simply reveals that man was used as the “starter tissue” to form woman. She was not taken directly from the ground, but was taken from already living tissue that came from man after he was already a living being. That fact will have important implications later in the Bible.

God explained that He used the man’s tissue to form the woman in order to show they were actually parts of the same created being, two halves of a whole. The female was created distinct from the male but both were completed in each other. In that way, the note on “one flesh” makes even greater literal sense. We use the term physically and spiritually, but it essentially means “putting the whole back together.”

There is a sense of completion that happens in the bonding of a good marriage. There is also a severe tearing that occurs in the breakup of a marriage. This isn’t simply a contract or a case of inane familiarity (i.e. “we are used to each other after this many years”). Anyone who lost their spouse to death can tell you it affects you on so many levels, you feel torn in half. It isn’t your imagination; it really is a tearing from one into two.

Third, woman was brought by God to the man (2:22).

Keep reading, and we will get to the relational part – where Adam first saw Eve.

Genesis 2:22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.

Fortunately, the scene was a page before sin when the term “awkward” set in. God didn’t let Adam figure out an approach or “pick up” line. Considering his inexperience with females, anyone who ever observed a Jr. High dance will tell you it was good that God didn’t let him actually approach her to meet, or they might still be standing opposite the punch bowl in the garden looking at each other like cows in a field, deathly afraid to speak to each other.

No, this meeting took place when they were still unafraid of each other. The awkwardness didn’t come until the breaking of man’s self-image – and that came at the Fall in Genesis 3.

Fourth, when man awoke, he knew she came from him (2:23).

Genesis 2:23 revealed Adam KNEW where she came from in the beginning (and it wasn’t from Venus!).

Genesis 2:23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”

Here is the absolute first of a long series of “boy-meets-girl” movies. Adam said she is “bone” from me (eh’tsem), which refers to the frame, the limb or the strength of a man. The term (baw-sar) is the term “flesh” and literally means the “meat on the bone” (i.e. muscle, etc.) of her frame. He exclaimed that she was “taken” (law-kakh’) “extracted” from man. This isn’t incidental; it reveals that every part of her was taken from his design and from his tissue, but carefully constructed into a new related form.

Look carefully at the man’s exclamation: “She is from me, and I will name her as something additional to me.” He was called “man” (ish) while he called her “woman” (isha).

Adam’s first reaction, “She is one being with me”, is later strengthened in verse 24 by the phrase “and they will become one flesh.” It is as if he recognized from the beginning the single word that makes marriage successful: the word “ours.”

Look closely at the words “She shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” In them is the Biblical principle of headship, which was developed more in the New Testament. In the Bible, the man held ultimate culpability for the nature and character of the home, and was charged with the responsibility with exercising unique leadership as he followed God’s direction and purpose.

The third part of the narrative included a God breathed note dropped into the narrative about the nuclear family and its formation:

Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

First, a man’s commitment to permanent responsibility was the basis of the family structure.

Because woman was taken from man, brought to man and named by man – man was to take responsibility for the woman BEFORE they became the basic biological components to the foundational social structure – the nuclear family. The terms “father” and “mother” are used, as is a reference to biological reproduction in becoming “one flesh.”

The foundation of any marriage is a commitment to permanence. The man LEAVES home (and establishes his own desire to take self-responsibility, then CLEAVES to his wife. The Hebrew term “dabag” means, “to adhere as in glue.” Remember, this was written long before the glue of a “sticky note.” This was a word of intentional permanent bonding.

Second, a man and woman were made to engage life together without the need to cover who they truly are.

Genesis 2:25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

The final words of the text speak clearly of openness and transparency between a man and his wife. Secrets kill a marriage; communication establishes it. Retreat and silence make a marriage shrivel; sharing together deepens the foundation.

We live in a culture where people share a meal reading the words from a screen and caring little for the person with which they are having the meal. Marriage isn’t just about longevity. People can endure torture for a long time – but that isn’t the measure of the experience. Honestly, the breakdown of communication with your spouse IS the breakdown of your marriage. The inability of a couple to love past surface differences and allow each to share without constant fear of judgment is the undoing of a marriage.

Can you see it?

The enemy exploited the unique design for man and woman to use their own purposes against them.

God didn’t build the world on nations. He didn’t build it on political parties or even types of government. God built the basic fabric of our society on a home. He built it on two people – a man and a woman – completing the mission God gave them.

I close with an observation about never underestimating a woman…

A police officer jumps into his squad car and calls the station.
“I have an interesting case here,” he says. “A woman shot her husband for stepping on the floor she just mopped.”
“Have you arrested her?” asks the sergeant.
“No, not yet. The floor’s still wet.” (Smile!)

Spotting the Rescue: “Gazing at God” – Revelation 1

There is a fantastic description of a soon coming event in Revelation 1: 7-8, where it says:

BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who [f]is to come, the Almighty.

I am fascinated by the event, but even more fascinated by the description of the Coming Prince. It is something that stirs the hearts of believers of all kinds.

I mention the Coming Prince because you may not be aware of it, but believers are being torn apart, one from another, in our time. Things that draw us together have become far too quiet, while the things that divide us are emphasized over and over, to the detriment of Jesus follower.

Modern disciples must recall that we are not supposed to make unity. The Scripture calls us to “endeavor to KEEP the unity” given by the Spirit at our new birth. Yet, we seem to find this hard to do. Let me illustrate…

Once upon a time a man took a walk and came to a bridge. When he got to the middle of the bridge, he saw a man standing on the rail, obviously about to jump. The man was distraught so he said, “Don’t jump. I can help you.” “How can you help me?” asked the man on the rail. The first man replied with a question of his own: “Are you a Christian?” “Yes, I am.” “That’s wonderful. So am I. Are you Catholic or Protestant?” “I’m Protestant.” “That’s great. So am I. What sort of Protestant are you? Are you Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, or something else?” “I’m a lifetime Baptist,” said the man on the rail.

“Praise the Lord,” came the reply. “So am I. Let me ask you this. Are you Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” “I’m Northern Baptist.” “Are you Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” “I’m Northern Conservative Baptist.” “Well, call Ripley’s. This is amazing. So am I. Are you Northern Conservative Baptist Fundamental or Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed?”

The man on the rail thought for a moment and then declared, “My father raised me as a Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed.” “It’s a miracle,” said the first man. “Put ’er there, pal. So am I.” Then he asked, “Are you Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region or Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Plains Region?” The man on the rail said, “That’s easy. My family has always been Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region.” “This is a miracle of miracles. I don’t often meet a brother who shares my own heritage.

One final question: Are you Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region Council of 1855 or Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region Council of 1872?” The man on the rail replied instantly, “Since the days of my great-grandfather, we have always been Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region Council of 1872.” This statement was followed by an awkward pause. Looking up, the first man cried out, “Die, heretic!” And he pushed him off the bridge.

We laugh at that story because it is so close to the truth. If two Christians agree on 79 out of 80 points, they will usually focus on the area where they disagree. We need to remind ourselves of the rallying points of our faith in order to stand together. We need to remember the basis of our unity is not our work, but our Savior.

The truth is that it is possible to FIND Jesus and not FOLLOW Jesus – and that moves from being a PROMISING LIFE to offering a tragically powerless life… because the Christian life IS walking with Jesus, not performing FOR Jesus.

As we look at the beginning of the Book of Revelation, take note of this truth…

Key Principle: We can’t really walk with God if we don’t take the time to gaze at Him – to really SEE Him as He is.

It is possible to get distracted. It is even possible to suddenly become enveloped in the storms and lose our way. Let’s not try to fake it – it happens to Jesus followers all the time.

When Paul wrote to a young church the letter we call “2 Thessalonians” he wrote about three pummeling punches the enemy used in swift combination in order to discourage them any time they appeared to begin to gain ground in the Spirit. The Bible, then, became like the “fight tape recording” of that three punch knockout faithfully preserved so that we might not take the same punches:

• 2 Thessalonians 1 mentioned persecution and affliction deliberately set to ensnare believers just like I find on college campuses and business environments that have grown increasingly HOSTILE to anyone who names Jesus as Savior.

• 2 Thessalonians 2 made clear the enemy was involved in planting the roadside bombs of fake teachings that kept the people of God in confusion. How hard do you have to search the web to find people sharing the Bible God should have written but didn’t – because He wasn’t as “smart” or as “tolerant” as they are?

• 2 Thessalonians 3 revealed the enemy’s age old tactic of discouraging believer’s by helping them to focus on others who claimed to have FOUND Christ, but lived in ways that didn’t FOLLOW Christ.

Relentlessly pounding believers with ominous warnings and the fear of coming trouble, together with constant stirring confusion of false words misdirecting Jesus followers with falsehoods and the sinking discouragement of trying to represent Jesus when loud voices of believers with poor testimonies drown out godly examples – these are three of the classic techniques of our enemy.

Here is the good news: Jesus is greater than the temporary prince of the fallen world. He has not left us without defenses. Redemption has already begun, and it will be complete in His return to the planet. In the meantime, we examine the tapes of past fights to prepare for our own. During our time:

We have God’s Word to reveal to us His direction, correction and encouragement.

But, we have something else we can count on. I believe it is the single greatest secret that helps me in the midst of the storms – and it is what I want to share with you in this lesson from the Word.

We have a lighthouse on the shore that shines through the storms. You’ll miss it if you don’t learn to look for it.

If the swells have overtaken you – our lighthouse can offer you hope, direction and rescue. Our lighthouse is the shining light of our loving, intimate, personal God, and our gaze at Him must be one in desperation – as one who knows he cannot make it to shore without Him.

You heard me correctly. We need to need Him more than we think we need Him now. When desperation wanes, cockiness follows.

When I believe I can pull off the Christian life without Jesus, I show I don’t really understand what the Christian life is at all…

Beloved, I want to remind you of words I have spoken before. They are the “theme music” in the background of all that I preach. I repeat them, over and over, because I need to be reminded of them… Please hear them…

The main point of the Christian life is NOT to tell Jesus you believe what He did long ago – so as to avoid Hell and get to Heaven when you die – it is an intimate walk with Jesus TODAY.

Admittedly, Heaven is a stunning benefit and a deeply encouraging expectation based on the unambiguous promises of the True and Living God – but a new eternal destination not the point (it is a side benefit).

Honestly, Heaven would be a penalty for one who hasn’t learned to love Jesus in this life.

Can I be candid with you about something, now that I am a grandfather twice over? I have heard that not every child LIKES to go to their grandma or grandpa’s house. In some cases, the place seems outdated, stuffy and is full of things they aren’t allowed to touch. Do you know why some children don’t like to go there? The reason is simply because they haven’t learned to LOVE grandma or grandpa. They don’t know how COOL they really are (if people still say the word “cool”). This is the reason my wife and I have become very intentional about making our home a place any kid in their right mind would want to come. (A good idea, right?)

The actual point of the Christian life is to WALK WITH JESUS, to learn to love Him and THEN long to be in Heaven with Him. We aren’t supposed to long for the benefits of the relationship MORE than the relationship itself.

“How can I learn to do that?” You may ask.

I must consciously learn to invite Him to journey through the day, to hold His hand and allow Him to lead through the passage of life. Heaven is an unending version of that reality – but not the beginning of it. We can and should have it today. I want to show you HOW.

By the way, the writer of Hebrews knew this secret.

He wrote that we have a great hall of witnesses that watch us as we live out our faith. The whole time they cheer us on, he noted that we are to be “looking unto Jesus” – not the grandstands, not the cheering crowds – but to the Savior. He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. He endured the Cross that we might enter the journey of life with Him.

John used the same lighthouse to navigate the storm.

For a few moments, will you join me in looking at the first chapter of Revelation?

Look at the first chapter of Revelation, where John gazes Heavenward and gets his instructions to write the book we have today… The opening lines remind us that purpose of the narrative isn’t just to get believers fighting about the meaning of various signs as we approach the troubles of the last days. The narrative teaches us of John’s special GOD GAZING time. He wrote:

1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

Don’t miss the opening line: This is the revealing of WHO Jesus is before it is the revealing of what will happen as God closes the human program. Verse one appears to me to be in the order of priority: reveal Jesus and then tell you what Jesus will do. His works follow His character.

Knowing HIM helps you when you can’t understand what He is DOING!

Keep reading:

Revelation 1:4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,

Did you see Who addressed the letter to the churches?

Like all things, it started with God the Father.

Revelation 1:4 mentions both the Father and the Spirit, so we dare not pass them by without notice. Remember that although God has many titles in Scripture, He has only ONE NAME. It was so precious over the centuries that Jews ceased to speak it aloud. This name YHWH or Jehovah is, in fact, a contraction of several phrases that can be summarized by John’s words in verse four: “The One Who was and Who is and Who is to come.” (In Hebrew: Asher ha-yah v’hoveh v’yavo).

In short, you serve the ever-present, always NOW God.

He is the God of our Fathers, but, if He tarries, that same faithful God will be the God of our sons. He dwells beyond time – for time is something He made for those limited to the few dimensions that make us HUMAN. He is not like us. The end and the beginning are both clear to Him in the same moment.

Read the rest of the letter that John left us and you will see the Father sits upon the throne of Heaven surrounded by the crystal sea. Ezekiel saw Him moving about on a grand apparatus of wheels, flanked by angels and filled with glory.

• When you behold Him, you will know that He is not a created being – but the very context of all creation.

• He is not the One Who does good – rather the very nature of good is defined by His person.

• When you see the train of His robe and the vastness of His presence you will understand – there is no glory that compares to His.

All creation was made by Him and according to His design. Our very purpose is found in His decree.

The writers included God the Spirit.

Verse four made clear that His throne was surrounded by His own Holy Spirit – whose seven titles likely recall Isaiah 11:2.

1. God’s Spirit is the Spirit of the YHWH (The ever-present NOW God).

2. He is the Spirit of Wisdom (hokmah: practical application of truth)

3. He is the Spirit of Understanding (binah: clarity).

4. He is the Spirit of Counsel (etsah: advised strategy)

5. He is the Spirit of Strength (gibborah: empowering courage).

6. He is the Spirit of Knowledge (da’ath: deliberation)

7. He is the Spirit of Reverence (yiraw: sense of supreme awe).

Don’t rush past the details of WHO the Holy Spirit IS, or you will lose a lamp designed to guide you through the storm.

When you are filled with the Holy Spirit of the Living God, you are filled with the One Who is always on time, always up to speed with the facts, always ready to act in righteousness.

When you walk in the Holy Spirit and refuse to feed the insatiable desires of the flesh, you walk in the practical applications of the Word of God. You let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.

When you are filled with confusion and under the smoke of enemy fire, the Holy Spirit will bring crystal-like clarity by the Father’s inexhaustible power.

When you face defeat upon defeat and call upon God for understanding, God’s Holy Spirit will advise you on strategies to blunt the fiery darts of the wicked one.

When you cry out in fear of the things of this world, the Holy Spirit will wrap your weakness in the cable-like strength of Hid might.

When you cannot find a path to follow, the Spirit of Knowledge will show you how to cut through the dense thicket and brush of confusion and stir, and move toward the place of God’s peace.

When you yield your heart to the Spirit of Reverence, you will:

• Fear men less than God,

• Love sin less than a deep yearning for the Master’s smile

• You will keep a sharp eye on the immutable, inexhaustible, irresistible God to get through the storm.

The Father’s power and majesty, coupled with the Spirit’s inner assurance are both light sources to fix our eyes upon. But there is MORE…

The third collaborative author is Jesus.

–The lighthouse includes the One Who called Himself “the Light of the world”.

As I scan verses five through seven, I can begin to recite the greatness of our Savior…

He is the Anointed One, because verse five says:

Revelation 1:5 and from Jesus Christ,

The term “Christos” is a translation of the word for the Meshiach – the Anointed One. Our Savior has been appointed by God to be our King, our Priest, and our Prophet.

His words tell what is to come. His place is standing for us before the Father. His right is to hold the greatest scepter ever touched – the King above all Kings.

He is the Truthful One, because verse five went on to call Him:

Revelation 1:5b “…the faithful witness

You can trust Jesus to talk straight about life, about struggles, about YOU.

He doesn’t dither around with “fortune cookie” like sayings. He isn’t some mystic “Yoda” figure.

You need to know as the FAITHFUL WITNESS, Jesus won’t blow smoke at someone He gave blood to save. Your pain isn’t irrelevant to Him. You aren’t a BOTHER to His schedule. Jesus is the witness before the Father that you can COUNT ON to speak faithfully the truth.

With His own breath, Colossians 1 reminds, man received dignity, identity and purpose.

A short time ago I stood at a Youth Conference and a student asked from the floor a question. He asked if his friend who called himself a “gay Christian” was going to Heaven. My answer apparently bothered most everyone in the room. I replied, “Your friend is mistaken. Christian is an identity. Sexual desire and fulfillment is a behavior. In the Gospels, Jesus taught the disciples that the Pharisees who called a woman “an adulteress” were WRONG. She wasn’t an adulteress – she was a woman created by God and loved by Him. So is your friend. His sexual behavior is something he does – but not who he is. God always separates behavior and identity.

If you buy into the world’s framing of “I am gay” you buy into letting someone’s wrong behavior (that is, their sin) name them. You and I aren’t what we feel, what we want or what we do. That isn’t our identity – it is our behavior.

Jesus refused to call a woman caught in the consequences of her rebellion an “adulteress.” He insisted that she was, in fact, a woman. She was a beloved creation of the Father. Her behavior was NOT her identity, and neither is any one else’s. We must stop buying into the deception that a person should be rightly named by their sin. Identity is neither synonymous with sexual desire nor behavioral failure. What we do is not who we are. Until we separate between identity and behavior we haven’t learned to think like the Savior.

Jesus taught the intrinsic worth and dignity of people. The modern agenda to accept desires as definition opposes the way Jesus looks at people.

You aren’t a pedophile. You aren’t a prostitute. You aren’t a thief. You aren’t a rapist. You are a person – created by a loving Father, and in need of His strong and mighty hand to deliver you from bowing down to your desires as though they were your master. I needed that. Everyone does.

Just as Jesus called the Disciples to see the “woman in sin” was a woman who needed God to fix her brokenness, so any friend who has been swallowed in a lifestyle of impure behavior needs God to fill the space in his heart now taken by the idols of feeling and desire. Jesus words to her were simply: “Knock it off!” (Go and sin no more). He didn’t mean “Get perfect!” but rather “stop doing this thing that God has said is wrong, period.”

Don’t ever forget: Satan knows you by your name, but calls you by your sin. Jesus knows you by your sin, but calls you by your name. Our faith is deeply rooted in God’s love of each of us. That is the heart of the Gospel.

Jesus can represent the Father in all things, because verse five called Him:

Revelation 1:5b “…the firstborn of the dead.”

Don’t get confused. The term “first born” in the text isn’t intended to say the Eternal Son of God was “born first.” The expression isn’t about Jesus being “created” though in the Godhead, He IS the only one Who experienced the process of physical birth!

The word had everything to do with RIGHTS and PRIVILEGES in the time of the Apostles. The FIRST BORN was the one who represented the Father in negotiations and contracts. He was the inheritor of all of his father’s estate. He held a position of greater authority than any other son, any employee, any representative. Jesus is the EXACT REPRESENTATION of the Father (Hebrews 1:4). He is the image stamp. He looks, in every respect, like the Father. He said it this way: “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” The term firstborn is a term about the right to fully represent the interests of His Father… and Jesus CAN.

Jesus is the One above every ruler and king, because verse five remarked:

Revelation 1:5b “…and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

There is no rival to Jesus. Every cult, every religion, every revered prophet of men will bow before the Lord of all Creation. Every Prime Minister, every President, every king and queen – all will drop to their knees and bow their faces to the floor in the magnificent throne room of the One God has promised to exalt above all.

He is the One who loved you enough to place His hands willingly down against the wood and evil men drove hard the nails through His flesh. Why? Why would He do that for you and for me? John made it clear…

Revelation 1:5b “…To Him Who loves us”

Jesus didn’t simply honor His Father’s wishes – though He DID do all things pleasing to Him. Jesus turned to His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed and He told them plainly: “Love one another in the way that I have LOVED you.” (John 13:34ff).

It wasn’t simply DUTY that drove Jesus to the Cross. He loved each one of those bumbling followers of His. They couldn’t listen very well, and they slept through their final prayer meeting with Jesus in Gethsemane, even though they knew He was upset about something. These guys had so many rough edges – they could be US! Yet, Jesus made clear He loved them. John included the whole of the church when he wrote “to Him Who loves us.”

Jesus is the One Who laid down His life for us. John wrote:

Revelation 1:5b “…and released us from our sins by His blood

Think of it! Sin has no hold over you that YOU aren’t giving it.

Acting as a slave to your desires is like living in a jail cell with a door that is unlocked. Jesus unlocked it already.

Before you knew Christ, you were dead in relation to a real connection with God. You could do good things, but you couldn’t do RIGHTEOUS things. You could help people. You could be friendly. You could observe the GOLDEN RULE, pay your taxes and be a faithful spouse. What you couldn’t do, is settle the judicial issue between you and God related to your broken heart. You were born a sinner. It was passed from Adam to you and I by means of our father’s seed. You got more than your nose from him!

Jesus became sin, though He Himself never rebelled against God at all. He did it so that we might have a lamb that was truly spotless of offer up to God and pay for our sin. He took MY place and YOUR place on the Cross.

Jesus didn’t die simply to make us ONE in Heaven, but to bring us together to serve Him NOW! John wrote:

Revelation 1:6 “and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Our Savior welded us together. Forget your social status – all followers of Jesus are happy slaves. Forget your wealth – we are to live as those surrendered to the King. Forget your color – God didn’t want a boring world so he gave us many unique features that make us able to reflect His artistry. Forget yourself: We live for the glory of the King.

Don’t forget: Jesus is coming back. He isn’t done.

This old broken planet, gasping for clean air, shedding some of its wondrous beasts in extinction because of terrible greed, incessantly arguing about one opinion after another, spilling innocent blood because of rivalries, jealousies and mistrust… the earth is about to stand silent when the King arrives…

Revelation 1:7 “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.”

Songwriters Joel Houston, Benjamin Hastings and Michael Fatkin are credited with the lyrics of a song called: “So Will I.” Perhaps their stirring words will help you to deliberately focus on the Presence of God, and take the time to truly gaze upward to SEE HIM. They wrote:

God of creation, there at the start, before the beginning of time with no point of reference – You spoke to the dark and fleshed out the wonder of light. And as You speak a hundred billion galaxies are born. In the vapor of Your breath the planets form. If the stars were made to worship so will I. I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made – Every burning star a signal fire of grace. If creation sings Your praises so will I.

God of Your promise, You don’t speak in vain. No syllable empty or void. For once You have spoken, all nature and science follow the sound of Your voice. And as You speak a hundred billion creatures catch Your breath [forming] in pursuit of what You said. If it all reveals Your nature so will I. I can see Your heart in everything You say. Every painted sky a canvas of Your grace. If creation still obeys You so will I, So will I, So will I.

If the stars were made to worship so will I.
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I.
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I.
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I.
If the wind goes where You send it so will I.
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I.
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy, then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times!

God of salvation, You chased down my heart through all of my failure and pride. On a hill You created the light of the world abandoned in darkness to die. And as You speak, a hundred billion failures disappear. Where You lost Your life, so I could find it here.

If You left the grave behind You so will I…

When earth is full of drama, gaze up at the God Who will make all things new. Remember, He started this, and He is going to finish it. Revelation 1:8 makes it clear:

Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Think of those words.

• God started it all, and there is no other who will bring it all to an end.

• God is not “behind” – He is always NOW.

• God has no rival to subdue – He is the ALMIGHTY.

Now, let’s make this all very practical.

Philippians 3 was written when Paul was under house arrest in Rome awaiting the “justice” that was bound up in the person of Emperor Nero. Things weren’t looking bright. “Fair” was not on the menu. What did he do?

He said: “I want to know Him. I want to know His power. I want to know His pain. I want Him to change me as I study more and more His face, His life, His character.”

In Acts 7, Stephen found himself surrounded by the disfigured faces of angry men even as He testified to God’s great work in the Jewish people over the centuries. They huddled around him, having removed their covering cloaks so they could hurl stones upon him, Stephen fell to his knees and looked up to gaze at the Savior.

Acts 7:55 “But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.

Beloved, we will never really walk with God as He desires if we don’t take the time to SEE Him.

There are many who don’t look to their own peril. They get swallowed by life’s problems. They may truly know Jesus, but they will fail to follow Him. Their life will not show that Jesus can transform a life.

Their chance to serve the Savior will slip away, and they will waste it all.

Some waste their life because they believe they are too important to bow.

In U.S. Naval Institute Magazine called “Proceedings” Frank Koch wrote:

Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities. Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.” “Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out. The lookout replied, “Steady, Captain,” which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship. The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: ’We are on a collision course, advise you change course twenty degrees.’” Back came the signal, “Advisable for you to change course twenty degrees.” The captain said, “Send: “I’m a captain, change course twenty degrees.’” “I’m a seaman second-class,” came the reply. “You had better change course twenty degrees.” By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send: ’I’m a battleship. Change course twenty degrees.’” Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.” We changed course. – As told by: Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, Word Publishing, 1991, p. 153.

When you truly see the Master as He is, you recognize the privilege of being His servant.