Category: Genesis (Page 3 of 7)



“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” ~Genesis 17:7

We’re going to be together. We’re going to live together, just like in the garden in the very beginning. God says we’re going to occupy the same places together just like in Act One. The covenant is about God being visibly, physically present with his people.

When he delivers them from Egypt, God leads them from a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Scripture tells us neither pillar “left its place in front of the people.”

And then God brings his people to a mountain in the middle of the desert and he tells them the details of the covenant. God is right there, physically and visibly on the mountain. There’s smoke and fire, thunder and lightning. The people are trembling with fear.

“They offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.’

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.’

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.” ~Exodus 24:5-11

God uses the blood of the covenant, the blood of the sacrifice, to cleanse his people so they can sit down together and share a meal. They saw God and they ate and drank. The blood made them righteous. Because of the blood, God considered them holy, so they could be right there in his face-to-face presence. Eating together! With God! It’s remarkable! But that kind of proximity, that kind of physical relationship and presence, is what God and the humans had in the garden in Act One. And that’s what God is working to restore with his covenant.

God longs to physically live with his people. So, next, he tells them to build him a tent.

“Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them.” ~Exodus 29:45-46

“I will put my dwelling place among you… I will walk among you and be your God and you will be my people.” ~Leviticus 26:11-12

This is the promise, this is the language through the rest of the Old Testament. I will live with you; you will be my people and I will be your God. At the tabernacle. At the temple. Five times in Ezekiel. Five times in Jeremiah. Three times in Zechariah. God gives us his covenant so we can live together with him in his presence.



Act Three – Covenant

In Act Three of the Story of God, the Lord comes to one of the humans and articulates a solemn promise to make things right between the Creator and his created. He guarantees to repair the relationship and to once again live with his people. His love for all men and women and his loyalty to the earth he created compels God to make this covenant. Act Three is good news.Lamb-Art

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” ~Genesis 12:2-3

God makes this covenant with Abram of Ur. And he uses the word “bless” five times, some say because he uses the word “curse” five times in Act Two. So the blessings counter the curses. This is God’s solution to sin. This is how God’s going to fix the problem and redeem the creation and restore the relationship. Through Abram. And every single thing that happens for the rest of the Story, from here in Genesis 12 through Revelation 22, hangs on this covenant. It’s so important that God repeats it four other times:

“Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.” ~Genesis 18:18

“Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” ~Genesis 22:18

“Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” ~Genesis 26:4

“All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” ~Genesis 28:14

God proclaims the covenant five times, some say because the word for “corrupt” or “spoiled” is used to describe the earth five times in Act Two. So the covenant undoes the corruption.

This is enormous! It’s everything! This is the good news that, despite the wickedness, rebellion and sin, despite the chaos and darkness of Act Two, God is going to bless the whole world through this family. The apostle Paul calls this the gospel in advance:

“[God] announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.'” ~Galatians 3:8

And then God seals the covenant with blood. Blood makes the covenant official. Since before recorded history in the Middle East to this time in Genesis almost five thousand years ago to some Bedouin communities in the Middle East today, all covenants require the shedding of blood to make them official. God and Abraham did it in Genesis 15. Abraham cut up the five animals and then God walked through the blood to ratify the covenant. God owns it. It’s his promise.

In Genesis 22 when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son to hold up his end of the covenant, he was ready to. Covenants require blood. On the way up the mountain, Isaac asks his dad, “Um… hey… where’s the lamb for the sacrifice?” And Abraham answers, “God himself will provide the lamb.” And he does. A ram caught in the bushes by its horns. Sheep blood was spilled instead of the blood of Abraham’s child. The blood of a lamb provided by God.

From here on out, blood sacrifice is a central aspect of life for God’s people. Lots of blood. Blood everywhere. Blood all the time. They pour blood on the altar. They sprinkle blood on the people. They paint their doorposts with blood.

The blood says to the people: Remember, God promised to pay for our sins. He said he would fix what’s wrong with everything. We have an arrangement with God. He’s going to make things right. And the blood says to God: Please, remember your promise. Please, fix everything like you say you will.

Act Three: Covenant. It’s a long act. Hundreds of scenes. From Genesis 12 through the end of the Old Testament is about God enacting and working out the covenant. And it’s long. If you were sitting through this play in a theater, this would be the act right before intermission. And it takes forever.

Obviously, I can’t write about all the scenes this week. That’s impossible. It’s thirty-eight-and-a-half books. It’s too much. What I’d like to do is give you four things to look for when you’re reading the Old Testament. This will help you, equip you, to read and interpret and apply the Bible as a story and not as a law book. I think God’s communicating four things, he’s doing four things with his covenant: Revelation, Presence, Partnership, and Faithfulness. We’ll start in on those tomorrow.



God’s Voice in Act Two

FallAppleSketchYou ever wanted to just throw up your hands and leave? I’m sick and tired of it. I’ve had enough. I’m done. I’m done with this job. I’m done with this marriage. I’m done with this church. You ever feel like just walking away?

As bad as things get — as bad as the people get — in Act Two, God remains engaged. He’s committed to us. He doesn’t walk away. Even in the worst parts of Genesis 3-11, God keeps loving his people. He’s forced to remove Adam and Eve from his presence, but he makes them clothes first. He protects them and blesses them with many children and long life. God protects Cain so he won’t be murdered. God saves Noah and his family. In the middle of all the wickedness, rebellion, and sin, you can hear God’s voice.

“I’ll bring someone from your family to crush the head of the snake.”

In Genesis 8, God promises, “As long as the earth endures, I’ll be here.”

After the flood, God re-ordains human beings to their original calling, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” Just like in Act One.

You can hear God. Even in the worst parts of this. You can hear his voice. Believe me. Trust me. Walk with me. You’re not alone. I’m still here. I still know. I still care. I haven’t walked away. I’ve not abandoned you. Choose me. Obey me. Live for me. I still love you.

We have all turned our backs on God. We’re all rejected him. We’re all guilty. And I know that even in the darkest stretches of your sin against the Lord, you still heard his voice. If you’re trapped right now in a cycle of sin you just can’t break, do you hear his voice?

Believe me. Trust me. In your anger and violence, walk with me. Obey me. In your bitterness and isolation, you’re not alone. I’m still here. In your sexual sins, your selfish sins, your sins of greed and lust, I still care about you. Choose me. Live for me. I still love you.

Listen for him. No matter where you and God are right now, he’s still right there. He’s committed to you. He’s still very much engaged with you and your situation.



Separation from God

We’re all guilty. We’ve all lived Act Two of the Story of God, personally and corporately. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. We’ve all taken huge bites out of that apple.FallApple

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.” ~Romans 3:10-12

So, how bad can it be? Well, immediately after committing that first sin, we see Adam and Eve avoiding God. They’re actually hiding from God. They’re afraid of their good and loving Creator. They make excuses. They blame each other. They blame God. Nobody confesses. They don’t admit anything. Because the relationships have been busted. The trust, the communion, is broken. And the consequences are dire. And immediate.

Because of the sin, there is now going to be constant struggle between the snake and the humans. Always strife. Always conflict. Always treachery and hate. Because of the sin, the man and woman are no longer equal partners. Their community has been wrecked. The woman now wants to control the man, the man now wants to dominate the woman. Always strife. Always conflict. No peace. Very little trust. And the ground isn’t friendly anymore. Nothing’s going to be easy anymore. The earth is now fighting back against the humans. No more cooperation. All of life is now a struggle to survive. And they won’t. They’re going to die. You sin, you die.

The worst part is that the people are thrown out of the garden. They are driven away from the presence of God.

“The Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden… After he drove them out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” ~Genesis 3:23-24

The overwhelming result of sin is not the loss of the garden, it’s the loss of God. The humans are no longer in his face-to-face presence. That’s the tragedy. Throughout the whole rest of the Old Testament, you never hear the people dream of regaining the Garden of Eden. They don’t long for those comforts and luxuries. They talk about regaining access to God’s presence. They dream about and prophesy about and wonder about once again being allowed into the presence of God.

We have traded trust and obedience to a gracious and friendly God and the intimacy of living in his presence for chaotic misery and isolating independence. It’s a horrible transaction.



Act Two – The Fall


BlueBellLogoI believe living in Amarillo is like ALMOST living in Texas. One can feel fairly isolated from the rest of the Republic. I feel like the whole state is celebrating the return of Blue Bell Ice Cream except us up here in the panhandle. It doesn’t help that my brother Keith and his whole family are texting me pictures last night of them eating Blue Bell and posing in front of large grocery store freezers packed full of the wonderful stuff. I’m happy for them. Mostly. I’m trying to rejoice with those who are rejoicing today with their big bowls of Homemade Vanilla and their two and three half-gallons of Cookies ‘n’ Cream. I’m trying. I’m trying. I’m trying.


Icon2“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” ~Genesis 3:6

I don’t know how long the paradise of Act One lasted. Or how short. I wish we had a little more information, a few stories, about Adam and Eve and God living together in the garden in perfect relationship. Perfect harmony. Wouldn’t that be great? I wish we had eighteen or nineteen chapters on Adam and Eve and God eating and drinking together, swimming and playing together, walking and talking in perfect relationship. God joking with Adam, “What kind of a name is baboon?” Adam says back, “Did you see what you did to that poor animal’s rear end? What else am I supposed to call it?” I wish we had some of that.

It should shock us that when Creation ends, it takes just two sentences in the text for the snake to approach the humans and just two of his questions for them to doubt the goodness of their Creator and wobble in their trust. And sin.

God creates us perfectly. He loves us perfectly. But then the devil comes at us with a set of lies. And the lies he used that day in the Garden of Eden are the same lies he uses today. They still work. He’s never had to buy new tools.

“Did God really say…?”

It seems like an innocent question. But it’s not. The snake is casting doubt on God’s Word. “Are you sure this is what God said?” Adam and Eve should have run away right then. But they seem open to the questions. When temptation knocks on the door, you don’t have to answer. Martin Luther would shout out loud any time he felt tempted by any thing, “I don’t do that anymore! I’ve been baptized!” Sometimes, though, when temptation knocks, we want to make sure who it is before we shoo them away. We want to take a good look. Check it out. We take our time, lingering at the open door. Adam and Eve should have bailed.

“Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?”

Well, no, that’s not true. The humans knew it wasn’t true. God told them they could eat from every tree and plant in all of creation except for one. Every tree. Every plant. We can eat from anything we want.

“But what about that one tree?”

“Well, everything except that one tree.”

“God won’t let you eat from that tree?”

“No. He’s given us 77,914 species and varieties of trees and fruits and vegetables and plants to eat. All of it. As much as we want, anytime we want, except for that one.”

Well, God doesn’t want you to have any fun.”

It’s an old line. And it’s lame. But somehow it still works.

The Bible teaches that we should only have sex in the context of marriage. And sometimes people will say, “Well, y’all are just anti-sex. All Christians think sex is wrong.” Are you kidding me? We work for the One who invented it! He developed the mechanics! He came up with it! And he says it’s very good!” Now, outside of marriage, it’s not so good. In fact, looking at the big picture, it’s devastating to you and to your whole community. But within the boundaries of marriage, it’s mind-blowingly awesome!

God wants us to enjoy his good gifts. And he gives us instructions on how to enjoy them best. He knows. He made us. That state gives our drivers licenses, but you can’t take your car on the sidewalk. Your parents might give you a jet ski, but it won’t work in a parking lot. You’ve got to take it out on the water. God’s instructions, his boundaries, help us enjoy his good gifts to the max.

He won’t let you have any fun? That’s what six-year-olds say on the way home from WonderLand after riding every ride fifteen times and eating and drinking everything in sight for twelve straight hours.

“Can we get some ice cream?”

“No, we’re just going to go home.”

“You never let us have any fun!”

It’s an old line. And it’s lame. Why does it still work? As our Lord says, if you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more your Father in heaven?

“You’re not going to die.”

There won’t be any consequences. It’s a flat-out lie. It’s exactly the opposite of what God had said. There are always consequences for disobeying God. Never mistake God’s patience for weakness. God’s justice requires that there be consequences. And, by the way, notice that in Act Two, sin is not fundamentally about hurting people or doing wrong according to human standards. Sin is disobedience to God’s Word. It’s a breach of trust in the goodness of God’s character and in the truthfulness of his Word. And it always carries consequences.

“You will be like God.”

Adam and Eve were attracted to that. And who’s not? Yeah, I’d like to be like God. I’d like to decide what’s right and what’s wrong for myself. And for you and everybody else, too. Sin is the desire to be like God. We’re not content to be loved by God and cared for by God. It’s not enough to love and serve God. We want to be autonomous and self-sufficient. We have to be able to do anything we want. We don’t want to be limited by anyone or anything. We want the power of absolute control over our own lives.

That is rebellion against God. God alone is good. And God alone knows what is good and what is not good. We cannot establish our own righteousness. We have to learn from God every day, in every new situation, with every new decision. Act Two is about men and women trying to play God and being suspicious of God’s goodness. It’s about men and women trying to escape the Creator’s limits. Basically, sin is refusing to live in the Story of God: rejecting God as the author of the Story and refusing to play the part you’ve been given by him to play.

The Creator of Heaven and Earth forms a perfect world for us, he gives us everything we could ever want or desire, and he settles in to live with us. Perfect harmony. Perfect relationship with God and with all people. Paradise. And they rejected it. They ate from the tree.

We’ve all eaten from the tree. All of us. You and me, we’re all guilty.

Act Two is clearly about “The Lord commanded…” versus “But the serpent said…” Who’s in your ear right now?



God Wants to Live with Us


In the Creation accounts, we see God forming a “very good” environment for the people he’s creating and for himself. He creates the heavens and the earth, he furnishes it, he puts people in it, and then God rests.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” ~Genesis 2:2

God establishes the heavens and the earth, his creation, as his holy dwelling place.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool… Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the Lord.” ~Isaiah 66:1-2

Notice the “resting place,” the place where God “rests.” It’s the same language as in Genesis. The heavens and the earth is where God lives and where he rules. And where he rests.

“He stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.” ~Psalm 104:2-3

God rests, he settles among his creation. When the Old Testament speaks about God’s resting place, it uses the earth and the temple interchangeably.

“He built his sanctuary like the heights, like the earth that he established forever.” ~Psalm 78:69

“This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.” ~Psalm 132:14

God wants to live on this earth with us. That’s the pattern of his Kingdom.

Come into this world I created, come into the place where I live and reign and rule. Come live with me. Reign with me. Let’s dwell together in mutual free-will relationships of love and life. Let’s oversee this “very good” place together. Let’s live in the face-to-face presence of one another forever.

God is not in conflict with humans. Act One shows us God linking arms and linking futures with men and women. He and the human image-bearers are in perfect harmony. That’s the way it was established in the beginning.

Notice the six days of creation all have an evening and a morning. Those days all have an ending. But not the seventh day. The day God takes up residency in his created world with his created people, that day never ends. It’s still going. God with us. It doesn’t end. He designed all of it so we would live together forever.

That’s the pattern for the Kingdom. And it’s good. It’s “very good.” It’s the eternal blueprint for everything that God is doing. Creation makes everything else in the Story make sense.



« Older posts Newer posts »