Together We Follow (Genesis 15)

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Genesis 15

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”

And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

Then He said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”

And he said, “Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”

So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying:

“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

There’s a lot going on in this chapter of Genesis. The covenant between God and Abram sets a story into motion that is still happening even now, so it’s an important moment in for us to understand. (You can find a reminder of what the word covenant really means when it comes to humanity and God here). We will come back to this chapter again, zooming in on a few details, but for now I want to focus on this: God initiated this relationship. He offered His presence and His promise for the future to Abram – and Abram didn’t have to accomplish some feat of valor to receive God’s blessings. He didn’t have to become worthy in his own goodness or strength.

What did he do?

He believed.

He took God at His word — and this faith of Abram’s was ‘accounted to him for righteousness’. It pleased God that Abram chose to trust Him.

Upon this foundation of faith, God made a covenant with Abram: his descendants would be given land, a home, a place to belong.

In the time of Abram, covenants or agreements were made legally binding in this way: the two involved parties would “slaughter some animals, carve them up, and arrange the pieces in two lines. Then both parties would join hands and solemnly walk together down the middle of the path. By so doing they would pledge in the presence of blood and suffering and death, their intention to keep the terms of the contract.” (Willmington’s Guide to the Bible)

You read today that Abram did, in fact, follow God’s instructions to set up this formation to confirm their covenant. But afterwards, Abram did not walk down the middle of the two lines. Instead, God – His presence represented by fire – passed through alone.

God was both extending the covenant terms AND taking it upon Himself to fulfill it.

The promise of Home for the descendants of Abraham became an unconditional covenant sealed by God Himself.

This stream of grace is the same that flowed from the garden and continues to flow into the salvation we are freely given — the salvation extended by the Father and accomplished by Jesus for us.

And just like Abram, we receive this gift by choosing to believe. Just like Abram, we put our faith in the Father and find ourselves at Home. His grace invites us into His heart, gives us a place to belong.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.-Ephesians 1:7

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.-Ephesians 2:8

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.-Titus 2:11

 

You Came

It’s not labeled as a Christmas song, but the words of this song are Christmas to me…

He came. Jesus came when I needed Him. He woke up my heart and breathed life into my soul. I couldn’t walk out of the tomb of sin and shame on my own, I couldn’t unbind the fear that kept me from moving, that kept me stuck in the darkness…

He unwound the fear with perfect love, set me free.

He sang over my life and loved me with whole and perfect love until I began to believe what He said about me: that I was wanted. Cherished. A daughter of God, beloved. He loved me into days like this one, days when I can dance through my house with joy, wild and uncaring about awkward limbs because it is my heart that is leaping without worry, without shame….because it is His song that moves my feet and my voice.

The Light, the glory, the holiness of the Father…it’s given to us, revealed through this Savior whose selfless, all-encompassing love led Him into Bethlehem…to the cross where He took my pain, my sin, my death and gave me righteousness, strength, and life  — life overflowing and never — never, ever, ever — ending.

Can we know how deep, how wide, how long, how high His love is?

Didn’t He begin to show us when the virgin glowed with expectation, when a baby leapt in the womb of the old, when the wedding feast was saved, when the net was filled with fish, when the bellies where filled with lunch, when the blind eyes opened clear and full of wonder, when the deaf ears heard music in the wind, when limbs helpless and frail strengthened to running, when demons ran back to where they belonged, when life was called from death, when He carried the cross in our place, when the tomb stood empty and the upper room was filled with Spirit?

He comes to our need, our miracle-working, beyond-expectation, mightiest, nothing-is-too-hard God.

Turn our fear into faith, God — help us to see who You are again – again and again, let our hearts burn within us until we know that we stand in Your presence.

He has life enough, love enough, joy enough, peace enough, grace enough, healing enough, power enough — for me, for you, for every one who will ask for Him to come….for every one who will believe Him.

We begin in rags, we begin broken, we begin alone and orphaned, we begin hiding in shame, dead in our sin, slaves to our fear.

But Jesus came.

And we come out of the grave, blinking in His brilliant light, washed white and purified…we come out of the grave, free and unfettered, wearing beauty for ashes. We come out of the grave, a child of the Most High God. We come out of the grave, made whole. We come out of the grave, loved. We come out of the grave, alive.

And what can separate us now from the love of Christ?

... I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8: 38-39 

Together We Follow: Genesis 12: 11-20

fullsizerender-16There have been moments in my life when I feared that my past sin would alter God’s willingness to use me for His purposes. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever worried that your past would change God’s mind about you or render His plans for you null and void?

If you’ve ever felt this way, then I hope that today’s reading will help to reassure you of your place in God’s heart…

As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman.  When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.”

And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone noticed Sarai’s beauty. When the palace officials saw her, they sang her praises to Pharaoh, their king, and Sarai was taken into his palace. Then Pharaoh gave Abram many gifts because of her—sheep, goats, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.

But the Lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh summoned Abram and accused him sharply. “What have you done to me?” he demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ and allow me to take her as my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and get out of here!” Pharaoh ordered some of his men to escort them, and he sent Abram out of the country, along with his wife and all his possessions.

Today we see Abram, the man who surrendered his future to God, in an act of deception. Seeing the power of Pharaoh, he allowed fear to motivate his actions. He allowed this new circumstance to intimidate him. Fearing that the Egyptians would take his life in order to take Sarai into the house of Pharaoh, Abram called her his sister – withholding the full truth of her identity as his wife.

Not trusting that God would protect both he and his wife, Abram chose the wrong path to control the situation himself. His short-sighted decision led to Sarai being taken to the palace – it was God, in His mercy, that protected Sarai and brought her back to Abram’s side.

This was a moment for Abram to understand the faithfulness of God…this was a moment for Abram to see the grace of God.

Instead of ending in catastrophe under the wrath of Pharaoh, this incident leads to Abram and Sarai leaving Egypt to go on with their journey into the future God had promised them. God’s faithfulness did not change when Abram’s focus faltered. His promises did not disappear because Abram chose deceit.

This is grace.

When we don’t deserve it, God comes to rescue us. It’s exactly what Jesus did on the cross. It isn’t our righteousness that prepares us for God’s purpose, but His redemption power in our lives.

If we decide to sin and go on without repentance, without turning from our wrong, then we are the ones to walk away from our place in God’s plan for us…we can, in our continued disobedience, miss out on the abundant life God would intend for us. Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians sorrow without repentance leads to spiritual death…but Godly sorrow that leads to repentance results in salvation.

When we didn’t deserve it, when we didn’t earn it – we received rescue from our sin… and this grace that God has given out of His great love continues to affect every aspect of our lives.

Don’t let regret about the past keep you from His promises for today. 

Our past sin? Our sin that has been forgiven? Our sin that has been removed from us, as far as the east is from the west? (Psalm 103:12) Those wrongs may have changed us, may have taught us, may have taken us the long way around our dreams, may have brought the discipline of the Father to us…but those sins no longer define us. His mercy does. His redemption power is stronger than our sin – and so, YES – He will still use you for His glory. YES, He still has a purpose for you. YES, He will be true to His promises.

Our lives become a story not of our sin, not of our losses, but of His grace and victory in us. Our lives become a story of transformation, of a new creation made in us. Our lives become a story of hope – knowing what He has done for Abram, for Sarai, for you and for me…He can do for anyone who will believe.

 

 

I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with Himself depends on faith. I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.-from Philippians 3 

Together We Follow: Genesis 8

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Dear friends,

On the hardest days it helps if I write to you like this, a letter to sisters and brothers walking through this life with me. I am here, sitting in my dining room and watching the rain fall outside. The limbs of our pine trees move with the wind; the road has a layer of water covering its dark asphalt.

I don’t know where you read my words, but I know that we share this same sky, the same wind, the same rain that falls.

And we share the sorrow of everything that is happening around us.

The news is hard these days. So very hard. It is hard to even keep track of all the wrongs being done, all the pain felt, all the violence that circles our earth.

All through my news feed on twitter, I keep reading these questions: how long? When will things get better? God, where are You?

I wonder if Noah had some of the same questions. We will read today how the days on the ark stretched on and on after the 40 days of earth-shattering torrents. In total, he and his family spent over a year in the boat, with the memory of what had been, the unknowns of the future. I wonder if they began to doubt their rescue would come. I wonder if they begin to wonder if God had saved them from the violence of their time and from the storm only to leave them alone to figure out how to survive. Don’t you think, being normal men and women like us, that they asked – how long, God? Where are You?

Answers came– because God remembered Noah. He had never, not for a moment forgotten him. In His timing, the flood receded. In His timing, this family stepped into a new life and a new covenant–God promised that He would never flood the earth again . Despite the evil of man’s heart, He gave His word that the seasons would go on and life would not be destroyed. He already knew that sin would grow again in the descendants of Noah. He wanted to give a way of heart-change, of full redemption.

So where was God? He was there, cradling the ark among the mighty waves. He was there, teaching Noah to trust Him even in the silent times. He was there when Noah stepped off the ark, the feat of starting over ahead of him. He was there.

So where does this leave us? In this time that seems like an endless cycle of pain, where is God?

He is with us. Emmanuel–God is with us.  We can take this truth even deeper – He is in us. When Jesus left this earth after His resurrection, He did not leave us alone. He did not leave us as orphans. He did not leave us powerless. He sent His Spirit to dwell within us.

When God sent the Holy Spirit, He was showing us-I am not going anywhere. I am Your teacher. I am your comfort. I am with you. I am your power to push back darkness, to undo what the enemy has done.

So where is God?

Church…body of Christ…brothers and sisters…He is in us. We are alive in Him; in Him we live and move and breathe. He has given us His authority and His ear. We are sons and daughters of God, given all that we need to live in His image and to give others this hope of redemption, beauty for ashes, a day when all will be made new.

He has given us His weapons to demolish the strongholds of the enemy, to stand firm against his plans of destruction.

 He has given us His love that lights our path and shows us how to love each other. He has shown us the power of unity.

He has made us one body.

This is it. This is when we fall to our knees and stand in this gap to pray, even as Jesus prays for us. This is when we let our love speak louder than the hatred the enemy is spilling everywhere, every day. This is when we act out of faith instead of fear.

Are the waves high? Is the storm fierce?

Yes, we know that it is – but our Savior walks on water. Our Savior can calm the storm with one command. Our rescue has already come!

Our Savior is the One who says – yes, you will have trouble in this world. But take heart! I have overcome the world!

Has He forgotten us?

No.

Let us not forget Him. Let us not forget who we are in Him.

Let’s commit to love, to hope. Let’s commit to kindness. Let’s commit to prayer because prayer matters. If not us – if not the children of God who have been set free by His power and ransomed by His love – then who will declare His love to a world that needs it? Who else will love their neighbors as themselves and pray for their enemies?

This is the time for us – the Church – to let the Light of the world shine through us.

This is my reminder and yours– the darkness does not ever, ever, ever overcome.

Don’t be afraid to shine.

Love,

Christie

Genesis 8 

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede. The underground waters stopped flowing, and the torrential rains from the sky were stopped. So the floodwaters gradually receded from the earth. After 150 days, exactly five months from the time the flood began, the boat came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Two and a half months later, as the waters continued to go down, other mountain peaks became visible.

After another forty days, Noah opened the window he had made in the boat and released a raven. The bird flew back and forth until the floodwaters on the earth had dried up. He also released a dove to see if the water had receded and it could find dry ground. But the dove could find no place to land because the water still covered the ground. So it returned to the boat, and Noah held out his hand and drew the dove back inside. After waiting another seven days, Noah released the dove again. This time the dove returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the floodwaters were almost gone. He waited another seven days and then released the dove again. This time it did not come back.

Noah was now 601 years old. On the first day of the new year, ten and a half months after the flood began, the floodwaters had almost dried up from the earth. Noah lifted back the covering of the boat and saw that the surface of the ground was drying. Two more months went by, and at last the earth was dry!

Then God said to Noah, “Leave the boat, all of you—you and your wife, and your sons and their wives. Release all the animals—the birds, the livestock, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—so they can be fruitful and multiply throughout the earth.”

 So Noah, his wife, and his sons and their wives left the boat. And all of the large and small animals and birds came out of the boat, pair by pair.

 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose. And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

Together We Follow: Genesis 7

Last Thursday, we read Genesis 6. We saw how the world was filled with violence and how God was broken-hearted over the corruption and pain. We read about the one righteous man left on earth and God’s faithfulness to him. So that Noah would be rescued – so that humanity would be saved – God instructed him to build an ark.

Today, we move into chapter 7…this is the moment when the boat is finished and God is telling Noah that it’s time to board with his family because the waters will soon come.

But at the moment, my mind keeps going to the space between Chapter 6 and Chapter 7.

This is the time after God has given direction and before the work is done. These are the days, for Noah, of telling his family what God had said to him. These are the days of going out to collect supplies, to cut down trees, to gather and store food. This is day after day of getting out of bed and getting to work – without a rain drop falling to reassure him, Noah led his family in a massive and unprecedented mission.

It couldn’t have been easy. There must have been moments of doubt, of fear. There must have been days when it all felt like too much, like too hard of a thing to ever complete.

Every morning, he had to make the decision to trust God. And this trust wasn’t just a matter of the heart — every morning, he had to make the decision to act upon the foundation of that trust. With every plank put into place, every swipe of pitch, every stored vegetable, he was saying again – I believe You. I trust You.

Every morning, he had to put his faith in who he knew God to be – and no matter what anyone else was saying, no matter the obstacles, no matter the illogical appearance of his task — he kept moving forward. And at the end of the day, he had to rest in God’s sovereignty. He had to rest – find peace – in in his faith that God was with him. He staked everything – all he had, his family, his life’s work – in the promise of God.

And at the right time, Noah saw it with his own eyes: God is faithful. He does what He says He will do.

I think this is where we are on many days, in many ways. The time between planting and harvest can stretch out, sometimes farther than we can see, and the every-day tending is an act of trust, a life of faith.

When we are weary, when the job seems too hard, when everything feels like too much…we rest in who He is: the lifter of our heads, sufficient grace in our weakness, the One who strengthens our tired hands.

Every morning, we decide again that we will keep moving forward, we will obey, we will be faithful in all the small things. Every morning, we say again – I choose to trust You. Every day, we make the choice to live in a constant surrender, trusting in who He is, boldly staking everything we have in His promises.

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Genesis 7

When everything was ready, the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I can see that you alone are righteous. Take with you seven pairs—male and female—of each animal I have approved for eating and for sacrifice, and take one pair of each of the others. Also take seven pairs of every kind of bird. There must be a male and a female in each pair to ensure that all life will survive on the earth after the flood. Seven days from now I will make the rains pour down on the earth. And it will rain for forty days and forty nights, until I have wiped from the earth all the living things I have created.”

So Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him.

Noah was 600 years old when the flood covered the earth. He went on board the boat to escape the flood—he and his wife and his sons and their wives. With them were all the various kinds of animals—those approved for eating and for sacrifice and those that were not—along with all the birds and the small animals that scurry along the ground. They entered the boat in pairs, male and female, just as God had commanded Noah. After seven days, the waters of the flood came and covered the earth.

When Noah was 600 years old, on the seventeenth day of the second month, all the underground waters erupted from the earth, and the rain fell in mighty torrents from the sky. The rain continued to fall for forty days and forty nights.

That very day Noah had gone into the boat with his wife and his sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—and their wives. With them in the boat were pairs of every kind of animal—domestic and wild, large and small—along with birds of every kind. Two by two they came into the boat, representing every living thing that breathes. A male and female of each kind entered, just as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord closed the door behind them.

For forty days the floodwaters grew deeper, covering the ground and lifting the boat high above the earth. As the waters rose higher and higher above the ground, the boat floated safely on the surface. Finally, the water covered even the highest mountains on the earth, rising more than twenty-two feet above the highest peaks. All the living things on earth died—birds, domestic animals, wild animals, small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the people. Everything that breathed and lived on dry land died. God wiped out every living thing on the earth—people, livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and the birds of the sky. All were destroyed. The only people who survived were Noah and those with him in the boat.  And the floodwaters covered the earth for 150 days.

Together We Follow: Genesis 6

 

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The next events we witness on our path through Genesis are not easy to see. There’s sadness here, immeasurable grief and pain.

But there’s hope here, too, because God doesn’t leave us alone in the hardest parts of this life. He always, always gives us a chance to take refuge in Him.

We’ve read the family trees. We’ve seen that Cain’s descendants put their roots deep in this earth, making names for themselves and bragging about acts of violence. We’ve seen that Seth, the third son of Adam, is the forefather of men who call upon the name of the Lord, men who walk faithfully with Him.

Years upon years pass…generations of men and women begin to fill the earth.

Genesis 6

Then the people began to multiply on the earth, and daughters were born to them. The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”

In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.”

It’s not easy to think about God – the Creator who lovingly shaped our earth and everything on it, calling it all good – deciding to destroy all living things. It is not easy to think about God destroying mankind.

We have to know that this was no abrupt conclusion, no hasty decision. What have we seen about the character of God so far?

He made Adam and Eve in His own image. He created an entire home full of everything they needed to thrive. He gave life. He warned men when they were in danger of letting sin take control of them. He was merciful even when they did not listen and allowed sin to enter their hearts, to motivate their actions. He was still there. He still took care of them, even promising that their own offspring would one day crush the enemy. He still gave life even when people chose death. 

So how did we get to this point? Because God doesn’t change, we have to know that — even though it isn’t written out in detail – His character stayed true through every generation. This means we can feel confident that He warned of sin, gave opportunities for repentance, showed mercy to those who turned to Him. We can be sure that the offer of life was ever in His outstretched hands.

We can also be sure that this gift of life was ignored, again and again, by this generation of our history. The passage says that every heart was evil. Every desire, every action, every decision was made from a place of greed, selfish ambition, hatred. We can only imagine how this affected every-day life. We can only imagine the violence, the poisonous words, the injury to spirit and body. We can only imagine that no one was safe and that every passing year brought more destruction, more heartbreak.

God looked at this planet He’d formed, at these precious people He loved, and they were incessantly – brutally – hurting each other. There was no peace, no rest, no innocence left among these men and women He’d only wanted to give joy and abundant life. Mankind was destroying each other.

And it broke His heart.

But in the chaos, one man remained fixed on the foundation he’d been given by his father. One man stood his ground and lived according to what pleased God, even while the rest of the world went their own way.

But Noah found favor with the Lord.

This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. Noah was the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence. God observed all this corruption in the world, for everyone on earth was corrupt.

So God said to Noah, “I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth!

Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and out. Then construct decks and stalls throughout its interior. Make the boat 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Leave an 18-inch opening below the roof all the way around the boat. Put the door on the side, and build three decks inside the boat—lower, middle, and upper.

Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die. But I will confirm my covenant with you. So enter the boat—you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring a pair of every kind of animal—a male and a female—into the boat with you to keep them alive during the flood. Pairs of every kind of bird, and every kind of animal, and every kind of small animal that scurries along the ground, will come to you to be kept alive. And be sure to take on board enough food for your family and for all the animals.”

So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.

Again, God provided the way of life.

In His just ways, in His faithfulness to the promise He’d made to Adam and Eve, God was not going to abandon Noah.

I’ve often wondered about Noah and his family. In a world filled with violence and corruption, there must have been days when they felt overwhelmed. Afraid. There must have been days when they didn’t know how they would survive. I wonder if Noah thought about what would happen to his family when he died, worried about the lives of his sons and their sons after them.

I imagine there must have been times when he felt alone, like he was carrying the weight of his family’s well-being on his shoulders .

But he wasn’t alone and the future was not hopeless, in spite of how circumstances seemed.

God promised rescue, if Noah would hear and obey His word,  from the violence, from the pain, from the unremitting struggle on the earth.

It would come at a great price, at a high cost – but God would use this man and his family to save the human race. As long as even one man was seeking Him, God would be there.

And one day, generations down the line, He would put on flesh and take the judgment of sin Himself – those wages that are death – so that no other man or woman would have to bear it. It’s His way, to provide salvation for us. In His love, He never wants our hearts to remain far from His.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.-Hebrews 2:14

 

 

 

 

Together We Follow: Genesis 3

 Genesis 3

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman.  “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.

Satan, as we read yesterday, wanted his own glory. He wanted his own authority. He was on earth, exiled from heaven, because of his pride and rebellion…his relationship with God had been destroyed by his own actions.

And he was not content to leave things as they were in the Garden of Eden. He was out to gain power over God’s creation. He was out to destroy the relationship between God and man.

After all, why should they hold onto what he could no longer have?

So he approached Eve – not in his own form, which would have most likely sent her running before he could say a word – but in the skin of a snake, a familiar creature to her. Adam and Eve had dominion over the animals…there was no creature that was a threat to them. It was part of their garden-tending duties to look out for all of God’s creation…and in his shrewd decision-making, satan knew that Eve would be comfortable around an animal.

He didn’t start the conversation with a dramatic speech, he didn’t begin with a condemnation of God’s character…he just asked a simple question, using a partial truth. And Eve entertained his thoughts. She considered his words. She didn’t throw down the idea of disobedience as soon as it came to her – instead she held it, looked at it, kept it.

I’m sure that there are many perspectives on this moment of time, but for me this interaction boils down to a few facts  – Eve listened to the voice of the snake. She chose to trust in the enemy instead of trusting in God. And, in the end, she doubted God’s intentions for her. She doubted His goodness and she doubted that what He had already given was enough for her.

So she took the fruit and she ate it, believing that God was holding something back from her…believing that there was more for her…believing that she needed to be more than she already was.

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At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.

 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

“Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”

“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”

Instead of becoming more – instead of feeling like God Himself – Adam and Eve felt less. They lost their secure footing with each other, with God. Their disobedience took their innocence and left them with guilt, with shame. God had once looked at them and declared that they were ‘very good’ — but they no longer felt that this was true. They immediately felt the need to cover up, to shield everything that was bare and vulnerable.

Do you think that the cool of the evening, when it seems the Lord would come walk with Adam and Eve, had been their favorite time of day? Do you think that, for the man and woman, the beauty of the garden paled in comparison to the glory of its Maker? Do you think that they would run to Him, eager for His smile and His presence?

I do. I believe that their hearts longed for the time spent walking and talking with Him. I believe they would hear His footsteps and rush to their Father with arms open wide.

But not this time.

This time, they heard His footsteps and felt something entirely unfamiliar — fear. This time, they did not run freely to His side. This time, they felt anxiety churn in their bellies and they did something that had never before crossed their minds…they hid from Him.

And, oh, He already knew – but He knew the man and woman needed to acknowledge their disobedience. This question – where are you? – feels like the broken-hearted question of a parent to their child who has run away – I am still here. I want you here with me – why did you go away? Why do you hide from the One who loves you?

I was afraid, Adam said, and this was true — but it wasn’t just about the fact that they were naked. They knew that His holiness, the beautiful light that they had always longed for, would now plainly reveal what had gone wrong in their hearts.

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Then the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live. And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”

And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust,  and to dust you will return.” 

Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live. And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.

The consequences of sin made the world a different place for Adam and Eve – the work that had only been joy and fulfillment became difficult and frustrating. The relationship between man and woman that had only been a peaceful unity became a struggle of will, discordant desires. The blessing of fruitfulness – the wonder that would come with childbirth – would now bring pain with it. The earth itself became a hardship. Death becomes a reality for Adam’s future.

And yet…YET (I like this yet!)…God was still there. He did not abandon them because of their disobedience. His love did not cease with their sin. In His light, their wrong was clearly seen — but it was there, in that honest moment, that He could begin to heal their brokenness.

They’d tried to cover their shame. With their own hands, they’d tried to fix the problem they’d created…but the fig leaves were inadequate. Their solution was not good enough to cover the effects of their sin…

but God didn’t leave them there, insufficiently clothed and exposed to the new threats of the world.

Instead, He took the skins of an animal and clothed them. In His compassion for them, a sacrifice was made. He replaced their obvious shame with His mercy.

 Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!”  So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Yes, sin had come into the world and ended life as they knew it. But the sin was not stronger than God’s sovereignty or His love…so the story of mankind does not end here. The Author and Finisher of our faith had more in store for us than Adam and Eve could ever have imagined. Promises have now been made and groundwork has been laid for our future.

The serpent – satan himself – is assured that Eve’s offspring will one day crush him. A sacrifice – the first, but certainly not the last – is made to cover the sin of man. We see the Tree of Life hidden from mankind, even as God is already setting the course for another way to give His people the gift of eternal life with Him.

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