Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Monday, January 2, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 3, Gen 8-11

Today's readings are Gen 8-11.

Starting in Gen 8, we see the events of the aftermath of the flood. These events are similar to the ones in the original creation. Gen 8:13 tells of the first day of a new beginning.
What goes unsaid and what is sometimes omitted from some of the overly-sanitized versions of these chapters told in many Sunday School classes is the fact that death is a large part of this new beginning whereas it was not introduced until after the fall of man in the first three chapter of Genesis.

When Noah and his family walked out of the ark, the entire human race was dead, except for them. Everywhere they went, they would have seen the evidence of harsh consequences of rebellion against God. It is no wonder one of the first things Noah does is to build an altar (Gen 8:20) and sacrifice to God, an appropriate gesture of thanks for His saving grace. We don’t know for sure. But Noah must have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the devastation and humbled by the grace that spared him. We should feel that way because the devastation we will one day see and be spared from will be far more humbling.

God forms a covenant with Noah, an agreement that He will never destroy the human race by flood again. God provides a sign of the covenant. While the sign, a rainbow, is a beautiful symbol of His grace and love, it is also a constant reminder of the consequences of sin for those who are not recipients of His grace. We would do well to offer up prayers of thanks every time we see a rainbow! But we also learn that God establishes covenants and abides by them. Notice that the covenant is declared and ratified by God unilaterally. He is the "author and finisher" of His covenants.

Nearly as soon as Noah and his family are given, like Adam, the command to be fruitful and multiply 
(Gen 9)...Noah plants a vineyard (a garden?) and from the fruit of the vineyard, gets drunk (Gen 9:20-27)! Adam sinned by eating the forbidden fruit in the garden. Noah sins by over-indulging in the wine of the permitted fruit from another garden. Clearly, mankind is not yet perfect. Here’s another lesson revealed. Apart from God, humans seem unable to act responsibly and in a godly manner. 

Noah's youngest son, Ham, father of Canaan, sins by looking upon his father's nakedness. The other two sons, Shem and Japheth do not. Noah pronounces a curse on Ham and Canaan, a blessing on Shem and Japheth. Even as we see patterns of grace and holiness being established by God, we see a contrasting pattern of sinful behavior in mankind as well. Adam and Eve tried to hide their nakedness, Shem and Japheth tried to hide Noah's. Ham, instead, was unashamed. With Noah’s blessings and curses, mankind is divided up into two types of people. While both types have their faults, one is blessed (Shem and Japheth), the other cursed (Ham and Canaan).

This division and tension become evident in how the sons and their offspring settle into the regions around Noah (Gen 10). Even at this early stage, you can see the roots of the struggle over the Holy Land, the struggle between the blessed and the cursed.

Like Adam's sin, Noah's has a direct effect on his sons. Pay close attention to the names here. They are significant. Shem means celebrated. Shem's offspring will live near Canaan for a while but will eventually produce Abraham and Sarah. Japheth translates to enlargement. His lineage will extend to the coast lands and north of Canaan, what we know as Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, etc. Ham has a connotation of darkness to it. Notice that Canaan is mentioned in close association to Ham. Canaan means servant/trader. Ham's descendants will populate Egypt, Cush (Ethiopia), Canaan and the area around Saudi Arabia, Babylon, Assyria, etc.  

The three sons of Noah migrated to different areas. The Semites occupied the Tigris–Euphrates valley and most of Arabia; the Japhethites moved north, around the Black Sea, and even west to Spain; the Hamites went south into lower Asia Minor, coastal Syria and Palestine, and the Red Sea coast of Arabia, but principally into Africa.

Things get worse. Sharing a common language, men get together and attempt to build a tower "with its top in the heavens" (Gen 11:4). They want to "make a name for themselves". Men have perverted what Adam wanted - to be like God. He thought eating the fruit would accomplish that. These men want to build, by their own hands, a way to get to heaven. All of them are looking for a shortcut apart from God, a self-determined way to attain eternity. It’s clear that nothing much has changed in the hearts of men since Adam's time.

The Lord confuses their speech and creates different languages. Ironically, what causes them to be divided is not only the judgment of a sovereign God but a lack of ability to communicate clearly with each other. God creates by speaking His word. Man is divided by the words he speaks. 

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