Genesis 10-33 (January 10-17)
Genesis 11 tells the story of the tower of Babel. This is a tale of the
hubris and pretense of human self-sufficiency that results from sin. As
was true of Adam and Eve when they were banished from the garden in
which they could eat the fruit from the tree of life, God's dispersal of
the builders of the tower is an act of grace. When we human beings get
our ways in acting like God, our souls are endangered and the happiness
of those who become our victims is harmed.
2. Genesis 12 begins the narrative of Israel's patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
the disasters of Eden, the flood, and Babel, Abraham and the patriarchs
represent a fresh start for the world. As Jesus pointed out to the
Samaritan woman at the well, salvation is from the Jews. The
Jews--Israel, Hebrews--were called to be God's people and, in the course
of time, become the nursery into which the Savior of the world, Jesus
was to be born.
3. The patriarchs obviously
weren't chosen by God for His purposes for their virtue, strength, or
power, but solely by virtue of God's grace. Abraham's trust in God
brings him righteousness (Genesis 15:6). This has always been God's MO.
God ultimately revealed Himself to all the world in Christ. All who
believe in Him, God in the flesh, have forgiven sin, reconciliation with
God, and eternal life with God. Ephesians 2:8-9 says: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast."
Genesis 18 begins with the narrative of God's visit to Abraham and
Sarah. Saint Augustine believed that the three persons who visited them
were the one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Buttressing this notion is the Old Testament's tendency to speak of the
"angel of the Lord" (literally messenger of the Lord) in ways that seem
to make God Himself the messenger. In any case, it is clear that Abraham
is visited by God.
5. It's this incident in Genesis 18, that gives rises to the words of the preacher in the New Testament book of Hebrews: "Do
not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some
people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." (Hebrews
13:2) And Jesus says in Matthew 25:31-46, that when we serve the "least"
of the world, we really are serving Him. In the great commandment,
Jesus says that loving others is on a par with loving God Himself. So,
when we show hospitality, as Abraham did to the three strangers to his
tent, he was welcoming God...and would have been even if none of the
strangers was God.
This is how invested God is in every human life. However marred by sin, every human being bears the image of God.
What if we took this attitude toward every person we encountered?
if our churches displayed this attitude of reverence and welcome for
every person--those known to us and those not known--who worshiped with
us on Sundays?
if Christians took this attitude? How many more people would be open to
receiving the good news of new and eternal life for all who turn from
sin and trust in Christ if this was our attitude?
At the end of Genesis 18, God prevails upon God, ultimately for the
sake of just 10 righteous people who might be found in Sodom, to spare
the city. God delights in co-conspiring with those who, with faith and
helplessness, prevail upon his mercy in prayer. But God will not go
where God is uninvited. The real tragedy of Sodom may be that
Abraham was so limited in his praying. What might have happened had he
prayed that God simply spare Sodom and help the people repent for sin
and trust in God's grace? We'll never know.
Never be afraid to
ask God for the whole enchilada. He may say no, maybe, wait, or yes.
Those answers are within His power. But never be fearful about
approaching God with what may seem like big prayers.
In Genesis 20, Abraham repeats the same sin he committed earlier,
lying, telling people that Sarah was his wife in order to save his skin.
For me, this is a great comfort. Abraham exhibits here what some people
call an "abiding sin," a sin to which we may be particularly prone.
all sinners and prone to sin as a result. But for us as individuals,
there seem to be sins to which we're especially prone, ones we find
especially enticing. Abraham's lack of trust in God drove him to this
sin of lying to men of power and throwing his wife under the bus, so to
speak. Yet, Abraham appears to have continued in the general direction
of following God.
all sin. But if we will keep following Jesus, living in what Luther
called "daily repentance and renewal," the direction of our lives will
remain firm. God will forgive our sins for the sake of Jesus'
self-sacrifice on the cross and send His Spirit to help us resist
committing the same sins repeatedly.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13, in the New Testament: "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And
God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can
bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that
you can endure it." That's a great promise!
And another great promise is found 1 John 2:1. There,
John is encouraging believers to avoid sinning against God or others.
Then he writes: "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."
Genesis 20: God strictly forbids child sacrifice. This makes God's
command of Abraham to sacrifice Isaac almost incomprehensible. But one
of the lessons this strange and disturbing incident seems to convey is
that the promise of God doesn't depend on human beings; God is the
provider. And, in the end of course, God provides Abraham with a ram to
sacrifice in his son's place.
(Centuries later, God would
disdain the sacrifice of unblemished lambs for His people's sins,
offered annually. Instead, He would offer His own Son to pay the price
for our sins forever, so that all who turn from sin and trust in Christ,
have forgiveness and everlasting life.)
For more, you might want to read this, Does God Punish Parents Through the Suffering of Their Children? NO!
24: The narrative of Isaac's marriage to Rebekah is one of pure romantic
delight. In that era of arranged marriages, here were two people who
fell in love despite the context.
25-27: Despite the love that Isaac and Rebekah shared, their household
was less than functional. Mom favored Jacob. Dad favored Esau. In the
midst of these negative family dynamics, God was still working. God was
still gracing this family. And God still intended that this line,
centuries later, would be the family into which the Savior Jesus would
Your family may not be perfect. (No such animal exists.) But God can still bless and use you and your family.
11. Genesis 27: Blessings had meaning to the ancient Israelites. And we must acknowledge to this day, that words have power.
Genesis 28-31: Jacob gets a few comeuppances in these chapters. First,
he becomes a fugitive from his brother, Esau, after he had cheated Esau.
Second, Laban, even more of a schemer than Jacob, tricks him into long
years of labor so that Jacob can finally have Rachel as his wife. (Poor
Genesis 32: Jacob wrestles with God. Jacob seeks a blessing from God.
God does bless Jacob, but at the cost of a lifelong limp. The limp would
serve as a lifelong reminder to Jacob of his vulnerability.
blesses those vulnerable enough to admit their need of God. But if
they're fortunate, God will leave a mark vulnerability on their lives so
that they never forget Who is in control or the grace He bears on those
who are faithfully dependent on Him.
33: Jacob's worries about his brother prove ill-founded. Worry about
the futures we can't control is endemic to humanity, an outgrowth of of
our desire to be in control, to "be like God." But worry does little for
us and it gets in the way of faith. (I am an experienced worrier, by
You might want to check out this post, DO NOT WORRY!