What’s In a Name?

As most of you know I love genealogy and because of that I am fascinated with where names come from, both family names and place names. For instance, I was named Marc for the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius. My first middle name is Joseph and was named after my grandfather on my mother’s side. My second middle name is Jerome and was named after my father’s boss at the time of my birth. My mother’s first name is Elizabeth and she was named after her mother whose middle name was Elizabeth. I am not totally positive where my dad got his first name, Phillip, but his great-grandfather on his mother’s side was also named Phillip. I am also fascinated with where names of places come from. I grew up in and went to school in Temple Hills, MD which is named for a 19th century doctor named Edward Temple. When I met Judy, I was living in Fort Washington, MD which was named after a fort named for George Washington that was on the Potomac River. It was the only fort protecting Washington, DC in that area during the war of 1812.

Do you know where we get the name America? It is named after Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who set forth the then revolutionary concept that the lands that Christopher Columbus sailed to in 1492 were part of a separate continent and wasn’t the West Indies. I looked up where we get some of the names for the states. Oregon comes from the Portuguese word for “cascades.” Texas comes from the Caddo Indian word for “friends” or “allies.” Virginia is named for England’s Queen Elizabeth I who was called the virgin queen. One of the more fascinating ones I came across was Idaho. In the mid 1800’s, mining lobbyist George M. Willing presented the name "Idaho" to congress for a new territory around Pike's Peak, claiming it was a Native American Shoshone phrase, supposedly meaning "Gem of the Mountains." But in reality he made the name up and by the time the deception was discovered, the name "Idaho" was already in common use.

Do you know where the name Pennsylvania came from? ​​ In 1681, King Charles II granted a land charter to William Penn to repay a debt owed to William's father, Admiral William Penn. William Penn, the son, wanted to name it New Wales but there were objections. He then tried to named it Sylvania which is Latin for “forest” or “woods” but the King named it Pennsylvania (literally "Penn's Woods") in honor of Admiral Penn. William Penn was embarrassed at the name fearing that people would think he had named it after himself, but King Charles would not rename the grant.

Adams County that our church is situated in was named after President John Adams. Gettysburg was name after James Getty. York Springs was once called Petersburg for the man who first built a cabin there, Peter Fleck or Thick. Bendersville was named for Henry Bender and Biglerville, was named for William Bigler, a governor of Pennsylvania. I found the origin of Mt. Holly Springs interesting. Holly was the name given to the gap through the mountains going towards Carlisle because there was a large holly bush or tree there. Arendtsville, or “John’s Pursuit” was named for John Arendt. Heidlersburg was named for John Heidler but at one time it was also called Starrytown named for Michael Starry who built the first house there. I also tried to look up where the name Idaville came from and found out it was once called Whitestown but there was no mention where the names originated. So I called Doris Hoffman thinking if anyone knew she would. Doris told me the reason our area was called Whitestown is because at the time all the houses were white. And the reason it is called Idaville is at that time there were a number of women named Ida including Doris’ grandmother. To me where names come from is fascinating.

In our passage this morning, which is the story of the Tower of Babel, we will see that names play an important part of the story in a couple of different ways. We learned a couple of weeks ago that Babel was part of the kingdom that Nimroad founded. Scholars believe that the city of Babel is where the later city of Babylon was also located. Babylon means, “the gate of the gods” and you may already know that Babel means “confusion.” We will also see that there is conflict between God giving the people their name and the people making a name for themselves. And finally we will notice that the name of God is not being held to the highest standard for which it should be and that brings us to our big idea that Moses, the author of Genesis, wants us to understand this morning which is “we must let God be God.”

Let’s pray and ask God for understanding as we study this passage. Dear Heavenly Father, open our eyes, our ears and our hearts to what you want to say to us through your word this morning. Give us supernatural insight from your Holy Spirit. May we learn more about you and allow you to be God in every aspect of our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our first point is “construction” and is found in Genesis 11:1-5. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says: “Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.

The first thing we can notice is that the story of the Tower of Babel happens chronologically before the Table of Nations in chapter 10 that Pastor Stuart taught two weeks ago. We see the proof of this in 10:5, 20 and 31. Verse 5 is talking about Japheth’s descendants, “From these the coastlands of the nations were separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.” Verse 20 is talking about Ham’s descendants, “These are the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, by their lands, by their nations.” And verse 31 is talking about Shem’s descendants, “These are the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, by their lands, according to their nations.” In chapter 11 the first thing we read is that the whole world still had one language and one common speech and when we read chapter 10 we see that has already changed.

God wants us to understand some important things from the way these chapters are ordered. First, he wants us to see the themes of mercy and judgment that are all through the first eleven chapters of Genesis. After Adam and Eve sinned he clothed them before banishing them from the garden. After Cain killed Abel, God put his mark on him so he would not be killed before he went out from the presence of God. God saves Noah and his family from the flood that was sent to judge the wickedness on the earth. God blesses Ham and his descendants to be “fruitful and multiply” even after he sins against his father Noah. This morning we again see these themes played out as God scatters the people across the face of the earth instead of destroying them. God is giving them an opportunity to repent and turn back to him. God continues to show mercy amidst judgment because his blessing to be “fruitful and multiply” is paramount.

Second, God is making a critical point to the first hearers of Genesis and to us today. If the Table of Nations had come after the Tower of Babel it would have been seen as a negative continuation of the Tower of Babel story. By putting the Tower of Babel story directly before the genealogy of Peleg and the call of his descendant Abraham it shows us two things. One, it reminds us that humanity after the flood is as sinful as before the flood. Two, it shows us that God’s solution is going to be in his covenant made with Abraham and his chosen people, Israel. God’s solution to humanity’s sinfulness is the person of Jesus Christ. This point would not have been made as clearly if the Table of Nations had come after the Tower of Babel and before the call of Abraham.

In verse 1, we see that the whole world had one language and a common speech meaning that everyone had the same vocabulary. This unified the people making communication and cooperation easier for them. In verse 2, we notice that the people journeyed east. There are two things to consider here. What does it mean to journey east? It reminds us of Adam and Eve and Cain and where they went after they sinned. Genesis 3:24, “So He (meaning God) drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” And Genesis 4:16 says, “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” Both Adam and Eve and Cain after their sin leave the presence of God and go east. Moving eastward seems to imply that it is away from the presence of the Lord. Our sin, especially unconfessed and unrepentant sin, takes us farther and farther away from God’s presence. ​​ 

Second, who is journeying east? Is it everyone on earth or a smaller group of people? Commentators are split but I really don’t think it matters because the story is not necessarily about the people as much as it’s about the people’s hearts. But we can know of one person, specifically, who goes there. Again, two weeks ago, Pastor Stuart showed us that Nimrod, the son of Cush who was one of the sons of Ham, established eight cities, four in the land of Shinar and four in the land of Assyria. One of those cities in the land of Shinar was Babel, so we can know that at least Nimrod went east and we know he didn’t go alone. ​​ 

This group of people come to the plain of Shinar, settled there and start to build a city and a tower. We are given insight into the building materials they used, which were bricks baked thoroughly and tar for mortar. It also states that they didn’t use stone. I find it interesting that we are specifically told about a certain type of material they did not use? I feel we need to go back to what the original hearers, the Israelites, would have thought. By the time Moses would have been recounting the book of Genesis to them they had already built some of the Egyptian pyramids while in slavery or heard stories from their parents about building them. We know that the pyramids were huge stone edifices not made of brick and tar. It kind of makes me wonder if Moses and the Israelites are sharing “an inside joke” here. Everyone knows that stone is better than baked bricks, right.

It also reminds me of the story Jesus told in the NT about building your house on the rock as opposed to the sand. From the beginning of time, Babel or Babylon as it probably became, was not built on a firm foundation. It was built with brick and mortar not with stone. And we will see that it was built by people who were not following after God. It was built by people who wanted to follow their own will and not God’s will. It was built by people whose foundation was Ham’s character and not the character of God. It was built by people who wanted to make a name for themselves and not let God give them their name. It was built by people who did not want to let God be God but instead wanted to be their own god. (BIG IDEA)

Their plan was to build a city with a tower that would “reach into heaven.” And the reason for building the city and tower was to make a name for themselves. They felt that by doing this they would not be scattered over the face of the earth. Commentators are split on what exactly the tower was. It was either a tall skyscraper-like tower or a ziggurat, which was a pyramid-like structure. Again, I think about the context. They are not in Israel, but in Shinar, which was in the area known as Mesopotamia. In Israel there were watchtowers which were to provide an early warning system for invasions from their enemies. In Mesopotamian literature when they described a building whose top will “reach into heaven” almost every time it refers to a ziggurat. Ziggurats were solid terraced pyramids made up of successive receding stories or levels. Their main feature was a stairway or ramp that led to its top. (picture of ziggurat)

In Mesopotamia, towers had a religious function. At the top was a room for the patron god of the city that included a bed for the god to sleep in and a table filled with food for the god to eat. There would have been a temple next to the ziggurat where the people would have worshipped. The ziggurat was the place where the god would stay and then could come down the ramp to interact with the people if their worship pleased the god. Two interpretations are that they were building the tower for themselves to reach heaven and be like God or they were trying to humanize God by saying he had needs that man could meet thus making God in their own image. In either case, they were not letting God be God. (BIG IDEA)

Now if it was just a massive skyscraper the effect is the same. Once this huge structure was finished they would get the glory and the accolades for their awesome achievement. They would make a name for themselves among the peoples of the earth. Their reputation would be great but the motivation for doing so would be to honor and glorify themselves not God. They also seem concerned with being scattered over the face of the earth. This may have had something to do with wanting to be safe and secure but are not willing to rely on God for that. Such a massive, imposing structure would give others the impression that they shouldn’t be messed with or dominated. No matter what the tower was, their motivation for building it and the city was to make a name for themselves. Their motivation was not God-centered but self-centered.

Have you ever tried to make a name for yourself or tried to ensure your own safety and security apart from God? Have you ever done something that was all for your own glory and honor? Have you ever tried to ensure your safety and security leaving God totally out of the picture? In Genesis 12:2, the Lord says to Abraham: “I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.” If Abraham obeyed God’s will for his life, God would make Abraham’s name great. Abraham did not have to make a name for himself because God would do it for him. That brings us to our first next step, which is to “let God make a name for me through obedience to his will for my life and rely on him for my safety and security.”

Next we see that God comes down to see the tower and the city that the people had built. Again, I feel that Moses is sharing an “inside joke” with the first hearers. The plan was to build a city and a tower to “reach into heaven” but God has to come down to even be able to see it. Of course we know that God didn’t need to come down to see it but again I think Moses is making a point. The builders are called “sons of men '' which Hamilton says, “reduces these pretentious human beings to their real size. They are but mere earthlings.” For all of Nimrod's and his people's mighty deeds in building what was probably a magnificent city and massive tower, God was not impressed.

But even though God doesn’t seem to be impressed, he is not taking the implications of what they are doing lightly and we see that in our second point this morning, which is “confusion”, found in verses 6-9. This is what God’s Word says, “The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

God comes down to take a look at what the people have built and then he goes back to heaven and we see a conversation taking place. Some commentators think that God is talking to the angels here, but in the NASB the “us” is capitalized which seems to refer to the Trinity. We see the same language in Genesis 1:26. “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Also in the scriptures when God comes down out of heaven it seems to be a prelude to judgment like we will see with Sodom and Gomorrah, but he doesn’t enter into judgment rashly.

God declares that because they are one people and have the same language they can be unified as a community and would be able to accomplish any purposes they put their minds to. Those purposes could be for good or for bad as we see here with the people of Babel. We notice the same conversation happening after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. Genesis 3:22 says, “Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” The idea is “if they can do these things who knows where their actions will lead?” Job 42:2 says, “Then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” Job recognizes that God’s purposes are the only ones that should always be fulfilled not man’s. If all of man’s purposes are fulfilled then he becomes like God.

Here, at Idaville Church, we want to and need to be unified. And in that unity we need to purpose to do what is right, by living holy lives, by keeping and following God’s decrees found in his Word and by doing his will and not our own. If we want our church to be relevant in this community, if we want to be able to make disciples who make disciples, we must all covenant together to allow God to give us our name and not try to make a name for ourselves. We must let God be God. (BIG IDEA)

God’s judgment plan is decided. He confuses their language so that they can’t communicate with each other and he scatters them over all the earth. Both these things kept the people from completing the city. We see the irony in that by scattering the people, the very thing they wanted to make sure didn’t happen, is the very thing that God did to them. By confusing their language the people would not be able to further cooperate in their selfish plans. Their sin was the same sin as in the garden. Their desires became more important than God’s desires for themselves and their will took precedence over doing the will of God. But we see the grace of God as he spares their lives giving them an opportunity to repent and return to him.

Finally, we see the name of the city and how it got its name. The name of the city is Babel which sounds like the Hebrew word meaning “confusion.” This same word also sounds like the Hebrew word for Babylon. I mentioned earlier that Babylon means “gate of the gods.” I like what Weirsbe says, “Because of God’s judgment the “gate of the gods” became the “door to confusion.” God is not the author of confusion (as it says in 1 Cor. 14:33) but in the world God sometimes uses confusion to humble people and keep them from uniting against his will.” The place was called Babel because it was where God confused the language of the whole earth causing the people to be scattered across the face of the earth. They were no longer unified and of one purpose going against God’s will and pursuing their own way.

It is telling that the two post-Flood stories involve sin and disgrace and that Ham is directly or indirectly involved in both. God wants the Israelites, to remember that they need to be on guard to not follow the ways of their ungodly neighbors. In the Promised Land they would be influenced by the Canaanite culture around them. And then in exile in Babylon and Assyria they would be influenced by those cultures as well. ​​ I don’t think it a coincidence that all three of those peoples are connected to Ham and his descendants. God wanted them to remember who they are: they are a chosen and holy people, a royal priesthood, and children of God. This should also remind us that as Christians we are all those things and that we are to be in the world but not of it. We are to resist the devil and flee from him. This reminds me of the verse we memorized together back in January, Leviticus 20:26, “You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.”

My conclusion comes from Walton’s commentary. The people of Babel had a distorted view of God and what their relationship to him was to look like. Our story this morning represents a constant movement away from God in all areas of human conduct. Walton asserts that humanity is already morally and socially destitute and now are on a path to becoming theologically destitute as well. The people of Babel were either trying to be like God or diluting God by believing he had needs and those needs can be met by man. The definition of paganism is the degradation of deity and the view that God is limited and we can make him do what we want when we want him to do it. We do this when we forget or discount the character, the transcendence and the sovereignty of God. We do this when we make God in our own image. The gods that the people of Babel and the Babylonians worshipped were capricious, immoral, unethical, unfair and dishonest because they were all those things. What follows is that we don’t know what God expects from us because those expectations change with the wind just like man does.

But we follow a God that does tell us exactly what he expects and desires from us and what his will is for us and those things have never changed and will never change. I mentioned that Chapters 9-11 show us the continuity of grace, mercy, judgment and covenant. The first eleven chapters of Genesis has shown us the need for covenant. The covenant that God gave to Noah and will give to Abraham was his revelation to his people of how they were to live just like God’s word is for us today. God’s revelation to his people was the first step to his redemption plan for mankind.

What does this mean for us today? We can see that the corruption of the deity God is prevalent in our culture today? I don’t think we can miss it unless we have our heads in the sand. God is not treated with the awe, holy fear and respect that he deserves. God’s Word is not considered absolute truth in our culture today. We want to set ourselves up as god in our own eyes or we want a god that we can manage. We don’t want to let God be God.

There are three ways that we dilute the deity of God today individually and corporately. One is by redistributing his power. That is when we rely on other things besides God. People rely on what they think has power. That might be money, or people, or possessions, or the government, technology or ourselves, etc. In church history, God’s power has been redistributed to Mary, the mother of Jesus and to saints. In New Age his power is redistributed to crystals or angels. We also see a pluralistic view of religion where Allah and Buddha share power with Christ, which reminds me of this bumper sticker, Coexist (show picture). We may use horoscopes or transcendental meditation and not think they are harmful. We can all fall into this trap of draining God’s omnipotence from him and giving it to something or someone else. ​​ 

Fully relying on God and his power asks us to take risks by letting God be God. We need to step out in faith and allow God to make us uncomfortable for his honor and his glory. This might mean serving in the mission field or serving in the church where our skills and gifts are needed. It might mean raising the level of our giving to where we are totally relying on God for everything we need. It may mean taking a stand for godliness in a difficult situation at home or at work.

The second way we dilute the deity of God today is by restricting his autonomy. This is the belief that God is obligated to us and that we owes us something. The people of Babel felt that by meeting the needs of the gods such as providing a bed, food, etc. the gods would be happy and bless them and bring protection and prosperity to them. In what ways do we feel, today, that God is obligated to us? It speaks to our motivation. What is our motivation for giving our time, our talents, our prayers, our praise to God? We love God because he first loved us and we need him to have an abundant life and for our salvation. We must not make the mistake that God loves and needs us for the same reasons.

The third way we dilute the deity of God is by regulating his power. God’s power is an awesome thing and we dilute it when we try to tap into his power and redirect it for our own purposes and benefits. All power comes from God and through the Holy Spirit his power will work wonders in our lives. But sometimes we just want to see the physical end results of his power and are reluctant to allow his power to cleanse and purify us spiritually. This is seen in wanting God to give us something without wanting to change our habits. In wanting God to work his changes for us not in us.

So what is the solution for us today if we have a diluted view of God individually or in our church? We need a renewed vision of his character, his sovereignty, his transcendence and his power. This renewed vision comes from his self-revelation to us in his Word, the Bible. The Bible will show us the proper view of exactly who God is what he is like. Our spiritual growth is dependent on developing an increasingly informed understanding of who God truly is and bringing our whole lives in orbit around him instead of trying to bring God into orbit around us. We must allow God to impact our attitudes, choices and lifestyles and be sincere in wanting him to work in us and through us. It’s all about God and nothing about us. It’s about letting God be God. That brings us to our second and third next steps this morning. My next step is to increase my understanding of who God truly is by daily being in His Word. And my next step is to allow God to impact my attitudes, choices and lifestyles and to be sincere in wanting Him to work in me and through me.

As the praise team comes to lead us in our final song, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, help us to have a proper view of who you are. Help us to purpose to be in your Word daily and we pray for insight and understanding of your character, sovereignty, transcendence and your power. Help us to surrender our attitudes, choices and lifestyles to your will. And give us sincere hearts in wanting you to work in and through us. Help us to rely on you for our safety and security and let us be like Abraham and allow you to give us our name in this world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Humanity Exposed

Have you ever thought that the stories of the Bible would make for good headlines? The first chapters of Genesis show humanity on such a rollercoaster ride that I truly wonder what the first hearers would have thought. Imagine with me the following headlines ripped from the pages of the Bible: in Genesis 1, we see of highs, “The Creation of the World” and “Man Created in the Image of God.” And in Genesis 2, “Man and Woman = One Flesh” and “The First Marriage.” Then in Genesis 3 we see the lows of, “The Fruit of the Forbidden Tree is Eaten” and “Kicked Out of Paradise.” Then we see highs again as “God Gives Them Clothes” and in Genesis 4, “The Blessing Continues, Part 1” as Eve gives birth to Cain and Abel. But the lows come quickly as “Brother Kills Brother” and “Sin Abounds.” And those are quickly followed by the highs of “Seth Is Born” and “People Call on the Name of the Lord.” In Genesis 5, we see the ominous “And Then He Died” but we also see “The Righteous Ones”, Enoch, Methusaleh and Noah, who will bring comfort, rest and relief. In Genesis 6, we again see the lows in “God is Starting Over” and “The Lord Regrets He Ever Made Us.” And later in Genesis 6, we see that God will save a remnant as “Noah’s Building a What?” and in Genesis 7 and 8, there’s the “Storm of the Century.” At the end of Genesis 8 and the beginning of Genesis 9 we see highs of “On Dry Land”, “Pleasing Worship”, and “The Blessing Continues, Part 2.” The first hearers might now be thinking that the hard times are behind Noah and his family and things can only go up from here. But as we come to this morning’s headlines, “Fallen Hero” and “Humanity Exposed” we will see that man’s sinful nature rears its ugly head again. The blessing that God pronounced on Adam and Eve and on Noah is still intact but so also is man’s sinfulness that started in the Garden. But again the rollercoaster ride that is humanity’s history continues and by the end of our passage this morning we will see a curse and we will see a blessing. Two of Noah’s sons will show that their father’s righteousness and holiness has been passed down to them. And because they have emulated their father they will be blessed which brings us to our big idea that “God blesses those who are living holy lives.” We will see what blessings Noah’s sons receive and also what blessings the Bible promises to us today when we live a daily holy life in obedience to God and his son, Jesus.

Before we dive into our scripture this morning let’s begin by dedicating to God this time and this opportunity to study His Word. Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word, the Bible. Thank you that we can read and study it. Thank you that it tells us how to live holy lives set apart to do your will. I pray that you would open our hearts and minds to what you want to say to each of us this morning. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are two points this morning. The first point is, “Family Tragedy” and it is found in Genesis 9:18-23. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth. Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.

This is the final section of the Flood toledot. The flood story is set in between references to Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The sons are first mentioned in Genesis 5:32, again in Genesis 6:10, in Genesis 7:13 and finally here in Genesis 9. This links them back to the genealogy of Adam and to before, during and after the Flood. The focus is shifting from Noah to his three sons.

We are given two new pieces of information that were not mentioned before. First, Ham is the father of Canaan. This is evidence that the blessing of procreation God reintroduced after the flood is already at work. The mention of Canaan is also important as it introduces the first hearers to a major character in the lives of the Israelites later in the OT. Second, the three sons of Noah will be the ones whom all peoples will come from that are scattered over all the earth. One of the reasons God saved Noah and his sons from the flood was so that the blessing would be passed down to all future generations.  ​​ ​​​​ 

Next we are introduced to a family’s tragedy. Noah is called a “man of the soil” or “ground.” The ground has been significant in the early chapters of Genesis. Man is created from the ground and the ground is cursed because of man’s sin. The ground endures the punishment of the flood and has survived. Noah and his sons have also survived the flood and are given a second chance along with the ground. Noah’s livelihood is linked to the ground from which the blessing of food and drink has come from. ​​ Noah has come from a long line of farmers including Adam, Cain and his father Lamech. Noah, as a second Adam, seems to be fulfilling the original purpose of humanity in the garden. As a farmer Noah proceeds to plant a vineyard. Commentators are split about if Noah was the first person to ever plant a vineyard and make wine. If so, they would contend that Noah probably didn’t know what effects wine would have on his body. But there is evidence that vineyards and the making of wine came before the flood. We can surmise that Noah knew exactly what he was doing when he grew and picked the grapes, pressed them and waited for the juice to ferment.

After drinking the wine that he made Noah became drunk and laid uncovered inside his tent. Noah’s drunkenness is not excused or condemned here but it would have been disgraceful to be in that condition. This is the first of two incidents in Genesis that include drunkenness and both result in sin. I can’t imagine that Noah being drunk would have made God happy and just because he doesn’t address it doesn’t mean it's ok. We are reminded of what God said before blessing Noah and his sons: that man is evil from childhood. Wenham says, “The humanity that begins with Noah fully parallels the humanity that preceded the flood.” Noah is still human and humanity is still sinful. The flood has not wiped sin out. I think it is interesting that this story comes on the heels of blessing and covenant. We always need to be careful of Satan’s attacks especially right after a God moment in our lives. He will try to steal our joy every chance he gets.

We also see that Noah is lying uncovered which would have increased his disgrace in the eyes of the first hearers. The Bible talks in various places about drinking to excess and the problems that could arise. Here alcohol has caused Noah to become drunk and he has exposed himself and that is a disgrace not only to himself, but also to his family. Lastly, we see that Noah was inside his tent. This is important because it would have been something else entirely if he was drunk and naked outside in public. We see a parallel here in that when Adam and Eve sinned they knew they were naked and Noah in his sin and disgraceful condition became naked. ​​ 

Next we see what Ham does when confronted with his father’s nakedness. Ham somehow sees his father lying uncovered inside his tent meaning he may have gone into his father’s tent without permission. This act would have shown a clear disrespect for his father. The word for saw implies “he gazed or he took a long look. It seems he had a certain satisfaction at seeing his father in his shameful condition. Once he had noticed his father uncovered, the proper thing for Ham to do should have been to quietly cover him up. But there was something in the character of Ham that caused him to not do that and instead go outside and tell his brothers about what he saw. Literally, the text means that he told his brothers with “delight.” He seemed to have enjoyed his father’s shame and the embarrassment it would cause. He may have relished the opportunity to gossip about “righteous” Noah. Ham shows blatant disrespect for his father again and again. We are again reminded that Ham is the father of Canaan and it would have alerted the first hearers to pay special attention. Ham shows his true character as he finds his brothers and gossips about his father’s indiscretion. He was probably making fun of his father and was trying to get his brothers to join in the fun of looking at his father’s nakedness as well. We notice a couple principles here. One, God’s desire is for us to show respect to our parents. Two, God’s desire is that we do not gossip about the sins of others. We need to be careful not to revel in the other’s sin because we are all sinful creatures.

What Ham does reminds us of Eve in the garden. She saw that the fruit of the forbidden tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye. Eve ate of the fruit and then gave some to Adam who sinned as well by eating it. Ham saw his father’s nakedness, made fun of it, and tried to entice his brothers to sin as well but his brothers refused to be tempted and even did something about their father’s condition. We need to be careful of what we allow our eyes to see. We can easily be tempted to sin by what we allow ourselves to look at. With our eyes we are tempted to lust, covet, etc. In Job 31, we see these words from Job. “I have made a covenant with mine eyes to not look lustfully upon a young woman” and “my heart has been led by my eyes.” Job understood that what he allowed his eyes to see could cause him to sin. He covenanted with his eyes to not let them look upon another with lust and, in doing so, keep his sinful desires at bay. We live holy lives by controlling what our eyes look at and not allowing those temptations to become sin “lived out” in our actions. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to live a life of holiness by controlling what my eyes are allowed to see. ​​ 

After being confronted with Ham’s disrespect we see the decency that his brothers, Shem and Japheth have for their father’s condition. They did not fall into the same temptation that Ham did. Scripture says they took a garment and laid it across their shoulders and walked backward and covered their father’s nakedness. They showed decency in covering their father but they also went above and beyond to not even look at him in his disgraceful condition and be tempted by what they saw. They made sure that their faces were turned the other way. Shem and Japheth countered the sin of Noah by covering the “uncovered” and countered the sin of Ham by not seeing what Ham “saw.” This reminds us of God covering Adam and Eve in the Garden after they sinned and found that they were naked. We need to remember we are all sinful people and the shame of our sin requires a covering just as Noah’s did and Jesus Christ is the only one that can cover our sin and shame.

We notice that more is said about what Shem and Japheth did than what Ham did. That is because we are to focus on the actions of Shem and Japheth more. They covered their father’s shame, honoring him by not looking at his nakedness and by not gossiping about it to others. These are the actions of people who knew what was right and did what was right. When we are loving people the way Jesus loves, we do not go around exposing their sin and encouraging others to make fun of them. That is not the way of holiness. Shem and Japheth had seen their father’s faith in the Lord as he built an ark not knowing what rain probably even was. They had watched their father’s obedience as he did everything God commanded him. They learned about the worship of the Lord as they saw Noah build an altar and sacrifice burnt offerings to the Lord on it. They had learned from their father how to live a holy life and now have exhibited the kind of behavior necessary to do the same. This brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to live a life of holiness by knowing what is right (found in God’s Word) and by doing what is right.

Our second point this morning is called “Family Prophecy” and is found in Genesis 9:24-29. Follow along as I read those verses. “When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.” After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.

When Noah wakes up from being drunk he discovers what his youngest son has done to him. Noah may have heard the rumblings of family members outside or maybe he went to his oldest son, Japheth, and asked how he had been covered up. The result is, that when Noah, who has not spoken in the entire narrative of his life in the Bible, finally speaks, his first words are a curse on his grandson, Canaan. The word “curse” is only used here once, so this is probably more a prophecy by Noah about his grandson. It took the form of request to God asking him to fulfill what Noah had said. This would have been different from a prophecy spoken by God but still would have carried weight. Wenham says, “Though it is not stated Noah’s words evidently have divine authority and affect the future.”

Why did Noah curse Canaan and not Ham? We need to go back to Ham’s sin. Ham showed a blatant disrespect for his father. This would have been a very serious matter in Noah’s time and later in Israel as well. The punishment for insulting or disrespecting your parents could have been death. Disrespecting parents was not just a crime against them but against God in showing contempt for those he put in authority over you. One of the Ten Commandments is “Honor your father and mother.” Respect for parents was paramount. When we disrespect our parents we start to see the downfall of the family itself. Satan has been attacking the family already. Adam and Eve’s relationship would have been strained because of their sin. Cain kills his brother Abel and we’ve seen the ungodliness passed down from Cain through his family to Lamech, who had multiple wives and boasted of killing someone. Satan again attacks the family as Ham is infected with contempt and disrespect for his father. And it brings a curse on his family, his son and the generations to follow. Our families are being destroyed by sin which is why it is so important that we live holy lives so our families will see it, can emulate it and pass it onto the next generation who will be blessed by God. BIG IDEA

Cursing a person’s son would have had the same effect as cursing the father because it would be cursing his future line. Noah has seen something in the character of his son that disturbed him. Ham’s character was not formed in that instant but had been forming his entire life. Noah notices this and realizes that those character traits will be passed down to Ham’s son, Canaan. In fact, Canaan would become the father of the Canaanite people who were wicked and sexually immoral. Their wickedness and immorality was the reason why God gave their lands over to the Israelites. The Israelite hearers would have understood why Noah cursed Canaan. They would have seen firsthand the evil and wickedness of the people who lived in the Promised Land before they did. Noah’s curse/prophecy represented God’s punishment of the sins of the Canaanite people which Ham exemplified.

The curse on Canaan was enslavement. He would be the lowest of slaves to his brothers. The enslavement to his brothers is mentioned a total of three times by Noah. Wenham says, “This threefold repetition of the curse makes it unusually emphatic: there can be no doubt about its fulfillment.” Most commentators believe that this curse was fulfilled as the Israelites displaced the Canaanites from the Promised Land and eventually enslaved them during King David’s reign. The enslavement to Japheth is harder to historically explain. Through this incident, God is warning the Jewish people not to compromise with the Canaanite way of life. They would need to destroy anything and everything that would tempt them to sin as the Canaanites did. Lastly, the curse Noah speaks on Canaan did not have anything to do with race. The Canaanites were not racially different from the Israelites or the other people they lived among.

Next, we see Noah turn from cursing to blessing. Notice that Noah doesn’t bless Shem or Japheth. He blesses the Lord, the God of Shem. This the first time that God is referred to as the God of an individual in the Bible. Noah’s reference to the Lord means he was not a vengeful individual who was out of fellowship with God. Noah recognizes that any blessing that Shem receives will come from the Lord. It reminds us that just as we’ve seen all throughout the narrative of Noah, that it is God who is the main character of the story. It is all about God and not about man at all. Noah blesses God and asks that God bless Shem and Japheth for their actions in showing dignity to him.

What are these blessings Noah is asking for on their behalf? Shem receives the blessing of the firstborn as Noah asks for God to enrich him. We notice that Shem’s name is always mentioned first when the three sons are listed. This is another instance of God’s grace given to the second born as we have seen with Abel over Cain and will see with Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau. By calling the Lord, “the God of Shem”, Shem is identified in terms of his relationship to God. It also means that Shem’s line will be the elected line just as Seth’s line was and just as Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s will be. This is the line that Jesus Christ, the Messiah will come from. Noah is prophesying about Shem’s descendants just as he has about Ham’s.

Noah also asks for God to bless Japheth by enlarging his territory and allowing him to live in the tents of Shem. This blessing on Japheth to be enlarged has seemed to be fulfilled as his descendants were those who settled west and north of Israel which includes the Greek peoples and the Philistines. His descendants also reached as far as Asia Minor, Europe and finally to the Americas. In essence the descendants of Japheth are us, today. If you look at present-day maps, we see that descendants of Japheth have settled more land than Ham’s descendants who went to Africa and Shem’s descendants who settled in the Promised Land which is by far the smallest land area of the three.

Most commentators struggle to explain the blessing of Japheth “living in the tents of Shem.” It may mean that their descendants will live peacefully with each other. More likely it means that the God of Shem will be the God of Japheth as well. Japheth will benefit from the spiritual blessing of being united with Shem’s God. God was said to dwell or “pitch his tent” with his people the Israelites. God’s presence was in the Holy of Holies in the Tent of Meeting while they were in the wilderness and in the Tabernacle in Jerusalem. In John 1:14a it says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Literally, Jesus (the Word) became a man and dwelled or “tented” among us. And now the Holy Spirit dwells within each person who is a Christ follower. This happened because it was Shem’s descendants, the Jewish people, that Jesus came from. And his Word was spread by his disciples to the Gentiles. Shem means “name.” The blessing of Shem is seen in the fact that God would reveal his saving Name to the world through him. God would use Shem’s descendants to bring Divine revelation and salvation through Jesus Christ to the world.

Lastly, we are again reminded of the genealogy of Adam found in Genesis 5 as we finish the Flood toledot. The ten generations that started with Adam are now finished and we will now embark on the next ten generations which will take us from Shem to Abraham and the covenant that God will make with him. Noah lived another 350 years after the flood and he lived a total of 950 years. We notice that the phrase “he fathered other sons and daughters” is missing. This makes it clear that all mankind after the flood has descended from Shem, Ham and Japheth. We also notice that just like all his ancestors before him except for Enoch, it says, “and then he died.” This phrase again reminds us of our humanity and our sin. Our humanity has been exposed time and time again and it will continue to be exposed but God’s blessing is also still alive and nothing will stop his blessing from being passed down until the end of time as we know it.

We’ve seen the blessings that Shem and Japheth received from living holy lives and we have seen those blessings being passed down to their descendants as well. As Christians we can receive blessings from God as well. In living a holy life, God wants to and does lavish more blessings on us than we can even imagine. Here are just a few of the blessings we receive when we are living a holy life. Psalm 15:1-2a says, “Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous.” Holiness brings us intimacy with God and helps us to grow spiritually. 2 Peter 3:14 says, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this (Jesus’ return), make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” Holiness brings us peace with God. 2 Timothy 2:21 says, “Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” Holiness makes us useful and effective for God’s purposes. It is a blessing to be used by God for his purposes. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us of the fruit that we can have when we are living holy lives and listening to the Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” These fruits are evident when we are living holy lives. In fact we cannot do these things very well if we are not living holy lives.

Ephesians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” The spiritual blessings we receive when we are living a holy life are sanctification, forgiveness, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which gives us insight and power to do God’s will and eternal life with Jesus. There are so many more blessings we receive when we are living holy lives and we do not want to miss out on these blessings. Which brings us to our last next step on the back of your communication card which is to Live a life of holiness and receive the blessings that God has for me.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final song, let’s close in prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that we would strive to live holy lives set apart for your special purposes for each one of us. I pray that we would covenant with our eyes that we would keep them from seeing those things that would cause us to be tempted to sin. I pray that we would study your Word so that we would know the right way to live and then proceed to live the right way. I pray that as we live holy lives you would lavish your blessings upon us for your honor and your glory. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tied Up With A Bow

When I think of the word “bow” I think of presents. Birthday presents, Christmas presents, etc. I don’t know how it’s done in your family but in mine Judy does almost all the Christmas shopping. She shops for her family, my family, and for me. The only shopping I usually do is for her. I must admit that I do not like wrapping presents and I usually find myself wrapping her presents on Christmas Eve or if I am lucky on December 23. A lot of it’s because I am just not very good at it. I also don’t see the point of wrapping the presents and putting ribbons and bows on them just to have it all ripped off and thrown away. Almost every year I ask Judy if it’s ok to skip the ribbons and the bows on her presents and her reply is always the same: NO. So I put the ribbons and the bows on all her presents, why? I do it for her because she likes them and because I love and care for her.

One of the most extraordinary and beautiful natural wonders is the rainbow. Rainbows have fascinated people throughout the ages. The rainbow is a bent or curved line in the sky composed of or consisting of seven colors...red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Since only one color of light is observed from each raindrop because the sun hits each different raindrop at a different angle, an incredible number of raindrops is required to produce the magnificent spectrum of color that is characteristic of a rainbow. Usually a rainbow is seen when part of the sky is dark and it is raining and the sun is shining in another part of the sky. For the rainbow to be visible, the sun has to be behind the observer who is, in effect, facing the rainbow. God chose the rainbow to be his sign to humanity that he would never destroy the earth by flood again. Honestly, he did not have to give us this sign to seal the covenant that he made with Noah. He made a promise and we can either believe it or not. Instead God blessed Noah and covenanted with him and his sons to never destroy the earth by flood again and he tied it up with a bow, the rainbow. And he did this because of his love and care for us which brings us to our big idea this morning that “God loves and cares for his creation.” Everything that we will see in our passage this morning God does because he loves and cares for us and every time we see a rainbow after a storm it should remind us of that love and care.

As we think about how much God loves and cares for us, let’s pray and dedicate this time of worship and of the study of the Word to Him. Loving Father, we thank you for your love and care for us. We thank you for sending your son to die on a cross as the ultimate act of love for us. Help us to appreciate your love and care for us and to show your love and care to others. Pour out your Holy Spirit upon each one of us and guide us in the study of your Word this morning. May it speak truth and life to us and may we speak its truth and life to others as we share it with them. In Jesus’ name, Amen. ​​ 

There are two points this morning, Commands and Covenant. The first point is Commands and is found in Genesis 9:1-7. This is what God’s Word says, “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth, and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”

In this section God addresses three areas about life. The first is multiplying life. God is speaking to Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. This is the first time during the entire story of Noah that God has spoken to his sons. So far it has been about the righteousness and blamelessness of Noah that has saved not only him but his family from the flood. Now Noah’s sons will start to take center stage. We will see in chapter 10 that they will be the ones who repopulate the earth. Shem’s descendant, Abraham, will be the next major player in the Bible as he becomes the father of the chosen people, which will birth the promised Messiah, who will save the world from their sins.

God repeats the blessing command, “to be fruitful and multiply,” to Noah and his sons, that he first gave Adam and Eve in the garden. This would have taken the first hearers back to Genesis 1 and would have reminded them of their special place in God’s creation. God is jump starting the blessing that has been stalled by the flood and infected by sin. Despite sin and the resulting flood judgment man would still be able to reproduce and fill the earth with his kind. They have been given a second chance and even though man will continue to sin God still blesses them. This would have instilled hope for the future in the hearer. Human beings are still made in the image of God and are still supremely important to him and he loves and cares for them.

The second area about life that God addresses is sustaining life. We notice that God does not repeat the command “to subdue and rule over the earth” as he did in the garden. There is no longer harmony between man and the animal kingdom because of sin. Now all the beasts of the earth, all the birds of the air, every creature that moves along the ground and all the fish of the sea will have a “fear and dread” or “terror” of human beings. Before the flood “subdue and rule” meant that man was able to easily domesticate and have use of the animals in a mutual respect. They came to Noah but now will be terrified of man and the tendency will be to flee from him. Man will still rule over the animals but it will be a forced and subservient rule. This new response of “fear and dread” will be a means of survival for the animals since they are given into humanity’s hands and are now food for them. This will be the natural response of the animals to being hunted prey. God’s command allowing humans to kill animals for food is further evidence of his grace toward them for a couple of reasons. One, with the extreme temperatures of hot and cold and summer and winter, meat would now be needed to sustain the human metabolism. Two, because animals reproduce at a quicker rate than human beings, they would soon overrun humanity on the earth. This was seemingly not a problem before the flood because of the special relationship and mutual respect between human beings and the animal kingdom. We have seen that Cain was a farmer, Abel was a shepherd and now Noah and his sons are hunters.

Just as God gave all the trees in the garden as food for Adam and Eve, with one exception, here he gives everything that moves as food for Noah and his sons, with one exception. This exception would also test humanity’s obedience. He commands them not to eat meat that has the lifeblood still in it. The way that the Hebrew language states this exception means that it is permanently binding. This put a limit on humanity’s rights over God’s creation reminding them that everything belonged to him. The blood is considered to be where life comes from and therefore is sacred and should be respected because all life is given by God. This is why those who hunt deer or rabbit, etc. skin and drain the blood before preparing it to be eaten. Walton says, “Ritually speaking, draining the blood before eating the meat was a way of returning the life force of the animal to God who gave it life. This offers recognition that they have taken the life with permission and are partaking of God’s bounty as his guests. Its function is like saying a blessing before a meal.”

Later in the OT, the blood of animals was important in the sacrifices that the Israelites were to make to God and was to be treated with reverence. In the sacrificial law handed down by God the substitution of the animal’s life, represented by its blood, in place of the offerer’s life, was the atonement for human sin and averted divine judgment. Even though animals would now be part of the human diet they are still valuable in the eyes of God and are to be cared for and not abused. This is seen in the fact that the animal sacrifices were to be the firstfruits of the flock and unblemished. The sacrifice was to be costly to the person offering it, testifying to the enormity of their sin.

The third area about life that God addresses is protecting life. The life blood of human beings is supremely precious to God and he will demand an accounting for it. God will even demand an accounting from an animal that takes the life of a human being. Exodus 21:28 says, “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable.” In Israel the punishment for an animal that took a human life was the death of the animal.

God will also hold human beings accountable for the taking of the life of another human being. God establishes capital punishment or the death penalty here as he says “whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” Any person who willfully murders another human being should be held accountable for their actions. God is establishing the idea of a human government here to be the entity to carry out the punishment. God would no longer punish human beings universally. He would deal with our sin on an individual basis and the protection of human life would now reside in humanity’s hands.

God demands this accounting because a human being who murders another human being is killing their fellow man or brother. This is the first time the word for “brother” is used since Genesis 4 when Cain kills his brother Abel. In that story the word brother is used multiple times to show how serious the killing of a family member was. God is reminding us that we are all family and the killing of another family member is not ok with him.

There may be two reasons why God is now establishing capital punishment in order to signify the value he puts on a human life. First, to help limit the violence that existed before the Flood. Second, since he is now allowing human beings to kill animals for food, the stigma against taking life would fade and the weapons used to kill animals would be readily available. But the bigger reason is because man is created in the image of God and even though that image is diseased by sin human life is still regarded as sacred. To take the life of another human being is to extinguish a revelation of God and display contempt for him. Wiersbe says, “To attack another human being is to attack God and God’s judgment will come down on that person. All life is a gift of God and to take away life means to take the place of God. The Lord gives life and he is the only one who has the right to take it away.” This section finishes with God again repeating the command to be fruitful and multiply and increase in number on the earth. Mankind was to be “makers” of life not “takers” of life.

Our second point this morning is Covenant and is found in Genesis 9:8-17. This is what God’s Word says, “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

Again God speaks to Noah and his three sons. They are now partners with Noah in the second chance that God has given to humanity, the animals and the earth. He has commanded them about what to do, which is to procreate, and he has commanded them about what not to do, which is to not eat meat with blood in it and to not murder other human beings. Now God testifies about what he will do, which is establish a covenant, and what he will not do, which is never again destroy the earth by flood. This is the first time we see a covenant being made in the Bible and God promises three times (twice in verse 11 and once in verse 15) that he will never again send a flood to destroy all life on earth. He also starts his covenant with Noah and his sons with an emphatic “I now” meaning the covenant obligation rests with the Lord alone. This covenant is unconditional meaning God is the doer and humanity did not have to do anything to see it come to pass. This testifies to God’s resolve to never destroy all living things by flood again and shows his great love and care for his creation.

God addresses his covenant in three ways. The first way is with Noah and his sons and their descendants. This covenant looks beyond the present generation even to all generations to come including us. It points to his commitment to be involved with people and families forever. The second way is with every living creature that came out of the ark with Noah and every living creature on the earth. Again this was for all animals for all time. God mentions “every” or “all” living creatures at least four times in this section reminding us that the animal kingdom is special to him. In Revelation 4:6-7 we see these words, “Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. These are the four living creatures that are before the throne of God in heaven. They have the faces of a lion, a calf, a man and an eagle. These faces parallel the four kinds of creatures with whom God made his covenant: wild beasts, cattle, humans and birds. These four living creatures are eternally worshipping God before his throne because he loves and cares for them. God now spells out exactly what he is covenanting to do. He promises to never cut off all life by the waters of a flood and to never destroy the earth by flood again. This was a promise of permanent security for all living beings on the earth. God loves and cares for his creation.

The third way that God addresses the covenant with Noah and his sons is by instituting a sign. A sign signified that it was more than just a promise. It was the way to know that the covenant was being fulfilled and its conditions were being met. It would remind people of God’s presence and his obligations and seal the covenant giving them reassurance. The sign God gives is the rainbow and it was well-suited to fulfill the function of a covenant sign. Man was not going to be able to produce a rainbow, God was the only one who could make it happen. So every time that God set the rainbow in the clouds it would be a reminder to us that he promised to never destroy all living creatures and the earth by flood again. It would be a sign seen by man but it would also remind God himself of his promise. The sign of the rainbow was like the blood that the Israelites were to put on their doorposts during the first Passover. It was a sign for the people but it was also for God to “see” and pass over the house. God certainly doesn’t need external signs to remind him of his promises but signs like the blood and the rainbow moves him to a certain course of action. The sign proves that God’s promises are entirely believable and trustworthy. He backs up his word with a sign that eliminates the possibility of forgetfulness by man or himself.

This brings us to our first next step this morning which is to claim and believe that the promises of God are entirely believable and trustworthy.

This covenant that God made with humanity is remarkable in its extent, it included “every living creature”, in its permanence, it was “perpetual and everlasting”, and in its generosity, it was “unconditional and undeserved.” It also included a sign which emphasized that it originated with God and was totally out of the reach of human beings to initiate. This covenant could only have come from God and could only have been kept by God. Hamilton says, “Whenever the rainbow appears it serves as a reminder that despite the fact that the world deserves judgment God will show restraint and mercy.” It is an indication of the unique relationship which we have, even in our fallenness, not only with our creator but a covenant God. Lastly we see that God repeats that he has established this covenant between himself and all life on the earth. In Genesis 8:22, God stated that he would not interfere with the functioning of the cosmos. Now he states that he would not interfere with the functioning of the blessing. With the flood, those functions were stalled but now God is covenanting with all living creatures that he will never interfere with those functions again. ​​ In this way the covenant is connected to the blessing showing how much God loves and cares for his creation.

There is a now iconic American elm tree that has stood vigil in downtown Oklahoma City for a century. Foresters agree it was likely planted sometime around 1920. In historical photos, the already mature tree is visible in the backyard of a family home. In time, that home gave way to commercial development. Serendipitously, it is the only tree to survive when the parking lot called for the removal of all other trees. Through the decades, the tree bore witness to the changing skyline, the growth of the city and the day-to-day lives of generations of people. It was largely ignored – just another tree dotting downtown – until April 19, 1995. On that fateful day, it became much more than just another downtown tree. It endured one of the worst terrorist attacks ever to occur on American soil. The tree was situated directly across the street from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, completely exposed to the full force of the 4,000-pound bomb that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more. It easily could have fallen victim to the attack. And it nearly did – the tree was slated to be destroyed so shrapnel and evidence embedded in its trunk and branches could be recovered. But like the city’s resolve and unity – it survived. Ever since, it has been known as the Survivor Tree – an ever-present symbol of resilience. As a tribute to renewal and rebirth, the inscription around the tree reads, ’The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.’"

In Genesis, we have one of the greatest survivor stories ever told, Noah. He is the unlikely hero. He is an all too human survivor. Not only does he carry the entire future of God’s crown of creation but also the seed of sin which infects all of us, even today. Through the entire story of the flood Noah has been faithful and obedient to God. He has been righteous and blameless in his generation and God because of his perfect mercy and grace saves Noah and his family from destruction. He saves Noah and the rest of humanity because he created us to be in relationship with himself and he loves and cares for us. The story of Noah and the Flood and every time we see God’s rainbow in the sky should remind us of his love and care for us. It should remind us that God wants to be in relationship with us and it should cause us to turn to him, to repent of our sins and be put back in a right relationship with him. The Creator of the Universe wants to be in relationship with you, because he loves you and he cares for you, will you accept his invitation today? This brings us to our second next step which is to embrace God’s love and care for me and strive to be in a right relationship with Him.

As the worship team comes to lead us in a final song of praise let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we thank you that your promises are entirely believable and trustworthy. Open our eyes so we can daily see how much you do love and care for us. Help us to strive to be in a right relationship with you as we pursue holiness daily. Thank you for your Word. Help it to be nourishment for our soul. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Smells Like Pleasing Worship

What is your favorite smell? There are so many to choose from but here’s a few: freshly cut Christmas trees, a rose, lavender, vanilla, fresh bread baking in the oven, freshly popped popcorn, fresh brewed coffee, bacon, freshly cut grass, meat barbequing on the grill, that new car smell, freshly baked chocolate cookies. What would be your least favorite smell? Again there are a lot to choose from and some are very unsavory. I will try to stick to the least unsavory ones and you can use your imagination for the worst smells you’ve ever encountered. A full kitchen trash bag or dumpster, sewage, rotten milk or rotten food, plastic burning, car exhaust, bleach.

As we all know, humans have five senses: touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell. Our sense of smell is considered to be the strongest. Here are some facts about our sense of smell: it is the first of all our senses to develop. Even before we are born, our sense of smell is fully formed and functioning. Our scent cells are renewed every 28 days, so every four weeks you get a new “nose.” A woman’s sense of smell is much stronger than a man’s. Our sense of smell is the most closely linked with memory. We can remember smells with 65% accuracy after a year, while our visual recall is only about 50% after three months. One of our most evocative smells from childhood is crayons. A survey found that 85% of all people remember their childhood when they caught the smell of Crayola crayons.

The Bible also talks about the sense of smell. In 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, Paul says that Christians, as we spread the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever we go, we are the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. To those who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior we are the fragrance of life but to those who reject him we are the fragrance of death. ​​ In Psalm 141:2 the psalmist says, “May my prayer be counted as incense before You; the raising of my hands as the evening offering. He was remembering the sacrifices that the priest would make on the altar of incense while the Israelites were praying each morning. When we are praying pure, holy and fervent prayers in Jesus’ name, those prayers become a fragrant and sweet odor to the Lord. In Philippians 4:18, Paul called the gifts that the church at Philippi sent him a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul says we are to imitate God by living a life of love for others just as Christ loved us and sacrificed himself on a cross for us. Jesus’ act of love and sacrifice was an offering to God as a fragrant aroma, just as our love for others would be to God, as well.

Last week, Pastor Stuart taught us about God’s perfect timing as Noah patiently waited for the flood to end and the earth to become dry so he, his family and the animals could leave the ark. They had been in the ark for over a year and after landing on the mountain range of Ararat Noah sent out a raven and dove to check the dryness of the earth. Finally after the third time when the dove didn’t return Noah knew that the water had dried up from the earth. But it still took almost another month and a half until the surface of the ground was completely dry. All during this time, Noah did not take it upon himself to leave the ark. He waited on the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 says “those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” Now “waiting” on the Lord doesn’t mean we sit idly by but it means to “bind together” with God. It’s the idea in John 15 to be connected to the vine which is Jesus. Some of the ways that we can be connected to Jesus is by being in God’s Word, being in prayer and by being focused on the Lord through true and genuine worship. As we wait upon the Lord we are connected to Him and are renewed and strengthened. I see this “waiting on the Lord” in Noah. He could have rushed out as soon as the dove didn’t return. The circumstances on the earth looked suitable for them to leave the ark but that was no guarantee that God wanted them to leave yet and begin their new life. I think Noah was so tuned into God and his will for him that he waited for God’s perfect timing to be revealed.

This morning we finally see Noah, his family and the animals leave the ark and the first thing Noah does is build an altar and sacrifice burnt offerings to the Lord. God smells Noah’s sacrifice and it was a pleasing aroma to him. What was it about Noah’s sacrifice and worship that was pleasing to God? What are the ingredients of our worship that pleases God and shows we are striving to live daily, holy lives? Those are the questions we will answer this morning as we study our passage which brings us to our big idea: our holiness is expressed through the pleasing aroma of our worship. Let’s pray and commit our time together to the Lord. Heavenly Father, we ask that you pour out your Holy Spirit upon us as we study your Word. Open our hearts and minds and give us supernatural insight. Use your Word this morning to teach us, rebuke us where needed, correct us and to train us in righteousness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are two points this morning. Our first point is God’s command & Noah’s obedience and is found in Genesis 8:15-19. This is what God’s Word says, “Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.” So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another.

Finally, after a little over a year, God commands Noah to come out of the ark with his family. We notice two things. One, this is the first and only time God talks to Noah while he is in the ark, and two, God is still only talking with Noah. God commands Noah to bring out every living creature that was with him in the ark. Then God commands them to multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it. This reminds us of God’s command in the garden to be fruitful and multiply. The multiplying of creatures on the earth had been stymied by the flood but now God is rebooting creation.

As we have seen before, in the story of the Flood, it follows the same pattern as God speaks and Noah obeys. Noah has waited on the Lord’s perfect timing and now obeys God’s command to come out of the ark with his family. He is followed by all the animals, the crawling things and the birds, one kind after another. We notice that God is restoring not only the population but orderliness in the world after recreating through the flood. Later on in our scripture, we will see God continuing to restore his order on the earth.

Because Noah was righteous and blameless in his generation God chose him to recreate humanity on a recreated earth. All through the story of the flood Noah has shown his faith and has been obedient to what the Lord commanded time and time again. His obedient faith is played out again as he disembarks from the ark followed by his family and the animals and his faith is counted to him as righteousness. His righteous and holy life was expressed through his obedient faith. As we strive to live holy lives set apart from the world, we must follow the example of Noah and be faithful and obedient to God as well. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to follow the example of Noah in having an obedient faith in response to God’s Word and commands.

Our second point is Noah’s worship and God’s response and that is found in verses 20-22. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

We see Noah’s holiness and righteousness in his expression of faith as he responds to God’s deliverance from the ark and his salvation from the flood. Imagine that you are Noah and you have just been stuck in the ark floating on the water for over a year with your family and all the animals. What would be the very first thing you might do as you step onto dry land? I can imagine that I would be so happy that I would kiss the ground. On May 21, 2021, a number of Indonesian fishermen were rescued from a boat that had been taking on water for three days off the coast of Western Australia. They were visibly emotional and kissed the ground beneath them as they got on dry ground.

This reminds me of a trip Judy and I took to Chicago a number of years ago. One night we needed to go from one end of town to the other so we took a taxi cab. I don’t remember exactly how long the ride took, maybe 15-20 minutes. And I really didn’t have a strong opinion about the ride except that I had no idea that the back seats of cabs were so small. But I could tell that Judy on the other hand was not enjoying the ride. In fact when the taxi cab finally reached our destination and we all got out of the cab, we found Judy face down on the ground by the curb and it looks like she is kissing the ground. She was so thankful for God’s deliverance from that cab. At least that’s what we all thought. In reality as she got out of the cab, probably in a hurry to get as far away as possible, she tripped on the curb and went straight down. No matter what Judy was definitely very happy to be out of that cab.

Noah’s first thought as he gets out of the ark for the first time in over a year is Godward. He wanted to worship the Lord in gratitude for saving him and his family. And his first act of worship was to build an altar and sacrifice some of all the clean animals and birds as burnt offerings on it. Goldingay says, “The building of an altar is significant in that it means proclaiming Yahweh’s name over an area. It signifies that this area belongs to Yahweh and recognizes this place as a place where Yahweh has acted.” And Hamilton adds, “The point is that Noah’s first act indicates his faith that God brought him through the flood.”

We are reminded of when God commanded Noah to take both clean and unclean animals on the ark. He was preparing Noah to have the capability to make these sacrifices. These sacrifices were burnt offerings which meant the entire animal or bird was sacrificed on the altar. Burnt offerings are probably the oldest and most common of all the OT sacrifices. Reverence, petition, gratitude, dedication and atonement are all expressed in burnt offerings. By sacrificing the entire or whole animal on the altar it meant Noah was totally committed to the Lord. Noah’s righteousness and holiness was expressed by his faith, his obedience and now his total commitment to the Lord in worship. Our righteousness and holiness is also expressed by our faith, obedience and total commitment to the Lord in worship. (BIG IDEA)

We see God’s response to Noah’s total commitment to Him. It says the Lord “smelled” the pleasing aroma. This is the only time in scripture that the Lord is said to have “smelled” a sacrifice meaning that God approved of Noah and his worship. If God had refused to smell the fragrance of the offering it meant he wasn’t pleased. The aroma of Noah’s sacrifice was “pleasing” or “soothing.” “Soothing” sacrifices have a restful or pacifying effect on God. God’s righteous anger at sin is “appeased” or “soothed” by sacrifice. Mathews says, “Noah’s worship soothed the broken heart of God which had been injured by man’s wickedness. The “soothing” aroma is best reflected in the idea of “rest.” Yahweh “smelled” the rest-inducing odor of Noah’s sacrifice which reminds us of the meaning of Noah’s name. Pastor Stuart mentioned it last week in his message and it comes up again here. Lamech named his son Noah because he hoped Noah would bring rest to mankind from the labors of his hands. Here it is implied that Noah’s sacrifice has had a restful, soothing and pacifying effect on God. Noah’s worship was authentic, genuine, reverent, and was offered with clean hands and a pure heart which made it acceptable and pleasing to God. That gives us an important principle that God is pleased when his people genuinely worship Him. That is what God is looking for in our worship. Is our worship authentic, genuine, reverent and offered with clean hands and a pure heart? If we are striving to live daily, holy lives our worship will be all those things. (BIG IDEA)

One of the commentaries told a story about a girl in a youth group who was preaching on this passage and the title of her message was “Stink for God.” He was a little worried where she was going with that but she made her point. “Stink for God” means to live a life that God would take notice of because of our total commitment to him in worship. That brings us to our second next step on the back of your communication card which is to live a life that God would take notice of because of my total commitment to him in worship.

Next we see that in response to Noah’s worship the Lord makes a promise. Notice he doesn’t voice his promise to Noah but only in his own heart. Maybe he didn’t want Noah to be prideful thinking he was the one who caused God’s promise to be made. Through the entire story of the flood it has been God doing the moving. It has been God giving his grace to Noah, his family and the animals. It was not because of anything Noah did but totally because of the grace and mercy of the Lord.

God’s promise was three-fold. First, the ground will never be cursed again because of man. This didn’t mean that the curse the ground received from Adam and Eve’s sin would be reversed or taken away. It meant that the ground would not be cursed any further. The next statement can be difficult to understand what God meant. The NIV says “even though” every inclination of his heart, (talking about man) is evil from childhood.” The NASB says “for” the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” The first may be saying that another judgment will not solve the problem of the human heart because it will always be evil from childhood, so God says he will never again destroy all living creatures. The second seems to imply that human hearts are wicked, will persist in sin and not learn the lesson of the flood but God in his grace determines to never again destroy all living creatures as he has just done.  ​​​​ 

I like how Wiersbe in his commentary puts it. He says, “Perhaps both are true but the important thing is God spoke these things in response to Noah’s sacrifice and the sacrifice was a picture of the sacrifice of Christ. On the basis of the atonement accomplished by Christ on the cross God could withhold judgment because justice had been met.” Noah’s sacrifice of burnt offerings may have been seen by God as an atonement for a wicked world that would continue in sin after the flood. God would continue to show his grace and mercy to a lost world and withhold judgment because justice had been met by Noah’s sacrifice.

The second promise God makes is that he will never again destroy all living creatures by flood. God will still deal with our individual sin and we still receive judgment through the consequences of our sins but we will not experience universal destruction by flood again. Noah was totally committed to God and God is totally committed to the human race. This commitment is not based on us being worthy, in fact, God makes this commitment knowing that our heart would be evil from our childhood. Noah and the rest of humanity will have a sense of security in that they will not have to worry about building an ark every time it rains.

The third promise God makes is that there would be no further interruption of the cycle of nature. In the beginning at creation God established an order to the world as he created day and night and the sun and moon. The earth was created in an orderly fashion to sustain life on a continual basis. But because of humanity’s sinfulness and wickedness, the flood halted those rhythms and chaos was again upon the earth. In re-creating the earth God reestablishes its order and rhythms as it was at the beginning.

This restoration of order and rhythm is seen in four couplets that express extremes. These testify to the resurrection of predictability on the earth that is necessary to sustain life on it. First, seedtime and harvest. Each year there will be a time of plowing and seeding and later there will be a time to harvest. Second, cold and heat. This may be talking about an extension of the seasons and go along with the next couplet, summer and winter. At creation God created an expanse or firmament to separate the waters below from waters above. This canopy seemed to create a “hothouse effect” on the earth which may have been why people were living longer lives before the flood. It is also possible that the canopy caused the earth to be warmer overall than it is now. With the flood, God took the canopy away and now there will be more diverse temperatures, cold and heat, summer and winter. Lastly, we see there will be day and night continuously. God’s three-fold promise addresses the three foundational functions started at creation: agriculture, weather and time. Mathews says, “They are all at the command of God who guarantees their punctual arrival giving security to the world and its inhabitants. To say that the earth will continually go from one of these extremes to the other without end means we don’t have to worry about those things as we live our lives.” Balance has now been restored and God promises that it will never cease as long as the earth endures.

Play-Doh was originally invented as a substance to remove soot from wallpaper, and it wasn’t until decades later that it was marketed as a product for children. And now, in a manner of speaking, Play-Doh is returning to its roots. The latest Play-Doh innovation is a product line entitled “Grown Up Scents,” and according to Play-Doh general manager Leena Vadaketh, it’s designed to appeal to the sensory cravings of adults. Notable examples include the floral ambiance of a “Spa Day” or that strong smell of suburban success — freshly cut grass, for the “Lord of the Lawn” in your life. There’s “Overpriced Latte,” and “Mom Jeans,” a fragrance vaguely described as that of “clean denim” and “Grill King” which smells like the wafting odor of smoked meat.

Just as we are soothed by familiar aromas, God is pleased and soothed by our holiness expressed through the pleasing aroma of our worship. What should the pleasing aroma of worship “smell” or look like? Paul describes it in Romans 12:1-2, which says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This passage contains all the elements of pleasing worship. First, there is the motivation to worship: “in view of God’s mercy.” God’s mercies are everything He has given us that we don’t deserve and the knowledge and understanding of those mercies should motivate us to praise and thank him. Second, the manner of our worship: “offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice.” This means giving all of ourselves to God; we are to give up control of our hearts, minds, hands, thoughts, attitudes and turn them over to Him. How do we do this: “by the renewing of your mind.” This means replacing the wisdom of the world with true wisdom that comes from God. We are to worship Him with our renewed and cleansed minds. There is only one way to renew our minds, and that is by the Word of God. To know the truth, to believe the truth, to hold convictions about the truth, and to love the truth will naturally result in “pleasing” worship. Pleasing worship is done in Spirit and in truth meaning we worship from the heart and in the way God has designed. Pleasing worship is God-centered worship meaning it is reserved for God alone because he is the only one who is worthy of our worship. "Worshiping" out of obligation is displeasing to God and is completely in vain. He can see through all our hypocrisy. Pleasing worship is not confined to only what we do in church but should be a daily lifestyle. Pleasing worship is the acknowledgment of God and all His power and glory in everything we do. Pleasing worship is all about glorifying and exalting God. The highest form of praise and pleasing worship is obedience to Him and His Word. If we are striving to live daily, holy lives it will be expressed through the pleasing aroma of our worship.

As the praise team comes to lead us in a final song this morning, let’s pray: Holy God, we want our worship to be a pleasing aroma to you. Help us to live a life that you would take notice of because of our total commitment to you in worship. Help us to follow the example of Noah and let our faith and obedience be counted as righteousness. Help us as we strive to live a life of holiness and I pray that we would leave here changed and transformed by your Word and ready to serve you in all the ways you have called us to. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

RE-CREATION

Today’s scripture deals with a couple of major themes: one of them being the sovereignty of God. And I want to start out with wrestling with that this morning. First of all, the sovereignty of God is not an easy subject to wrap our heads around. Second, I believe we have a hard time with the sovereignty of God because it makes us uncomfortable. So, I am going to read a definition of the sovereignty of God and as I do I want you to think about the parts that make you uncomfortable.

God’s sovereignty is defined as His complete and total independent control over every creature, event, and circumstance at every moment in history. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent, God does what He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. He is in complete control of every molecule in the universe at every moment, and everything that happens is either caused or allowed by Him for His own perfect purposes. Unlimited in power, unrivalled in majesty, and not thwarted by anything outside Himself, our God is in complete control of all our circumstances, causing or allowing them for His own good purposes and plans to be fulfilled exactly as He has foreordained.

Did anybody feel uncomfortable? That is the God we serve. That is God who cannot be put in a nice, neat, little box. But isn’t that what try to do? We put God in a box and really only interact with him when it’s comfortable to do so or when we can understand what he is doing in our lives. But God is so much greater than what our finite minds can grasp. At the last Secret Church, the subject was God and David Platt commented that we don’t give God the awe, the reverence, and the holy fear that he deserves. We don’t take the time to truly understand who God is. He is so much higher than we are. He is perfect and holy and just and loving and compassionate and we could go on and on and he does all those things perfectly together. We can rejoice in our God’s sovereignty, because it is overshadowed by His goodness, His love, His mercy, His compassion, His faithfulness, and His holiness.

When I look back on my life I can see the sovereignty of God at many different times. I can see that he was in control of my life in that he kept me from trouble and harm. Not that I never got into trouble or was never in harm’s way but it could have been much worse than it was. I can also look back and see times where he was guiding my life. A lot of those times are very evident in the jobs that I have had, in fact, I believe that me speaking to you this morning is proof of the sovereignty of God in my life. He was in control of my life and circumstances that directly brought me to Idaville Church. I have two personal examples of the sovereignty of God in my life to share with you this morning. ​​ 

I will start with the earliest one which is my marriage to Judy. When I look back on how, when and why I met her in the first place, the path was not a straight one. It was full of so many far-fetched and random events that had to take place for us to even meet, much less get married. Of course those events weren’t random. He has been in complete control of my life and circumstances, causing or allowing them for His own good purposes and plans to be fulfilled exactly as He has foreordained.

The next example was the car accident I had in July 1999 on Rt. 34 just outside of Mt. Holly. Now it’s not the fact that I am still alive today that proves to me that God is sovereign even though that was part of it. To me the proof of his sovereignty are the events in the month prior to the accident. In the middle of June 1999, I had driven a van load of youth down and back to Kentucky. Then the next week, I drove youth to the Creation Festival. Then the following week Judy and I were counselors at our Church camp in Waynesboro and I had to drive up and back twice that week to Uriah Church to fulfill the secretarial duties I had at the time. What proves the sovereignty of God to me is that he was not only in control of my accident but he controlled my accident. The consequences of falling asleep at the wheel could have been so much worse than totaling my car, spending three weeks in the hospital and having to eat by an IV for four months. He was in complete control of that event and even controlled it, causing or allowing it to happen for His own good purposes and plans to be fulfilled exactly as He has foreordained.

What about you? Have you seen the sovereign hand of God at work in your life? How do you feel about it? You see a lot of people are not ok with God controlling and being in control of their lives and we can see that in their rebellion against Him. I believe that the problem is one of submission. They don’t feel that they should have to submit to God or that God doesn’t deserve to be submitted to. Romans 9:20-21 says this, “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” God is our creator and as creator he has the right to control and be in control of our lives. Too many people want to tell the creator how it should be used. Worse yet, many times the creation doesn’t want anything to do with the creator. But guess what? The creator is still sovereign and in control whether we want him to be or whether we believe he is or not.

This morning, we continue with the flood narrative. We have seen that Noah has totally submitted his will and his life to the sovereignty of God. And as the flood has begun, God has been in control of many things. He has been in control of the waters of the great deep and the floodgates of heaven. This morning we will see he is also in control of life and death, in control of his judgment and his grace and in control of the lives of Noah and his family. Two weeks ago, Pastor’s big idea was that God is in control of his creation and this morning we will see he is in control of re-creation as well. Ultimately God is in control of all things but he also controls all things and we need to be willing to come to grips with those truths in our lives. That brings us to our big idea this morning: God controls and is in control of all things.

I don’t know about you but that makes me exceedingly happy. I for one am glad that human beings are not in control of our world or of my life. I want the one true God, the Creator of the Universe, the Alpha and the Omega in control of not only this world and what happens in it but my life and what happens in it as well. And I hope you do too. Before we dive into our passage this morning, let’s pray: Sovereign God, we thank you for being in control of our lives because you are the only one who can do it perfectly. Help us to accept your rule and reign in our lives. Continue to pour out your Holy Spirit on us as we learn from your Word this morning. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We will be looking at two points this morning. The first is indescribable judgment and that is found in Genesis 7:17-23a. This is what God’s Word says, “For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth.”

Earlier in the chapter we were told that the rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights. Now we are told that the flood kept coming on the earth for forty days and we can suspect that not only the rain fell for that period of time but also the springs of the great deep kept bursting forth for forty days. Next, we see the effect that the flood had on the ark, on the earth and on every living thing. Each statement that is made about these three things builds upon the last to gives us a picture of the devastating effects of the Flood.

First, we see the waters affected the ark. As the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. That statement is built upon as the waters rose and greatly increased on the earth and the ark floated on the surface of the water. Second, we see the waters affecting the earth. As the waters rose greatly on the earth all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. That statement is built upon as the waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits or about twenty feet. This means that the water rose to a height of more than twenty feet above the highest mountain. This would have allowed the ark to float over the surface of the water without running aground. In verses 18, 19 and 20 when it says the waters “rose” it means the waters “triumphed or prevailed.” This word is a military word for succeeding in battle. In the battle between the earth and the waters the waters won and is proven by the fact that the waters covered the mountains above and beyond to a height of more than twenty feet.

Third, we see that it effected every living creature that moved on the earth including mankind. Our scripture states that every living creature that moved on the earth perished. That statement is built upon as everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died, and then it even continues to be built upon in that every living thing on the face of the earth was not only wiped out but wiped from the face of the earth. All the birds, all the livestock, all the wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth and all mankind died. In fact life did not simply die, it was wiped out and wiped off the face of the earth. Hamilton says, “The use of “perished” or “died” instead of “drowned” reinforces the idea that the loss of life is a divine penalty rather than death due to natural catastrophe.” This is a picture of the devastating effects of the flood. Everything outside the ark came under the indescribable judgment of God. The process of creation that God started in the beginning has now been reversed.

I want to pause here talk a little bit about the universality of the flood. Maybe you have never questioned whether the flood was universal or not or maybe you never even thought about it. But I can tell you scholars are split. For instance, some use science to say there is no way that the flood was universal in scope and others use science to say that it was. I want to give you some compelling arguments for a universal flood and then I will give you my thoughts on the subject. Many of these arguments come from Whitcomb and Morris’s commentary.

The first argument for a universal flood is that the language used in the flood narrative is definitely universal. But the opponents of a universal flood would say that the same all-inclusive language used in Genesis is used elsewhere in the Bible and doesn’t mean all-inclusive in those passages. Also, some scholars say that because man had not scattered all over the globe, a universal flood was not necessary. They say that a localized flood would have been good enough to accomplish the purpose of the flood, which was universal judgment. The second argument is the concept of displacement. Our scripture says that the flood covered over and above the mountains by twenty feet. If it covered the mountains in one area it had to cover the mountains in every area of the world because the water would have had to have been displaced somewhere. Whitcomb and Morris state that “the fact that water seeks its own level seems to be decisively against a local flood.”

The third argument is that the floodwaters covered the earth for more than one year from the time that Noah entered the ark until he left it. No local flood in history ever lasted that long and for the water to have covered the earth for that period of time shows it was a universal flood. The fourth argument is about the size of the ark. If it was a local flood why did God command Noah to build an ark the length of one and a half football fields and 30 feet high. If he only needed to save the indigenous species of Mesopotamia he could have built a smaller boat. Honestly if it wasn’t a universal flood Noah and the animals could have just walked out of the flood area. Which brings us to another interesting thought. If it was only a local flood and Noah and the animals could have just walked to another area to get away from it, why couldn’t the rest of humanity done the same thing. In that scenario, God’s judgment would have been thwarted and we have seen that was not the case.

The fifth argument for a universal flood is the testimony of Peter in 2 Peter 3:3-7. Peter says, “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” Peter is saying that at the end of the age God will destroy the world in fiery judgment. He bases the universality of that judgment on the universality of the flood judgment in Noah’s time. If Peter is teaching a universal judgment by fire at the end of the age why would he compare it to a local flood in Noah’s time.

Here's one last argument: If the flood was not universal, why did God give the rainbow as a universal sign of his covenant. We see the all-inclusive language in Genesis 9:11 and 15, which says, “I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And verse 15: “I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” Weirsbe says, “God promised to never send another flood like the one he sent in Noah’s day. But if the flood was a local event God didn’t keep this promise.” We see instances of flooding every year in the world. If Noah’s flood was a local event like, for instance, the Jamestown Flood, then God’s promise and the covenant sign of the rainbow meant nothing. The flood bears witness to universal sin and universal judgment.

Now I said I would give my thoughts on the subject. There are two things I want to say and I want to preface the first one with this: I believe that the flood was universal. With that being said, God is all-powerful. Could God have used a localized flood causing no water to be displaced in order to bring about judgment on those outside the ark? I believe he could because he is all-powerful. The second thing is, this argument is not the point of the flood narrative. Just like the point of the story of creation is not how God created the heavens and the earth but that it was God who created them; the point of the flood narrative is not whether it was universal or local but it’s about God’s sovereignty over his creation. He has the right to rule and he rules rightly. But it’s also about his judgment and his grace being poured out on his creation perfectly.

And that brings us to our second point this morning which is indescribable grace. We see his indescribable grace in the midst of his indescribable judgment. Look at verses 23b-24 with me. This is what God’s word says, “Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.” God out of his infinite love not only for Noah and his family but ultimately for us saved a remnant from out of the world so that he could continue to be in relationship with his creation, so that he could continue to show his love and care for his creation and it overflowed out of his perfect sovereignty. I find it interesting that in this passage there are seven and a half verses describing the judgment of God and only one half of a verse describing the grace of God. Everything outside the ark came under the judgment of God and everything inside the ark came under the grace of God. Everything outside the ark died and everything inside the ark was saved. God’s purpose of judgment had been achieved but also God’s purpose of grace was achieved in the midst of judgment. ​​ 

Hamilton says, “The use of two passive forms of the verbs to describe the fate both of the ungodly and of the righteous Noah suggests strongly that it is Yahweh’s action which controls eternal destiny.” They were saved not because of anything they did to deserve it but solely on the grace and mercy of God. Hamilton also notes that “Noah is saved because of Yahweh and Noah’s family is saved because of Noah. Every human being in this narrative owes his preservation to someone else.” We also see this in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot is saved because of Abraham and Lot’s family is saved because of Lot except for his wife. In God’s perfect sovereignty he gave his grace and mercy to Noah, his family and the animals on the ark. He did this because he is in complete and total independent control over every creature, event, and circumstance at every moment in history. He is subject to none, influenced by none, and absolutely independent. He does what He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. He is in complete control of every molecule in the universe at every moment, and everything that happens is either caused or allowed by Him for His own perfect purposes. He is unlimited in power, unrivalled in majesty, and not thwarted by anything outside Himself. Our God is in complete control of all our circumstances, causing or allowing them for His own good purposes and plans to be fulfilled exactly as He has foreordained. THE BIG IDEA

Lastly, we see that the waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. The water continued to rise for another 110 days and then reached its peak. The forty days and forty nights of rain and the earth being flooded for a hundred and fifty days demonstrates that no living thing could possibly have survived by escaping to a high place or by clinging to floating debris. Try to imagine what that would have looked like. Wenham says, “This section closes with an awe-inspiring picture of the mighty waters covering the entire earth as though the earth has reverted to its primeval state at the dawn of creation, when the waters of the deep submerged everything.”

The title of the message this morning is Re-Creation and was really another of those major themes I mentioned earlier. God brought the judgment of the flood in order to re-create not only the earth but to re-create his image-bearer, mankind, as well. God was re-creating by sparing Noah and his family and the animals that were in the ark. Think about this idea of re-creation as God’s salvage operation of humanity. God so loved humanity and wanted to be in relationship with those that he created in his image that he salvaged Noah, his family and the animals. Salvaging involves retrieving something valuable from the wreckage. We see this in God’s heart so many times in his dealings with his chosen people the Israelites and we see it in individual’s lives such as Saul. God salvaged from the wreckage that was Saul’s destructive zeal for God and turned that valuable zeal into Paul’s apostolic vision for the church. God salvaged Noah from the wreckage of an evil world in his generation and turned it into a new beginning for the human race. God is able to restore even where he has brought destruction. The same God salvages the valuable parts from the wreckage of the sinful rubble of our lives and transforms our lives into a useful ministry on this earth for his honor and his glory and for his purposes.

As I studied this passage, I struggled with what the next steps this morning for us would be. What should our response to this passage be? ​​ I could have had a next step based on the sovereignty of God or on his re-creation or salvaging of us, but as I continued to study this passage I kept coming back to two things. The first is found in Luke 17:26-30, which says, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.” Jesus is describing the indifference of the ungodly in those days. The people of Noah’s and Lot’s time didn’t care about God and their lives were filled with evil. In fact about Noah’s generation, Genesis 6:5 says they thought about evil all the time. All they seemed to care about was living their lives in total submission to themselves. Jesus in the gospel of Luke is telling us that when the Son of Man comes, just like in Noah’s day, those people will not be prepared for the judgment that will come. It is imperative that we are ready for Christ’s return or for our physical death, whichever comes first. That is what God desires for every one of his creations. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and totally submit my life to him in every way. If you take this next step you will be ready when final judgment comes.

Also I believe that in the stories of Lot and in the Flood, Abraham’s and Noah’s heart was breaking for those who were going to perish. And we know that God’s heart is breaking for every one of his creations that has rejected him or will reject him. Our hearts should be breaking for those who don’t know Jesus, as well, whether it’s a family member, friend or even a stranger we come in contact with. We need to be like Noah and imploring our friends and family that don’t know Jesus to turn to him for salvation because judgment is coming. I did not have that as a next step but it is the most important step we can take for them and salvation is the most important step they can take for themselves.

The second thing I kept coming back to is found in 2 Peter 3. Earlier I read verses 3-7 in which Peter was comparing the universality of final judgment to the universality of the flood judgment. But if we move ahead to verses 10-14, we read these words, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”

The bottom line for Peter, as he compared the fiery judgment on the day of the Lord to the flood judgment, went beyond hope for the future. Peter wanted his readers to respond in a certain way right then and there. He wanted his teachings to impact the way they were living their daily lives. The point of the flood narrative for us today is the same. God’s judgment and grace are both real and we will see it played out in the end just as it played out in Noah’s time. We need to respond to this passage in a way that will impact our daily lives. But the question is how should we respond? God doesn’t desire to scare us by threats of judgment but to win us by acts of love, mercy and grace and our response to that should be to live holy and godly lives. Peter ends verse 14 with “since you are looking forward to this, (talking about the new heaven and new earth) make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him (meaning God). That brings us to the last next step which is to live a holy and godly life being found spotless, blameless and at peace with God.

As the worship team comes forward to lead us in our final song, let’s pray: Holy God, we praise you not only for your sovereignty but for your salvation that you freely provide for us. Help us to be holy people as you are holy. Help us to make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

THE RIGHT STUFF

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik 1 satellite starting the Cold War competition with the United States known as the Space Race. In response to the Sputnik launch, the President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, decided to create a new civilian agency called NASA, which would be responsible for the overall direction of the American space program. NASA was established on October 1, 1958 and later that same year it was decided that the human spaceflight project would be called Project Mercury. The objective of Project Mercury was to launch a man into Earth’s orbit, return him safely to the Earth, and evaluate his capabilities in space. The name “astronaut” was coined for those who would be selected to fly into space. At the end of the selection process a group of seven men were selected for Project Mercury. The seven original American astronauts were Navy Lieutenant Scott Carpenter, Air Force Captain Gordon Cooper, Marine Lieutenant Colonel John Glenn, Air Force Captain Gus Grissom, Navy Lieutenant Commander Wally Schirra, Navy Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard, and Air Force Captain Deke Slayton. They were called the Mercury Seven and created a new profession in the United States, and established the image of the American astronaut for decades to come.

The 1983 movie, The Right Stuff, followed the Navy, Marine, and Air Force test pilots who were involved in aeronautical research at Edwards Air Force Base, California, as well as the Mercury Seven. The movie begins in 1947 with civilian and military test pilots, such as, Chuck Yeager, flight-testing high-speed aircraft. World War II hero Captain Chuck Yeager is given the chance to attempt to break the sound barrier, which he does, but he is denied the fame of his accomplishment as it is immediately classified. The movie recounts Major Yeager and friendly rival Scott Crossfield repeatedly breaking each other's speed records. After a while newly arrived United States Air Force captains Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, and Donald "Deke" Slayton come on the scene hoping to prove that they have "the right stuff" but are considered second-tier pilots behind Yeager and Crossfield. After the launch of the Soviet Sputnik satellite and the founding of NASA, politicians and military leaders are demanding America wage and win the emerging Space Race. When approached, Yeager is dismissive of the "spam in a can" program, saying they don't need pilots. Because of that and the fact he didn’t have a college degree he is left out of the selection process. Air Force Pilots Cooper, Grissom and Slayton decide to try out for the program as their other opportunities are limited. The movie portrays the grueling physical and mental tests given to select the initial roster of astronauts dubbed the "Mercury Seven."

In the meantime back in California, Yeager hears that a Soviet pilot holds the altitude record in a jet plane. A new Lockheed NF-104A has arrived for testing, but funding for his program is being cut as NASA's funding is increasing. Yeager decides to take it out to attempt to beat the altitude record, and upon breaking it, the jets flame out and can't be reignited. His aircraft spins out of control and he is nearly killed in a high-speed ejection. Seriously burned, Yeager simply gathers up his parachute upon landing and walks to the ambulance, proving that he still has the "right stuff." Phil Kaufman, writer and director of the movie said what he loved about the screenplay was the quality called “the right stuff” as personified by Chuck Yeager. He said, “I envisioned a movie that could be based around that central character or quality.”

The “right stuff” is defined as having the qualities needed to do or be something, especially something that most people would find difficult. It could literally be anything and everything from being the CEO of a company, a leader of a large organization, a NASCAR driver, a professional football, baseball, basketball player, or even a teacher, an electrician, a construction worker, and so much more. We all have the right stuff to do many different things, and more often than not, those are things that others would not be able to do or would not want to do. So I want you to think about this: what is the right stuff that you have that makes you special? I have mentioned before that my wife, Judy, worked for 33 years in the intellectual disabilities field. She had the right stuff to work with people with intellectual disabilities. I had a number of occasions to spend long periods of time with those folks and I realized that I didn’t not have the right stuff to work in her career. But I did have the right stuff to work with youth and have done so for over 20 years.

You also have the “right stuff”. You have the right stuff to work in the field you already work in, or have the right stuff to play a certain sport, or you may have the right stuff to be a great co-worker, friend or parent, etc. We also all have the “right stuff” when it comes to our spiritual walk or we can have the right stuff if the Holy Spirit lives within us. We have the ‘right stuff” that is needed to strive to be more like Christ, to be holy, righteous and blameless in our generation. In our scripture this morning we are going to continue to look at Noah who had the “right stuff.” In fact, God declared he had the “right stuff” when he declared him as righteous in his generation. He had the right stuff because he exemplified two important character traits. When God approached Noah about destroying the earth that he created Noah had faith in God and what he said and he obeyed what God told him to do. That brings us to our big idea this morning which is God declares those righteous who are faithful and obedient to Him. This is how we will know that God declares us righteous in our generation: If we have the right stuff, if we are living holy lives, we will be faithful and obedient to God and his Word and he will declare us righteous.

Before we look at how Noah exemplified these two traits, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we come humbly before you and your son Jesus Christ this morning in praise and honor and worship of your glories. We ask that you would fill us with your Holy Spirit as we open your Word. Give us discernment, give us insight and give us the truths of your word that we can hide in our hearts and share with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are two points to the message this morning, faith and obedience. The first point is faith and it is found in Genesis 7:1-4. This is what God’s Word says, “The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”

This is where the rubber meets the road for Noah. In last week’s message God gave Noah instructions on building the ark. He gave him very specific dimensions and gave him instructions on the animals that were to be in the ark, the people that were to be in the ark and even the food that was to be taken to sustain him and his family on the ark. Now that the ark has been built, God tells him the time is at hand to take his family and go into the ark because the flood is about to start.

Noah had been found righteous in his generation and the salvation of his family and of future humanity is specifically attributed to his righteous character. The nuance of the Hebrew word for “righteous” is having the proper attitude not necessarily the proper behavior. Noah walked with God, had the right attitude toward God, and had faith in God. He took God at his word when he said he was sending a flood to destroy the earth and wanted Noah to build an ark. Hebrews 11: 7 says, “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Gibson says, “Real faith is about hearing God’s voice through the din of unbelief and staking one’s life on what one hears.” But we need to remember that the account of the flood is first and foremost about the grace of God before it is about the faith of Noah. The righteousness of Noah is not on his merit but was God’s gift to him in response to his personal faith. It fulfilled the purposes of God to call Noah out of the world so the world might be saved. He was the first person with whom God made a covenant. The flood account is completely God-centered not man-centered.

We see God’s careful and deliberate provision as the time of the flood approaches. In chapter 6, God commands Noah to take two of all living creatures including birds, male and female, to keep them alive with him. Now he commands Noah to take with him seven pairs, male and his female, of every clean animal and two, male and his female, of every unclean animal and seven pairs, male and female, of the birds of the sky. This is the first time in the Bible that the terms “clean” and “unclean” are used. We can assume that Noah would have understood the importance of using “clean” animals for sacrifices even though it is not mentioned. This reminds us of the sacrifices of Cain and Abel in that scripture never reveals how they knew about the concept. This was not a contradiction of God’s command in chapter 6 but an amplification of it. God was providing Noah with the proper number of animals, clean and unclean, that he would need to not only repopulate the earth’s animal kingdom after the flood but also with the proper animals with which to offer sacrifices to God after the flood. The purpose of bringing the animals on the ark was to preserve the life of their “seed.” It is surprising that the narrator of Genesis uses this word because it is usually reserved for human procreation. But it is used here because God is also committed to preserving the animal kingdom as well as the human family. Both creations, human and animal, are precious and important to God and are objects of his compassion.

God then gives Noah further information about when the flood was going to start and how long it would last. God told Noah he would be sending the rain in seven days and the rain would last for forty days and forty nights. Kidner says, “There is urgency, yet no haste, in the seven days; time for the whole task, but none for postponements.” The rain would be a regular downfall not a torrential downpour and its duration is what would make it so potent. The forty days and forty nights assured that God would do a thorough job of cleansing the earth. God is in control of all that is happening. “The number “forty” is common in the Bible. It is a feature of the sacred calendar in ancient Israel. It marked numerous events in the lives of the patriarchs and Moses. Forty was seen as a period of atonement such as when Moses fasted for forty days in contrition for the idolatry of Israel and in the forty years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for their rebellion against going into the Promised Land. The earth would suffer forty days and forty nights of rain in atonement for the evil done in Noah’s generation. God takes total responsibility for the flood and the destruction of every living creature he has made. By taking this responsibility God links the flood back to creation. The judgment of God is motivated by this evil generation that has been born out of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden which now threatens the possibility of blessing.

Imagine the faith that it took for Noah to not only build an Ark of the dimensions that God gave him but to also believe in the fact that rain was going to fall from the sky. We believe that rain falling from the sky had never happened before and this would be a new phenomenon which Noah had never experienced. Also he was going to be shut up in the ark for what will be a little over a year. Last year we had a little taste of being quarantined but imagine being quarantined in your house for a year. Noah had to have faith that at some point God would stop the rain and he would be able to get out of the ark and continue to live his life. And we can only imagine what Noah felt about every living creature being wiped from the face of the earth. What would Noah and his family find when they came out of the ark? He had to have a strong faith in God to protect, provide and sustain him and his family not only in the ark but outside on the earth once the floodwaters subsided. How does our faith get strengthened? Our faith is strengthened through trials and by seeing our prayers answered. Noah was going to have his faith strengthened during this time by God as he would be faithful to Noah by fulfilling the covenant he had made with him. Noah is the first concrete example of faith in the Bible and should be the example for us all. He is the kind of person we should be as we strive to live daily holy lives in the midst of an evil and perverse world today. That brings us to our first next step which is to follow Noah’s example of living a life of faith in God in the midst of my generation.

Our second point this morning is obedience and that is found in verses 5-10. This is what God’s Word says, “And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him. Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.”

After God gave him all the instructions to build the ark, to fill it with clean and unclean animals and his family and the food they were to eat while in the ark, in the NASB it says, Noah “acted in accordance with everything that the Lord had commanded him.” I like how simple it was: God commanded it and Noah did it. There was no questioning of how or why or making excuses. Noah showed he had the “right stuff” by having faith in the Lord’s plan and obeying everything that God commanded him to do. The statement of Noah’s obedience was not placed here in the story at random. It was placed here in the developing story line immediately before the beginning of the flood showing it will only take place once Noah faithfully completes the tasks given to him by God. Noah showed that he was living a righteous and holy life by doing everything that the Lord commanded him to do. (BIG IDEA)

It is not good enough to just have faith in God. We also must obey his commands completely if we want to be declared righteous in our generation. James 2:14-18 says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” Noah showed his faith by his deeds and we must do the same which brings us to our second next step which is to live out my faith in complete obedience to God and his Word.

Next we see that Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. If you remember he was five hundred years old when he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth. So it has been a hundred years since their birth. This is one of only two events in primeval history that are actually dated with the other being Creation. Verses 7-9 are the proof of Noah’s obedience mentioned in verse 5 and the fulfillment of verses 2-3. God commanded Noah to take his family and the clean and unclean animals into the ark and he does it. I have to assume that back in verses 2-3, Noah had no idea how he was going to get all the animals to come to the ark. By the power and authority of Almighty God the animals come to Noah and enter the ark. Noah didn’t have to worry because God had it all under his control. And just as God said after seven days the floodwaters came on the earth. Everything God said would happen has happened and the rain falls precisely on the day that God had forewarned a week earlier. The entire account of the flood, the fullness of its description, gives it weight and solemnity and proves it was a literal, historical event. Noah was faithful and obedient to God and we see God’s truthfulness and sovereignty as it plays out exactly as he said it would. ​​ God declared Noah righteous because of his faithfulness to God and by being obedient to everything God had commanded him to do. (Big Idea)

My conclusion comes from Briscoe’s commentary. There are few better people in the Bible that we should model our lives after than Noah. He is a supreme example of faith, obedience and holiness. Think about the ways he exemplified these traits. One, how he responded to revelation from God. Out of the blue he is told about a cataclysmic flood and he believed God. He was told to build an ark the length of one and a half football fields and fill it with a sampling of all the animals and he did it. Two, he had a relationship of trust in God. He trusted God when he told him the earth would be destroyed, when God told him to build an ark and that he would be shut up in the ark for more than a year. It is interesting that Noah never speaks in the flood narrative. He just continues to trust God no matter if he understood or not. Three, he had a readiness to obey. The job that God gave Noah was immense and he wasn’t overwhelmed by the responsibility put on him. Four, his faith brought blessing to not only him but to his family. He even blessed his “generation” because they were exposed to the truth even though they chose to ignore it. We also benefit from his faith and it should lead us to examine our own faith. Like Abel, “he being dead still speaks.” Five, he had a resource of power. The source of this power was grace and faith from God. No man could be expected to find in himself the resources to live as he lived. God gave him the power to go against the flow of his generation. In a picture of a school of fish all heading one way and a solitary fish swimming the opposite way, Noah was that solitary fish. “Any dead fish can float downstream – it takes a live one to swim against it.” Noah through his faith had the resources of strength to be a live fish. Six, his life was a rebuke to unfaithfulness. Noah probably rubbed people the wrong way because of his holiness and faith. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 tells us, “It is impossible to please God without displeasing those who are opposed to him.” Jesus showed that the same seed scattered on different ground will produce entirely different results. Not because the seed alters the soil but because the seed reveals what kind of soil it has landed on. Our testimony can be convicting. We don’t get to decide how others will respond to us though we can decide how we will respond to the godliness and holiness of others. Finally, he is a reminder to the faithful. In Mathew 24:38 it says that in Noah’s day the people were getting on with their lives and ignoring Noah and his building and preaching. Then just as quickly it was over and God’s judgment fell on them. Jesus warns his disciples that the coming of the Son of God will be the same way. We need to be ready for the Lord to return at any time. Noah’s faithfulness and obedience are powerful reminders to us to look for the glorious appearing of Jesus. Noah still has something to say to us today when we are tempted to settle into our comfortable lives just like the unbelieving that we live among.

I challenge us all to be people of God who have the “right stuff” - who don’t live the comfortable lives of the world but who strive to live a life of holiness exemplified by faith in God and obedience to him and his Word.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn this morning, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, give us the same power you gave Noah who was found to righteous in his generation. Let us be found righteous in our generation as well, as we have faith in you, as we completely obey you and your Word and as we pursue holiness everyday of our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen. ​​ 

 

 

 

 

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A Legacy of Godliness

Genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their ancestors. You may wonder why people put together their family trees? Some people may not know a lot​​ about their families past and would like to know more. Maybe a person was adopted and wants to find out about their biological family. Some people may want to know about their family’s medical history going back many generations. Some people may want to find out if they are eligible for membership into a lineage-based organization such as the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Sons of the American Revolution.

The Church of the Latter-Day Saints are one of the biggest groups that study genealogy. They believe that all humanity is one family and so everyone is literally and figuratively brothers and sisters. Because of this belief, it’s vital that the entire human family be connected to each other and doing genealogy is a way to show that connection.​​ They believe that families are forever – and those family connections will exist beyond death so finding those connections are important. They believe that doing genealogy will open up the blessings of heaven and once members are able to show those family​​ connections, they are able to do vicarious temple work for their direct deceased ancestors. Genealogies were also important for the Jewish people in the Bible in determining who could serve in certain roles. For example, only Levites were allowed to work​​ in the tabernacle and temple, and only the descendants of Aaron were able to serve as high priest. There were also many activities in the Mosaic Law that were limited to those who could prove they were of Jewish descent.

There are a number of reasons why genealogy is important as we study the Bible. First, the Bible's genealogies help confirm the historical reliability and accuracy of the Bible. They include real, live people, who had real pasts, presence and futures. Second, the Bible's genealogies reveal​​ the importance of man’s and the family’s value to God and to the​​ writers of the Bible. The family unit has served as the foundation of human society since Adam and Eve and their children. The importance is that each person and family is known, remembered and emphasized. Third, the Bible's genealogies also prove many of its prophecies. For example, prophecy said that the Messiah would be a Jew from the tribe of Judah and would be a descendent of both Abraham and David. Fourth, the Bible’s genealogies show us​​ the detail-oriented nature of God who is intimately involved with his creation and wants a relationship with them.

Fifth, the Bible's genealogies also teach how God has used a wide diversity of individuals throughout history to accomplish his purposes. For example, in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew's Gospel, four women are mentioned, including Rahab the prostitute and Ruth, a Moabite woman, emphasizing the importance of women to God. They were also Gentiles proving God’s love and care for all people. Lastly, the Bible’s genealogies show that the message of salvation is anchored in history. Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam as the son of God and Matthew established Jesus’ mission in Jewish history back to the royal line of David.

One of the reasons I like genealogy is because of the legacy you can see passed down through each generation. It may be a legacy of first names. It is fascinating to see the different first names that are passed down many generations. It may be a legacy of occupations such as doctor, farmer and founding father. I have seen families who came over in the 1600’s whose father founded a town and then his son goes off and founds another. Our ancestors have made us who we are today. Our likes and dislikes, our personality​​ and physical traits all get passed down to you from your ancestors. Another thing I have seen is the legacy of faith that has been passed down. With most of our country being formed because of religious freedom, a lot of our ancestors may have been Quakers, Puritans or Mennonites and you can see those values being​​ passed down. ​​ I have been working on a friend’s genealogy who has many, many Mennonite pastors in their family tree. There is evidence of a legacy of faith in their family tree.

This morning we are going to be studying Genesis chapter 5 where we are given the genealogy of Adam through Seth, his third son. We will see a common formula repeated in the same way for each generation. The only times that the repeating of the formula is altered is when the narrator gives us special information about a few of Seth’s descendants. We will also notice that there was a legacy of faith passed down from generation to generation. It started at the end of chapter 4 when Seth’s son Enosh was born and “men began to​​ call on the name of the Lord.” We will see in our scripture this morning and in a couple of weeks in Genesis 6 that two of Seth’s descendants are characterized as “walking with God.” And the narrator of Genesis wants us to understand this morning that​​ “pursuing holiness requires that we are daily walking with God.”​​ That is our big idea this morning and we will be looking at what it means to “walk with God” and how that is essential to us as we strive to live daily, holy lives.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father,​​ we come before you this morning humbling ourselves and asking for your Spirit to fill us so that we learn from your word. Help us to desire to walk faithfully with you every day and to join the ranks of Seth’s descendants as people of faith, righteousness​​ and holiness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are three points this morning. The first is Adam and that is found in Genesis 5:1-5. This is what God’s word says, “This is the written account of Adam’s family line. When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived​​ 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived a​​ total of 930 years, and then he died.”

The first two verses are like a title page and prologue in a book, the title of the book being the genealogy of Adam. This “tolodot” or “beginnings”​​ of Adam differs from other “tolodots” such as the “tolodot” of creation found in Genesis 1 because it is described as a “written account.” This leads commentators to believe that the narrator of Genesis used a written source for the genealogy of Adam that​​ follows. The prologue takes us back to the beginning of the creation of mankind in Genesis 1:27-28, which says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Four comments on the creation of humankind are made in Genesis 5. One, God created mankind in his image. Two, God created them male and female. Three, God blessed them. Four, he named them “adam” or “man.”

The narrator’s purpose is to tie the genealogy of Adam to God’s creation of the world and of mankind in Genesis 1. God made Adam and Eve in his image and likeness and bestowed the blessing of “be fruitful and multiply” on them for the purpose of passing his image and his continued blessing down from generation to generation. And we see it being played out in the family tree​​ of Adam through his son, Seth. There is a silence regarding the line of Cain in this genealogy because in the context of salvation Cain’s line is irrelevant and only Seth’s line survives the judgment of the flood.

The Hebrew word for mankind “adam” is repeated many times in the first three verses. In verses one and two it is referring to the human species but in verse three it changes to the personal name for the first man, Adam. This is the narrator’s way of transitioning from the “generic” man to the first man as his genealogy is introduced. ​​ Both​​ “image” and “male and female” are emphasized because the blessing is to be passed down from generation to generation by the procreation of the descendants of Seth.

Before we dive into the actual family tree of​​ Adam, I want you to be aware of a few things about the genealogical record. First, there is a formula used for each paragraph which corresponds to each generation. We see the age of the patriarch when he fathers the firstborn son, then we see the number of​​ years they lived after fathering that son, then we see that they had “other sons and daughters”, then we see the total number of years they lived and then we see the ominous “and then he died.”

Second, there are ten generations from Adam to Noah. Interestingly, there are also ten generations from Shem to Abram in Genesis 11 and ten generations in the genealogy of David found in Ruth 4. Ten was a popular number for genealogies that signified completeness of order. Most commentators believe that these genealogies did not include every single generation. This was not unheard of in the ancient world because the purpose of these genealogies was not to include every generation but to trace family connections. In our genealogy this morning, the purpose was to rapidly bridge the gap from creation to the flood and to show that the image and blessing was passed down through each generation of Seth’s family tree all the way to Noah.

Lastly, we see the ages of the Patriarchs. All ten live to be anywhere from 895-969 years old except for Enoch and Lamech. Most commentators believe that these are actual ages. ​​ Mathews says, “The argument is that before the flood human lifespans were longer because of climate conditions and sin had not yet achieved its full effect and is reflected in the ages shown.” The long life spans in Seth’s line contributes to his lineage of blessing and hope. In the Mosaic Law, long life was the product of God’s blessing for obedience. Apart from the patriarchs only Job, Moses, Joshua and Jehoida lived longer than a​​ hundred years.

Verse 3 now begins the actual family tree of Adam. It starts with him because it is all about connecting Adam who is created by God in his image and likeness with Noah, who God will use to save humanity from the flood. Adam,​​ who was made in the image and likeness of God and given the blessing, will procreate a son in his own likeness and in his own image and that continues generation after generation. ​​ 

We see a reversal of image and likeness here. In chapter 1 the emphasis is on God but the reordering here puts the emphasis on Seth’s likeness to his father in character and physical nature.​​ God passes on his image by creating; Adam passes on his image by procreating. “The image of God” and the blessing, has not been obliterated by the fall, but a life lived in the image of God is drastically different from life lived in the likeness of sinful man. That is evident from the ominous refrain, “and then he died”, which will be repeated eight times in chapter 5. Adam’s story ends with the first obituary in human history which is a moment anticipated since Genesis 2:17, when God said, “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” God’s promise of punishment and​​ the consequences of sin has now come to pass. The blessing has been passed down but so also has the curse of sin.

Despite the harsh reality of physical death, we also see that Adam had “other sons and daughters” which shows the grace and mercy of God and​​ his provision for the line of Seth. Just as we saw God’s orderly creation in chapter 1, we now see God’s orderliness in the regular birth of human life. This repeated formula of the genealogy of Adam will continue until we get to the favored person of Enoch, which is our second point this morning and found in verses 6-20. Follow along as I read those verses: “When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years,​​ and then he died. When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enosh lived a total of​​ 905 years, and then he died. When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. After he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Kenan lived a total of 910 years, and then he died.​​ When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared. After he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Mahalalel lived a total of 895 years, and then he died. When Jared had lived 162​​ years, he became the father of Enoch. After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died. When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”

We are quickly taken through the next five generations of Adam’s family tree. There is not a lot known about these men but that doesn’t mean they are insignificant. Think about your own family tree. If you were to go back ten generations you would have over​​ 1,000 direct ancestors. Now you would have some awesome ancestors and you would probably have some scoundrels in your family tree, just like I do. The point is none of my ancestors are insignificant because if something had happened to one for any reason​​ I am not here today. The significance of Adam’s ancestors, and even mine and yours, are that they passed down the image of God and the blessing to each generation.

The formula for each generation doesn’t change until we get to the seventh generation where​​ we have Enoch being born to Jared. The seventh generation of biblical genealogies seemed to have significant​​ importance. The seventh generation from Adam in Cain’s line was the prideful, polygamous, and vengeful Lamech. Interestingly, in the genealogy of​​ David that I mentioned earlier found in Ruth 4, the seventh generation was Boaz, who played the significant role of being the “kinsmen redeemer” which meant being a relative of Ruth’s dead husband, he was able to marry her and continue the lineage which descended all the way to Jesus, the Messiah. Here in the godly line of Seth, Enoch stands out in contrast to Lamech.

Enoch is different in a couple of ways. One, he only lives on the earth for 365​​ years and two, he never dies a physical death. It seems that​​ after Enoch fathered Methuselah he began to “walk faithfully with God.” We aren’t told why he started to do this at this particular time or if it means he wasn’t doing it before Methuselah was born. But we are told twice that he “walked faithfully with God”, which indicates Enoch was outstanding in this godly family line. “Walking faithfully with God” meant that Enoch had on-going companionship, fellowship and close relationship with God. “Walking with God” captures an emphasis on communing with God and living a life of holiness. It was a lifestyle characterized by devotion to God and not something that was just a one-time thing.

Hebrews 11:5 says, “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because​​ God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” Willet defines “pleased” as Enoch channeling all his love and desire into fulfilling the will of God. God was pleased with Enoch’s faith, righteousness and holiness and spared him dying a physical death and took him to heaven. This was something extraordinary God did for his friend. Elijah is the only other person who was taken to heaven and never suffered a physical death.

The godly legacy in Seth’s line of “calling on the name of the Lord” after his son was born now continues to bear fruit as Enoch “walks​​ faithfully with God.” We will also see in a couple of weeks that one of Enoch’s descendants, Noah, will also “walk with God.” Mathews says, “The finality of death caused by sin, and so powerfully demonstrated in the genealogy of Genesis, is in fact not so final. Man was not born to die; he was born to live, and that life comes by walking with God. Walking with God is the key to the chains of the curse.” God will be pleased with us when he have faith in him, when we pursue holiness and walk daily with him.​​ (BIG IDEA).​​ Enoch’s “walking faithfully with God” was a godly legacy that had been passed down from generation to generation, even in the midst of a world that God looked to destroy in the flood. This should be our example which brings us to our first next step this morning which to​​ channel all my love and desire into daily walking with God and fulfilling his will.

The genealogy of Adam is now rounded out as we see​​ our third point this morning, which is Noah, found in verses 25-32. This is what God’s Word says, “When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and​​ daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died. When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.” After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died. After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.

The next generation in Seth’s​​ family tree is also significant in that it gives us Methuselah who is known as the oldest human being to ever live. When you count the years, Methuselah seems to have died the same year that the flood started. Even though Methuselah lived the longest of any human being nothing special is said about him. But we see that the formula changes again with his son, Lamech. Lamech was significant in​​ that he had a son called Noah, who God was going to use to save the human race.

When Lamech named his son Noah he expectantly prophesied “he will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” Commentators have been puzzled because Noah’s name means “rest” not “comfort.” But Noah’s name sounds like the Hebrew word for “comfort.” We saw this before in the naming of Cain. Cain’s name means “smith” as in blacksmith but the name Cain sounds like the Hebrew word for “acquired” which is why Eve said “I have acquired a man with the help of the Lord” when Cain was born. Lamech was looking forward expectantly to a time when Noah would bring comfort to the human race in the midst of their labor and painful toil of the ground. Because of Adam’s sin the ground was cursed and Adam and the rest of humanity had to work harder for the ground to produce for them.

What was this “comfort” that Lamech was prophesying about? Maybe it had to do with the flood cleansing the earth and erasing the curse on the ground thereby bringing comfort to people that way, though, I am not so sure that tilling​​ the soil is easier now then it was before the flood. I would put forth that the naming of Noah foreshadowed his righteousness in the face of sinful humanity that would save the human race from the flood. His lineage would live on until his descendant Jesus, the Messiah, came upon the earth, died on a cross for our sins, and rose from dead, bringing comfort to us all. In that way, Noah lived up to the prophecy his father made on the day he was born. Whatever Lamech may have meant when he names his son, he ties the widespread wickedness in his day to man’s first act of disobedience in the garden and his hope for a better future resided with God’s blessing being on Noah. There is a deviation in the age of Lamech as he was only 777 years old when he died. Seven​​ stands for perfection or completion in the Bible. Lamech also stands out in stark contrast to the ungodly Lamech in Cain’s line.​​ Both of them are remembered for their words. One for his arrogance and the other for his expectant yearning.

Lastly we see a​​ narrowing of the genealogy of Adam in that Noah’s three sons are named. This reminds us of the three sons and daughter of Lamech being named at the end of Cain’s genealogy in chapter 4. We will also see this later in the genealogy of Shem as his lineage will be traced to Terah and be narrowed to his three sons, which includes Abram. The purpose of this narrowing is to continue to highlight the godly line. Adam’s genealogy is traced through Seth, Seth is traced through to Noah and Shem and Shem will be traced through to Terah’s son, Abram, who will be the father of the chosen people, that Jesus the Messiah will descend from.

There are many terms that describe genealogy such as ancestral, heritage and legacy. I tend to like this last one because we can see how a legacy can be passed down from generation to generation. We saw in chapter 4 how the ungodly legacy of Cain was passed down and culminated in Lamech, who had distorted God’s plan for marriage, was prideful and was ready to murder others at a drop of a​​ hat. Then we saw today in chapter 5 how the godly legacy of Seth was passed down culminating in the faithful and holy Enoch and the expectant promise in Noah. We all have a family legacy. It doesn’t matter what your family legacy has been up to now. What matters is what your families’ legacy will be now starting with you. Will you purpose in your heart to continue a godly legacy in your family or purpose in your heart right now to start a godly legacy in your family. That brings us to our second and third next steps this morning. My next step is to​​ purpose in my heart to continue a godly legacy in my family line.​​ Or second, my next step is to​​ purpose in my heart to start a godly legacy in my family line today.

As the praise team comes to lead us in our final song this morning, let’s pray: Dear Heaven Father, we desire to please you by walking in daily communion and fellowship with you. We desire to live faithful,​​ righteous and holy life every single day. I pray that you would pour out your Holy Spirit on us​​ because we can’t do it, in this world, on our own. Thank you for sending your son to die on a cross for our sins, and rising again so that we can be in relationship with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

 

Sin’s Slippery Slope

How many of us would consider ourselves responsible people. Here is a little quiz from Bustle.com to see how responsible you may be. These are Eleven habits of a responsible person. Number one, responsible people do not make excuses. Two, they organize their lives. Three, they are on time. Four, they cancel plans ahead of time. Five, they control their emotions. Six, they don’t complain. Seven, they know trust needs to be earned. Eight, they are consistent. Nine, they admit their mistakes. Ten, they are self-disciplined. Eleven, they don’t procrastinate. How did you do? Are you a responsible person?

Who are you accountable to? Over our lifetimes we are accountable to many different people, some short-term such as different bosses or friends. If you own a business you are accountable to the different customers you sell to. We are accountable to the government to keep the laws and to pay our taxes. We are accountable to people for the long-term such as our parents, our siblings, our spouses, and of course God.

One of the first thing God did after creating Adam was give him responsibility. He was responsible to name the animals, he was responsible to take care of the garden, he was responsible to “keep” or guard the garden and he was responsible to defend his wife and himself against Satan and sin. We saw last week that Adam remained passive when the serpent confronted his wife and in effect refused to take responsibility and then refused to be accountable when confronted by God. ​​ When we refuse responsibility we pave the way for refusing to accept blame and in the process, accountability begins to disintegrate.

The following comes from Walton’s commentary. A true story is told in the setting of New Orleans in the 1980’s by policeman John Dillman. Two men had contrived a get-rich scheme. One of them developed a relationship with and married an innocent young woman and took out a sizeable insurance policy on her life. During their honeymoon he took her for a walk and just as his accomplice was driving by in a rental car, pushed her to her death under the wheels of the speeding vehicle. The suspicions of the insurance company eventually brought the two conspirators to trial. What struck Dillman as unbelievable during the trial was the total lack of remorse on the part of the two criminals. What reminded the author of Cain was the next part of the description: “Pointing to the way the police kept interfering in their lives by pursuing, interrogating and charging them, the two men complained that they were themselves the real victims in this whole affair and implied they ought to not be punished but consoled.”

In this illustration we see one of the most insidious aspects of human fallenness: a refusal to be held accountable. When we refuse to take responsibility for our sin, accept the blame for the consequences of our actions and to be held accountable for what we do and say, we burn down the bridges of reconciliation. To put the problem another way, the distance from God is not just because we sin, it is because we enjoy sin, cherish sinful ways, even protect our right to sin and resist any attempt to harness our depravity. The only way back to reconciliation, forgiveness, and God has as its first step a recognition of the problem and a repentant desire to do something about it.

In our scripture, this morning, we will see what happens when we refuse to be responsible for our family, for ourselves, and for our sin. We will see what happens when we aren’t accountable to anyone, not even God. We will see that sin rules us instead of the other way around as we allow it to take us down its slippery slope to a point of no return. But there is good news. We are told that we can master our sin when we take responsibility for it and are held accountable to it. What is important is how we respond when sin is right outside our door waiting to get a foothold in our lives. Which brings us to this morning’s big idea which is we can overcome sin and temptation by striving to live a daily, holy life. The warning in this morning’s scripture is that unconfessed and unrepentant sin separates us farther and farther from the presence of God. While we will never be perfect this side of heaven, we must be diligent against letting sin and temptation rule in our lives. When we strive for daily holiness, when we do what is right every day, we can overcome sin and temptation and not allow it to take us farther and farther away from the presence of God. ​​ 

Let’s pray: God, I pray that you would give us ears to hear and eyes to see what you want each of us to learn from your holy scriptures. Help us to guard our hearts and our minds against Satan and sin as they try to gain a foothold in our lives and drag us away from your presence. In Jesus name, Amen.

Our scripture is found in Genesis 4:1-16. There are three points this morning: Hope, Horror and Heart. We see hope in Genesis 4:1-4. This is what God’s word says: Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a man child with the help of the Lord.” Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering;

We can imagine that the first hearers of Genesis are probably on the edge of their seat at the end of chapter 3. Adam and Eve who had it made in the Garden of Eden had just allowed the serpent to tempt them into disobedience and sinning against God. They have been banished from the Garden, no longer in perfect communion and fellowship with God and are now under the curse of sin. The first hearers must have been wondering now what? The next chapter has to be better, right? And as chapter 4 starts they are probably filled with hope as they see the beginnings of new life. Adam had relations with or “knew” Eve and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. The word “to know” in this context would not have been a casual thing but intimacy at its deepest. Adam and Eve had made a permanent commitment to each other which God had in mind in Genesis 2:24 when he said that for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh. This was the beginning of human marriage for the purpose of being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth. ​​ 

Cain’s birth would have been a hopeful sign to the first hearers that God was not done with mankind, that he had created to be in relationship with himself. Eve names her first child “Cain” which sounds like the Hebrew word for “acquired.” Commentators are split on what she may have meant by “I have gotten a man child with the help of the Lord.” The question is whether she thinks she was able to create a human being just like God did or thinks she was able to create a human being with God’s help. The first would have been a prideful statement and the latter would have been a statement of joy and praise to God. The latter makes sense as she may have been thinking Cain was a fulfillment of the promised offspring in chapter 3 or she may have been praising God for helping her through childbirth since God had promised there would be pain in giving birth. Even after their sin, God was still involved and cared deeply about the details of their lives.

In a matter of fact way, we are then told of Abel’s birth. By describing Abel as “his brother” it is apparent that Cain is the focus of the story. The name “Abel” means “breath” or “vapor” and is the word translated as “vanity” in Ecclesiastes. Weirsbe says that “Cain’s name reminds us that life came from God, while Abel’s name tells us that life is brief.”

Next we are told that Abel “kept” flocks while Cain worked the soil. The first hearers would not have been surprised by this. The Israelites had two main occupations outside the home: the “keeping” of the animals and the working of the soil. The younger brother seems to have been given the lighter task while the older brother carried on the family business. And the mention of their work sets up Cain and Abel bringing their offerings to the Lord. We have already seen a dedication to the mandate to be fruitful and multiply and to work. Now we see a dedication to the worship of the Lord. This is the first mention of offerings and sacrifices in the Bible. We aren’t told when this started but God may have instituted it when he “sacrificed” the animals to make the “skin coverings” for Adam and Eve before they were banished from the garden.

“In the course of time” shows us that the bringing of offerings to God was customary for Cain and Abel. Cain brought offerings from the fruits of the soil while Abel brought offerings from his flock. The verb used means the offerings were gifts given to honor God and in celebration. It was probably a yearly offering in celebration of the harvest and God’s provision for them. We notice a difference in the offerings themselves. Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil and Abel brought the “fat portions” and some of the “firstborn” of his flocks. It would not have been lost on the first hearers that there was a difference in the quality of the offerings. Lastly, we are that the Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering.

Our next point is Horror and that is found in Genesis 4:5-10. This is what God’s Word says, “but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”

The first hearers would have been hoping that the next chapter was better but hope would soon turn to horror. Cain is on the precipice of sin’s slippery slope and instead of taking responsibility and being accountable for his actions he allows temptation and sin to rule over him.

We notice that Cain’s offering was not acceptable to God. Scripture does not give us a reason for this but commentators have offered us their reasons why. Here are a few: One, Abel brought an offering with blood in it. This would have been important for a sacrifice of atonement but commentators believe these offerings were a thank offering not a sin offering. Two, Abel brought the best parts, the fattest and firstborn, from the flock. The first hearers would have understood that the fattest and firstborn would have been important in their sacrifices. But in Leviticus 2, it says cereal offerings did not have to be first fruits but it did have to be the finest. Here we are not told if Cain’s offering was his finest nor is he criticized for it not being so. Three, maybe God simply decided to accept Abel’s offering and not Cain’s. We see in Genesis that God’s sovereignty is displayed in his choices of those who receive his blessing. He chose Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Joseph’s first two sons over Reuben and we even see a rearrangement of blessing being given to Joseph’s younger son instead of the older one. Four, maybe God likes shepherds better than gardeners. That’s probably not true. If you remember, Adam was given the responsibility of taking care of the garden and shepherding wasn’t even mentioned as one of the responsibilities in the garden. What we can know is that neither offering, in and of itself, was better than the other.

Since God was silent on the reason it probably means that he knew something that we don’t. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Weirsbe in his commentary says, “Cain wasn’t rejected because of his offering, but his offering was rejected because of Cain. Cain’s heart wasn’t right with God.” And Gangel & Bramer say, “The contrast in the offering here is between offering what God had decided was acceptable and what Cain decided was admissible.”

The NT also gives us insight about this. Hebrews 11:4 says, “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” And 1 John 3:12 says, “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brothers were righteous.” Cain’s heart gave the lie to his offering and Abel’s faith was the key for the acceptance of his.

The same is true for us today. We can make sacrifices to God with our tithes and offering, our time and our talents but if it is not done with a righteous heart it means nothing. We see these words from David in Psalm 51:16-17, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” We can be in church on Sundays and Wednesdays or whenever the doors are open but that doesn’t mean we are true believers. God wants us to do more than just go through the motions when we worship him. Our hearts must be right before the Lord for our actions to be counted as righteous. We must strive for daily holiness which is more than just obeying God’s commands. It means we obey because of our love for God and what he has done for us. That brings us to our first next step which is to get my heart right before the Lord so that my actions are counted as righteousness.

Now that God had declared Cain’s sacrifice unacceptable what was required was a change of heart on Cain’s end. Instead Cain becomes angry and his face was downcast. The Hebrew word implies Cain was “burning with anger.” Why was Cain angry? Maybe he felt he was being treated unfairly by God or maybe he was jealous because Abel’s sacrifice was accepted and his wasn’t. No matter the reason, his attitude toward God and his reaction didn’t come from a holy and righteous heart. ​​ Cain wanted to make the rules for his relationship with God just like Adam and Eve had wanted to in the Garden. All three of them wanted to make decisions that were not dependent on obeying God’s commands.

God now has a conversation with Cain that reminds us of a conversation between a parent and their child after the child is caught doing something wrong. God’s trying to prompt Cain into changing his heart and repentance so that their relationship could be restored. We see the love, grace and mercy that God has for his children. He is still interacting with his people, even when they sin, and pursuing a relationship with us, even if we don’t seem to want one with him.

God’s rhetorical questions imply that he wants Cain to think about why his offering wasn’t accepted instead of getting angry. Mathews says, “God questions Cain for the same reason he questioned Adam and Eve in the garden. Not to scold but to elicit an admission of sin in order to bring about repentance.” God wants Cain to do what is right. If he does what is right he will be accepted, but if he doesn’t he is in danger of “wrongdoing.” “Wrongdoing” can be translated “sin” so notice Cain may not have been sinning at the time but was dangerously close to doing so.

Cain had failed to meet God’s standard for worship and was being given an opportunity to do the right thing and if he failed to do so sin was waiting right outside the door. Sin wanted to devour him and it desired to have him in the same way that a wife desires her husband. This desire was strong but God wants Cain to master it. The great thing is that Cain could overcome the temptation and not sin. It was within his power to master it and be “lifted up” or restored into a right relationship with God. He could overcome it by doing what was right which reminds us of our big idea: we can overcome sin and temptation in our lives by striving for daily holiness.

Let me illustrate it this way: Do we always come to worship on a Sunday morning passionately ready to worship God the way he should be? I can admit I don’t and I would think that all of us at some time haven’t. We make excuses like I am tired or not feeling well, maybe we had an argument with our spouse or children on the way to church. When we leave worship we feel like God hasn’t spoken to us like we thought he should. We go through our week and one thing after another goes wrong and we start to wonder where God is and why he doesn’t answer our prayers for deliverance from what we are going through.

I believe that is right where Cain is at this moment. He comes before God with a worship that is not worthy of what God expects or desires. Just like us, he knows what God expected and desired from him. The question is how does he respond? How do we respond? Do we blame God and get angry with him? Maybe God wants us to look at our motivations for coming to worship on a Sunday morning. Is it to just check off a box? Is it because we want something from God? God wants our motivation for worshipping him to come from a heart of love not from duty or just going through the motions.

When we realize that our worship is not being done in the proper spirit, do we pray and submit to God and repent of our attitude or do we lash out and blame God? Once we decide to lash out at God we have allowed that crouching sin at our door to come in and rule over us. ​​ Instead we need to master it and not let it get a foothold in our lives. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” and Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Sin was lying in wait at the entrance of Cain’s life. It was not waiting to pounce but was comfortably lying in wait. It wouldn’t have to do anything shrewd to catch his victim because Cain would just open the door and allow him to come in. The consequences of his reaction to God’s correction are more far-reaching than the initial sin itself. If he gives in to his anger it will result in sin’s mastery over him and this is exactly what sin wants. It wants to draw us into a life of sin and take us down its slippery slope, farther and farther away from the presence of God.

The narrator doesn’t tell us if Cain responds verbally to God’s correction and counsel. What we are told is that Cain seemingly lures Abel out to the fields, attacking and killing him. He takes him out to the field where he could do something he didn’t want others to see. His envy and jealousy of his brother has caused him to sin by committing the premeditated murder of his brother. We see the difference in the reaction of Cain to God’s correction and the reaction of Adam and Eve in the Garden. They made excuses and tried to shift blame while Cain resorts to murder. We see similarities in God’s questioning of Cain and Adam and Eve after their sin. He asked questions not because he needed the answers but to give them an opportunity for confession. Unlike his father and mother who passed the buck and then reluctantly confessed, Cain lies about what he has done and seems indignant, evasive and indifferent to God. He takes no responsibility for his brother. The irony was that Cain was to be his brother’s keeper in the sense that he had a responsibility to honor and protect him, not to despise and murder him.

Now God becomes the prosecutor. He asks Cain, “What have you done!” It is not a question but an accusation. God knew what he had done because Abel’s blood was crying out to him from the ground. The word used for crying describes the cry of the oppressed in Sodom and Gomorrah and the Israelites when enslaved in Egypt. Since life is in the blood, shed blood is the most polluting of all substances. The ground cries out for justice because Abel’s blood has made a stain on it that can’t be missed or ignored.

What started out as hope has turned into horror. The world of Adam and Eve has not improved in the area of sin as the first hearers would have hoped and next we will see what happens to Cain as God pronounces judgment on him. Our last point is Heart and we see this in Genesis 4:11-16. This is what God’s Word says, “Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”

Because of his sin, the murder of his brother, Cain comes under a curse from God. In chapter 3, only the erpent and the ground were cursed not Adam and Eve. The consequence of Adam’s sin was that the ground was cursed. He would have to toil harder to cultivate the soil as it would produce thorns and thistles. Because he has shed innocent blood that spilled into the ground, Cain has alienated the ground against himself. The ground will no longer yield its crop to him meaning that Cain could no longer make a living from being a tiller of the soil. He is driven from the ground the way his parents were driven from the Garden. He will now be a restless wanderer on the earth and have no home and have an even harder time making a living than Adam had.

Hamilton says, “For Cain it meant he would lose all sense of belonging and identification with a community. It was to become rootless and detached from all he knew. For him or anyone else at this time it was a fate worse than death.” ​​ Mathews says, “For Later Israel, a household’s tract of land was a sign of its covenant union with God. The Lord as land owner had generously bequeathed it to Israel as his tenants. The original hearers would have understood the significance of Cain not having a “tract of land” as his own and so would not be in covenantal union with God.”

Cain’s response shows us just how far sin has permeated the heart of humanity. He is not repentant or remorseful for killing his brother. He protests God’s punishment like the unrepentant thief on the cross. He responds with self-pity complaining that the earth had turned against him, God has turned against him and people will turn against him and try to kill him. He says that the burden of his punishment is more that he can bear. Baker says, “He is not talking about the burden of being away from the presence of God nor is he thinking about the psychological burden of sin.” Cain’s sin was not eating him up inside. He was worried about being killed while he was wandering the earth as a nomad. In that day, the community especially the family members of the one who was murdered had an obligation to take a life for a life. Cain would always be looking over his shoulder for one of his own family members trying to kill him. Ironically, the one who killed his relative is afraid of being killed by one of his relatives. ​​ 

But God doesn’t abandon Cain. In fact he gives Cain something he doesn’t deserve instead of giving him what he did deserve. ​​ This reminds us of Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Cain complains that his punishment is more than he can bear and God shows mercy and grace to him like he did with Adam and Eve. God gives mercy to the unrepentant Cain by putting a mark or sign on him which would let everyone know that Cain was under God protection. Whoever took vengeance on Cain would suffer God’s wrath seven times over. Killing Cain would be like attacking God himself and God would certainly and severely deal with that person. We don’t know what the “mark” on Cain was but it was not a curse as it provided protection for him. It was more of a pledge like the “rainbow” to come but it would have also served as a constant reminder to Cain of his banishment and isolation from other people.

Cain leaves God’s presence which was his choice and his punishment. He lived in the land of Nod which means “wandering” in Hebrew. It was located east of Eden which meant it was farther away from the Garden and the presence of God. Because he let sin rule over him, Cain is now even farther away from God’s presence than his parents were after their sin.

What started out with hope as Adam and Eve brought new life into the world and as Cain and Abel were drawing near to God through their worship and sacrifice, has ended in horror in Cain’s premeditated murder of his brother. We see sin’s slippery slope as Cain’s sin is virtually uninterrupted from irreverence, to anger, to jealousy, to deception, to murder, to falsehood and being self-serving. The final result is that Cain and humanity now find themselves farther away God’s presence. But it is not all doom and gloom as we see the Heart of God as he has mercy, grace and compassion on Cain. Just like Cain we’ve all experienced God’s grace, mercy and compassion. But our experience may have lacked the poignancy of being caught red-handed, standing face-to-face with God as Cain was. Perhaps we can only come to appreciate such bold grace secondarily. Such poignancy is powerfully captured in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. The following is from Walton’s commentary.

The main character, Jean Valjean is sentenced to a 19 year term of hard labor for the crime of stealing bread and gradually hardens into a tough convict. When he is finally released he finds it difficult to escape his past. Convicts in those days had to carry identity cards and no innkeeper would let a dangerous felon spend the night. For days he wandered the village roads, seeking shelter against the weather, until finally a kindly bishop had mercy on him. Jean is unable to resist temptation and in the middle of the night he rummages through the cupboard for the family silver, and steals away with the cache of silverware. He doesn’t get very far when he is caught by the police. The next morning he is hauled back to the bishop's door to return the stolen valuables. The police are prepared to put Jean in chains for life, but no doubt, both the police and Jean are startled at the bishop’s response.

"So here you are!" the bishop exclaimed, "I'm delighted to see you. Had you forgotten that I gave you the candlesticks as well? They're silver like the rest, and worth a good 200 francs. Did you forget to take them?" Jean Valjean's eyes had widened. He was now staring at the old man with an expression no words can convey. Valjean was no thief, the bishop assured the police. "This silver was my gift to him." When the policemen withdrew, the bishop gave the candlesticks to his guest, now speechless and trembling. "Do not forget, do not ever forget," said the bishop, "that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man."

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless. The bishop went on, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.” That brings us to our last next step which is to allow God’s grace, mercy and compassion to change my heart as I strive to live a daily, holy life for him. ​​ 

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final song let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for your grace, mercy and compassion towards us that led you to send your son to die on a cross for our sins. Mat we always be grateful for that sacrifice. Help us to overcome sin and temptation in our lives by striving for holiness everyday of our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A BLANK CHECK

Fred Craddock, in an address to ministers, caught the practical implications of consecration. "To give my life for Christ appears glorious," he said. "To pour myself out for others ... to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom--I'll do it. I'm ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory. "We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table--'Here's my life, Lord. I'm giving it all.' "But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, 'Get lost.' Go to a committee meeting. Give up a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home. "Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious. It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul."

Our church’s theme for 2021 is holiness and today is the last of four messages on holiness. Our memory verse for January tells us why we are to be holy. It is because God is holy and he has set us apart from the world to be his own. We are to strive to be more like Christ every day because as Christians God has given us the responsibility to continue Jesus’ work on the earth, which is to pursue, grow and multiply disciples, just as he did.

Paul, the writer of Romans, spends the first eleven chapters of this book teaching the theology of the Christian faith and expounding on the gospel of Jesus Christ. He taught an understanding of our sin problem, our need for salvation, our sanctification and the sovereignty of God that is central to our faith as Christians today. In Paul’s teaching in Romans, we have been given some of the most well-known verses in the Bible on these subjects, such as, Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans chapter 3 gives a detailed picture of what sin looks like in our lives. Then in Romans 6:23 we see what we deserve because of our sin, “For the wages of sin is death.” What we deserve is a spiritual death, an eternal separation from God. But praise God, the theology of Christianity didn’t end there. Romans 6:23 goes on to say, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God took care of our sin problem and made a way for us to be reconciled to him. All this was done while we were living in rebellion against Him. Romans 10:9 tells us what our responsibility now is: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The ball is in our court. God doesn’t force us to accept Jesus. But salvation, the forgiveness of sins, is available to anyone who will trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Finally we see the culmination in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That is the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the good news for those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and are following Him. Now in Romans 12, Paul says, “So What?” Now that we’ve made a decision for Christ, what’s next?” Now that we are saved, how should we act? It is nice to say we are to be holy because God is holy. But is holiness in my daily life even realistic? Paul’s going to show us that holiness is definitely realistic and it is practical as well. In Romans chapter 12 the way that we achieve holiness is through sacrifice which brings us to our big idea this morning that: Our holiness will be seen in being a “living sacrifice” to God and others.

There are three points this morning. First, the Exhortation to Sacrifice; Second, the Expression of Sacrifice and third, the Evidence of Sacrifice. Let’s look at the exhortation to sacrifice which is found in Romans 12:1-2. This is what God’s Word says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Paul starts off with the word, “therefore”, meaning that what follows is a continuation of what came before in chapters 1-11. He is urging us to act on the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ that he just taught. But he doesn’t just say “do something.” He gives us a logical reason why we should act which is because of God’s mercy towards us. God didn’t have to make a way for us to be reconciled to him. He could have left us in our sinful state and to the consequences of our sin. But as John 3:16 says, God loved the world so much he sent his one and only son to die on a cross to take away the sins of the world and all we need to do is accept his son and we can have eternal life with him instead of eternal separation from him.

So because of what God did for us, the reasonable thing we should do in response is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This response is reasonable and spiritual. What would your response be if a total stranger paid your bill at a restaurant? The reasonable response should be gratitude and maybe that prompts you to pay it forward and pay someone else’s bill in the future. In the same way, our response to what God has done for us should not only be gratitude but action. It should motivate us to obedience. Next, our response should be spiritual. In the OT, worship and gratitude was accompanied by sacrifice. In that time God had instituted animal sacrifices, which was the way for the Israelite’s to worship God and to show their gratitude to him for what he had done for them. But once Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross, once for all, they no longer needed to sacrifice animals in order to do that. Now our sacrifices are spiritual acts of worship. This spiritual act of worship comes from the heart and the mind and requires a sacrifice from us. But we don’t just make a sacrifice to God we are to “be” a sacrifice to God, not a dead sacrifice but a living sacrifice.

What does it mean to be a “living sacrifice?” First, Paul tells us we are to present our bodies to God. He means “present our bodies once and for all.” This is not just a one time commitment. It is not just sacrificing our bodies to God on Sundays and Wednesdays when we come to church. It’s is an every second of every day commitment to God. We can’t take a day off. We can’t be holy in one area of our lives and not holy in another. Holiness must permeate every area of our lives twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three- hundred and sixty five days a year. The spiritual act of worship is an everyday worship experience that is a passionate pursuit of holiness in our daily lives.

Second, in urging us to be a living sacrifices, Paul says we need to sacrifice three things in response to what God has done for us. The first thing we need to sacrifice to God is our bodies. Before we became a Christian we used our bodies for sinful purposes but now that we are a part of the family of God we are to use our bodies for his glory and for his purposes. Holiness is sacrificing our bodies as living sacrifices so that God can use us as his instruments in the world.

The second thing we are urged to sacrifice is our minds. The world or this “age” is trying to control our minds but God wants to transform them. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind. This means we are to sacrifice our minds to God for his use and for his purposes. We can’t give our minds to both God and the world. It must be one or the other. But we all know how hard it is to resist conforming to the world around us especially when it is actively seeking to devour us and take us away from the family of God. How does the world try to conform us? It’s insidious because it is actually the same way that God transforms us. We are conformed or transformed by what we read, what we watch, what we listen to and who we hang out with. Are you reading your Bible? Do you watch Christian movies and TV shows? Do you listen to Christian music? Do you hang out with Christian friends?

We are conformed to the world by anything that we put into our minds that is worldly and we are transformed by anything that we put in our minds that is Godly. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Do you want to know if you are a conformer or are being transformed? What are you thinking on and about? Is it true, is it noble, is it right, is it pure, is it lovely, is it admirable, is it excellent and is it praiseworthy? Who controls your mind, God or the world?

This transforming of your mind will result in an outward display of obeying God’s Word. When we make a commitment to holiness as individuals and a congregation that means we are individually and corporately reading and studying God’s Word, memorizing scripture, praying to God in adoration, confession, thanksgiving and petition and the result is that our outward actions toward others will prove that we are pursuing holiness. Holiness is a practical pursuit which is why we put together the Spiritual Life Journal. We will see holiness in our lives as we obey God’s Word as it pertains to his Word, to our service, to our giving, in our relationships, in the gospel and in our worship. BIG IDEA

The third thing we are urged to sacrifice in response to what God has done for us is our wills. Your mind controls your body and your will controls your mind. It is only when we yield our will to God’s will that his power can take over and give us what we need to pursue and practice holiness. We can’t do it in our own power. We do this by knowing what God’s will is and putting it into practice. ​​ If we know and put into practice his standards, his desires, his motives and his values it will lead to spiritual growth and holy living. What we feed our minds and wills is what is inside of us and will come out of us. The difference in being conformed to this world or being transformed by the renewing of your mind and knowing what the perfect will of God is, is what comes out of us, is our actions.

These first two verses are not just asking us to sacrifice our time, talents, gifts and abilities to God and use them for his glory. They are asking for us to sacrifice our whole selves to him which includes those things. We need to sacrifice to him what we actually own. Our time, talents, gifts and abilities have been given to us by God. We can’t give away what we don’t own. But we do own our own bodies, our minds and our wills. That is what God wants us to sacrifice to him. The right to ourselves is the only thing we can give and we sacrifice our bodies, minds and wills so that his will can be done through us. That brings us to our first next step which is to be a “living sacrifice” by sacrificing my body, my mind and my will to the Lord for his purposes and his glory.

Our second point this morning is our expression of sacrifice. We express our sacrifice in the church by discovering our place in the body of Christ and seeking to build it up into a unified body. This is found in Romans 12:3-8 and this is what God’s Word says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

In these verses we see what sacrificing and pursuing holiness looks like in our relationships with those in the body of Christ. First, we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we should. We are all on a level playing field when it comes to God. No one is better than anyone else. To have sober or realistic judgment means that we realize we are all supposed to be living sacrifices and we owe everything to God. Paul uses an analogy of the human body to show how each believer is a part of the body of Christ. We all have gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and we are to use those gifts to build each other up. We belong to each other, we minster to each other and we need each other. We have sober judgment when we use our spiritual gifts for the health and welfare of the Church and not for our own benefit. We do this in a couple of ways.

The first is an honest evaluation of our spiritual gifts. We need to know what our spiritual gifts are or we can’t use them for the good of the body. How can you tell that you are using the gifts that God has given you? First, how are you serving here at Idaville Church? If you aren’t serving in some way you need to start. Second, if you are already serving are you happy where you are serving? If not that could mean you aren’t serving in that sweet spot where God wants you to be. It’s like having a job that you hate to go to. How does that affect you? It can be the same way in the church. If you are serving in the church and you aren’t happy then you need to change. It is not doing you or the church any good to serve in that position. God has a sweet spot in mind for you, you just need to find it.

So, if you aren’t serving right now or don’t know how or where to serve, please come see me. If you don’t know what your gifts are or how they can be used in the church, please come see me. If you are already serving here at Idaville and aren’t happy, please come see me. In all of these instances, you can take a spiritual gift survey which will help you better understand your gifts and how and where they can be used in the church. A spiritual gift survey can help you to find that sweet spot that God wants you to be in which will benefit both you and Idaville Church. Also if you look in the Spiritual Life Journal under the heading Holiness in Service you can see the steps that you can take in this area. Our goal at Idaville Church would be to have everyone serving God and doing it in their sweet spot.

That brings us to our second next step which is to take the steps necessary to be serving God in my sweet spot at Idaville Church. When the believers in a church know their gifts, accept them by faith, and use them for God’s glory, then God can bless us in a wonderful way.

The second way we use our spiritual gifts for the health and welfare of the Church is by faithful cooperation. As I said we all have been given spiritual gifts. No one has been left out and our gifts complement each other’s gifts. We have been given these gifts to be used within the church family so that it can be a healthy place to grow spiritually. Everyone’s gift is important and is to be used for the good of the body so we must all must be faithful in using our gifts.

We need to be careful to not use our gifts for selfish reasons instead of for the reasons God intended. Paul in Corinthians had to rebuke them for how they were using their gifts. They had the gifts of the Spirit but they were lacking in the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Our gifts are to be used by faith and in cooperation together to build up the body of Christ. I like this quote from Weirsbe, “Spiritual gifts are tools to build with, not toys to play with or weapons to fight with.”

Our third point this morning is the evidence of sacrifice. If the sacrificed life is expressed when we use our spiritual gifts for the health and welfare of the body of Christ than the evidence of a sacrificed life will be seen in the nitty-gritty of our day-to day relationships. This includes our relationships within the church and our relationships outside the church. We see the evidence of a sacrificed life in Romans 12:9-21, this is what God’s Word says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We are called to sacrifice ourselves in our relationships with others by overcoming evil with love. The key to doing this is that our love for others must be sincere. If our love is not sincere we can never do what Paul commands here and will never be able to overcome evil with love. The Greek word for sincere is the negative of the Greek word for hypocrite. Therefore, sincere love is not a hypocritical love. The word hypocrite was used for an actor of that time who wore different masks to portray the different emotions of the characters he played. This means that sincere Christians should not wear masks. What you see is what you get and Paul says that others should see a sincere love from us all the time. Also, it would be hypocritical for a Christian to hate what is good and cling to what is evil therefore we need to hate what is evil and cling to what is good.

Paul goes on to show us what this sincere love should practically look like especially in our relationships with other believers. We can only do these things if we are pursuing holiness and have offered our whole selves to God as living sacrifices. BIG IDEA. First, we must be devoted to one another in brotherly love. The same Greek root word was used for loving relationships within families. As the body of Christ we are in a spiritual family and we to love each other like the best earthly families would. This, of course, would be the ideal and not the norm. Next we need to honor one another above ourselves. The mantra “looking out for number one” has been around since the Garden of Eden when Adam, Eve and the serpent blamed everyone but themselves for their sin. We are to put others first as an expression and evidence of sincere love.

Next, we are not to be lacking in our zeal but we are to keep our spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. We are to be zealous about our worship to God. What does zealous mean? It means we are to be “on fire” or “passionate” about our worship of God and what he is accomplishing in the world. This can be seen in our sharing the good news of Christ with those who don’t know him or serving in a soup kitchen, etc. The Holy Spirit is the one who fans the flames of our passion for God. Are we asking to be filled by the Holy Spirit daily? Are we asking the Holy Spirit to give us passion for God and his son Jesus? Sometimes that passion can be misguided and harmful to the church so Paul tells us our spiritual passion must be used in obedient service to Christ. We need to remember whom we are to have passion for and what our passion is to be used for, which is serving the Lord.

Next, we are to “stay the course” as we fight the spiritual battles the world throws at us. We need to rejoice in the hope that we have that “God Wins” and show patience and endurance when trials and tribulations come our way. We also need to be faithful in prayer. We all know how important prayer is in the Christian walk. We need to be praying for others, for our church and for our world. Next, we show the familial love to the body of Christ when we share with other believers who are in need. We are also called to practice hospitality towards others.

In verses 14-16, Paul seems to shift from our relationships with other believers to our relationships with non-believers and how we are to show the same sincere love towards them. But these same behaviors still apply within the church. He starts off this section by seeming to quote from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We are called to a sincere love of others that goes way beyond the normal boundaries of human love. We do this by blessing those who persecute us and not cursing them. We are to treat them as God treated us which is by loving and forgiving them, unconditionally. ​​ Next he talks about rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Imagine what could happen if we as Christians rejoice with non-Christians over the things they rejoice in or mourn with non-Christians over things they are mourning over. Imagine the impact and witness that we could have on them and the opportunities it could give us to talk to them about the gospel. For instance, we could share with them the reason we can rejoice mourn with them is because of what God has done for us in sending his son to die for our sins and because of that we have the hope of heaven.

If we practice these things it allows us to live in harmony with everyone. The greatest obstacle to harmony in our relationships is pride. Paul urges us to avoid pride and to humble ourselves. We have all received the grace of God and are on the same plane when it comes to sin, salvation, sanctification, etc. so no matter our wealth, prestige or position we are to treat everyone the same and better than ourselves and be willing to do even the humblest of duties. We should also not be conceited or think we are wiser than we really are. This is what will bring unity as we pursue holiness as living sacrifices to God.

The last section, verses 17-21, talks about overcoming evil with good by refusing to retaliate against those who persecute you. A sincere love for others will repay evil with kindness. But as followers of Jesus Christ we are to go one step further. We are to be careful to “do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” How can we do that especially when there are those who believe that what is right is sin? We are to be at peace with everyone as long as God’s good and perfect will allows us to be and it doesn’t contradict God’s moral demands on us. We will not always be at peace with others but that doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to do our very best to try and live that way.

We are not to seek revenge against someone who wrongs us because God is the only one who can judge. He is the only one who knows all, sees all and is all-powerful. It is God’s right not ours to repay evil in the world. Instead we are to overcome evil with good. This is seen by feeding our enemy if he is hungry and giving him something to drink if he is thirsty. In doing these things we will heap burning coals on his head. This means that by responding to evil with good it may cause them to become ashamed of their actions and perhaps because of our witness seek reconciliation with God. Isn’t that what we want? We want the world to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior as we do. This is counter-cultural, this is going above and beyond, this is being a living sacrifice, this is a practical pursuit of holiness in our lives. Which brings us to our third next step which is to pursue a sincere love for others and to overcome evil with good in all of my relationships.

So, what does it mean to be a living sacrifice? Like I said in the beginning, it’s like cashing in a $1,000 for quarters and going through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there in loving others. Being a living sacrifice is also like giving God a signed blank check and allowing him to continually fill it out and put anything and everything he wants on it. Being a living sacrifice is going all in with God. It is surrendering your will daily for the will of God. Being a living sacrifice is the pursuit of holiness that we have been talking about for the past month. The Israelites were to be a living sacrifice. Daniel was a living sacrifice. We are to be a living sacrifice to God. Being a living sacrifice is what the Spiritual Life Journal is all about. If you have signed the commitments in the Spiritual Life Journal and have started to do the daily bible reading plan and memorize the monthly scripture verse you have essentially given God a signed blank check and have agreed to pursue holiness everyday of 2021. You have agreed to not only grow spiritually inwardly but to show your growth outwardly by your actions. Your growing relationship with God will show that you are pursuing holiness and your growing relationships with one another in the church and in the world will show that you are practicing holiness. You will be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your true and proper worship.

Let’s pray.

ULTIMATE TAG

Ultimate Tag is a reality show where competitors must vault, dodge, tumble and dive their way through several different three dimensional courses with one person trying to tag the other person. It is billed as the fastest, craziest, most intense game ever.

Everyone has probably played the childhood game of tag at some point in their lives. I can remember playing tag on the playground growing up. I remember one time in second grade being chased in a game of tag and I tried so hard to get away that I slide under a fence. I ended up ripping my shirt and actually getting stuck under the fence. And I got tagged which upset me more than ripping my shirt did.

This morning we are going to be talking about ultimate tag as it pertains to a command given us by God himself. In ultimate tag the object is to pursue another person trying to tag them so they are “it.” In the command given to us by God we are to be holy as he is holy. We are to pursue holiness daily so that we can abide in his presence. This is the ultimate tag of life because we must be relentless in our pursuit of holiness. We can’t take a day off. It must be an every second of every day pursuit.

Holiness is not just about keeping the commands of God. We can’t earn our holiness as we can only be holy through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Without his sacrifice we could never be holy. But after our justification we can be sanctified through pursuing holiness which means the way that we show our holiness to the Lord is by keeping his commands and obeying his Word. This morning we will be studying Leviticus 19 and we will see parallels with the Ten Commandments given by God to the Israelites. If we follow the Ten Commandments our relationship with God and with others will be in good standing. That brings us to our big idea this morning which is our holiness can be seen in our relationship with God and others.

Before we begin our study this morning let’s dedicate this time to the Lord. Dear Heavenly Father, as we study your Word this morning help us to be attentive to you Spirit. Help us to hear your voice and what it is you want us to learn and share with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Before we look at Leviticus, I want to give you some background information. First, what is holiness? The Hebrew word for “holiness” is a word that highlights the realm of the sacred in contrast to everything common and profane. It refers to God and what belongs to him. The word holy is used more than 600 times in the Bible. It describes something or someone that is set apart for God. We will see in Leviticus 19 that God was calling his people into a relationship with himself and he wanted them to not only to survive the experience but to be nourished by it. But for that to happen, they needed to know the ground rules, they needed to come to him on his terms not their own.

What or who can be holy? Anything can be holy, time, space, objects, and people, all can become holy if they belong to God. The temple in Jerusalem was considered a holy space, and the objects used in worship were holy objects. The Sabbaths and feasts of Israel were considered holy days or seasons. And the Israelites were called God’s holy people because he had chosen them and they belonged to him. To be holy literally means to be set apart. The Israelites were to be set apart from the other nations that they were going to be living among in the Promised Land and today we are to be holy and set apart from the world that we live in, meaning those who are against God and don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. To be set apart means we are to live differently from the world. When the world looks at us they should see a difference between us and themselves. If they don’t then we are not living a holy life as a child of God.

As believers, we are literally set apart, made holy, because of our relationship with the one who died on a cross for our sins and brought us back into a right relationship with a holy God. How does Jesus do this? If you remember the story of King Midas, everything he touched turned to gold. Something like that happens when we come into relationship with Jesus. He is the one who entered the holy of holies in heaven to heal the rift that sin had created in our relationship with God. Jesus is the one who makes us holy, enabling us to stand in God’s presence and join the angels as they sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.” It starts with our justification, our accepting of Jesus as our Lord and Savior and it continues with our sanctification.

What is sanctification? According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, sanctification is “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” It is a continuing change worked by God in us, freeing us from our sinful habits and forming in us Christ-like affections, dispositions, and virtues. It doesn’t mean that we will never sin again, but it does mean that we strive to be more Christ-like every day and when we do sin we confess and repent. This is sanctification and it is a real transformation, not just the appearance of one.

So our holiness starts with the work of Jesus on the cross and continues as we pursue the holiness of God in our everyday lives, which brings us to our scripture this morning. It is found in Leviticus 19:1-2 but we will be talking about the entire chapter. I also want to reference Leviticus 20:7-8 and 26 in the scripture reading this morning. This is what God’s Word say from Leviticus 19:1-2: The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. And in Leviticus 20:7-8, 26: “‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy. You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

We see the concept of holiness played out in these verses. First, we are to be holy because God is holy. Second, God is the one who makes us holy. Third, God has set us apart from the nations to be his own. And fourth, to be holy we need to keep God’s decrees by following and obeying them. The rest of those two chapters are God-given guidelines on what it practically meant for the Israelites to be holy. If they obeyed these decrees they would be different from the nations around them and would be in a close relationship with God. Another benefit from obeying these commands was that not only would they be in a close relationship with God but they would be in close relationships with each other. That reminds us of our big idea that our holiness can be seen in our relationship with God and others.

Leviticus 19 has been called the Old Testament Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus was laying out for His disciples His rules for those who would be subjects of His kingdom. Those whom Christ saves are to display a life that is different from the kingdom from which they have been delivered. They are different because they are pursuing holiness and striving to be holy as God is holy. The same was true for God’s covenant people. If they were pursuing holy living their lives would demonstrate that they were different from the nations living around them.

The important thing for us to remember is that holiness is definable, it is practical, and it is even measureable. But even further than that, when it comes to holiness, those who have been redeemed by the grace of God are responsible. It is our responsibility to pursue the practice of holiness in our lives. And because of God’s saving grace, we have the power to do so. If we pursue holiness, in the power of Christ, then we will find ourselves experiencing the abundant life that Jesus talked about. The pursuit of holiness is also a profitable pursuit. We will see all of this in Leviticus 19.

Our first point is the Principles of Holiness. The first principle is that holiness is a commanded responsibility. In vs. 1-2, God commanded his chosen people to be holy as he was holy. It was not merely a good suggestion but rather a covenant obligation. This is why we have been saved. We are not to be corrupted by the world around us but are to live in loyalty and obedience to the Lord who has saved us. We are to be like Him. Harris says, “The character of God is behind all his commandments. Among the sensual and foolish deities of antiquity, no god could ground all moral duty in his divine character; only the God of Israel could.” Jonathan Edwards once said that if we do not love God for His holiness then it is doubtful that we love Him at all. Think about it: we will know that we love Him for His holiness if we answer His command to pursue holiness. Every week in our worship-based prayer, we seek the face of God as we praise him for his many attributes such as his holiness, but you know what, they are empty words if we don’t answer his command to pursue holiness. It works the same way for all his attributes. If we say we love God but don’t love others our words are meaningless. If we praise him for his graciousness and mercifulness towards us but we are not gracious and merciful towards others our praise is meaningless.

Our second principle is that holiness is a countercultural responsibility. God was concerned that the people whom He had redeemed not be corrupted by the practices of the people whom they would soon encounter. They were to be holy and therefore their lifestyle was to be characterized by holiness. God is different from His creation and as believers we are called to model him. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Harrison says, “God’s holiness is to be taken as a model for individual and community life.” Currid defines holiness as “the imitation of God.” Jesus taught this principle when He said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” in Matthew 5:48. When God called His people to holiness, He was calling them to a lifestyle and an existence that was to be different to those around them. He is calling us to the same thing today.

Christians and non-Christians are similar in many ways. Rarely can you look at someone and just from the outside tell whether they are a Christian or not. The difference is related to someone’s desires, beliefs, values and aspirations. We should be different from the culture we live in and honestly we should unapologetically be offending the culture around us. There should be a difference in our behavior that is noticeable to them. We will examine examples of that behavior in the rest of chapter 19.

Our third principle is that holiness is a communal responsibility. God’s command to be holy as he is holy, was given in the context of community. Moses was commanded by God to command the entire assembly to holiness. No one was exempt from holy living, not even the stranger or the foreigner in the assembly. This means that everyone here in our congregation of Idaville Church has a part to play in being holy and the responsibility of ensuring that holiness is part of their everyday lives.

It is essential that I pursue holiness, but it is also essential that we all pursue holiness so that together we are holy. This requires an awareness of accountability. Moses gave these commands from God to the people publicly so that they were without excuse. There was a built-in accountability factor that no one could easily escape. It is the same for you and I. We sit here and hear Pastor Stuart preaching and teaching us directly from God’ Word every Sunday. We go to Sunday school and hear teachers teaching from Word of God. We read God’s Word for ourselves at home. We are now held accountable by God but also by each other to obey what God’s Word says. That accountability is part of pursuing holiness.

Our fourth principle is that holiness is a comprehensive responsibility. In Leviticus 19:3-18, Ross says, God gave the Israelites a “rapid, panoramic tour” of what it meant to be holy. The laws he gave covered every major sphere of daily life. They started in the home, and then with the sanctuary and then with society at large. Also, each of the Ten Commandments seem to be alluded to here. We are called to be holy and obedient in every area of our lives. Sometimes we are guilty of pursuing holiness in one aspect of our lives but not worrying about holiness in another. This may be played out in loving God but not being willing to love others as ourselves. We can’t love God if we don’t love others like us who are made in his image.

That brings us to our first next step which is to obey God’s command to be holy, different from the world we live in, individually and as a church community, in every part of our daily lives.

Our second point this morning is the practice of holiness. The pursuit of holiness is a practical pursuit. There are things that we are to do as well as things that we are to avoid. First, holiness is a concrete responsibility. There is a very definite behavior that God expects of those who claim Him as their Father and there should be concrete differences in our living compared to the world around us. And, this behavior is not beyond our reach; it is attainable. Tidball says, “Holy living involved goals that were manageable, by God’s grace, rather than goals that were so far out of reach that people were condemned to perpetual failure.” James 1:27 says, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” The pursuit of holiness is practical. It can be demonstrated, measured and attained.

In chapter 19, verses 3-18, we see what was required in the daily pursuit of holiness. The first thing that was required was to love God, and this was shown practically in several ways. First, we are to respect our parents because God has put them in authority over us. Two, we are to remember the Sabbath. Holiness begins in the home and remembering the Sabbath benefits our family life. When we have a respect for God we will have a respect for those he puts in authority over us such as our parents. And three, we are not to have any other gods before us or worship any idols. It is interesting how these are related. If you don’t remember the Sabbath and the worship of God then it won’t be long til you start to worship idols such as money, possessions, people, etc. Holiness is demonstrated in whom we worship. We were created for worship. Everyone worships; the only question is whom and how we worship.

David Foster Wallace delivered a commencement address at Kenyon College back in 2005. He makes no profession to faith in Jesus Christ, but at one point in his address he made the following statement: “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what we worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship . . . is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.” Anything you worship other than the God of the Bible—money, fame, sex, etc. will eventually eat you alive. If we do not want to be eaten alive by that which they worship, we must teach and model a remembrance of the Sabbath and a respect for God and parents. God is the only one worthy of our worship. Everything else is worthless.

Lastly, to love God was shown practically by obeying the rules. This is seen in Leviticus 19:5-10. The first rule had to do with the peace offering. The peace offering was the culmination of all of the sacrificial rituals. It was a meal in which God shared with His people. It celebrated reconciliation with God. It was a statement expressing fellowship and oneness with Him. The second rule had to do with gleaning which was a God-prescribed means for caring for the poor among His people. When a landowner harvested his field he was not to reap in the corners of his fields or to harvest every grape and olive. He was to leave some for the poor to harvest. It was a means of feeding the poor while at the same time guarding their dignity. In other words, they could find food but they had to labor for it themselves.

What was important about these two rules being together? The peace offering was also a thank offering, in which the worshipper would bring a sacrifice to express gratitude to God for His goodness in giving them a harvest. And this thankfulness was to spill over into their lives as they went back home to their fields. They were in community together and this was a practical way to have compassion for others just as God had compassion on them. ​​ 

The second thing that was required in the daily pursuit of holiness was love for their neighbor and these practical things are found in Leviticus 19:11-18. The first is honesty. If oneness, fellowship and unity were to be maintained in the community, there must be integrity among the people. To deceive others is to dishonour God and to destroy communal holiness. We should expect and even demand honesty from those who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and call themselves Christians. Second, we are not to take advantage of others. We are not to cheat our neighbor or withhold from someone what they have earned. We are not to take advantage of the disadvantaged or the disenfranchised. The Israelites were to be compassionate and sympathetic towards those who were in such a predicament. They were not to take advantage of those who did not know or could not perceive what was happening to them. He mentions the blind and the deaf. God can see and hear how we treat others even if they can’t. Third, we are to practice justice towards others. God’s people are to be characterized by justice, truthfulness and fairness. We are not supposed to stab people in the back. Lastly, a practical way to love our neighbor is to be constructive not destructive. Verses 17-18 means that we are to be passionately concerned for the spiritual welfare of others. We are to love our fellow believers so much that we will do what is necessary to help them live differently and to be holy. We don’t love others when we refuse to hold them accountable to personal holiness, or hold a grudge against them instead of reconciling and restoring fellowship with them.

Why is holiness important especially in our relationship to God and with others? Because if we obey these concrete laws of holiness commanded by God then good will be the result. Our homes will be blessed, our church will be blessed and the overflow is that our society will be blessed. Imagine what our world would look like if we obeyed the command in Leviticus 19:17-18 to love and not hate each other. How different our communities would be if we lived by this simple yet demanding rule.

That brings us to our second next step this morning which is to love God and love my neighbors so that our homes, our church, and our society will be blessed.

I want to say one last thing about this holiness. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Does that scare you? Which one of us can be perfect? Only Jesus was perfect and perfectly lived out these laws we see in Leviticus 19. The good news is we have the power as Christians to be perfect, to be holy. It is because we are Christians, not in name but in nature, that we have the power to pursue holiness. ​​ We need to be born again as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. Apart from being born again, all our attempts to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with our God will be nothing but self-righteousness. Of course, we can never be perfect even though we are called to be perfect. But the key is when we aren’t perfect and we do sin, we confess our sin and repent from it and we turn to Christ alone for forgiveness and for the ability to seek his righteousness and to live a holy life. Christ through his sacrifice gives us the power to daily pursue holiness and live holy, obedient lives.

In conclusion, I want to introduce the 2021 Spiritual Life Journal to you. Our theme for 2021, if you haven’t figured it out is Holiness. In 2020, our theme was Unity, and hopefully you all feel as I do that even though 2020 was a difficult year, we come into 2021, more unified than in the past, even though we spent a little over three months apart and are spending some time apart even now from our friends here at Idaville Church. But as Pastor Stuart and I were talking about 2021, we felt that a next logical step was a pursuit of holiness. I have been praying that we as a congregation pursue holiness and I have prayed that it would start with me. We spent 2020 working on our relationships with each other and now in 2021 we want to spend time on our relationship with God and in growing closer and staying close to him.

When you look through the Spiritual Life Journal you will see the same main headings with holiness in place of unity, such as, Holiness in Prayer, Holiness in the Word, Holiness in Service, Holiness in Giving, Holiness in Relationships, Holiness in the Gospel and Holiness in Worship. There are commitments that can be made for each section and Bible verses for each section as well. There is also a daily Bible reading plan and monthly memory verses that we as a congregation will recite together on Sunday mornings. I want to challenge everyone to sign the commitments this year that are in the Journal and I want to challenge everyone to do the daily Bible reading plan and to memorize the monthly memory verses. If we all make this commitment to God and to each other and hold each other accountable we will attain a goal of holiness this year not only personally but as a community of faith as well. That brings us to our last next step which is to make a commitment to holiness in prayer, in the Word, in service, in giving, in my relationships, in the Gospel and in worship and to daily Bible reading and memorization.

As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final song, let’s pray: Holy God, I pray that we who call Idaville Church home would pursue holiness every day and I pray that it would start with me. Help us to hold each other accountable and to strive to be better in our relationships with you and with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.