Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jokes from My Dad

While working for an organization that delivers lunches to elderly shut-ins, I used to take my 4-year-old daughter on my afternoon rounds. The various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs, unfailingly intrigued her. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions, she merely turned and whispered, "The tooth fairy will never believe this!"

A little girl had just finished her first week of school. "I'm just wasting my time," she said to her mother. "I can't read, I can't write and they won't let me talk!"

Bible Notes: Gen 36-37

Gen 36. Some good names to keep in mind: two of Esau’s wives, Oholibamah and Basemath (2-5). Oholibamah seems to be a family name, as it appears two more times in the list of Esau’s descendants (25 and 41).

Gen 37. Jacob, repeating the sins of his parents, favors one of his sons. Because “their father loved him more” (4), Joseph’s brothers “hated him” (4), and because of his dreams they “hated him even more” (5), “hated him even more” (8), and “were jealous of him” (11).

Monday, August 30, 2010

Money & Weight: Opposite Problems

I have opposite problems. When it comes to weight, I take in more than I put out (food vs. exercise). But with regards to money, I put out less than I take in. If only I could/would reverse these proportions.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Can't Out-Grace God

A few weeks ago, Caty and I sat down to a game of LIFE, her current favorite board game.

Pretty sure that she would ask to play a second game once the first one was finished, and pretty sure that she would expect me to say No since it was getting late, I decided that, should she ask, I would say Yes. And I consciously did so to model grace to her. (I wasn't going to comment on why I was doing it; I was just going to model it.)

When the game was over, she asked for another, and I said Yes without hesitation.

What I wasn't prepared for was the question to be repeated after game #2.


I said No. Because I thought I had been pretty gracious as it was in playing game #2, and because it was late.

Coming away from that, I don't know if Caty was happy that we played 2 games, or disappointed because we didn't play 3.

But what I was sure of was that I can't out-grace God.

Bible Notes: Gen 25-35

PRAYER WATCH: Gen 32:3-21. When 20 years later Jacob is approaching a reunion with his estranged brother Esau, he is distressed. So he prays for deliverance from Esau, reminding the Lord of his command to return to the land of his fathers and reminding the Lord of his promise to do good to Jacob. In addition to his prayer, Jacob also sets up his own method of appeasing Esau and persuading his heart. Esau is appeased. Whether it is just now or whether it was long before he heard Jacob was returning, we don’t know.

Gen 25-35. Jacob’s family tends to be a scoundrelly bunch. It doesn’t help that Daddy and Mama pick their favorite twin, Esau and Jacob respectively.
--Carnal Esau sells his birthright for a mess of stew b/c he’s famished.
--Tricky Jacob, prompted by Mother Dearest, tricks Daddy into giving him brother’s blessing.
--Hot-tempered Esau declares his intention to kill Jacob for it.
--Crafty Uncle Laban tricks Jacob into marrying the daughter Laban wants to unload, and that after seven years’ engagement to the desired daughter.
--Jacob, following the pattern set by his parents, loves Rachel more than Leah. This leads to open womb-fare between the sisters to ingratiate themselves with their mutual hubby. It also leads to much misery, some of it expressed, much of it screaming between the lines.
--Exploitive Uncle Laban changes Jacob’s wages “ten times” (either literally, or metaphorically for “many times”).
--Greedy Uncle Laban has also apparently defrauded his own daughters of their inheritances (31:14-15).
--Rachel steals her daddy’s household gods, whether to worship or to sell, either reason has its attendant problems.
--Dishonest Jacob, even after reconciled with Esau, lies to him about meeting up later. Perhaps Jacob assumes that Esau is just as dishonest as he is.
--Vengeful Simeon and Levi kill not only their sister’s rapist, but they annihilate the men of the entire town.
--Lustful Reuben sleeps with Dad’s concubine.
And it is through this family that God’s grace comes to all nations. I guess that’s why it’s called “grace.” Praise God for his grace! Am I any less scoundrelly?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Some More Preferences

1. planes over boats
2. baseball over football
3. milkshakes over sundaes
4. math over science
5. blue over red
6. strawberries over raspberries
7. dramas over news
8. America’s Got Talent over American Idol
9. jelly beans over jelly bellies

Bible Notes: Gen 26-30

Gen 26:12-14. Isaac was very wealthy, as were Abraham (12:16; 20:14; cf. 14:14 -- 318 servants of fighting age!--not by any means the total number of servants) and Jacob (30:43).

Gen 29:31-30:24. It is the Lord who opens and closes wombs, who enables and prevents conception; I don’t think that has changed, even in today's society of fertility drugs, in vitro fertilization, sperm banks, etc.
--The Lord opens Leah’s womb (29:31).
--Leah acknowledges the Lord’s hand in her pregnancies in the naming of 5 of her 6 biological sons (29:32-33,35; 30:18-20).
--Jacob believes it is the Lord who has kept Rachel’s womb closed (30:2).
--Interestingly, this parental triangle engages in some fertility engineering by introducing two servants, Bilhah and Zilpah, into the mix (30:3-13).
--In two cases we’re told “God listened” to the woman, one time Leah and the other time Rachel, and enabled them to conceive (30:17,22).
--As a side note, the Lord also oversees the reproduction of animals, as we see Jacob experimenting with genetic engineering in his flocks (30:37-43; cf. 31:10-13).

PRAYER WATCH: Gen 30:17,22. Leah and Rachel each (apparently) pray to the Lord for open wombs, and he opens them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bible Notes: Gen 24-25

PRAYER WATCH: Gen 24:12-28,42-52. Abraham’s prays specifically about how to find a wife for Isaac, and the Lord answers quickly (45: “Before I had finished speaking in my heart”) and specifically.

PRAYER WATCH: Gen 25:21. Rebekah barren, Isaac takes the matter to the Lord, and she conceives. When he prayed about it would be interesting to know, for he married at 40 and fathered at 60. Did he pray at 41, or at 48, or at 58? This whole countless-number-of-descendants thing is clearly all of God. Sarah was barren until 90, Rebekah until 60. Their barrenness threatens the promise of God. But then again, it’s never really threatened because God is the one who opens wombs and closes wombs (cf. Gen 20:17-18).

PRAYER WATCH: Gen 25:22-23. Her pregnancy difficult, Rebekah seeks explanation from the Lord in prayer, and he answers with explanation.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

9 Books I'm Currently Reading

Run Silent, Run Deep (Beach)

Grant Moves South (Catton)

The Good Old Days ... They Were Terrible! (Bettmann)

Middlemarch (Eliot)

The Trivilization of God (McCullough)

The Civil War Letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell: A Chaplain's Story

The Art of Pastoring (Hansen)

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Lewis) --with Anna

The Lost Choice (Andrews) --with Sara

Selective Racism

Thomas Sowell's editorial, "Bean-Counters and Baloney," is typically filled with common sense, including the following:

"Anyone who has watched football over the years has probably seen at least a hundred black players score touchdowns-- and not one black player kick the extra point. Is this because of some twisted racist who doesn't mind black players scoring touchdowns but hates to see them kicking the extra points?

"At our leading engineering schools--M.I.T., CalTech, etc.-- whites are under-represented and Asians over-represented. Is this anti-white racism or pro-Asian racism? Or are different groups just different?

"As for baseball, I have long noticed that there are more blacks playing centerfield than third-base. Since the same people hire centerfielders and third-basemen, it is hard to argue that racism explains the difference.

"No one says it is racism that explains why blacks are over-represented and whites under-represented in basketball. Bean-counters only make a fuss when there is a disparity that fits their vision or their agenda."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bible Notes: Gen 21

Gen 21:1-14. Interesting to see the frequency of laughter in the Isaac story.
--While laughter isn’t mentioned in 16:4-5, still one can imagine Hagar’s looking down with contempt on Sarah (for her inability to conceive) to be expressed in an evil laughter.
--Sarah’s laughter in 18:10-12 seems to be a laughter of unbelief that she would bear a son as the divine visitor suggested. Thus does Sarah seem to laugh at herself for the same reason Hagar laughed at her.
--When the Lord questions her laughter (18:13-15), Sarah denies it out of fear, but the Lord knows the truth.
--Even before Sarah conceives, the Lord instructs Abraham to name the boy Isaac, which means “he laughs” (17:19).
--At Isaac’s birth, Sarah acknowledges the laughter—a joyful laughter—God has given her in Isaac, and she claims that everyone will laugh (presumably in a good way) over her when they find out (21:6-7).
--But when she sees Ishmael laughing, she stops laughing. Perhaps seeing in Ishmael what she had seen in Ishmael’s mother some 14 years before resurrects old wounds, and she puts both laughers out (21:9-14).
--In sum, I guess laugher isn’t always a laughing matter.

Gen 21:15-21. Hagar was impressed with God as the God Who Sees when Sarah threw her out the first time when she was pregnant with Ishmael (16:13-14). He saw her in her misery and looked after her. The second time she and Ishmael are thrown out, God “hears” their cries (21:17) and then he opens “her eyes” to a well of water nearby, and he promises to make Ishmael into a great nation. And for the next several years “God was with the boy, and he grew up.”

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Holy, Common, Clean, and Unclean

The Lord tells Aaron (and the priests): “You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean” (Lev 10:10 ESV).

What are the differences and relationships between “holy” and “common” and “clean” and “unclean”?

Gordon J. Wenham gives answers in his commentary on Leviticus in the NICNT series. Below are several quotations:

“Holy” is … the opposite of “common,” just as “clean” is the opposite of “unclean.”

Everyone and everything falls into one of two categories: the holy and the common.
Common things divide into two further subgroups: the clean and the unclean.

Cleanness is a state intermediate between holiness and uncleanness. Cleanness is the normal condition of most things and people.

Sanctification can elevate the clean into the holy, while pollution degrades the clean into the unclean.

Cleanness is the ground state; holiness and uncleanness are variations from the norm of cleanness.

The basic meaning of cleanness is purity.

Uncleanness is the converse of cleanness.

Permanent uncleanness cannot be altered and is not contagious, so no rites are prescribed to cure it.

Different degrees of uncleanness require different cleansing rituals.

Insistence on purification of the unclean is a corollary of the idea that Israel, the camp, and especially the tabernacle are holy.

Holiness characterizes God himself and all that belongs to him: “Be holy, for I am holy” (11:44-45; 19:2; 20:26).

Anyone or anything given to God becomes holy.

Uncleanness results from natural causes (e.g., disease) or human actions (e.g., sin), but holiness is not simply acquired by ritual action or moral behavior. Leviticus stresses that there are two aspects to sanctification, a divine act and human actions.

Usually, … the main emphasis of the book is on the human contribution to sanctification, what man has to do to make something holy.

… cleanness is the natural state of most creatures. Holiness is a state of grace to which men are called by God, and it is attained through obeying the law and carrying out rituals such as sacrifice. Uncleanness is a substandard condition to which men descend through bodily processes and sin. Every Israelite had a duty to seek release from uncleanness through washing and sacrifice, because uncleanness was quite incompatible with holiness of the covenant people.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bible Notes: Gen 18-19

Gen 18:1-2. “And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him” (ESV). What a thrilling thing! What a gracious manifestation!

PRAYER WATCH: Gen 18:12-14. Sarah laughs at the prospect of pregnancy in her old age, but Yahweh does not and queries, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” Here is a question to ask the Lord when in prayer. It can be added along with Yahweh’s challenge to Moses, “Is the LORD’s arm too short?” (Num 11:23 NIV). These are verses to encourage and bolster confidence in prayer. So even now as I pray for some marriages, for example, I ask the Heavenly Father, “Is the Lord’s arm too short?”

JUDGMENT WATCH: Gen 18:20-21. Why does Yahweh need to “go down to see” whether the outcry against Sodom is true or not? Is he not omniscient? Of course. But it shows us the justice of the Lord God. He is not capricious; his information is not second-hand. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” (1 Cor 2:16 ESV). Whatever judgment the Lord delivers is just.

PRAYER WATCH: Gen 18:22-33. Prayer affects the actions of the Lord. He listens to the prayers of his people and adjusts his behavior accordingly, in keeping with his wisdom and will. Abraham is humbly bold in his prayer, revising the Lord’s threshold of 50 righteous people all the way down to 10.

PRAYER WATCH: Gen 19:29. The rescue of Lot is not mentioned in Abraham’s conversation with the Lord in 18:22-33, but the Lord knows the burden of Abraham’s prayer even if Abraham does not/cannot articulate it. The new minimalist threshold is not even met: ten righteous people in Sodom? No. But the Lord spares Lot, that “righteous man” (2 Pt 2:7), in keeping with Abraham’s unspoken concern. Perhaps this is an example of the Spirit aiding our inarticulate prayers (cf. Rom 8:26).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bible Notes: Gen 15-17

PRAYER WATCH: Gen 15:2-3. Abram is bold in his prayer to the Lord, pointing out the disparity between the Lord’s promise and its fulfillment. He has no descendant yet; not one.

Gen 16. I noted the senses of sight and hearing this time through this chapter.
  • Abram “listened” to the voice of his wife (2).

  • When Hagar “saw” she was pregnant, she “looked” down on Sarai (4, repeated in 5, metaphorical uses).

  • The angel of the Lord tells Hagar that the Lord has “listened” to her affliction and that he will bless her (11).

  • Hagar names the Lord a God of “seeing” (13) or a God who “sees” me (ESV footnote).

  • Hagar rejoices in the fact that she has “seen” him who “looks” after her (13); or, I have “seen” the One who “sees” me (NIV).

  • The well at which the angel of the Lord met Hagar became known as Beer-lahai-roi, the well of the Living One who “sees” me (14, ESV footnote).

Sometimes listening to the ones we love can get us in trouble, as in Abram’s case; our ears must be tuned especially to the Lord, listening to him above all others. It is comforting to know, however, that the Lord listens to our affliction and sees our situation.

PRAYER WATCH: Gen 17:15-21. Abraham seeks to alter God’s plan because he finds it a bit incredulous, I think. God doesn’t answer the burden of his prayer, though he does change his own plans somewhat in response to it.

To flesh that out, the Lord tells Abraham he will have a son. Abraham, 100, repeats that information as a question and asks instead that Ishmael might be blessed. God refuses to make Ishmael central and insists that a son to be named Isaac will be born to Sarah. Nonetheless, “As for Ishmael, I have heard you,” and so Ishmael will be blessed.

19 Yrs Ago

Bridesmaids & groomsmen. A toppling cake. Flowers not quite right. A full sanctuary. Ira Gerig at the organ. Gary Aupperle officiating, with Stan Inniger and Ralph Scantlin involved. Vicki Snyder sings. Tux jacket wrong size. My brother's composition. A plethora of wedding gifts. A non-relative in my family picture. My new sister-in-law sobbing, mad at me for stealing her sister. Hot candle wax on Sara's finger. Rings. "I do." "I do."

The culmination of 6 months of anticipation, that day has led to 19 years of joy.

Sara has not been the perfect wife. She dropped a cake once, and I think she burnt a roast. But hey, I bet your spouse has made at least two mistakes.

And to say that I haven't been the perfect husband is like claiming water is wet. I won't bother to mention my sins; they're more dastardly than dirty cake and charcoaled meat.

It's been quite a ride since August 17, 1991, a wonderful, joy-filled, emotional, exciting, and sometimes pleasantly calm and comforting, ride. Today I delight in the wife of my youth, a treasure, a gift from the Lord.

Bible Notes: Gen 15 (2)

Gen 15. “He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars--of indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”

Judging from Scripture, it looks like the Lord’s promise to Abraham, pictured as the number of stars in the night sky, became a part of the national consciousness.

“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.” (Gen 22:17, Yahweh to Abraham)

“I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” (Gen 26:4, Yahweh to Isaac)

“Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” (Ex 32:13, Moses reminding Yahweh of his promise when Yahweh was threatening to wipe out the nation and start over with Moses)

“The LORD your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as many as the stars in the sky.” (Dt 1:10, Moses to the Israelites)

“Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.” (Dt 10:22, Moses to the Israelites)

“You who were numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the LORD your God.” (Dt 28:62, Moses to the Israelites, explaining the curses that will fall on them if they fail to fulfill their part of the covenant)

“David did not take the number of the men twenty years old or less, because the LORD had promised to make Israel as numerous as the stars in the sky.” (1 Chr 27:23)

“You made their sons as numerous as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their fathers to enter and possess.” (Neh 9:23, Nehemiah to Yahweh)

“I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” (Jer 33:22, Yahweh to Jeremiah, a new promise part of the new covenant)

“And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.” (Heb 11:12)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bible Notes: Gen 15

Gen 15:7-21. Sometimes faith has to take a long view of things. The conversation between the Lord and Abraham is interesting to trace.
Yahweh: I brought you to this land to give it to you. (7)
Abraham: How do I know this land will be my land? (8)
Yahweh: Your descendants will not live in this land for 400 years. They will be in another land for that time, and they will suffer greatly there. But then I will judge that land and bring your descendants out along with great wealth. (13-14)
You, however, won’t suffer. You’ll die in peace. (15)
Your descendants will come here in the fourth generation, because not until then will I be ready to judge the Amorites in this land. (16)
(Making it official) I give this land to your offspring, this land currently belonging to other peoples. (18-19)

This land will be your land in about four centuries. Well did the writer of Hebrews write: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not received the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth…. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promises.” (Heb 11:13,39)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dad Celebrated His 66th Birthday

I've been so busy I haven't kept up on blogging as much, so I missed commenting on my dad's birthday this past Thursday.

So, here it is: Happy Birthday, Dad! (Coincidentally, his twin sister turned 66 on the same day. Happy Birthday, Aunt Rita!)

On the last day of his 65th year (Wednesday), Dad found out he is going to be laid off from the WBCL utility staff at the end of the month. He's been serving at WBCL for 17 years!

He says he thinks the thing he'll miss most is sitting in Char Binkley's chair and resting his feet right in the middle of her blotter. He'll also miss reading the forecasted temperatures backwards on the air and hiding Doris Billiard's name plate.

(Okay, maybe he didn't exactly tell me those things.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Did you hear the one about the lawyer, the tax man, and the preacher?

One of my dad's jokes:

An old preacher was dying. He sent a message for his IRS agent and his Lawyer (both church members), to come to his home. When they arrived, they were ushered up to his bedroom. As they entered the room, the preacher held out his hands and motioned for them to sit on each side of the bed. The preacher grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled and stared at the ceiling.

For a time, no one said anything. Both the IRS agent and Lawyer were touched and flattered that the old preacher would ask them to be with him during his final moment. They were also puzzled because the preacher had never given any indication that he particularly liked either one of them.

Finally, the Lawyer asked, "Preacher, why did you ask the two of us to come?"

The old preacher mustered up some strength, then said weakly, "Jesus died between two thieves, and that's how I want to go, too."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hobbiton Several Years Later

The spot in New Zealand where The Lord of the Rings was filmed was left as is, Hobbit holes in place. Here are pics of it recently.

A Few Too Many Details in Civil War Narrative

Shelby Foote’s sprawling 3-volume, 2500-page narrative of the Civil War seems to be the standard history. I have never seen it criticized (though I’m sure it has been), and WORLD editor Marvin Olasky bribed each of his sons to read it with valuable baseball cards.

I did not enjoy Vol. 1 (Fort Sumter to Perryville) near as much as I thought I would. As a result, it took me far longer to read it than I thought it would.

I’ve tried to analyze why. Foote’s writing style is pleasing. He is a novelist writing history in narrative fashion, which is better than typical text-book style. I love his long sentences, some of them containing more commas, semicolons, and dashes than any of my grammar teachers would ever allow. I enjoy his highlighting irony along the way; more than once a general or other officer utters a bold word only to be shot and killed the very next minute. The background bio on some of the combatants is also helpful.

So what was it that made the reading tedious at times? I think … let me put it this way. What does a 2500-page history of the Civil War have that an 800-page account doesn’t have? Details. Lots of details. I think it was the details that bogged me down, and particularly the details of battle. I enjoy the political details, the sweat and strategy of President Lincoln and of President Davis, for instance, but the pace of the battle narratives was too slow for my enjoyment.

When I was only 300 pages from the end, two factors did, however, increase my enjoyment of the last third of the book. One was a visit to Manassas a few weeks ago, and so the narrative of the Second Battle of Manassas (a.k.a. the Second Battle of Bull Run), came alive. The second factor was using a Civil War atlas from the library to see on a map the lines of battle as Foote described them.

Natural question: Do I plan to read Vol. 2? Answer: Not any time soon, if at all. I have a hankering at the moment to read Civil War biography, possibly even re-read some bios I’ve already read.

First line: "It was a Monday in Washington, January 21; Jefferson Davis rose from his seat in the Senate."

Last line (a quotation from Lincoln’s address to Congress in December 1862): "The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just--a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."

My rating (out of 5): 3 ½

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bible Notes: Gen 6-9

JUDGMENT WATCH: Gen 6-9. Judgment is found throughout the Bible, but it seems to me three judgments overshadow all the others: the flood, the exile, and hell. (A fourth might be the plagues on Egypt, if those are in the same category.) In this supposed children’s story, certain things stand out:
  • the pervasiveness of sin (“wickedness of man … every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” 6:5, emphasis added)
  • the extent of the judgment (“all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures … all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing … man and animals and creeping things and birds … They were blotted out from the earth” 7:21-23)
  • God’s grace to Noah (“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD … I will establish my covenant with you … Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark … But God remembered Noah … And God blessed Noah and his sons” 6:8,18; 7:23; 8:1; 9:1)
As thorough as the flood was, it did not purge the world of sin. The seeds of sin remained in the very eight people the Lord spared on the ark. The evidence? Sin continued and grew after the flood.
  • In ch. 9 we see the sins of Noah and of Ham.
  • In ch. 11 we read of the sin at Babel.
  • In ch. 13 we have this description of the descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham, the son of Noah: “Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD” (13:13).
This magnifies the sufficiency of Christ. What a worldwide flood could not do Jesus did with one supreme sacrifice: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God … For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb 10:12,14 ESV, emphasis added). “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb 9:26 ESV, emphasis added).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bible Notes: Gen 4

JUDGMENT WATCH: Gen 4:1-16. Cain fails twice and is judged twice.
  • First, he does not “do well” in terms of his offering to Yahweh, and Yahweh “had no regard” for it.
  • Second, Cain commits fratricide, and his punishment includes farming failure and expulsion. He is to be driven “from the ground, and from your face” (14). He is cast away “from the presence of the LORD.” His expulsion, as well as his parents’ from Eden, vividly portray the truth that sins separate us from God (cf. Is 59:2).
  • A promised third judgment becomes an expression of grace to Cain: if anyone murders Cain, he will be avenged sevenfold. (I assume this was somehow known by men so that they thought twice, or even sevenfold, before attempting his death.)

Gen 4:9ff. Abel is the first martyr, the first godly individual to be persecuted for his faith, and God notices when he falls. What’s more, he avenges his death. He hears Abel’s blood crying out to him from the ground, and in response he seeks out Cain and brings judgment upon his head. Here then is revealed, at the beginning of Genesis, the ways of God with his persecuted people. His eye is on them, he knows their suffering, he knows when they fall, and he avenges them. (Note Heb 11:4: “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead” [NIV].)

Bible Notes: Gen 3

PRAYER WATCH: Gen 3:9-13. The first time we see Adam speak, it’s apparently to himself when he waxes poetic at his first sight of Eve (2:23). The first time we see Eve speak, it’s when she’s holding converse with the serpent (3:1-5). The first time we see either of them talk with God (prayer), it’s when their sin has been discovered, and they are defensive. Quickly have they been made “wise,” at least at the blame game.

JUDGMENT WATCH: Gen 3:8-24. First fear. Adam is “afraid” (10) when he hears God in the garden. He fears, he says, because he is naked, referring to his lack of clothes. But the truth is probably nearer to the fact that his sinful act was naked before God; God knew what he had done. Promise of God’s judgment naturally brings fear. Thank God for the atonement at the cross and the natural consequence to those who believe—no more fear. How often are we told throughout the NT, “fear not”?

First judgments. The Lord levies judgments against the serpent, the woman, and the man. Further, they were driven from Eden, the lush paradise God had created for them, the result being they were cut off from the tree of life which would have sustained their physical lives eternally.

First reality of death. God promised death on the very day they ate of the forbidden fruit (2:17), and we understand that they died spiritually on that very day. Physical death also enters into the picture in 3:19, “to dust you shall return,” and 3:22-24 where they are cut off from the tree of life.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bible Notes: Gen 2-3

JUDGMENT WATCH: Gen 2:16-17. The first prohibition is laid down: no eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The judgment is specified: the day you eat is the day you die. Notice the prohibition is laid down in the context of abundant provision: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden.” Here is the grace of God: 1) abundant provision, 2) clear articulation of the prohibition, 3) clear statement of the punishment should the prohibition be transgressed.

A rational man (or woman) would take all this in and say, “Utter folly for me to eat of that one tree.” But sin isn’t rational. It’s the essence of folly.

Gen 3:6. Eve had her own reasoning which made the eating of the forbidden fruit rational. It was 1) good for food, 2) delightful to the eyes, and 3) it made one wise. So ignoring or forgetting the clear reasoning we see in 2:16-17, she followed her own reasoning and ate. The irony is the word “wise.” What she did was folly. Her reasoning fell flat. The One who made her and who gave her this wonderful home stocked with ample provisions—He was to be doubted? And the snake—a creature, not the Creator but rather one made by the Creator; further, this creature named by her husband and over whom she and her husband were to exercise dominion—was the fount of wisdom and veracity? Over the Creator?

Gen 3:7. The first thing they experienced when they ate the fruit was discontent. Trouble in paradise: “Oh my goodness, we’re naked!” Actually, this was the second instance of discontent. The first was when Eve bought the lie that God wasn’t giving them his best. Discontentment here is both the mother and child of sin: "God's not good to us" led to sin led to "Hey, we're naked!"

And so the cycle often goes. I’m discontent with God’s way, and so I sin, and the sin leads to emptiness and further discontentment. For instance, I could forgive my wife for forgetting to [fill in the blank], but I’m not content to let her remain blind to the inconvenience her forgetfulness caused me, so I rail away at her, and the results are she knows how mad I am, but there’s also an invisible wall between us, and I am alone and lonely on one side of it. Paul’s example of contentment in any and every situation (Php 4:11-12) becomes more critical in such light.

Bible Notes: Gen 1-2

Gen 1:28-30. The image of God in man is seen right away in Genesis 1 in that he talks directly to them. God speaking is a consistent theme throughout Genesis 1, but only to man does he seem to speak in personal conversation. He tells the first couple to multiply, to subdue the earth, and to have dominion over all its occupants—the animals in the sky (birds), on the earth, and in the seas (fish). He also explains that the seed-bearing plants are for food for man, land animals, and birds.

Gen 2:8-9,15-17. The generosity and love of the Lord for man is seen even in the creation accounts. In Gen 1, man is the capstone of creation; earth is formed and fashion for the pleasant habitation of man. It’s like a man building a home for his soon-to-be bride. He builds the home first, taking pains with every detail so that her comfort and pleasure are assured, and then he brings her home to it to live. In Gen 2 we see that within the lush earth God creates a delightful garden, perfect for man’s dwelling and occupation. Note 2:9—“every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” There is, of course, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but it, too, is a beautiful tree to behold (Gen 3:6)—it doesn’t mar the decor; only its fruit is forbidden for eating.

Two delightful truths here: 1) The Lord loves us, delights in us, desires our joy. 2) We, the children of God by faith, have a lot to look forward to in the new heavens and new earth at the end of the age. We live in a beautiful world now, but it’s not perfect, having been marred as it was when man fell (cf. Rom 8:20-22). Pick the best house you’ve ever seen on Extreme Makeover Home Edition; consider it a shack compared to our abode in the new heavens and new earth.