God Could Have Just Walked Away (Genesis 3, Genesis 11)

Critics and folks who are simply hostile toward God or toward the notion of the real existence of a God of love often make much of the Old Testament historical record that relates stories of wrath and vengeance. It seems to give them some profane sense of well-being to render a judgment upon this God that He is like a cranky old man who wantonly zaps people who step out of line. A phrase often used is to speak of “the God of the Old Testament” as if there is first a nasty old God, but then a nice, newer one who took over around the time of Christ.

Let us submit today that it is an appropriate view of God’s disposition in the Old Testament era to view Him rather as a God of grace, and yes … of justice. Our first big idea as to why we should raise our eyes to care about people who are very different than ourselves is that God has always had a forever heart for all peoples.

You might say, “REALLY?  God has always had a heart for all people? Yes, I know he did for the nation of Israel, and then for the church and the gospel to be preached around the world, but what about so much of the Old Testament?”  And it is true that there are more than a few accounts of judgment, even commands to the Israelites to destroy completely some of the evil nations around them.

But what do you expect God to do? These were people groups who had completely turned against God and His revelation to them. They had also completely turned off even the general revelation residue of being created in the image of God – eliminating their consciences and any innate sense of right or wrong – some of them making Hitler look like a pansy by comparison. Infant sacrifice to man-made gods and idols was a rather regular practice among these groups. Annihilation was indeed true justice.

Looking honestly at the big picture we see God’s magnanimous grace on display at the very beginning of the story. It appears immediately after the fall of man through what is termed by theologians as the Protoevangelium. That is likely a new word for most of you. Break it down:  “proto” = first, as is the word “prototype” …. And you can hear the word “evangel” in there – which you likely know references the “gospel” – the “good news” … so this is talking about the first good news.

After Adam and Eve fell into sin and rebelled against God’s command by yielding to the temptation of the Serpent (Satan), God shows up on the scene. God first confronted Adam … who blamed the woman … who blamed the serpent … who looked around but nobody else was there! Actually, he was quite pleased with what he – Satan – had done.

And God addresses them in reverse order with words of judgment about their respective futures …

Genesis 3:14-15 – So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

“You” = Satan, “the woman” = Eve, but the “he” is odd here. Who is this referencing? It can’t be Adam. It is actually anticipating the ultimate offspring of Eve – prophetically looking toward Christ.  Jesus, though he would be stricken on the heel (anticipating the cross), through the resurrection would crush the head of the serpent/Satan.

(My favorite part of “The Passion of the Christ” film was when Jesus is depicted as stepping on the head of the slithering snake in the Garden scene. There is nothing worse than snakes!)

When man fell into sin, God could have let the death consequences fall upon mankind completely, and He would have been just in doing so and simply walking away and letting death take its toll. But in His grace, even there in the garden at the outset of sin in the human condition, He had a plan because of His great love for the peoples of the world. The Scriptures even say that Jesus is “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”  Never see God as merely reacting to situations; He is orchestrating.

As mankind increased, so did evil – to the extent that only Noah and his family found grace in the eyes of the Lord. And we know the story of the great flood, as God in grace will begin over with mankind through Noah’s family. God could have justly washed them all away, but He saved one family through the deluge …

Genesis 9:1 – Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”

At the beginning of the next chapter, it gives the details and names of Noah’s sons and families…

Genesis 10:1 – This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood…

And then chapter 10 ends by saying …

Genesis 10:32 – These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.

And immediately the next chapter begins …

Genesis 11:1-4 – Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

Rather than do what God said, they do just the opposite and make a centralized place toward which all people would gather. And again, God must intervene – this time with the confusion of languages.

Genesis 11:8-9 – So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Once more, God could have justly given up, yet again. But He chose to act in grace, reestablishing mankind on the earth with a view toward them walking in relationship with Him. Most will not do that however, neither then nor now. That’s already a lot of divine grace on display, and we’re only 20% of the way through the first book of the Bible!

Yes, God has always had a heart for the peoples and nations of the world. And there is instruction in that for us to consider … we who have had His grace lavished upon us. Let our hearts grow more to be like His.

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Adam: The Bad Apple in the Family Tree (Genesis 5 + 11)

My father was a mathematician / bookkeeper / accountant. And though I have his “head for numbers” in terms of doing mental calculations, I don’t have his need for everything to always add up correctly.

I distinctly remember my father with his Bible open and “running the numbers” in the book of Genesis – working to get them to add up correctly to the work of an Anglican scholar named Bishop Ussher. This Irish cleric had calculated that the time and date of the creation was the night preceding Sunday, 23 October 4004 BC, using the Julian calendar.

All of this ties in with the raging debate about the confluence of Scriptural revelation and faith as it connects with modern science.

The terms “father of” in these genealogies are understood by some to mean “ancestor of.”  In that God was not precise in these matters, I do not find myself needing to know them more definitively than biblical revelation. I am content that God created the heavens and the earth and that he created man, with Adam and Eve being the first.

Ancestry from Adam to Noah

5:1 – This is the written account of Adam’s family line.

When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind”  <Note – “Adam” is the word in Hebrew>  when they were created.

3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. 4 After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 5 Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.

6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. 7 After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8 Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years, and then he died.

9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. 10 After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Altogether, Enosh lived a total of 905 years, and then he died.

12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. 13 After he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Altogether, Kenan lived a total of 910 years, and then he died.

15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared. 16 After he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Altogether, Mahalalel lived a total of 895 years, and then he died.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. 19 After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech.26 After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died.

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. 29 He named him Noah <Note – the name “Noah in Hebrew sounds like the word “comfort”> and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” 30 After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.

I know how odd it seems that people lived these hundreds of years. All we can surmise is that the world prior to the flood was a very different place that was truly “pre-historic.”

But one phrase continues to repeat over and over in these 10 generations, and that is “and then he died.”  The curse from sin was playing out.

The oldest son of Noah was named Shem, and his record and family is picked up in chapter 11, just after the story of the Tower of Babel …

The Tower of Babel

11:1  Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

You may note also from this the usage of the plural pronoun (Let us) for God – an early hint at the Trinity.

Mankind was not obeying God’s command to move out and populate the earth. Instead they were congregating together around a magnificent structure as the centerpiece. So God confounded their languages to scatter them from that singular place.

Family Tree from Shem to Abram

10 This is the account of Shem’s family line.

Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxed. 11 And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters.

12 When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah. 13 And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber. 15 And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg. 17 And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu. 19 And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters.

20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug. 21 And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters.

22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor. 23 And after he became the father of Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and had other sons and daughters.

24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah. 25 And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters.

26 After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.

Abram’s Family

27 This is the account of Terah’s family line.

Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29 Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah. 30 Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.

31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.

32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.

So this account and genealogy gets us now down to the pivotal character of Abraham. This has significance for the both the Jewish family and all of mankind, as we will speak about tomorrow.

But the takeaway point for today, as we consider family ancestry and genealogy – related both to Christ and to us – is that there was a bad apple that infected the whole family tree. His name was Adam, and strangely enough, he did it by eating an apple!  (Not really, but maybe? We don’t know what kind of fruit it was for sure.)

But Adam’s outright defiance of God’s clear and revealed command brought sin into the whole human family. And what a mess it has made!

Maybe you feel like you’d like to go back in time and just slap him a good one upside the head for being so stupid! If you have that feeling, just hang on for a moment, because I have a practical application for you.

I don’t want to steal Chris’ thunder in his devotional on Romans 5 that will hit on December 29th at the end of this series. But an accurate reading of the verse there that says “for as by one man sin entered the world” includes the idea that we were “in Adam” … that we were right there telling him to take a big bite. We like the passage when it says that we are “in Christ.” But we were in Adam; we were there with the bad apple in the family tree – making each of US the guilt-worthy bad apple.

So, go to the bathroom. Look into the mirror. Slap yourself soundly on the side of the head.

BUT, if we trust in Christ, we have a new ancestry and a new family. That is the big idea of this series!