Together We Follow: An Interruptible Life (Genesis 12:1-9)

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Genesis 12:1-9

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.  I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth—his livestock and all the people he had taken into his household at Haran—and headed for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites.

Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him. After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the Lord, and he worshiped the Lord.  Then Abram continued traveling south by stages toward the Negev.

This is what I love about the call of Abram: God didn’t call him because of his background or his qualifications. We aren’t even told that Abram was particularly upright in the way he lived or trying to find the God of his forefathers. All we know for sure is that his father had not worshiped the one true God (Joshua 24:2). There, in the crowded city of Ur, they did not remember God.

But God remembered mankind. He remembered His promise of blessing to Adam, to Noah, to Shem. He still wanted a relationship with the people He’d created. He wanted to restore the communion that had been lost.

So He chose a descendant of Shem – not because of who Abram was in that moment, but because of His own faithfulness, His own enduring compassion for the men and women on this planet He’d shaped.

God spoke something new into Abram’s life – a calling, a command, a commitment. He reached out and initiated a relationship that would bring Abram and his descendants into covenant with Him…in this way, God would reveal Himself, again, to the world. Through an on-going relationship with Abram and his family, there would be a revelation of God’s character and His heart. He could communicate what He wanted for their lives. He could be their God and they could be His people — this would be the restoration of communion for all the world to witness.

And as for Abram?

God didn’t force him to obey. God didn’t coerce him into leaving Haran.

Abram heard God’s voice and he chose to respond in faith. Abram chose to believe Him.

He chose to lay down all of his old expectations, his former life, who he thought he was and what he thought was in store for the future…he allowed God to create something different and totally new in him. When God invited him into this transformed life, turning everything topsy-turvy, Abram said – yes.

I want that kind of faith, the faith that says yes to the journey before the destination is revealed…just because God has asked me to go. I want to stay yielded…interruptible. I don’t want to hold on so tightly to what I know and what I plan that I leave no room for God to make something new out of me, to re-direct me to His purposes.

Because just like He revealed His heart to the world through Abram’s obedience, He still reveals His love through His people, through the surrendered lives of His sons and daughters.

Lord, help us to hear You when You call us.  Help us to leave space for Your Spirit to work within us, to transform us. Help us to trust You enough to surrender what has been when You are ready to do something new in our lives. Help us to boldly live out a yes when You ask us to act, to move, to follow You.

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Together We Follow: Genesis 11:10-32

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Genesis 11:10-32

This is the account of Shem’s family.

Two years after the great flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. After the birth of Arphaxad, Shem lived another 500 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Arphaxad was 35 years old, he became the father of Shelah. After the birth of Shelah, Arphaxad lived another 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Shelah was 30 years old, he became the father of Eber. After the birth of Eber, Shelah lived another 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Eber was 34 years old, he became the father of Peleg. After the birth of Peleg, Eber lived another 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Peleg was 30 years old, he became the father of Reu. After the birth of Reu, Peleg lived another 209 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Reu was 32 years old, he became the father of Serug. After the birth of Serug, Reu lived another 207 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Serug was 30 years old, he became the father of Nahor. After the birth of Nahor, Serug lived another 200 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Nahor was 29 years old, he became the father of Terah. After the birth of Terah, Nahor lived another 119 years and had other sons and daughters.

After Terah was 70 years old, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

The Family of Terah

This is the account of Terah’s family. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. But Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, the land of his birth, while his father, Terah, was still living.  Meanwhile, Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. (Milcah and her sister Iscah were daughters of Nahor’s brother Haran.) But Sarai was unable to become pregnant and had no children.

One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran.

 

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Shem’s descendants have ended up in a place called Ur of the Chaldeans. We meet Terah and his sons here. But they don’t stay in Ur – Terah moves with his son, Abram,  daughter-in-law, and grandson away from this city. He begins this journey with the idea of ending up in Canaan, but settles in Haran.

This is the beginning of something special in our history…and as we go through the next chapters, we’re going to see God call Abram to finish the journey to Canaan.

Since the garden of Eden, God had not given a specific spot on the earth to His people as a Home…but over the course of the next few days, we’ll read about how He does just that for a man and a woman who will hear His voice and follow where He leads.

I hope you’ll continue reading with me as we re-discover the beauty of God’s promises to Abram…and, through him, hope for the entire world.

*map from A Survey of the Old Testament by Andrew Hill & John Walton

 

Together We Follow: Genesis 11:1-9

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In today’s reading, we find a group of people who are united in one language and one goal.

On the surface, maybe this unity that we see in the beginning of Genesis 11 doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. It seems that men are working together, getting along as they begin to build a city.

But they have left God out of their plans.

Their goal is to do the opposite of what God has instructed them to do…He told the sons of Noah back in Genesis 9 that they were to multiply and fill the earth. But, somewhere along the way, someone decided that this was not the right course for the future. Someone decided that God did not know what was best for mankind. Someone decided to stop trusting in His purposes for the earth.

So they settle together in the land Shinar, founding a city. They want to make a name for themselves by building a tower that will reach into the heavens…and they want to use this name – believing that it will come with authority – to put a stop to the scattering of the tribes over the earth.

They are building in their own honor, for their own glory, for their own gain, to accomplish their own will.

Did they believe that this tower would show God – their own creator – how powerful they were? Did they wish to show control over their future? Did they wish to reach heaven,  believing that such heights would make them equal with God?

This immediately brings to mind the enemy, satan, who said “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation. On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’

I can see his pride, his desire to become like God, and his sneaky way of undermining the trust in man’s relationship with the Creator. I can see his schemes in the lives of these men who wanted to make a name for themselves, working to leave behind the will of God to, instead, fulfill their own desires.

Yes, they’d been led astray. Like their ancestors before them, they chose to listen to the voice of the enemy instead of to the voice of God. 

And God already knew the destruction that comes with pride. He had already had His heart broken over mankind’s bondage to sin and selfish desire…and the violence and pain that came with it.

So He put a stop to this catastrophe-in-the-making before it could be completed.

It was, I think, a creative (and merciful) solution. Instead of destroying the tower, He changed the status quo…He confused the language of the whole world. Instead of one common tongue, each tribe or family found themselves speaking a unique language.

In this sudden disruption of language, work on the city ceased and the tribes began to disperse.

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As I consider the Tower of Babel and this desire of mankind to build ourselves up, I wonder what we are trying to prove. Is it our own worth that we are attempting to establish? Are we consumed with self-sufficiency, chasing the idea that we are enough in ourselves and not dependent upon God? At its core, is our disobedience a symptom of not trusting God? And at the center of our distrust, do we find the ploy of the enemy to break our communion with God? 

When it comes to my own life, I can see that this is true. I have tried to build my own towers in this life, looking for value and control in the work of my own hands. I didn’t trust that He was enough to fulfill my heart. There have been times when I didn’t obey God because of fear. I didn’t think I was able to do what He’d asked – I didn’t trust that He would provide the ability, the strength, or whatever was necessary for that time. There have been times that I did not understand the step He wanted me to take – and, so, I wouldn’t take it. Pride, too, has stopped me from obedience – which, for me, is another way to say that I trusted in myself instead of in God, so I chose my own way instead of His.

But what I have learned is that His ways are better than mine. I have learned, through taking one step at a time forward with Him, that He is faithful. I have put my trust in Him and found Him steadfast and always, always good.  I have learned that my strength comes in surrender to Him, my confidence in depending totally on Him. I have learned that my actions, words, and perceptions of the world have a direct connection to how I see God…and the ability to fully obey, laying down my life and picking up the cross before me, comes with my trust in Who He is.

Because I know He is for me, I can step out in faith – even when it’s illogical or uncomfortable  – to do whatever it is He might ask of me. Because I know He is love – because I know He loves me, I can follow wherever He leads.

These are on-going lessons…because God keeps calling us to follow into new places, doesn’t He? He keeps transforming us into His image. He keeps teaching us to trust Him, more and more, so that we can do the next thing to which He calls us.

I hope that we build our lives in His honor, for His glory, for His fame.

If we make any name known, Lord, let it be YOURS and not our own. Let it be Your will fulfilled in us, our obedience flowing out of our love for You…fearless to follow because of our trust in You. 

 

Genesis 11:1-9

Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

(Here’s an interpretation of what the tower may have looked like. This is a painting by an unknown Flemish master from 1587.)

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“Genesis does not say what the Tower of Babel looked like, but archaeological ruins provide clues. Ancient ziggurats or pyramids exist all over the world. Ziggurats are stepped, tiered, or terraced pyramids that usually have a shrine on top. Ruins of these exist in almost 30 different countries including Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, India, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Peru, and Mexico.”–Bible Science Guy 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Together We Follow: Genesis 10

Yesterday, we read about a detailed interaction (the only one we’re shown) between Noah and his three sons. We saw Noah in a compromised position…and we saw how his sons handled the moment. The reactions of Ham, Shem, and Japheth directly affected their families and their futures.

Today, we will discover a little more of what those futures held. In this time after the flood, the world was unclaimed…the sons of Noah had their choice in how and where to settle. We’ll read about their ever-increasing families, the spread of territories, the building of cities and nations.

We will see some of these names and places again as we continue traveling the pages of Scripture…it can be easy to just skim over these lists, but I hope that you’ll take your time reading this chapter today. Look for familiar names. Consider the connections between the heart of Ham and those who followed him. Think about the foundations of the future being put into place by these first generations after the flood.

An interesting note comes with one of Shem’s great-grandsons, Eber. We’re told that Shem is the ancestor of all the sons of Eber. It seems that Eber’s descendants would be significant, since he was singled out and directly connected to Shem in this way. Following this thread into Matthew Henry’s commentary and the Strong’s Concordance, I found out that Eber could also be called Heber…and that this is the name that carried on to describe his descendants: the children of Abraham, the chosen family of God, the Hebrew people.

It makes me wonder about Eber. I wonder if he was one of those men – men like Enoch and Noah – who faithfully walked with God. I wonder if he put his whole heart into serving the God of his great-grandfather, Shem, and his fathers before him. I wonder if it was his example that helped lead his someday-family in remembering God and recognizing His voice when He spoke into their lives.

For this is the line that leads to Abraham…Jacob…David…and, eventually, to Jesus Christ.

I wonder how Eber would have felt, during his lifetime, to know that the promise given to defeat the enemy would be fulfilled through his descendants.

This reminds me, again, that we don’t know how or when God will complete the good work He begins in us…we just know His promise that He will finish it. (Phil.1:6) It’s our choice, every day, to press on toward the purposes to which He has called us…trusting Him to fulfill that calling in us. His ways are different than ours, so we can’t imagine how He will use our obedience today to affect an eventual tomorrow…but His purposes stand through all generations and so we keep walking by faith – when we can’t yet see the harvest of all we’re sowing, we believe “that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Rom. 8:28)

PS – I’ve set up a reference page so that, as we continue to read, we can trace the family tree that begins with Adam and leads to the birth of Jesus.

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Genesis 10

This is the account of the families of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the three sons of Noah. Many children were born to them after the great flood.

The descendants of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.

The descendants of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.

The descendants of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim. Their descendants became the seafaring peoples that spread out to various lands, each identified by its own language, clan, and national identity.
The descendants of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.

The descendants of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan.

Cush was also the ancestor of Nimrod, who was the first heroic warrior on earth. Since he was the greatest hunter in the world, his name became proverbial. People would say, “This man is like Nimrod, the greatest hunter in the world.” He built his kingdom in the land of Babylonia, with the cities of Babylon, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh. From there he expanded his territory to Assyria, building the cities of Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, and Resen (the great city located between Nineveh and Calah).

Mizraim was the ancestor of the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites,  Pathrusites, Casluhites, and the Caphtorites, from whom the Philistines came.

Canaan’s oldest son was Sidon, the ancestor of the Sidonians. Canaan was also the ancestor of the Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites,  Arvadites, Zemarites, and Hamathites. The Canaanite clans eventually spread out,  and the territory of Canaan extended from Sidon in the north to Gerar and Gaza in the south, and east as far as Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, near Lasha.

These were the descendants of Ham, identified by clan, language, territory, and national identity.
Sons were also born to Shem, the older brother of Japheth. Shem was the ancestor of all the descendants of Eber.

The descendants of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram.

The descendants of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.

Arphaxad was the father of Shelah,[h] and Shelah was the father of Eber.

Eber had two sons. The first was named Peleg (which means “division”), for during his lifetime the people of the world were divided into different language groups. His brother’s name was Joktan.

Joktan was the ancestor of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All these were descendants of Joktan. The territory they occupied extended from Mesha all the way to Sephar in the eastern mountains.

These were the descendants of Shem, identified by clan, language, territory, and national identity.
These are the clans that descended from Noah’s sons, arranged by nation according to their lines of descent. All the nations of the earth descended from these clans after the great flood.

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Together We Follow: Genesis 9:18-29

We find our first glimpse of ordinary life after the flood in the second portion of Genesis 9.

Noah has been hard at work tending the ground. We’re told that he has planted grapes, cultivating a vineyard. One day, he drinks too much of the wine made from those grapes and he becomes drunk. This intoxication leaves him fully exposed to anyone who enters his tent.

We aren’t told if Noah intends to get drunk. We’re shown the state of his physical actions, but not the state of his heart. What we do know is that he has lost control of himself in this moment, allowing the wine to overtake him…this was sin and it does, of course, show us the danger of allowing wine – or anything that undermines the authority of God in our actions – to take control of us.

But, at this moment, my attention is drawn less to Noah’s mistake and more to the reaction of his sons in this moment of disgrace.

Ham finds his father in this vulnerable position and leaves him there, going outside to tell his brothers exactly what he had seen.

Shem and Japheth take great care to enter the tent without seeing their father’s shame, covering him with a robe.

All three of Noah’s sons had a choice in how to deal with this scene that Ham discovered.

Ham chose to further expose his father to shame. Immediately telling his brothers was not an act of respect, but a move to embarrass Noah. This was not a choice of love, but of derision. This tells us a lot about Ham’s own heart — although we don’t have specifics, there must have been some seed of contention, pride, bitterness, or anger in his heart to see this harvest of cruelty.

Shem and Japheth, however, choose to immediately help their father. They did not find pleasure in catching him in this sinful moment. In total respect, they enter into this place of Noah’s shame and cover him. This act, to me, reflects the heart of the Father who had once covered the exposed shame of their long-ago ancestors in the garden of Eden. Instead of joining Ham in pointing out Noah’s wrong, they met their father in love.

In the resulting curse and blessing on the sons of Noah, we can see how serious God is about the way we treat one another.

Always, we must keep in mind how He has treated us — this is the pattern we are to follow…His heart toward His children is the model for our own hearts.

So far, we have seen justice, yes, and consequences for sin. But His discipline flows from His love…it is meant to draw His people back to Him, to show the way of restoration and redemption. We have seen grace. We have seen mercy. We have seen compassion.

When we look ahead, we see this love in God’s own Son – Jesus comes to us, meets us in the place of our sin and shame, and covers us with His righteousness. He does not leave us helpless, but becomes our rescue. John 3:17 tells us that He does not come into the world to condemn, but to save.

It will never fail to fill me with awe  – while I was still in sin…while I was still under the control of my pride and fear…Jesus died for me.

It’s the same for you – for all of us who has been brought near to God again through the blood of our Savior.

Knowing this, how do we react to others in their sin? How do we choose to respond when someone stumbles?  How do we choose to treat our brothers and sisters – or those who don’t know God – when we see their shame?

Proverbs tell us that we shouldn’t rejoice even when our enemy falls. We should be a people of compassion — knowing the pain and bondage of sin, it is our joy to help others to find the same freedom we have been given. James tells us to turn sinners from the error of their ways if they have wandered from the truth…not to gloat over their sin or to spread word of their failure. Paul says to speak the truth to our brothers and sisters – in love. 

God did not abandon us to our stupor of sin. He redeemed us from it.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. (1 John 4:11)

Let us pray that we will be transformed by the Holy Spirit until we are like Him…let us see others in the fullness of His truth and grace.  Let us love as we have been loved. Let us meet others in their hardest places, in their moments of disgrace, and show the grace that Jesus has shown to us. Let the harvest of our hearts overflow in what the Spirit plants: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control.

Let us keep in step with Your Spirit and Your way, Father.

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Genesis 9:18-29

The sons of Noah who came out of the boat with their father were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham is the father of Canaan.) From these three sons of Noah came all the people who now populate the earth.

After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard.  One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent.  Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers.  Then Shem and Japheth took a robe, held it over their shoulders, and backed into the tent to cover their father. As they did this, they looked the other way so they would not see him naked.

When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done. Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham: “May Canaan be cursed! May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.”

Then Noah said, “May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed, and may Canaan be his servant! May God expand the territory of Japheth! May Japheth share the prosperity of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant.”

 Noah lived another 350 years after the great flood.  He lived 950 years, and then he died.

Together We Follow: Genesis 9:1-17

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Here’s where we have been so far on our walk through Genesis: man and woman, made in God’s image, are given a home on this earth, a beautiful garden, with everything that they need. They are given the good work of tending to the garden, the animals, and becoming fruitful themselves. They live in God’s presence, walking with Him in the cool of the evenings. This is the pattern God set for them…it would belong to Adam and Eve as long as they obeyed the command given to not eat fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But, as we have seen, they did eat of the fruit, not fulfilling their part in the relationship God had established. 

So they lost their place in the garden, but not in God’s heart. We saw that – even though they disobeyed – His compassion for Adam and Eve remained. He wanted to restore their communion with Him. He promised that one of their descendants would defeat the enemy that had deceived them.

Sin and death had entered the world, changing the course of mankind. Adam and Eve’s firstborn started a family line that turned away from God, filling up the world with violence. God’s heart was broken and He knew the constant chaos had to be stopped, but He did not forget the promises He had made. There was still one righteous man, a son in the line of Seth (Adam’s third son), and God did not forget him. When the floods came, Noah and his family were safely on the ark they’d built just as God had commanded. They waited, along with all of the animals and foods God had instructed them to gather, for the day that dry land would appear.

So this is where we are now: Noah and his family, after so many long days, have left the boat. Their feet are again on solid ground and Noah’s first act is to build an altar.

I want to pause Noah’s story here to talk about a word that is woven through Scripture, a word that is a foundation of all that we have in God even now: covenant.

Stanley Grenz’s Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms defines it like this: Covenant refers to the act of God in freely establishing a mutually binding relationship with humankind. Through the covenant God bestows blessings on human in conditional and unconditional terms. Conditionally, God blesses humans as they obey the terms of the covenant. Unconditionally, God bestows blessings on humans regardless of their obedience or disobedience to the terms of the covenant. 

In other words, a covenant is a commitment made between God and man. It is His promise to us. The unconditional covenant will be carried through no matter how we respond; the conditional covenant requires a certain action from us in order to be fulfilled on God’s part.

Whether unconditional or conditional, the idea that the God of heaven and earth would bind Himself to us – to you and to me – fills me with wonder. I don’t want us to miss the beauty of this — because this is the theme that began when He formed Adam from dust, the theme that we will see in every book from Genesis to Revelation, the theme that is the thread that reaches into this moment right now — God initiates and pursues this relationship with us because He loves us. He chooses us.

Has He ever been obligated or forced to make promises to us? No…but we will see, again and again, that He does. He chooses to redeem us from the curse of sin and death. He chooses to give us life.  And we will see, again and again, that even while we fail Him, He does not ever fail us.

An article from the Christian Worldview Journal puts it like this:

God is unshakably committed to His creation, to His human creatures, and to His plans for both…He is lovingly-loyal and loyally-loving to the works of His hands. He loves what He is committed to; He is committed to what He loves! So, when it all fell into trouble, God’s desire was not to annihilate and destroy it, but to save and restore it.

God, in other words, has a covenant with creation from which He will never turn back! His dedication to His world is irrevocable.

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I feel sure that Noah, his wife, and their sons with their wives wondered about the future – God had rescued them, He had remembered them…but now what? Would He help them make their way in this world that was, in essence, starting over?

God does not leave them wondering for long. He speaks to them, reestablishing the pattern He had first set in the garden of Eden. He tells them to be fruitful and multiply. He tells them that they have power over all of the animals. He provides what they need.

He makes it clear that mankind – despite the sin that has broken into their hearts – is precious to Him, made in His image. He makes it clear that the life of every man and woman matters to Him.

And with Noah, with all the living creatures on the earth — and with all of us, too — He establishes a covenant — an unconditional covenant in which He promises that He will never again destroy all of life on earth with floodwaters. So that we cannot forget His promise, He places a rainbow in the sky as a sign of this commitment to us. We are given an eternal promise and He asks nothing of us in return. It’s His grace, freely given.

This is not the first time His grace makes a way for our future and it is not the last time, either. God has provided this new beginning, restored the earth, but the enemy has not yet been defeated…the unbroken and perfect communion between God and man has not yet been fully restored.

So with the rainbow as a clear reminder of God’s love toward them, Noah and his family step into the future, trusting that the One who has already rescued them will fulfill every promise He has made.

Genesis 9: 1-17

Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth. All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power.  I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables.  But you must never eat any meat that still has the lifeblood in it.

And I will require the blood of anyone who takes another person’s life. If a wild animal kills a person, it must die. And anyone who murders a fellow human must die. If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image. Now be fruitful and multiply, and repopulate the earth.”

Then God told Noah and his sons, “I hereby confirm my covenant with you and your descendants, and with all the animals that were on the boat with you—the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals—every living creature on earth.  Yes, I am confirming my covenant with you. Never again will floodwaters kill all living creatures; never again will a flood destroy the earth.”

Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come.  I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life.  When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.”  Then God said to Noah, “Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.”

PS — I would love to hear any experiences of how God has kept His promises to you…please feel free to share in the comments! 🙂

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.”