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Retrospective on a Controversy.

Today marks the anniversary of the day three years ago when I began this blog. I realize that in recent days the level of production of new blogs has slowed down considerably. I am not sure what need there is today for the publication of my thoughts since the controversy that began this blog has simmered down as well. I believed on March 17,2014 that it was imperative that my thoughts on the sad attempt by two misguided Reformed Baptist pastors to publicly diminish the reputation of a group of faithful gospel men be made available to counter the lies and distortions that at that time were being published in that strangely titled book called Holding Communion Together. At this third Anniversary of my involvement with this matter I desire to say a few things in retrospect.

  1. It is well worth any loss that might result to act in accordance with a Biblically  enlightened conscience. A great many people used many arguments seeking to persuade me to just keep quiet. I acknowledge that would have been an easier path but in my estimation not the right one. I am saddened by the loss of friends and associates but am more convinced than ever that you simply cannot play to the crowd and continue to know the smile of our Father in heaven. He must be the audience we play every act of our lives before as he will be the only critic whose opinion really counts.
  2. I am glad to have had the opportunity to bring some measure of solace and even joy to the hearts of some of the brethren who have been grieved over and over again by the unjust attacks made against their Pastors by men who have spent altogether too many years in the grip of malice and bitterness. Predictably my words did nothing to mollify the wrath of these men but it was not ultimately for their sakes that I wrote. They can think of me what they want as I remain prayerfully desirous of a future reconciliation should God grant to them repentance.
  3. I stand amazed at the unveiling of the providence that brought about a surprising and unexpected removal from the marketplace of the offensive book. It is distressing that this did not happen as the result of the clear repudiation of the facts of the book found on this blog and the other places such as the testimony of Dr Robert Martin and his brother Lamar. It had to take the public disclosure of the secret sins of one of its authors to bring about that result. I still find it shameful that so many pastors of Reformed Baptist churches could rejoice in the publication of unfounded and unverified reports of sins allegedly committed by churches and church leaders they knew nothing about while covering much greater sins they knew had taken place right under their own noses. God truly is the great revealer of the secrets of men.
  4. It is my earnest hope that in the future the Lord will bless us with the humility and love to work as hard at the maintaining of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace as we have at the business of attacking and devouring one another. How unlike the spirit of the gospel we preach, the blessings we proclaim, the fellowship we advocate has been the actions we have both committed and tolerated. I sincerely hope the next three years might unfold a happier story as we all learn from these tragic mistakes and begin afresh to seek the companionship of our heavenly father, conformity to our Lord Jesus Christ and the comforts of the Holy Spirit. May God convince us by the pain and sorrow of controversy that there is a better way and may we gain wisdom and maturity as in that way together we walk.
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The Christmas Story in Matthew’s Genealogy

Christmas Eve Service
12/24/2016
Years ago I heard the testimony of a Pastor that in part told of his first experience in Bible reading. He secured a New Testament and determined he would read through the whole of it in pursuit of learning the truth about Jesus. As he began at Matthew Chapter One and began reading that “Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac Begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren was about to give up on the whole project as he didn’t have a clue what the word begat meant and didn’t have a clue as to who all these people were that were doing all of this begatting. Thankfully he persevered until he came to verse 18 and read, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise.” Finally he understood what was being said and continued to read and the Lord was pleased to bring him to know Christ through the reading of his word.

While at the time I enjoyed this testimony and had my own experience with massive confusion at the Biblical begats in reading Genesis as a youth, as an older Christian I find it unfortunate that we can and at find times find it necessary to race through the Biblical genealogies in order to get to the good stuff. For the Biblical writers this was not just filler or technical information that one can easily pass over for more fruitful fields of Biblical inquiry. The Biblical genealogies themselves are stories designed to communicate vital information to the informed reader and not just a list of names of a lot of dead guys.

key to understanding a genealogical record is not to get lost in the names but to mark the distinguishing features in the listing of the names. For an example the genealogy found in Genesis 5 has a regular pattern that is only interrupted by the statement that “Enoch walked with God.” This surprising statement being preceded by the statement that Adam in Eden had heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8) and followed by the statement that righteous Noah (who concludes the genealogy of chapter 5) is said to also have “walked with God” seems to indicate the genealogy of chapter 5 is in in’s entirety a record of the righteous who walked with God and kept true religion alive in the time between the fall and the flood.

Matthew’s genealogy is characterized by a number of comments that interrupt the sequence of names and give clear indication of the story Matthew is telling.

THE STRUCTURE
First there is the strange way the genealogy is structured. It is in three groups of fourteen names. 9that just the way the history was? Well actually not The links are not complete. Some generations are skipped. Now this is typical of genealogies to do this. Sometimes the father of someone is actually the grandfather. But Matthew has a point to make to his readers and his readers would have been able to detect his reasons because of a well known device known as gematria. It is the practice of giving numerical value to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Because this was so well known a practice. Since almost everyone in Hebrew society would have been aware of the numerical value of their names and the names of other people in their family, Matthew was well aware that to utilize the number 14 would have a definite meaning to his readers. The name of David is comprised of three consonants. Daleth, vav and daleth again. Daleth is the fourth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, vav is the 6th. So the name David in gematria is 4 plus 6 plus 4 equals 14. This genealogy is to be considered as David’s genealogy.

THE TITLES
Secondly in addition to the structure of the genealogy centered in 3 sections of 14 names pointing to David, the mention of David’s name in the Genealogy has another peculiar addition given to it. Do you see it in verse 6, “and Jesse the father of David, the King. No other name in this Genealogy has a title. We don’t have Abraham the patriarch or Abraham the friend of God. You don’t have Solomon the King or Rehoboam the King even though those men were Kings in Israel. Only David is given his title, David the King until Jesus, who is called Christ.

THE KING AND HIS
KINGDOM
So the Structure points us to David, the names also to David and to Jesus but it is not David the Shepherd, or David the Warrior, but David the King who by his title is connected to Jesus, called the Christ. So when you consider David the King being the chief personage pointing to Jesus called the Christ, is there a story here to be told? Well yes. You have fourteen generations till what? Till David’s ascension to the throne as King of Israel. The second fourteen are basically the Kings of Judah, the line of Kingly succession that came from David at the end of which is what? The time of the Deportation to Babylon. Now what was the significance of the deportation to Babylon with respect to the Davidic throne? It was the time when the line of Davidic Kings came to an end. So fourteen generations to the rise of the Davidic King, Fourteen generations of the reign of the The Davidic King, then fourteen generations to Jesus the Christ and the restoration of the Davidic Kingship.
This is clearly going to be Matthew’s story about Jesus. More than all the other gospel writers Matthew has Jesus being called the Son of David. Usually by others and usually by others in great need. The blind and needy call upon him as Jesus the Son of David. It is Matthew’s Story that it is Jesus who is the promised King. The wise men come to Jerusalem and say, “Where is he who is born King of the Jews. He is born King of the Jews and he dies King of the Jews in chapter 27:37, “And over his head they put the charge against him which read, “this is Jesus, King of the Jews.”

Jesus’ ministry is the proclamation that the Kingdom of God is at hand and he teaches about the kingdom, does kingdom miracles, tells Kingdom parables, everything in Matthew displays the fulfillment of the promises of the anointed King, the Davidic King in the person of Jesus the King.

THE WOMEN
But there is more. Not only does the genealogy have this unusual structure of 14 generation, not only does it give title to but two of the names, David and Jesus, but is also contains the names of 4 women. This is most strange as in the world of the bible you did not have the name of women ordinarily placed in a genealogical record. Yet here we find the names of at least 4. Tamar in verse 3, Rahab and Ruth in verse 5 and finally Bathsheba although she is called not by her name but by the fact that she had been the wife of Uriah.

Why would Matthew include these woman? Does he feel guilty that he is telling the story from Joseph’s perspective and not Mary’s and figure he could make it up to the female readers by including these four? Why not more then? Why not Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel and Leah, they were even more well known than were Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba.

I think you need to remember that this genealogy is meant to tell the story Matthew will further unpack in his gospel record. One thing it does seem that is very important to Matthew. It is that while Jesus is clearly the Jewish Messiah, the King of the Jews, yet his role is much greater than just the one nation of Israel. He begins the genealogy giving preeminence to David but no sooner does he say “the son of David” that he says, “the son of Abraham.” The reference to son of Abraham the seed of Abraham is a reference to the promise of God that Israel would be a blessing to the nations. The gospel ends with the way that blessing upon the nations would be fulfilled, Chapter 28, “Make disciples of all nations.”

If Matthew wanted to put into the genealogy the thought that Jesus would not only be the King of Israel but the King who would ultimately rule the nations, there could be no achieving this through the men in the genealogy. They all had to be Jewish. Sons of Abraham. But they could marry Gentiles, bear children through Gentiles. We know Ruth was a Moabite woman and Rahab was a Canaanite. Bathsheba was married to Uriah the Hittite so in all likelihood she too was a Hittite. The only difficulty is establishing the gentile ancestry of Tamar which while impossible to do this with certainty is yet possible though I have no desire to present the complicated arguments here.

In short though the inclusion of the four women point us to the fact that this Davidic King who will ascend to the throne of David is not just a Jewish King but as Isaiah says , “My salvation to the ends of the earth.”

THE DISTRESSED, THE DEBTORS, THE BITTER IN SOUL
One more thing may well be indicated. The fact that Bathsheba’s name is not even mentioned. She is the wife of Uriah could well be to stir the memory of the reader to the frequent mention of David’s sin in the accounts of the Kings of Judah. “David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life except in the matter of Uriah.” I Kings 15:5

The matter of Uriah was a matter of a sin of very deep dye. So one might think of the life of Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute, a woman given over to sex for hire, likely associated with the pagan cult in the temples of her Canaanite God’s. Tamar dressed as a cult prostitute in order to lure her father in law into an illicit liaison in order to raise up an heir to her dead husband. Everyone but Ruth seemed to be associated with grave acts of sin and idolatry. Of course as a Moabite woman one could only guess what might have been in her past.

My point to you is that the Davidic King who comes to spread his saving blessings unto all the nations of the earth is the savior of sinners. Verse 21, his name shall be called Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins. It was to David that all the worst of Israel resorted and found refuge and welcome in him. 1 Samuel 22:2, And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him, and he became commander over them.”

Who would have thought, the gospel story, the story of Christmas all here in a genealogy. Blessed be God for such a King, the King of the nations, the King of mercy and of Grace, the King who welcomes the poor and the needy, the sick and distressed, who provides for them relief and grants them a full welcome into his Kingdom of grace.

May you never read the Christmas Story in Matthew in the same way again. Running through the names until you get to, “the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise.” Think through the names, the structure, the title, the women and bless God for this one born King of the Jews, King of the nations, and truly let us come and adore him, come let us adore him, come let us adore him Christ the Lord.

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Biblical Theology, Unity of the People of God

Unity and The Call of Abraham

The purpose of these recent entries is to set before the reader’s mind the central theme of unity in the purpose of God in Biblical History. God being a God of unity creates man in his image and likeness to draw near to him and to live in peace and harmony with others. The modern world with its’ wars among the nations, its’ violence and criminality in the cities, its’ tensions and abuses within families was not part of the original design of God at creation. All of these evils stem from the fall of man recorded in Genesis three. From chapter four onward is the story of mankind’s increasing depravity resulting from departure from God and displayed in inner divisiveness and outward violence. Amid the chaos of darkness and sin we find God’s determination to form for himself a people through whom he intends to recover and restore his original design.

With the call of Abraham in chapter 12 a new era of Biblical history begins. The period of the Patriarchs brings about a number of important developments in the Biblical story. The promises of God to Abraham to make of him a name and a nation, to give to him a land and a seed and to make him both blessed and a blessing introduces the basic themes that will be fleshed out in the rest of the Old and the New Testaments. However it would be wrong to think of these new elements as unrelated to the preceding eleven chapters in Genesis. In fact the call of Abraham seems to be intentionally written to underscore that what we have here is both a reversal of what happened at Babel as well as a recovery of what was lost at the fall.

A Reversal of Babel

At Babel we find mankind united in an attempt to build a city and a tower in order to “make a name for ourselves.” This was man’s attempt to bring unity and harmony to the world apart from God. In the call of Abraham we see God’s purpose to initiate a counter plan to the one pursued by the idolators at Babel. In the place of a project in which man “makes a name for himself”, God purposes to “make Abraham’s name great” (Genesis 12:2). In place of man “building ourselves a city” (Genesis 11:4) as they did at Babel, God promises Abraham and his descendants a land in which they would occupy cities they did not build (Deuteronomy 6:10).

In addition to God reversing the intentions of the tower builders to make a name and to build a city for themselves by himself providing both name and cities for his faithful covenant people he also provides a blessing through Abraham to the nations that had been dispersed at Babel. In Genesis 12:3 God says, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This promise given on the backdrop of the families of the earth being scattered from one another by the curse of the Lord upon their proud endeavors offers hope of the ultimate restoration of the nations that would come through Abraham.

The fulfillment of the reversal of Babel in the promises of name, city and gathering of the nations into one is found in our Lord Jesus Christ who is the seed of Abraham through whom these promises come to full fruition. It is in Christ we find the name give which is above every name (Philippians 2:9) and a new name given to every believer. (Revelation 2:17). In Christ we are given a city, the New Jerusalem that comes out of heaven from God (Revelation 3:12, 21:2). In Christ we are Abraham’s seed in whom the world wide blessing comes to the nations so that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave not free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Recovery of Eden

The call of Abraham is not only set against the immediately preceding event of Babel as a reversal of the events that took place there, it is also set against the event of the fall and presented as a restoration or a recovery of what was lost in Eden. The evidence of this seems clear from the very terms in which Abraham’s call is presented.

First is the note of blessing that is sounded again and again in chapter 12. In verse two and three the words bless, blessed and blessing are found no less than five times in our English translations. This word is the very same word used in the creation blessings of chapter one when God blessed the man and the woman he made in his image and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” It is also the word used to describe the act of God in reference to the Sabbath Day when “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy”. Those blessed by God were not just to know blessing in reference to procreation and carrying out a mandate with reference to the earth. They were to know blessing first and foremost in relationship to God the source of light, life and love by keeping Sabbath with God. This original blessing is repeated when after the flood God blessed Noah and his sons and repeated the call to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth as they began new creation life in the world which is now. (Genesis 9:1,7). So now the blessing once given to Adam and then to Noah is now given to Abraham in what must be seen as a new creation about to begin with him.

This creation blessing seems to be supported by the promise of a great multiplication of descendants likened to the number of the dust of the earth and the stars of the heaven (Genesis 13:16;15:5). The remarkable multiplication of Abraham’s seed in Egypt is noted in Exodus 1:7 where we read creation blessing language when we are told that, “the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” We also read of the remarkable procreative blessing given to Abraham’s descendants when in the forty year wilderness wanderings a whole generation that died were replaced so that the second numbering of the people saw no reduction in the population of the nation despite the death of so many under the judgment of God (Compare Numbers chapter 1 and 26).

The final note evidencing that the call of Abraham is designed to recover what was lost in Eden is the way the land of Canaan which is promised to Abraham is likened to the “garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:11). Such language is also used by Israel’s prophets in Isaiah 51:3 and Ezekiel 36:35 who picture the restoration to the land after the Babylonian Captivity to be a turning of the desolate land into the Garden of Eden. Canaan was to be a new Eden in which a nation created and formed by God as Adam and Eve were in created and formed by God were to dwell in God’s presence and walk with him in delightful subjection to his law, in enjoyment of his Sabbaths as they lived together in unity and love with one another.

In the next study we will advance the narrative to see God’s design for unity among his redeemed people who would eventually inhabit this land promised to Abraham.

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Biblical Theology, Unity of the People of God

Unity and History: From Noah to Babel

The opening chapters of the Bible are of immense importance to a proper understanding of the Biblical message and a proper understanding of ourselves and our place in God’s world. It is here in the first chapters of Genesis we are given the spectacles through which we are to see both the world’s original purpose and the tragic effects of sin that came into the world through human rebellion. Eden was to be the place where man created in the image of God was to live in joyful harmony with his creator and with the rest of creation. It was sin that brought spiritual separation from God and exile from the presence of God. It is after this primary relationship is broken that we see Adam and his descendants displaying bitterness, distrust, recrimination, hatred, violence and murder towards others. It is acts of violence running rampant and unrestrained that brings the flood in the days of Noah to wipe the earth clean from that apostate culture and brings about a new beginning with Noah and his family.

While there is much that may be observed in the changes brought about by the flood there is evidently two things that do not change. The first is that God is intent upon having a people who will fulfill his design for the world. The second is that man is not cured from the disease of sin by the judgment of the flood. God establishes his covenant with Noah and his sons pledging not to destroy the earth again with a flood and providing for the preservation of mankind. In addition he repeats the original mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” even in the midst of the condition of a fallen world.

That this new order begun with Noah and his descendants was not likely to be the thing that would fulfill God’s design for the world is indicated by the final incident recorded about Noah. Having overindulged in drinking wine he shames himself and provides an occasion for his son Ham to manifest the shame of his own sinful heart. Like with Adam’s fall in nakedness that brought a curse so Noah in nakedness opens the door to sin in his family that brings a curse upon Canaan. Clearly it seems we are not to find the serpent’s head bruised any time soon in the family of Noah.

What we do find however is the repopulating of the earth and the Table of the Nations descended from the sons of Noah recorded in Chapter ten. This leads up to the account of the Tower of Babel in the eleventh chapter. This event is of immense importance to the whole subject of unity because it is presented as an attempt of men to insure unity in a project of their own contrivance. As the text is very brief in its description of their actions and there are many questions that of necessity are left unanswered I would point out the following:

1.Once again the account speaks of a movement to the east, Just as Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden to the east of Eden and Cain went out from the presence of Lord east of Eden, so a journey to the east is mentioned here. Although it is likely Eden did not survive the flood and God’s special presence seems no longer to be located on earth but in heaven (the Lord is said to “come down” to see the city and the tower) yet this reference to their geographical movement does indicate that the men involved in the tower project had moved far from the presence of Eden’s God and the God of Noah.

2.The nature of their action is not entirely clear. From one perspective it seems they are seeking to make a frontal assault upon heaven itself and hence upon God himself. The picture may be one of seeking to supplant the deity with human ingenuity and greatness. Those who relate this tower construction with Mesopotamian temples and pagan religious practices see this as an attempt to manipulate the gods to do their bidding by forcing them to come down to dwell in their temple tower and use their power on their behalf. In any event their thoughts are far from godly and express the height not of their building abilities but their wickedness.

3.Their project is motivated by proud self interest. This seems to be clearly indicated by their desire to “make a name for ourselves.” Their skyscraper or temple was designed to be a tribute to their own greatness or to further their own interests and not God’s.

The aftermath is that God comes down and confuses their languages and scatters them over the face of the ground. The lessons that are to be learned from this brief account are significant and I will close with the simple listing of but a few:

1.God resists the proud.
2.Man’s thoughts and projects will come nothing if not rooted in the will of God.
3.God’s judgment upon human sin impacts human communication.

All three of these points bear directly upon our theme of unity. Pride brings contention, not unity. God frowns upon any unity project not rooted in him. It is hard to be unified unless we learn to speak the same language. While this clearly has the making of a significant sermon I will resist the temptation to expound upon these points now.

In the next installment we will look at God’s building project that begins with the call of Abraham.

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Unity and History: The Flood

The Biblical story found in the opening chapters of Genesis reveals the fact that conflict, division, enmity and murder are as old as the fall of man. Further it seems to picture the truth that the farther the human race moves away from God’s presence and from his worship the more the condition of strife and fighting seem to prevail. Moving from Adam and his verbal recriminations of Eve immediately after the fall we find Cain murdering his brother. Just as Adam’s poor behavior towards his wife resulted from his disobedience and disloyalty to God so Cain’s reprehensible act of murder followed soon upon the heels of his profane act of worship. His disregard for the true glory of God paved the way for his disregard of his image in man.

Following his murderous act Cain is found moving further away from the garden of Eden as he settles in the land of Nod which we are told was east of Eden (Genesis 4:16). Just as Adam’s sin drove him east out of the garden so Cain’s sin had a similar result. This geographic move to the east is said to be away from the presence of God whose special presence appears to have been still manifest in his walking in Eden’s garden. Two cultures seem to have developed by the time the fifth chapter ends. The descendants of Cain represent the line of the ungodly or the seed of the serpent in the language of Genesis 3:15. In contrast the Sethites called upon the name of the Lord and among their God continued to walk (as in the case of Enoch 5:24 and Noah 6:9). Among the Cainites murder and violence continue in the case of Lamech who proudly boasts of his acts and seems to fear no retribution. Among the Sethites we read of no such outrages. The proximity of men to God and God’s worship clearly acts as a restraint upon violence and an incentive to love while distance from God and his worship provides no restraint and a spirit of enmity and warfare will easily develop.

The condition of peace and absence of strife among the descendants of Seth was to come to a tragic end due to the events recorded in Genesis 6:1,2. Here we learn that “men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born unto them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were attractive and they took as their wives any they chose.” The only plausible explanation of these words that fit both the context and the rest of the teaching of God’s word is that here you find the intermingling of the line of Seth with the line of Cain in marriages that had no other basis than physical attraction. Instead of being concerned with the raising up of a godly seed to continue the true worship of God, the descendants of Seth ceased to care about anything but their own desires. As was so often true in the history of God’s people marriages with unbelievers and idolaters paved the way to apostasy and ruin. The fruit of these marriages was the corruption of true religion and along with that the corruption of life upon earth. It should be no surprise that the principle sin that is mentioned in Genesis 6:11,13 is the violence that then came to fill the earth. We are told that the earth was filled with violence twice in these passages and that this violence is the reason God is purposed to destroy the earth with a flood to cleanse the world of these wicked and violent sinners.

Here as in so much of Scripture we learn that apostasy from God leads to alienation among men. Paul’s words to Titus in chapter three and verse 3 of his letter speaks to the fact that prior to the goodness and loving kindness of our God and Savior appearing Christians were “once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3,4). Sadly that though the flood in Noah’s day could cleanse the earth from sinners it can do nothing to cleanse the heart from sin. Though the human race emerged from the flood in a new creation begun with Noah and his family, the problem of the human heart still remained. In reaction to the aroma of the burnt offerings sacrificed upon the altar Noah built in Genesis 8:21, God takes an oath never to again destroy the earth as he had done. It is interesting the reason cited is that “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth”. That reason giving for not cursing the earth seems very similar to the reason given as to why he did curse the earth with the flood in chapter six. There he said that “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Clearly not much had changed in the heart of man, but thankfully the resolve of God was not to again make a public display of his wrath against sin as that would mean a flood every eight to ten generations. Instead of continual destructions of the earth while the earth remains there is to be the regularity of the seasons and the mercifully displays of the provisions of God to all the earth while he pursues a purpose of grace through the gospel that will bring a people to know true transformation of heart that will restore love to God and neighbor as the chief marks of its working. God is still to have a people who will draw near to him in worship and will draw near to one another in loving commitment and community.

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Unity and History: The Beginning of Life in a Fallen World

The Biblical story of life in a fallen world is from one perspective the account of man’s increasing estrangement from God and a corresponding increase in man’s enmity towards his fellow man. Banished from the garden paradise our first parents enjoyed in Eden and separated from the tree of life the stench of death looms over life in a world under the divine curse. Not just the physical death mankind experiences as the universal wages of sin, but the spiritual death consisting in separation from the life of God and the death of loving relationships with our fellow men are all on full display in the narratives recorded in the chapters in Genesis that follow the account of the fall. The unity inherent in God’s design in creation has been fractured by human sin and the story the Bible tells is that apart from the intervention of God’s grace in salvation man in sin will always descend more deeply into acts of cruelty and violence as mankind moves further away from God.

The account we are given beginning in Genesis four is hardly to be considered a complete history of the post-fall world. Rather we are given the record of certain events that illustrate the great realities of life in a fallen world that provide the backdrop for God’s saving purposes in the world. In the story of Cain and Abel and the genealogies of Cain and Seth the descendants of Cain and of Seth we are given a picture of the way sin goes from bad to worse as well as the wonderful intervention of God in grace to a fallen race. Let us look at each of these accounts.

CAIN AND ABEL

Genesis 5:5 informs us that in the 930 years of Adam’s life he had other sons and daughters. How many we are not told but we can guess that since the mandate of Genesis 1:28 to “Be fruitful and multiply” was not rescinded and since Eve was not cursed with barrenness but rather with pain in childbearing that the number of children they were blessed with was likely considerable. Yet of all their children we learn only about three. Two were men who sought God sincerely and conscientiously. The other made a show of religion that merely masked an evil heart.

The difference between Cain and Abel was not a difference of the nature of the offerings they brought but of the character of the life of the men who brought these offerings. The text tells us that “The LORD had regard for Abel and his offering but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” It seems that God first took the measure of the man and only secondarily took the measure of the offering. In addition the character of the man may have been evident in the quality of the offerings they brought. Although both brought of the increase of their labors, it is only Abel who “brought of the firstborn of his flock and the fat portions” while Cain just brought an offering of the fruit of the ground. No mention is made of first-fruits or of any other distinguishing feature that may have evidenced careful concern to bring to God the best of what he had to offer. God’s counsel to Cain in verse 7 is not to bring an animal offering and the all would be well but rather to “do well” and he would be accepted. In addition to the hints the text itself gives as to the moral and spiritual differences in these men, the New Testament commentary in Hebrews 11:4 places the difference in the presence of faith in Abel that was evidently absent in Cain.

Cain’s response to his rejection and to the divine entreaty to rule over his sinful propensities was to reject God and his counsel and to purposely commit the first act of murder in human history. It was the estrangement from the life of God and the presence of spiritual death in the heart and soul of this child of the devil that manifested itself in an act of rage and violence against his own brother. Cain’s turning away from God brought him to turn in upon himself in self-pity, depression and enmity against both God and man. Truly it is from “within out of the heart of man” defiled by sin that comes “evil thoughts, murder” and every other sordid and evil act (Matthew 15:19). The heartless and merciless state of Cain’s soul is probably nowhere more in evidence than in his total lack of remorse for his evil act. His denial of knowledge of his brother’s whereabouts and his callous cover-up by saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper” when he was his brother’s murderer is beyond cruel. His total self-absorption is clearly seen when upon the announcement of God’s curse he says “My punishment is greater than I can bear” when he could bear quite well with the guilt of his heartless act.

The murder of Abel by his brother’s Cain is not just a story of true crime but a story of the enmity of the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman. Abel’s deeds were righteous and exposed the darkness of Cain’s enmity against God and his profanation of true religion. In this he is the archetype or model of the persecutor of the people of God. John can move from relating the story of Cain’s murder of his brother and say in light of it, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”

CAINITES AND SETHITES

Immediately after the story of Cain and Abel we are given an account of the descendants of Cain (Genesis 4:17-24) and after that the birth of Seth (Abel’s appointed successor) and his descendants (Genesis 4:25-5:32). Again we might ask why only these two lines of descent from Adam and Eve when there were many other children. My answer would be that these two lines are representative of the other descendants of our first parents who were marked either by faithfulness to God (the Sethites) or unfaithfulness to him (the Cainites). The descendants of Seth and those like him were in the language of Genesis 3:15 “the seed of the woman” and the Cainites were representative of the “seed of the serpent.”

The difference between the Sethites and the Cainites can be seen in three things:

1.Their places of dwelling
2.Their principal accomplishments
3.Their notable representatives.

1. With respect to their places of dwelling the text tells us that “Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. We might not think much of this but for the fact that the expulsion from the Garden of Eden also moved our first parents in the direction east of Eden. Genesis 3:24 says that God drove out the man and at the East of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and the flaming sword that turned every way to guard the tree of life. Adam and Eve had already moved east of the garden but apparently still dwelt in Eden east of the garden. It is likely they could still see the garden’s gate and the cherubim and the tree of life and everything they had lost. It is likely the offerings Cain and Abel brought were brought up to the garden’s gate where outside the sacred space of God’s dwelling, in the outer court as it were they had built an altar and sacrificed their burnt offerings unto God. Now the rejected, murderous, cursed and marked Cain moved even further to the east completely away from the presence of the LORD and maybe any memory of the LORD. In contrast Seth and his descendants remained in Eden, in close proximity to the garden and the LORD of the garden and his worship.

2. In addition to the matter of sacred geography there is the attainments of the Cainites and the Sethites that are mentioned. Cain and his descendants are notable for their building of a city and the development of cultural advances such as methods of herding livestock, musical instruments and metallurgy (4:20-22). There may have been cultural advances authored by the descendants of Seth but we are not told of any of them. However we are told that there were at least religious advance made among the Sethites. Genesis 4:26 tells us that “At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.” In all likelihood this is a reference to assemblies for public worship. If so the scriptures are making a clear distinction among the descendants of Cain and of Seth in terms of their relationship to God. The descendants of Seth drew near to God while the descendants of Cain drew far away from him.

3. These conclusions seem to be borne out by the notable representatives of each of these lines of descent who are mentioned. The line of Seth began with Cain the murderer and ends with Lamech who is the first bigamist we read of in scripture and who composes a song boasting of his evil which he proudly sings to his wife (Genesis 4:23,24). In this song he recounts his acts of murder of at least one and possibly two men for what seem to be slight offenses. Again the further a culture is estranged from God the further the descent into sin and mindless violence and cruelty. In contrast to Lamech are the notable descendants of the line of Seth that includes Enoch who walked with God and was translated into God’s presence without experiencing death and ends with Noah who becomes the covenant servant of God who delivers a people from the judgment God brought upon the world at the time of the flood.

As this blog has gone longer than my usual posts, I will end this now and take up some other matters before looking at the subsequent history in the next entry.

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Biblical Theology, Unity of the People of God

Unity and History: Curses and Banishment

Part of the reason our divisions are not healed is that we are mistaken as to their true cause. We tend to mistake symptoms of a disease for the source of the trouble. Hence we apply external medicines to a problem that has an internal cause. As long as we think our divisions are mainly owing to ecclesiastical structures or to doctrinal formulas or to personalities or to something that can be remedied by a committee of experts imposing organizational reforms, we will leave the true inward and spiritual roots of our divisions untouched and the remedy found in the gospel and its provisions largely unapplied. That is why it is important to go back to the Bible and its own account and explanation of the true causes of the problems we see in the world and especially in the church.

It is clear from the creation account of Genesis one that man was not made for malice and ill will. He was made image and likeness of God to be a physical representation and reflection of the God whose unity in diversity was to be visibly seen in male and female image bearers holding fast to one another in committed relationships of intimacy and love. In the beginning this first pair took delight in one another, sought to serve and to help one another as under God’s rule they began to carry out the mandate of Genesis 1:28 in the garden paradise the Lord had provided them. This climate of peace and good will would have extended to Adam’s children as well as all future generations as Eden was enlarged to fill the earth with image bearers who would convey the glory of God to every part of the globe. All this would have been the history of the race had Adam obeyed the charge God had given to tend and to keep the garden and to refrain from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His willingness to stand idly by as the serpent entered the garden and tempted his wife and then to join her in eating the forbidden fruit tragically changed everything
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With the fall of Genesis three the human race was plunged into the sin and misery that had been the history of the post fall world. We see the changes that took place consequent upon sin’s entry almost immediately in the psychological changes that were evident in the man and the woman. The knowledge of good and evil brought them the knowledge of their nakedness as their souls turned inward upon themselves and made them conscious of their guilt and shame. Further they fled from the sound of the voice of the Lord and hid themselves from his presence and finally the man turns upon his wife in recrimination and blame for his own actions. But life in a post fall world involved more than these psychological changes. In addition there were the changes imposed upon the world by the curses God spoke and by the banishment from the garden.

THE CURSES

God’s dealings with the sinning Adam and Eve imposed curses that would make life in a post fall world to be beset with added pain and misery. But before these curses are spoken there is a curse that is spoken to the serpent that in many ways is for the human race a word of blessing. Genesis 3:15 has been considered by Christian commentators the first preaching of the gospel in a fallen world. The seed promise of deliverance from sin is spoken in three declarations of divine intention. First God says to the serpent that “I will put enmity between you and the woman”. This is a promise of the deliverance of the woman who had entered into an unholy alliance with the serpent against God. She is to be brought out of the clutches of the serpent and brought into a state of enmity with him as she is brought to serve the God against whom she had sinned.

Next there is a promise of division between two segments of the human race. There is to be in the fallen world offspring who are fathered by the serpent. This of course does not refer to snakes but to the people of this world who bear the image of the tempter and who in alliance with him stand against God and his purposes. There will also be in the fallen world the offspring of the woman. These are those who like Eve break with the serpent and his wiles and become delivered by and subject unto God. Between these two lines of progeny God imposes enmity. The human race that was created to be united now through the fall will have a perennial conflict between the servants of God and the servants of the serpent. This is the only enmity the Bible approves of and requires. This is between believers and unbelievers, the righteous and the unrighteous, the sheep and the goats. Here is where the line of division is set by God and not as we sometimes think between brethren who have different views on issues tangential to the Biblical gospel.

Of course the third part of the verse involves the singular deliverer who would come in history to destroy the works of the devil. The one who born of the woman’s seed will crush the serpent’ s head and restore the fallen world bringing his blessings to be known far as the curse is found. It is important to see that even before God speaks curses to the man and woman, he speaks blessing to them. He is not wiping his hands with the fallen sons of Adam. He is still committed to his purpose of having a people in the world who would bear his image and promote his glory and reflect his own unity in the world.

The curses spoken to Adam and Eve do not change the basic charge they were given in creation. They were still to multiply and to subdue the earth, but now it will be under conditions of hardship. Man will still eat bread but now it is in the sweat of his face, he will still cultivate the earth but it will bring forth thorns and thistles. The woman will still have children but now it will be with the multipication not only of the race but of pain in child bearing. Perhaps most difficult of all is the tension in the marriage relationship anticipated in the words of the curse that says, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule you.” While not all commentators agree it seems best to see these words as indicating that Eve would have improper desires to dominate her husband. The same words are used in chapter four to indicate sin’s desire to dominate Cain. In turn the man would counter this attempt at being governed by his wife with a display of forceful rule over her. It does seem that the effects of sin in a fallen world are exacerbated by this word of cursing that would bring harshness, even domestic violence into the peace and unity of the home. This tension has rippling effects upon the life of the family as children seeing parents fighting learn in their own homes improper ways of resolving differences.

THE BANISHMENT

As sin had already brought psychological alienation from God and brought upon the sinning man and woman the curse of God chapter three ends upon a note of geographical separation from the place of God’s presence and fellowship and the symbol of that fellowship in the tree of life. God drives out the man and his wife and places at the East of the garden the cheribum and a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life. While every part of this description is filled with suggestive thoughts the point that is vital to the subject of unity is that alienation from God and from the life of God represented by the tree always leads to alienation in human relationships. Outside of the garden, outside of intimate union with the God of the garden sinful man will inevitably carry out his alienation against God in his relationships with one another. It should not surprise us that no sooner is man cast out from God’s presence that the next recorded event is the first act of murder. In fact the whole history of life in a fallen world from the fall to the flood is a history of increasing violence. In the next entry it will be to that history we will turn our attention.

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